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Why cars made in the ’80s and ’90s will outlive the ’00s by far

Hi Baraza,

In the past two weeks, I have driven down to Nakuru three times, every time using a different car, namely a 2003 Toyota Kluger, a 2007 Toyota Premio, and a 1991 Mercedes Benz 190E.

By quite a distance, the 190E was the most comfortable and most stable. Older Volvos and Mercedes’ seem way more reliable than modern-day equivalents and also better cars than, say, a 2007 Premio. Do you agree with the saying that the golden age of motoring was the ’80s and early ’90s?

Pete.

It depends on one’s perspective. But in a way, yes, the ’80s and early ’90s were some of the best years in motoring.

This was the era when Formula 1 cars were turbocharged and did close to 1,500hp with few yawn-inducing rules and regulations to try and “balance the field” and ensure “close racing”.

This was the era of Group B in rallying, undeniably the most spectacular aspect of the sport.

Unfortunately, it is also the one with the highest rate of fatalities for both drivers and spectators.

The innovations of this time led to the current turbo 4WD cars on our roads.

This was the same era when the 200mph (322 km/h) mark was crossed by a production car — the Porsche 959 — also the shortest-lived fastest production car record ever.

The Porsche was unseated by the Ferrari F40 within a few short months by a mere 1mph (1.6 km/h). You do not get excitement like this nowadays.

The marvel was not limited to the rarefied atmosphere of race cars and limited-production, horribly expensive supercars.

This was also the era of the over-engineered Mercedes: Cars like the Addams Family dragster (the extra-long and extra-menacing W126), the Berlin Taxi (the ubiquitous W124) and what Top Gear and/or racer Martin Brundle called “the slowest sports sedan ever made”, the 190E.

These are cars that cannot and will not break, so they will last forever.

Their popularity and desirability are about to peak, so getting one now would be paramount for a collector before clean examples run out of stock.

The ’80s also saw the swan song of many small rear-drive Japanese saloon cars (Toyota Corolla, Nissan Bluebird, etc) with many of these going for an FF format, and thus becoming boring white goods for faceless, entry-level employees.

This was also the last time engineers had “free reign” to create a car exactly the way they wanted it.

From the ’90s onwards, things like emissions control and safety standards have steadfastly turned cars into heavy, ugly, self-driving, aluminium-and-plastic, lawsuit-perpetrating, smugness-generating cocoons in which people hide from the outside world while tapping away at heavy, ugly, think-for-you, plastic-and-glass, smugness-generating electronic devices while their cars’ electronic brains do their damnedest to overcome the nearly-fatal incompetence of the idiot behind the wheel through a variety of driver aids and a veritable battery of sensors and chips.

Gosh! The ’80s and early ’90s saw the last of the real driver’s cars!

Hi Baraza,

I currently own a 2013 Audi Q5 which I use here in the UK and plan to ship to Kenya next year when I relocate.

I have read an article regarding the DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter) and have come to the conclusion that I will need to remove this and reprogramme the ECU before I send the vehicle to Kenya.

There are a lot of companies here in the UK that offer DPF removal (physically remove the DPF, add in a stainless steel pipe to connect the exhaust and reprogramme the ECU properly).

My question is, once I arrive in Kenya with the car and I need the ECU reprogrammed or anything else, is there anyone able to repair or update the ECU?

How much do they charge, approximately? Also, the car has something called Adblue. Is this available in Kenya? Any help would be great.

Pinal.

Hello Pinal,

ECU reprogramming is available now from a variety of individuals here in Kenya.

What they charge is entirely up to them; their rates vary so it is not easy to get a ballpark figure.

Adblue may not be readily available in Kenya, but that does not mean you cannot get it. A lot of people nowadays do to-order imports of spares and consummables rather than bulk importation and praying for a ready market.

What they do is take orders from different people until they have enough to fill a container, after which they go in search of the materials to import.

This would make more sense rather than importing a whole container of Adblue and discovering that only one person back here is interested.

