If the Primera is in good shape, buy it, but not because it is owned by a lady


Thank you for your expert advice. 

I have identified a 2002 lady-owned and driven local, manual, Nissan Primera P11-144 1600cc with mileage of slightly more than 70,000 kilometres and very clean (exterior, interior and engine) that looks too good to be true.

Kindly tell me about the pros and any major/unusual cons of this car and how much more life in terms of service I should expect from the vehicle.

Also, a recent inspection of the vehicle by AA Kenya indicates that it has suspension spacers and I have heard that some insurance companies either do not pay up in case of an accident if the vehicle has spacers, or don’t insure it as the gadgets destabilise a car and make it more prone to accidents, especially at high speed.

Is this true and what is the alternative for increasing a vehicle’s ground clearance without adding spacers, and without compromising its safety-cum-stability or being in the bad books of insurance companies?

Here is a little secret: “lady-owned” does not mean what it once used to. We have come to discover, rather amusingly, that lady owners may not be the sticklers for maintenance we once thought they were.

Horror stories emanating from garages all over the world (yes, the testimonies are international) indicate that routine maintenance checks are only performed when either

1. The owner/driver is reminded or remembers of their own accord long after the due date or

2. When the car inevitably breaks down in dramatic fashion.

Tales of cars being driven literally to death abound; I have read about incidents of ladies insisting on driving with blown transmissions (“the car lacks acceleration and won’t go uphill”), seized engines (“I heard a loud noise, felt a violent jerk and now the engine won’t even start”), broken brake calipers (“the brakes feel a little spongy”) and missing tyres (“the car is really uncomfortable and makes an ugly noise from the rear”).

Then of course there is the recent joke that has been doing the rounds on the Internet about the notorious “710 piece.” (Lady tells boyfriend if he doesn’t recognise the 710 piece, which was discovered to have fallen off the car at one point, then he is useless)… turns out “710” is OIL spelt upside down and the lady in question has been driving around with the oil filler cap absent. Are you sure you still want a “lady-owned” car?

That aside, you say the car looks clean, so we will assume this lady owner had enough presence of mind to take good care of her car.

The P11 Primera didn’t have much wrong with it, except that in some specs (and for some markets) it sported one of Nissan’s earliest installations of a CVT (continuously variable transmission) that did two things:

1. It created one of the most unusual driving experiences ever, whereby the engine speed and road speed were at odds with each other and thus greatly puzzled drivers, and

2. It created terrible fuel economy for a 2.0 litre, dipping to around 23 mpg (10km/l) compared with 30 mpg (15 km/l or so) for the conventional manual and 27 mpg for the regular automatic.

Also, these CVTs might have befuddled the mechanics of the day, so repair jobs might not have been the most pristine.

Apart than that, it is a wonderful car, especially without the funny CVT. You can expect a lot more from it in the coming years, but only if you also maintain it properly.

Some insurance companies do not cover accidents that involve a vehicle with spacers, while others invalidate your claim if it is discovered that you crashed while driving with a space-saver spare (more famously known as a “doughnut” around these parts).

It depends on the company and the fine print in your policy. Read that fine print with a magnifying glass…

An alternative lifting technique would be to install slightly bigger tyres or install suspension components (springs and shocks) with longer stroke room (vertical allowance).


Hi Baraza,

Thanks for the good work. I enjoy reading your articles.

My predicament is, I­ have a Platz that I enjoy driving because basically, it just takes me to work and back home so it’s economical. My problem started around four months ago; when I step on the brakes, there is a very annoying creaking sound but it goes away say if I drive for about 5-8 minutes. Please note that I have changed the brake pads twice in one year and I am feeling very frustrated, not forgetting the funny/weird looks I get from other motorists.

Please advise because I just don’t know what the problem could be.


My own predicament is, I don’t understand what you find enjoyable in driving a Platz. But this is not to the time to poke fun at you. You have a predicament and we will face it together.

If the wear sensor (i.e. low pedal and hence worn pads) is not causing the squealing sound, the noise is a result of the brake pads vibrating at a very high frequency (sort of like a tuning fork). There are many things that can cause pads to vibrate but unfortunately, none of them is very easy to detect.

You might want to remove the tyre to expose the brake assembly where the din is coming from. Look for either loose brake pads or a loose caliper. Also, check to make sure the disc does not have deep grooves in it (i.e. “scouring”) since these will usually cause enough vibration when the pads come in contact with the disc to produce noise.

Additionally, check brake hardware such as anti-squeal shims and anti-rattle springs for looseness.

Finally, a couple items which are hard to recognise but should be mentioned are glazed pads and non-factory pads.


Hey JM,

You are doing a fantastic job educating us on everything “four-wheel”. Good job! And that Fielder vs Wingroad article (March 18)? Mmmh, tough one.

