Which is the better of the two; the Toyota Prado or the smaller Surf?

Hello Baraza,
Great column, as always. I need your advice. Between a two-year-old Toyota Prado and new-model Toyota Surf, which would you opt for given a choice?

What dynamics would you look if both had the same 3000cc 1KZ automatic diesel engine? Also, I would love to hear your opinion on the better engine in terms of durability and performance between the 3000cc D4D, 3000cc 1KZ and a 3400cc V6 petrol engines on the above mentioned cars. Where do they differ on torque and horsepower? I need to make a decision on either of the above engines. Which is the best?
Robert

The choice between a Toyota Prado J90 and a Toyota Surf is not an easy one. It mostly boils down to the predominant use intended for the vehicle.

The Prado seats seven, the Surf seats five. On the other hand, the Prado is a wallowy, roly-poly boat-like jumble in its driving dynamics while the Surf handles almost car-like with little body roll owing to the use of independent front suspension and the X-REAS diagonal damper linkage by use of hydraulic hoses and a mechanical centre valve.
The use of IFS in the Surf may be its undoing too; in off-road jumps, there is a tendency to break the front axle, causing the vehicle to bury its nose in the dirt like a fatigued camel.

A Prado will take those jumps and more, and just keep going. The weak IFS issue also affects the 100 Series Landcruiser VX too, by the way.

In a nutshell, if you have many passengers and engage in wild 4×4 antics, get a Prado. If you drive mostly on-road and slowly off-road in not-so-extreme arenas, get the Surf. Also, the Surf is generally cheaper than a Prado in the used car market.
The best engine is the 3.4 V6. It is the most powerful, it is very responsive and one can install a TRD supercharger with no difficulty at all.

The Paji’s orange Prado that impressed me so much packs this engine (without the blower, though). Second best and the ideal alternative would be the 1KZ. A robust, durable powerplant, it delivers both torque and economy on a scale atypical of most SUVs.

This engine almost has no issues at all, except for a few isolated cases of turbo failure following poor use by drivers. Properly driven, it will run forever.

The D4D is the most advanced of the three, and is thus the most economical. It is a lot smoother than the 1KZ, delivers more power but is quite complicated and thus prone to having issues, particularly with injectors. Its construction also makes disassembly a real pain for the inexperienced grease monkey.
My choice would be the 3.4 (I have clocked 180km/h easily in one, hitting the fuel cut-off point; and I wasn’t even anywhere near the red line).

The frugal mentalist’s choice would be the 1KZ. Those that buy iPhones and Samsung Galaxy handsets within a few hours of a new model being launched are more likely to go for the D4D. Go figure.

Dear Baraza,
I  enjoy reading all your informative nuggets on cars and automobile care. I have a 4-wheel drive Toyota Fielder 1NZ-FE recently bought from a local dealer.

I have had it for less than 12 months and already I am experiencing problems with the gearbox.
I have come to learn it runs on CVT (Continually Variable Transmission) oil and does not have dip stick. My question is: when do you change the CVT oil?

After making inquiries at shops that sell spare parts, I found out that a new gearbox would cost Sh140,000. I paid a visit to Toyota, Westlands in Nairobi and they explained that the gea box needs calibration. Such mechanical terms just confuse me.

My friends tell me that theToyota Fielder has a perennial gearbox problem. Do I fall back to the older version that uses ATF (Automatic Transmission Fluid) and has a dip stick?

Finally, can Toyota Kenya advise customers on how to maintain CVT based gearbox because my car has stalled and I need to run my business so I can pay my car dealer.
Serem

Quite a quandary you find yourself in there, my friend. These are some of the pitfalls that plague the used car owner: making seemingly impossible repairs without the umbrella of a warranty, while replacement costs seem prohibitive.

The CVT gearbox is sealed for life. Unlike older transmission types, you never have to refill the transmission fluid (hence the absence of a dipstick because why the hell are you checking the fluid levels?), and it is also what is called “maintenance-free” —

Toyota are very sure it will never break for the entire operational life of the car, unless of course it actually breaks like yours did, in which case, don’t try to repair it, just replace it.

Car manufacturers can be funny people sometimes.

You have a looming Sh140,000 “maintenance” cost ahead of you.

There is no way to sugar coat it. If the Westlands guys say they can recalibrate it, then let them try, but here is a word of advice: if the recalibration does not work don’t pay them diddlysquat. Garages have a habit of charging for services unrendered (I think the charges apply to ATTEMPTS at repair, not actual repairs); and I ask you to not pay because I strongly believe a replacement is what you are facing.

My guess is either you or a former owner thumped the vehicle over an obstacle jarring the transmission loose of its mountings, possibly leading to a fluid leakage; or something along those lines. If the situation can be salvaged, well and good; if not, keep aside the 140 grand, you will need it. My sympathies, though.