These are the folks you need to get in touch with. They are all over the internet.

Hi Baraza,

I am a frequent reader of your column and love the advice you give on various issues.

I have a 2005 Toyota Harrier 240G and have the following questions regarding the car:

1. Does it come with a traction control function? If so, where is the button located?

2. I recently saw a VSC light on the speed gauge and was wondering what it was and what it does.

3. Could you also compare the Harrier with a Mark X 250G in terms of speed and performance?

3. It has a Japanese-language radio (Eclipse AVN 7705HD) and I was wondering if you have a list of translators who could help me since it seems the previous owners (the Japanese) already set it up to their preferences.

Thanks,

Kefahngwei

1. Yes, the car comes with a form of traction control programmed into it.

Do you want to turn it off? I strongly advise you not to because the car will become unpredictable and difficult to drive in slippery conditions.

I am not sure where the button to disengage the traction control is, but in most Toyota cars, it is found to the left of and slightly below the steering column.

However, in some models, especially those that are the same as Lexus, the VSC cannot be turned off.

The Harrier just happens to be such a model (it is also the Lexus RX), as are the Altezza (Lexus IS), Aristo (Lexus GS), and Crown (Lexus LS/ES). Therefore, there is no button to turn it off.

2. VSC is Vehicle Stability Control and it is what you were asking about in Question 1 above. The stability and traction controls are controlled together in some cars, of which this is one. In other cars, especially German ones, the stability and traction controls are (dis)engaged separately.

3. The Mark X is superior in both terms.

4. Unfortunately, I do not have such a list right now.

Hi Baraza,

Thanks for your wonderful insight and advice through this column.

I would like to purchase a four-wheel-drive car that will enable me to see Kenya when I retire soon.

Touring the country has been my dream for a long time and I need a strong vehicle that will take me into the deep interiors of our lovely nation any time of the year.

I am attracted to the Land Rover Defender 110, but would like to know more about it and other equally good 4WDs.

Does the Toyota Hilux Surf fit in this category? What about cost of maintenance due to the wear and tear that will arise?

Which tops the list among the Toyota Landcruiser Prado, the ordinary Landcruiser station wagon, and the Defender 110 in terms of 4WD capability?

Thanks,

Joshua.

Hello Joshua,

The Defender you mention perfectly fits the bill of the requirements you demand from your next car: It is a strong vehicle that will take you into deep interiors at any time of the year.

However, something in your question begs the warning; Not so fast!

You say you will be retiring soon. So you are approaching senior citizen status.

Well, Sir, the Defender will be quite a cross to bear owing to its suspension.

It is the hardest, stiffest assembly I have come across in any car bar none (except maybe a go-kart, which has no suspension at all).

Now that you want to go into “deep interiors” — by which I take it you mean to rush in where goats fear to tread — then you may need another car that will take it easier on your senior citizen spine.

Either that or change the settings and components of the 110 to something more forgiving.

The Land Rover Defender is not comfortable on tarmac and off-road, it will try you physically and emotionally as you bounce repeatedly off the pain barrier.

I think that is why policemen are always in a bad mood. They are forced to ride in Land Rover Defenders all day.

The Hilux Surf (nowadays it is just called a Surf, they dropped the Hilux prenom. Other markets call it the 4Runner) also fits in this category.

It has the full off-road running gear, ample clearance, low-range gearbox, 4WD transfer case, and diff-locks, but in extreme conditions, the Defender will keep going long after the Surf has given up.

This is due to the longer wheelbase length, longer rear overhang, and sometimes-there-sometimes-not subtle body kit present on the Surf.

They are all impediments to progress once you are off the beaten path.

The Defender also has more clearance.

Take heart though; by the time you notice the difference in abilities between the two SUVs, it will be less of driving and more of trying to survive. I doubt you will end up in such a situation.

Cost of repairs and maintenance are not horrendous for the Land Rover. It was designed to be rugged and simplistic intentionally.

