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Turbo engines not always better

Baraza,

I understand that turbo-charged cars perform better than naturally aspirated engine ones. So, what exactly is the effect of a turbocharger on a car? Does it increase the horsepower, stability, or pick-up speed? And does a turbo-charged Nissan B13 stand a chance against an NA Subaru Legacy?

And do tuned engines perform better than non-tuned ones? A friend told me that tuning my car would reduce its engine life, whether tuned professionally or unprofessionally, does that statement hold any water?

About turbo vs NA, the general rule is that turbo cars are much quicker, and yes, the turbo does increase the power output and also improves acceleration, but it does nothing for stability. If anything, it may compromise stability if the chassis is not designed for high horsepower applications, especially for FF (front engine, front wheel drive) platform cars by creating torque steer and push-under (power understeer).

The B13 vs Legacy fight depends on many things. If the B13 has a two-litre engine and is running 1.8 bar boost pressure in the turbo, against a 1.8-litre NA Legacy, the Legacy will see dust. However, a light pressure device in the B13, coupled with a 1.2 or 1.3-litre engine, pitted against a 2.5-litre NA Legacy will not change anything: the Legacy will still cane the Nissan.

The statement about the lifespan of tuned engines holds water. Tuned engines undergo more stress than the manufacturer intended, and even then, running those kinds of temperatures, pressures, and high-rpm inertia moments on rotating and reciprocating parts will ensure the early demise of any given engine. The best example is race cars. Some go through one engine per race.

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Baraza,

I have a Toyota 100 that I have fitted with Safari Rally tyres and I have been receiving negative comments from people on how they will affect the car. So, tell me, do these tyres affect:

1. Fuel consumption,

2. Stability of the car,

3. Engine life span,

4. Ball joints and bushes?

Also, is it true that speeds of 80-120 km/h improve fuel economy?

Lastly, the car wobbles when braking, especially at high speed. What could be the problem?

Alex

Before I answer, what Safari Rally tyres are those? Tarmac, gravel, or snow (they vary greatly in several parameters)? Anyway, here goes:

1. Yes, they do affect consumption, slightly, but noticeably over considerable distances.

2. Yes, the tyres will affect stability, a lot. If you use the wrong type of tyre for a given surface, the car will skid, slide, spin its tyres (or itself), and generally becomes impossible to drive, like using snow tyres on a tight tarmac course, or using racing slicks in the mud. This is for directional stability.

For gravitational stability, tyres with stiffer sidewalls (ideal for tarmac) will not work well in the soft mud, which usually requires one to deflate one’s tyres so as to collapse the tyre sidewalls and increase the “footprint” area to aid in buoyancy.

So it follows that conversely, soft sidewall mud tyres used in a tarmac situation that calls for hard cornering will see the sidewalls folding, bending, and/or stretching, making the car dangerously easy to tip over.

Just so you know, there is a calculation as to what point a car, any car, even a Ferrari, will roll or tip over on its side. And part of that calculation embodies the gripping tendencies of the tyres and the sidewall stiffness.

3. No, not really.

4. To some extent yes, depending on your cornering speeds.

About fuel economy, generally, yes but many other factors come into play.

The wobbling could be because of one of several factors. Either the ABS and/or EBD and/or stability control systems are working very hard to brake the car in a straight line or the braking forces on each wheel are not equal (for cars without the fancy electronics).

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Hi,

I am thinking of importing a seven-seater, like a Toyota Isis or Nissan Lafesta, which run on VVT-i and VVL, respectively. Please advise on the best option, seeing as we cannot all buy Toyota Wish, Noah, or Voxy.

Yes, it is true, we cannot all buy a Wish or a Voxy. Cars like Isis and Lafesta should broaden the scope. There is a risk to pioneering a model change like this, though, and that is the lack of support infrastructure. At the garage, the mechanics will tell you “We have never worked on such a thing before,” while at the spares shop the salesman will ask you whether you are sure the Isis is a Toyota or a Honda or even a Hyundai.

Cue the email asking for assistance.

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Hi Baraza,

There has been an increase of this weird black colour on cars, I think it is called matte. What does the law say on the changing of a car’s colour and what does this change mean when it comes to maintenance costs? Then, do some people not know that some cars should not be repainted? There are Touaregs and X6s with these colours!