Dear Baraza,I must confess that I am in awe of your car knowledge. I have a 2002 Pajero IO which displays the check engine sign on the dashboard whenever I do 4000 revs per minute. Different mechanics have checked on sensors, exhaust and engine performance but in vain. I’m still using car and hoping it doesn’t breakdown while on a long journey. Please advise.
Karuri

Do an OBD (on-board diagnostic) test using the proper equipment: Plug an electrical appliance (the OBD II diagnostic tool) into the engine (the OBD II port) and it will return an error code which should be an accurate reflection of what exactly is wrong with the car. The Check Engine Light means exactly that: Check your engine; not to see whether it is still there (haha!) but with an appropriate diagnostic tool.

CELs are thrown by a myriad of issues and pure guesswork will not lead you anywhere. Use the computer, it makes life easier.

Dear Baraza,
I recently traded in my old Nissan B14 (1998) for a Toyota Fielder 2007 model (I hear its called new model but I believe there are newer models in Japan).
The ground clearance was not really good because the bumps at Jaramogi University in Bondo were scratching the bottom of the car. I was advised by my mechanic to buy heavy duty rear springs which I did and they have worked pretty well.
Another friend who is also a mechanic in Kisumu told me to ensure I also replace the front springs with heavy duty ones.

He also told me to ensure I put a sump guard to protect the gearbox, which would set me back a cool Sh150,000 if damaged.
Kindly give me a clearer professional view on this. Also, advise if replacing the springs with heavy duty ones will cause any changes such as a shift in centre of gravity.

I never go beyond 100km/h so I personally have not noticed any change while driving.

Regards and thanks for your good work in educating readers of this column.
Job

Your mechanic has a point. It makes sense to have similar springs all round unless the vehicle is used in extreme handling situations such as in drifting competitions.

In most cars, the spring rates front and rear are not EXACTLY the same, but they do differ by about 1kg tops. If the disparity is greater than that straight out of the factory, then you really have to RTFM because modifying this setup could lead you into situations whereby your style of movement unwittingly looks like stunt driving in an action movie.
By installing heavy duty springs (which will most likely be stiffer) at the rear and keeping the front stock, you have interfered with the factory setup.

A car that naturally tended towards understeer owing to its front-drive platform (the AWD version doesn’t do much to cure this), the nose-wide attitude is now further aggravated; but this will only be noticed if you drive aggressively, which you don’t.

Something that you will definitely notice is some serious diving under braking, which can get unpleasant for passengers, can unnecessarily load up the steering and will eat through your front tyres at an alarming rate.

Balance the car. If you have to replace springs and shocks with units of different rates and stroke rooms, do it all round (again, unless you want to create a special purpose vehicle such as a stunt car).
The centre of gravity only shifts if you raise or lower the car, more so by a large amount; say, more than half an inch.

The shift is not so drastic, but it gets more noticeable the greater the adjustment. Use of heavy duty springs may slightly affect the relationship between sprung weight and unsprung weight of the car, but then again this is not something you’d notice offhand unless when driving at extremes.

The sump guard issue is fairly obvious. You say the car was scraping its belly on the ground a lot. You didn’t much enjoy the scraping, did you? I didn’t think so. Install the sump guard.

Hi Barasa,I am an insurance agent based in Nyanza. I love Mercedes Benz cars, especially the E-class. I don’t own a car but have a desire to buy a used Mercedes for my work.

My budget is around Sh600,000. I am looking at effective fuel consumption for short distances, comfort (leather seats) and a good looking interior. It should also be able to do well off road. Kindly advise, it does not have to be confined to E-Class.
Holimos

You are one ambitious individual; and by ambitious I don’t mean a go-getter or overachiever; I mean you want to make the unlikely happen (some call them miracle workers).

An E Class for 600k is going to… err…. “need some work”. It doesn’t matter what vintage, unless it is a W124. Cue some bills.

Good looking leather interiors mean that 600k won’t suffice; either that or the car in question will need a lot more work (cue even more bills).

Fuel consumption is not too bad but if this is a concern then I’m sorry, Mercedes Benz is not the marque for you.

Nobody is saying Mercs are thirsty (some of them are, some aren’t); but as a potential owner, some things should never cross your mind: examples being how much fuel the car uses or how much it is going to cost you to go on a date.

Leave that to (insert suitable demographic here).
The ambitiousness comes in the last requirement: “should be able to do well off road”. The question is: WHY? Why would you want to go off-road in an E Class? That’s not what they are for.

For the same initial outlay, you can get an early ‘90s second-generation Toyota Hilux Surf in excellent working condition, or even a third-generation late 90s one in need of bumper replacements and maybe a fresh coat of paint.

The diesel version is very economical, but the interior is ugly and you are unlikely to find leather because not many of them were optioned thus when new. Most importantly, it will go off-road.

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