Bush remedies are supposed to work and body damage is easily fixed because the aluminium panels are easy to remove/panel-beat/replace, even in the jungle.

However, the current Defender comes with a lot of electronic systems in it which has raised eyebrows among pundits as to whether or not its “simplistic” nature still applies.

The difference between the Landcruiser Prado, the regular Landcruiser station wagon (the J70, right?) and the Defender 110 in off-road conditions is not that big. The J70 and the Defender are especially hard to distinguish: One will follow the other without white-flagging to a point where the respective drivers will begin to wonder how they will get back to civilisation.

Both are unstoppable off-road in the right hands. The Land Rover’s only letdown will be reliability.

Hello Baraza,

I need a car to use in Nairobi, preferably an off-roader. We have an ex-Posta, 2.8-litre, diesel Daihatsu Rocky.

Is it an economical car for my needs?

Clifton.

Clifton,

An ex-Posta car, you say? Most likely my Daddy drove it at one point or the other. Anyway, that is besides the point.

I was exposed to the 2.8 diesel Daihatsu Rocky for very many years and its economy is, well, impressive.

But then again, it has a high-torque, low-revving diesel engine, so the economy is to be expected. Achieving 10kpl is easy, even more if you are something special behind the wheel.

I, however, do no’t see its point as a city car. A good number of these ex-KPTC/Telkom/Posta Rocky vehicles can be found in Uasin Gishu, where farmers need that diesel torque, high clearance, and 4WD ability due to the intractability of roads not attached to the A104.

A smaller car would be more ideal for city use.

The advantage is that with the tractor of a car that the Rocky is, you are unlikely to get bullied by matatus. So maybe it is ideal for city use, after all.

Hi Baraza,

I am looking forward to acquiring a VW Golf Touran but on checking fuel consumption for different engines, I realised that the 2.0 FSI offers better consumption than 1.6 FSI.

All same year. a) How is that possible? b) What is your take on FSI versus TSI engines in terms of performance, fuel consumption, general reliability and, most importantly, availability and cost of local support?

Both seem to cost nearly the same for same-year models.

Thanks sana,

Mwangi Kiguru.

Greetings Mwangi,

a) Yes, that is very possible. If anything, it is the norm, particularly at highway speeds.

The bigger 2.0-litre unit can effortlessly attain triple-digit velocities while the smaller 1.6 needs to be given a few more beans to keep up.

However, this difference is not big and is only more noticeable when there is a bigger percentage disparity in engine capacity and in smaller engines such as when comparing a 1.0 litre against a 1.5 or a 1.6.

b) The engines are very similar, though the technologies are slightly different.

Performance and general reliability are almost the same, as are the economy (which is good) and availability and cost of local support (which is shaky, I should point out).

The reason for the TSI and FSI techs are an attempt to meet and beat emissions regulations by optimising efficiency efficiently… if you get what I mean.

Hi Baraza,

Thanks to your column I can now almost beat my husband on motoring issues.

I even store your works in a special cabinet for future reviews! Straight to the point; I drive a Toyota Vanguard which has worked fantastically for me so far.

My husband suggests that it is time I let it go and chose something else (which he has already picked).

His view is that I should get an Isuzu Bighorn or a Mitsubishi Pajero, and that I may go for turbocharged or supercharged versions of these.

Now, Baraza, my wish is to change to a Toyota Prado. My questions, ignoring my ignorance, are:

a) How do these cars compare, considering I am always on rough roads?

b) What does “supercharged” mean? At least I know what “turbocharge” is all about.

Thanks,

Mercy.

I am glad I have a dedicated follower in you. Thank you for the compliment. Now, down to work.

a) The three cars are all capable off-road machines, though the Pajero, especially if not locally franchised (think Simba Colt) or tropicalised, may get a touch delicate when things get military.

Your choice of a Prado, therefore, is not bad.

The Bighorn, on the other hand, went out of production quite a while ago and so it is only a matter of time before parts, like hen’s teeth, become hard to come by. They are also few and far between, unlike the Prado and Pajero, which are all over.

b) If you know what turbocharging is, then supercharging should be easy to understand.