Stevie

You seem to be really bothered by the matte paint. Unfortunately for you, I am a fan and will paint my car matte black first chance I get. Also when I have a car to paint.

The law was (and I am guessing still is) very clear on changing the colour of one’s car: Go ahead, nobody is stopping you. It is just that you have to let the registrar know that the previously white Volkswagen Touareg KBR *** S now looks like it fell into a tin of black shoe polish and was not wiped clean, so can I please have a new logbook reflecting these changes? And no, the vehicle is not stolen.

Matte paint has some downfalls, especially in terms of maintenance. For one, you cannot take it to those automated car wash setups, the ones with the rotating brushes, because it will ruin the matte effect. And once a bird relieves itself on the bonnet, it is back to the paint shop for a whole new coat.

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JM,

My car (a two-door, 2800cc Pajero) is having hiccups that are now beyond me. First, she started with shaking whenever I tried to start her up.

So I changed the fuel filter (several times now) and serviced her. She behaved for two days, then started acting up again.

I serviced the fuel injector and even cleaned the tank. She again behaved for only a week or so. It is now got to a point where she cuts fuel supply when going up a hill and stops.

When I prime her, she gets back on the road like there was no issue. The mechanics are pinning the problem to the fuel injector and the pump, which I have serviced. What do you think is causing all this?

Kenn

Quick question, do you have a girlfriend, and if yes, what is her take on your referring to your car in feminine third person singular pronouns?

Anyway, when you talk of priming, my mind goes to the fuel pump, so I am guessing that it is the culprit here. Maybe it is due for replacement? Another suspect might be the air filter. Check the element and make sure it is not clogged. Also confirm that the fuel lines are not blocked; you could be focusing on the major devices and yet a simple blockage is the source of all your woes.

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Dear Baraza,

I am a first time car seeker and interested in importing either a Toyota Avensis or Subaru Legacy. What are their estimated prices and the general cons and pros about these cars? Consider that I love going to see my parents near Mau once every two months and carry away about 50 kg of food. What other cars compare with these two?

Lastly, how can I know which Japanese dealers are reliable? Do these dealers tamper with cars’ mileage, the way some of the local dealers do?

Langat

The two cars are good and the price range hovers around a million shillings for both, give or take a hundred grand in either direction.

Pros: The Subaru is fast, looks good, is spacious, and its reliability has gone up several steps. You also get standard AWD and the option of a manumatic transmission, that is if you buy a tropicalised version. The Avensis offers even more space, is comfortable, has outstanding economy, is reliable, and has understated good looks.

Cons: The Subaru has poor ground clearance if you buy a Japan-spec version. It is also uncomfortable and crashes over road imperfections (worse with low profile tyres). The economy will go to the dogs if you step on it. The manumatic transmission is a four-speed and using it makes the driver feel the need for a fifth gear. A turbo version might put you in trouble if you are not experienced behind the wheel. The Avensis is plain and boring to drive, it lacks any sense of urgency or sporting feel. D4 engines might go pfft, especially the D4D.

Other cars to look at might be the old model Caldina, Mitsubishi Airtek, Primera estate (eugh!) or even the Mark II Blitz.

The reputation of dealers in Japan, I am sorry to say, is not my problem, at least not anymore. I tried to steer Kenyans away from the careless and thoughtless importation of cars from locations and individuals unknown, and got insulted in the process. So now I watch them suffer and wait for the inevitable email asking for help.

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The Freelander vs the two-door Pajero

Hi Baraza,

I am a bit of an old school guy who loves short wheel base 4X4’s because of the great ground clearance and ease of manoeuvring. I am really not into the comfort, speed, and style of modern saloons (power windows, automatic transmission, heating etc). I am more interested in strong vehicles with few electronics that can last for years, like the small Land Rover 90 and the two-door Land Cruisers; I have seen Series III Land Rovers from the 70s still on the road.

1. I am interested in the Land Rover Freelander, although I have heard that it has issues with heating, is this true? From what I have seen, a used one from about year 2000 is affordable and I can handle the 1800cc engine.

2. Another vehicle of interest is the Land Rover 90 TDI, my number one choice. But it is completely unaffordable, so let us not even discuss it.

