MICHAEL MCALEER answers your questions

From T Walters:

What is the law regarding the switching on of lights on cars? I know that strictly speaking it is not dark until about 4pm, but some days it doesn't really brighten up at all and grey cars seem to disappear into the background until they are on top of you.

This is particularly the case at T-junctions. Surely it would help everyone if drivers kept their sidelights on at all times.

There is a case to be made for driving with your lights on at all times. Currently it is only required in some Scandinavian countries. The argument goes that on a sunny day the lights can - in extreme circumstances - blind or distract drivers. However, on winter days, sidelights would seem a necessity.

If there is a problem with people using sidelights, it's the fact that they then forget to switch on their main beam as darkness falls. This is noticeable on well-lit city streets where some motorists still drive around after dark with just their sidelights on.

As the law stands dipped headlights must be used in poor daytime visibility. Motorcycles must use dipped headlights during the day at all times.

May we take this opportunity to return to a favourite bugbear of ours: foglights.

At this stage, we'd nearly support an outright ban on rear foglights. Despite the obvious safety benefits in foggy situations, the fact that most motorists don't know how or when to use them means they end up causing more harm than good.

They blind the drivers behind, and often lead to dangerous overtaking.

Leaving your rear foglight on when there is no fog should be an offence punishable by the ejection of the driver using a swift boot to the rump, the immediate seizure of the vehicle and a lifetime ban from being in charge of any vehicle other than a bicycle - with stabilisers.

From R Desmond:

What is the future of the MR2? I'm looking at buying a used one but someone told me that Toyota are no longer selling them in Ireland. Will this have any impact on spare parts?

Toyota has called a halt to the sale of all sports models in Europe, so no more MR2 and no more Celica.

You should have no problems, however, in getting parts for the MR2 as many of them are shared with other models still in production and even the more specific parts will be readily available for years to come, both from Toyota and from Japanese parts importers. I wouldn't be concerned on this issue.

From L Casey:

Should I buy a used car now, or wait until the New Year's rush is over?

There's no definite answer to this, except to say that as the trade-ins come on the market the dealers may be keen to get rid of them now. However, I think you would probably get a better deal later in the year when things quieten down and dealers are eager to sell some cars and get in some cash.

For the next three months the dealers will be quite busy and even down to the level of service you receive at the dealerships, you may be better served waiting until things calm down a little.

From M Nally:

What is the current regulations regarding national identity stickers on cars? I used to always have an IRL sticker on the back of my old car, but I've been told that I no longer need one to travel abroad these days. Is this true?

If your new car is fitted with the EU-style number plates that identify the country of registration, then you no longer need a national identity sticker when travelling within the EU.

Outside of that - in Switzerland for example - it's always best to have a national sticker.

Send your queries to Motors Helpdesk, The Irish Times, D'Olier St, Dublin 2 - or e-mail to