It is similar to turbocharging in that it is a means of forced induction. The difference is that a turbocharger’s turbine is driven by the momentum of exhaust gases and this turbine in turn drives the impeller/compressor.

A supercharger’s compressor/impeller is driven by a belt connected to the engine itself.

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The Tiggo will have criminals ‘shivering’ with laughter

Hi Baraza,
What is your take on the Kenyan government supplying police officers and provincial administration with the Cherry Tiggo cars? Are the cars the best they can use, considering that countries like the US use patrol cars that cannot be sold to the public, such as the Ford Victoria Crown and Dodge?

Is there any feature of the cars that can make criminals shiver at their sight? Are the cars meant for countries like Kenya, where most roads are not tarmacked? I think this was the reason behind the use of the Toyota Land Cruiser and the Land Rover.

Finally, are the Tiggos stable enough for high speed chases (like the Peugeot 504) or will they roll over, just like the military lorries do even at very low speed? I also fear that they may become old (lose shape) like the ones being used by the Chinese engineers constructing Thika road.

Walkins

You would be surprised that ex-police cruisers can be and are sold to the public in the US (after disarming them of the dash-stored shotguns and computers connected to security databases), especially the Crown Victoria and the Chevy Caprice.

The only reason criminals would shiver would be with laughter at the sight of the government’s cheapness in supplying Tiggos to the boys in blue. Not that they care, anyway.

The Chinese car would not be bad for the untarmacked roads, but their longevity is questionable. And gone are the days of the high speed police chase; nowadays they will just push a stinger into the path of the escaping felon and his goose would be well and truly cooked.

If and when the cops chase down the criminal, he could at least hope that the pursuit vehicle will age and break down some time during the chase (the reputation of China-sourced products).

Hi Baraza,

How does the Toyota Opa compare to the Toyota Fielder in terms of performance, handling, cost of maintenance, resale value, comfort, stability and power? I also want to know why you say the Opa is ugly and yet there are uglier cars, or is it just because beauty lies in the eye of the beholder?

Performance should be better than the Fielder, as is handling, but maintenance costs will depend on how well you take care of it. One on one, the D4 engine and the optional CVT transmission are harder to fix (and will thus cost more) than the equivalent VVT-i and auto/manual gearbox in the Fielder.

Resale value will be next to nothing, but if you can find a fellow Opa-lover, then all the best. Comfort: Very good, for the price and class. Stability: Better than the Fielder, but it is still not an F1 car. Power: 1.8 litre D4 performance, which means about 150 hp.

About its ugliness, just because there are other ugly cars, does that mean I should call the Opa pretty? If four students do an IQ test and one student gets a score of 1, and three others get 0, does that make that one student a genius? No, it is just that three other students happen to be less intellectually endowed. Same thing here; the Opa is still quite unsightly, whether or not Verossas and Wills exist.

Dear Baraza,

I want to move from a five- to seven-seater car to accommodate my family. Looking around, the following appealed to me because of looks, fuel economy, and parking space: Peugeot 307, Volkswagen Touran, Toyota Sienta, Honda Mobilio, and Nissan Cubecubic. I also visited CMC and saw the Maruti 800cc van.

What are your comments on these cars and which one would you recommend?

Muteti

From your list, I would say the Touran is the best seven-seater car. It is the most comfortable, has good power delivery, a six-speed gearbox, is highly versatile, and has Volkswagen’s bullet-proof build quality. Too bad it took an army friend of mine several attempts to get the gearbox fixed at CMC Motors before he was satisfied.

The 307 is also a good car, but with the French known to be unreliable, it may not be the best buy if you have resale value in mind. The Toyotas, Hondas, and Nissans are generic Japanese products that I am yet to assess (but I strongly suspect there is not much difference between them).

That 800cc Maruti is another thing altogether. It will seat seven people, yes, much in the same way back in the day my three sisters and I could fit in one red KP&TC telephone booth when making a phone call to daddy at work.