3. Car number three is the two-door Mitsubishi Pajero from around 1997/98. I have seen and driven some pretty clean and affordable ones, although I have also heard that they may have some innate engine problems like heating and blown turbos, is this true? What are the disadvantages of this vehicle?

4. The last choice is the two-door short wheel base Land Cruiser, which is a second choice from the 90 TDI, although it is also a bit costly.

Now that you have got a feel of what vehicles I prefer, please compare between the Freelander and the Pajero, (advantages and disadvantages) since the Land Cruiser and the 90 TDI are out of my league for now.

Jon

The Pajero suffers from turbo and injection problems, which could sometimes lead it to smoke badly and lose power when driving. The turbos also fail with some regularity, but this I relate to the uninformed owners and sketchy development of early turbodiesel engines (they have since improved). Installing a turbo timer might alleviate this problem a bit longer.

The Freelander is pretty and is something of a lady’s car, but ignore that. The issue with the original versions was build quality, like heating vents covered in upholstery, so dealers were asked to apply a sharp knife to the suede so that the demister could work.

The manual gearbox was also popping out of gear in long left hand corners and the output shaft transfer case sheared, rendering the car 2WD, with the unsuspecting owner still thinking he had a 4WD car. The power steering pump also had problems.

These issues were exposed back in 2000 when internal Land Rover documents were leaked; the Freelander suffered from 136 faults. This does not even include poor torsional rigidity and unsatisfactory wheel articulation.

Both cars will go off road, but the Pajero will go farther off, ford deeper rivers, climb taller rocks, and plug the clag with more aplomb. The Freelander is more of a lifestyle car than a proper off-roader and will be better to drive on tarmac and murram roads.

Save a bit more and go for the “adults”, especially the Land Cruiser.

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The X3 vs the Tiguan

Dear Baraza,

I would like to buy a comfortable, stable-to-manoeuvre-at-high-speed, 2500cc small classy 4WD (I do off road about 15 per cent of the time) car. Then, “when I grow up”, I will go for its bigger sibling, depending on the pick. In this regard, please compare and contrast the BMW X3 against the VW Tiguan and BMW X5 against the VW Touareg to help me decide.

Wekesa

I am only familiar with the first generation versions of the four vehicles. However, I will soon be able to report on the new lineup of BMW X cars. So my answer will be based on the old versions.

The X3

It did not look too good, its price was hard to justify (in other words not good value for money and felt cheap), it struggled in tough terrain, and was thus easily beaten by rivals as a sensible purchase. It was hard to find plus points on this car.

The Tiguan
Unfortunately lady-like, but again VW’s strengths appear in terms of refinement and build quality. Looks suspiciously inept if something worse than paved is thrown at it. A good looker but falls short in terms of sheer gravitas. Blame the badge on the bonnet.

The X5

The exact opposite of the X3’s shortfalls. It was and still is a worthy, or even better, alternative to the Range Rover.

The Touareg

Bland design, pointless V10 TDI engine option, the 3.2 V6 was thirsty and the gearbox operated on a glacial time scale. Also heavy, but it handled really well on road and the interior is typical VW: excellent build quality and feels robust and like it will last for ever.

Except for the Tiguan, there are new versions of all these other cars, sadly none of which I have had a chance to try yet. If and when I do, I will be glad to share.

Posted on

You should not buy a Forester and expect the fuel economy of a Duet

Hi Baraza,

I have a Toyota 104L Extra, which I bought in 2009. I have never experienced any mechanical or fuel consumption problems with it.

However, I have fallen in love with the new model Subaru Forester non-turbo, so I want to sell the Toyota and buy the Subaru. Problem is that people have been discouraging me from buying it, saying it consumes a lot of fuel and that its spare parts are expensive.

Please advise me before I make my move.

Wanyoike

Why marry if you cannot support a spouse? In the same vein, why buy a car if you cannot afford to run it?

People say that Subarus are costly to run, but exactly how much more costly is it compared to other cars?

From what you have described, you sound like a guy who can take good care of a car, so go ahead and buy the Forester. It will not trouble you if you do not trouble it.

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Hi Baraza,

In one of your articles you wrote that a Subaru Forester 2.0XT, compared to the likes of the Nissan X-Trail and the CR-V, is a fuel guzzler but its consumption also depends on the way it is driven.