Anyway, I am a young man, still single (doing badly on the “searching” part) and looking to buy a nice ride. I particularly like the Mazda RX8. How is this car in terms of availability of spare parts, fuel consumption and resale value, plus that once-in-a-while fun trip.

I know it has the looks (which I also have) and I am sure that together, the “searching” (for a partner) will be a thing of the past. I mean the ladies will be falling for the car… and me, of course.


Hello Kim,

Sorry, but the car fails on all three counts. For availability of spare parts, you might have to get familiar with the Japanese language because you will be visiting several of their websites looking for carbon rotor tips for the Wankel engine, because the rotor tips will fail, and with alarming frequency at that.

Fuel consumption is also poor for what is essentially a 1300cc engine (burns fuel like a 4.0 litre because you get three power strokes per revolution instead of one like we are used to in “normal” reciprocating engines). Expect figures smaller than 7 km/l. The peaky nature of the engine and the absence of torque means you will be revving the beans out of the rotary just to get it going. The late Paji and I tried running around in one and we both agreed driving it was hard work because you need to keep the revs boiling just to make it go like it looks.

Resale value? Not very promising either: it is essentially a two-door coupé (it has four doors actually, but the rear hatches are party-trick, handle-less suicide affairs with no discernible door handles and they can be opened only when the front doors are also open), which traditionally suffers from a serious lack of appeal on the used forecourt.

A test drive by any potential buyers will also sell you out once the fried rotor tips create a serious lack of power and cause the engine to burn oil like the Exxon Valdez.

The ladies will fall for the car right up to the moment where the lack of compression (those rotor tips really are a problem with the RX8) causes a hard start (or none at all), at which point they will disgustedly exeunt your vehicle and head for the nearest Lancer Evolution…


Hi Baraza,

Thank you for the advice you give in your column.My question is about a past event. There was an article on January 22, 2014, on the The Great Run 4×4. Is there a video clip?

Yes, there is a video clip, but the editing was not very well done, so we were a little cagey about making it public. The footage is surprisingly boring for what was to many people the best Great Run ever: the longest distance covered, the first off-road event, the first jaunt into not one, but two national parks and the first two-day run.

We want to see about making another cut of the footage and, hopefully, create something a little less soporific. Once we are done, it will go on YouTube, where all our other videos are.

Speaking of Great Runs, we have one coming up soon. Keep your eyes peeled and your ear to the ground because we strongly suspect registration slots will be snapped up faster than you can say, “This is our fourth year of fun-filled charity driving.”


Hi Baraza,

I am an avid reader of this column. I really enjoyed your review of the Toyota NZE versus the Nissan Bluebird. I am torn between buying a Honda Stream 1800cc and a Nissan Bluebird 1500cc-1800cc. The Honda is a 7-seater, which is ideal for a family man, while your review of the Nissan Bluebird Sylphy is encouraging. Which car would you pick between the two and why?

Thank you


How many people do you intend to carry in your car? If the number goes beyond four, then start looking towards the Honda (bigger seat count, bigger engine capacity for lugging around those extra bodies). Otherwise the Nissan has plenty going for it.

I wouldn’t pick either, but then again my needs might be vastly dissimilar to yours. I don’t really like the looks of the Stream (I am put off by van-like silhouettes), but do not let this dissuade you from getting it if it is the more appropriate car.

I also might not want the Sylphy because after that write-up some weeks ago, I suspect sales might explode and everybody will be driving around in one.


Hi JM,

I’m an avid reader of your column, which I find very informative. In fact, I look forward to the Wednesday DN2. Keep up the good work. Now to my questions:

I want to invest in the matatu business and want to buy a second-hand, 14-seater Toyota Hiace 3L or 5L.

1. How do I go about getting a Traffic Licensing Board Licence (does a TLB licence belong to the owner or to the matatu, similar to the way you don’t sell a vehicle plus the insurance cover)

2. What is the meaning of kupandisha gauge in a matatu and how can it be corrected?

3. Which is the better option between a diesel engine and a petrol engine of the said vehicle? What about transmission?


1. Ahem… that is not really a question, is it? The answer is, apply for the licence. The basic requirements are Sacco membership, valid inspection certification and installation of speed governors and speed recording devices on the vehicle. The entire process can be found online; it is outlined on the NTSA website… one of the perks of having a “digital” government.

2. I suspect this means the temperature gauge goes uncomfortably close to the red zone. Corrective measures include ensuring your cooling system is functioning properly. If that phrase has a different meaning, I am not aware of it.

3. Diesel engine, coupled with manual transmission, is the smart choice. The diesel engine has greater torque (ideal for pulling loads) and better fuel economy (good for daily turnover). The passengers might prefer automatic transmission because it invariably will be smoother (matatu drivers will never qualify as high-end chauffeurs, if my observations are anything to go by) but for your own sake a manual is better because of maintenance costs and reliability issues (again, matatu drivers…).



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