Since I have always been interested in being a professional driver, can you kindly advise me on how one can ensure economy with such a car?

Victor

I wish you would not throw words like “guzzler” around when what you want to say is “thirstier”.

If you call the Forester a “guzzler”, what would you call a Hummer? Or a supercharged Range Rover?

Drive gently if you want to ease up on your car’s thirst — avoid hard acceleration and brake as little as possible (within reason).

Also, try and maintain a sleek aerodynamic profile, which means that you should shut the windows when on the highway, and lose unnecessary weight from the car (and yes, this includes freeloading passengers who have no solid reason to be in your car).

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HI,

There is this belief that when you turn on a car’s AC, you are actually consuming fuel. I wonder, what is the connection between the AC and fuel consumption? Does the AC require fuel to function? And if yes, what is the mechanism?

Peter

There is a relationship between the AC and fuel consumption, but it is not direct.

The AC saps engine power, so to maintain a certain speed (or load-lugging capacity), you need wider throttle openings and as such consume more fuel.

In some cases, the increase in consumption is as extreme as 12 per cent but the average increment lies between five and eight per cent.

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Hi,

I’m planning to buy my first car at the end of this month and on my mind are Subaru Legacy, Toyota Avensis, Mitsubishi Airtek, and Toyota Voltz. Can you advise me on the maintenance costs and fuel efficiency of each of them?

Thanks.

Of the vehicles you have mentioned, the Airtek is the most recent and I know least about it. Somebody said it is a turbo. I will confirm this in the near future.

The Voltz is visually unappealing overall and has an ugly dashboard (in my opinion), so I walked away from one the day I was invited to drive it. Now that you ask, maybe I should go back, with my tail between my legs.

The Avensis is the thinking man’s choice. Easy to run, and it is a Toyota. It also has the mature understated Audi-esque looks, is comfortable and spacious, and could be the winner here.

The Subaru (2004–2007) Legacy is even prettier; it could be the best-looking of the lot (shares the mantle with Avensis and maybe Airtek, depending on individual taste).

The carrying capacity is also competitive, as is the consumption (if driven by a human and not a demon from hell). But that AWD system adds weight and complications during repair if it ever fails.

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Hi JM,

I have a 2002 X-Trail 2000cc A/T transmission, petrol. It started losing water/coolant gradually until I was forced to top up almost daily with water.

I took it to a mechanic and the cylinder head gasket was replaced, including grinding the head to align it to the block.

Afterwards, the car had the “check engine” light on permanently, even after it was deleted from memory.

The car also lost power and even with a hard press on the accelerator, the rpm would not go above 2000. Needless to say, it could not move.

I took it to another garage that claims to be great with Nissans and they changed a couple of items, including the ECU, one plug, air mass sensor, and the intake valve timing unit. They also corrected the valve timing, which had been misaligned.

After all that, the “check engine” light is still on, the car moves but suddenly loses power every now and then (I have to switch it off, then on for it to be okay), which mostly happens if I am in slow moving traffic and less when I am on the highway and moving fast. What could be wrong?

Colin

Tsk, tsk Colin, you cured the symptom but ignored the problem.

Why did you flush the memory to get rid of the “check engine” light without first finding out what the problem was?

There is a reason the light still stays on. Do a diagnosis.

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Hello JM,

I have a Toyota Ist 2002 model, 1300cc and I would like to have your opinion on this model, any problems you have heard or know about and its fuel consumption.

When I put Sh500 worth of fuel, it goes for about 38 kilometres. Is this good or is it consuming a lot?

I have also tried to find the manual for this car online without any success (it did not have one when I bought it). Please help because I really do not know much about cars.

Dru

That kind of fuel consumption, 38 km on 4.2 litres of fuel, is the sort of consumption reserved for cars like the Toyota Mark X, not a tiny tot like the Ist. So, yes, there is a problem right there.

I have not heard much about this car, and I have not driven one much (just a quick lap round a dealer forecourt), so I cannot give comprehensive information just yet.

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Hello,

I am planning to buy a Daewoo Cielo and after searching the Net I could not find any negative comment from people who own the car. But I am not so sure about this car in Kenya; it is not a common car on our roads.

I know its an old model, but would you recommend it because it is cheap, economical, strong, and the spare parts are available?

Daewoo has had a rather colourful history, starting off by rebuilding extinct GM passenger cars, then going solo, and then rebranding some Chevrolet cars to Daewoo so as to sell them cheaply.

The Cielo is bloody old, as you have pointed out. I am not too sure about spares — they are there, seeing how it is an ex-GM car (Vauxhall/Opel Cavalier or something along those lines), but maybe not in Kenya. It is doubtful that someone would stock spares for a car that appears in such small numbers.

Do not let this stop you from asking around, though. If the spares exist in Kenyan shops, then go ahead and assuage your yearning heart.

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Hi Baraza,

I recently changed the CV joint on my Probox but the ABS light will not go off even though the ABS ring was fixed.

I have taken the car to several mechanics but no one seems to know what the problem is. How do I get this light to go off?

First, be sure that it is the ABS which has a problem and not your brakes. You can drive without ABS, but I highly doubt if you can manage without the wheel anchors.

The light staying on will either be caused by a large air gap between the sensor and the exciter, a bent exciter ring, or corrosion or damage to a sensor cable.

Check all the cables for any damage e.g. rubbing against the front wheels when on full lock or damage to pins in connector sockets due to water.

All output voltages from sensors must be within five per cent of each, so any extra resistance in the sensor wires will cause the fault light to go on.

If the light really is the ABS warning, the first thing to try is to cycle the ignition key off and back on — it is like rebooting your computer — and just maybe whatever transient glitch confused the ABS controller has passed and all is well. If the condition repeats, you need to do some poking and prodding.

Find a shop with a scan tool that will talk to your ABS controller. A technician will interrogate your ABS controller and look for a trouble code stored in memory.

This code will at least give you some idea of where to look. For more information, trawl the Internet.

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Hi Baraza,

I now understand cars better, thanks to you. Anyway, I always read some boring terms about supposed qualities of a car such as kW, hp, PS, torque etc. Can you kindly clarify for readers like me what these terms are in simplified language.

For instance I read in one of the Daily Nation magazines about the Peugeot SR1, which has an engine that delivers 160kW(218 PS;215hp). Now is that a lot of power compared to say the Mercedes C200 or the Toyota Vitz?

To you they may be boring, but to some of us, they make for exciting reading (depending on the car in question).

kW is kilowatts and is the power a car develops, expressed in SI units. Hp is horsepower, and is the same power expressed in imperial measurements.

This is the power that either the engine develops at the flywheel or the car itself develops at the wheels (the figure at the wheels is usually smaller) and sometimes, when the figure is quoted, the authority giving it will specify whether it is at the wheels or at the flywheel.

Torque is the twisting ability of the crankshaft when the engine is running, and is either expressed in Nm (Newton metres), kgm (kilogramme metres), or lb.ft (pounds feet).

Cars vary in power, and the Benz Kompressor may or may not have a bigger number attached to it compared to the Pug (that is short for Peugeot by the way) but the ultimate ability is expressed by the power to weight ratio (PWR), simply got by dividing the horsepower or kilowatts available by the weight of the car in kilogrammes or preferably in tonnes.

The car with a bigger PWR is typically a better performer, keeping other things constant of course.

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Hi,

I have a 2004 Toyota Mark II Blit station wagon and it is a lovely machine. What is the difference between this car and the Mark II sedan? Which one is better? And what is your take on the Blit?

The two cars should be mechanically similar, but the differences are obvious: one is estate, the other is not and the front facade treatment is a four lamp edifice for the Blit against the single ovoid lamod lamps of the sedan. As for which is better, it depends on your taste and needs.

I personally do not like the Blit. It looks too much like a hearse, especially in black or grey, but I guess that means it has some awesome carrying capacity.

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Hi Baraza,

I have a Rav4 J and the problem is that it does not pick when climbing a hill. I have changed the gear box but there is no improvement.

And the handbrake sign is always on. When changing from reverse to drive, it produces a loud bang. What could be the problem?

When I read about your problem, I first laughed for close to five minutes. Forgive me. Disengage the handbrake and go.

About the loud bang when changing gears, have the linkage checked, as well as the clutch system.