It is not an experience you will particularly enjoy or want to repeat daily. The Maruti is a small-capacity delivery van (mostly for pizzas or inter-office documents), not a Swiss family mobility solution.
Of the lot, I pick the Touran.

Hi,

What is the difference between the 2004/5 Lexus RX 300/330 and Toyota Harrier 240G/300G besides engine displacement? These cars are identical! Which would you go, considering spare parts availability and running costs?

Tony

Besides displacement, the only other difference is the logo in the grille up front. Such vehicles as the Toyota Harrier, Aristo, Altezza, Crown, and Land Cruiser Cygnus (the top-rung 100 VX model) existed because at the time the Lexus brand was not available on sale in Japan, so they were rebranded as Toyota.

Their respective Lexus equivalents were the RX 300, GS 300, IS 200 (and IS 250 in the US), LS 400, and LX 470. There was even a “Lexusized” J120 Prado called the GX 450.

In my world, availability of spares and running costs mean diddly squat, so I would go for the one with the biggest engine and the most horsepower and with the most apportionment (options like leather, climate control, and sun-roof).

For the cash-sensitive types, the diametric opposite of my desire is what they should settle for; the smallest engine with the bare minimum of optional extras.

Hi Baraza,

1. Between a 6-litre V8 engine and a 6-litre V12 engine, which one consumes more fuel? Is it engine displacement or the number of cylinders in the engine?

2. I have been seeing exotic modern cars (Aston Martin, Ferrari, Bentleys, Rolls Royce, etc) in Nairobi streets. Where are these cars serviced? It is not that I am aspiring to buy these cars in the near future, a turbo-charged Subaru is good enough for me.

1. Given the extent of automotive engineering thus far, it is neither of the options you list there. Genius and boffinry will determine the consumption capabilities.

Engine management (injection maps, variable valve timing), supplementary innovations (variable intake plena, active exhausts, use of forced induction, injector and plug placement/relationship, cylinder deactivation, charged gasoline injection, etc), the shape and design of combustion chambers, intake manifolds and exhaust manifolds, along with a whole lot of other things will determine the fuel consumption of an engine.

That is why the CL 65 AMG Mercedes-Benz coupe is a 600 hp monster that can still manage 11 kpl.

2. These vehicles belong to individuals who prefer to stay outside the scope of the public eye. I have seen them too. My presumption is that given what it costs to buy one (and the kind of brain power that goes into building one), it is only natural for the owners to send the vehicle back to the makers for servicing.

Either that or factory engineers are flown in with a complete tool kit to service the vehicle from the privacy of the owner’s home.

Hi,

I want to know about the work of the cylinders in a car and why they vary from vehicle to vehicle, for example, some have four while others have eight cylinders. Aside from that, you are always sceptical about the Cadillac Escalade and yet it is still one of the most prestigious vehicles today.

So how do you rate the Cadillac CTS-V in terms of performance, power (which I assume is quite a lot with the over 400 hp), comfort, stability, and fuel economy?

Three cylinders or less are typically used in less than 1.0-litre capacity engines (except the noisy tractor road-building equipment that uses just one but displaces more than 1.0 litre).

Four cylinders (in line) are good for fuel economy. V4 engines are noisy, and prone to vibrations, which requires the use of heavy crankshaft journals and flywheels to dampen the vibrations.

As a result, they make the car nose heavy, that is why they found limited use in cars. They are used for bikes, though. Horizontally opposed or “flat” four engines (H4) provide even weight distribution, and no, they do not wear the cylinders out on one side, as some people assume.

Five-cylinder engines are not much different from 4-cylinder ones.Most provide extra capacity without resorting to enlargement of cylinders. This applies to both V5 and in-line 5 engines. Six cylinder engines have legendary smoothness and good top-end (high rev) power characteristics.

That is why Lexus used them to great effect in their smaller saloons. The top-end power applies to both in-line 6 (Nissan Skyline GTR, Toyota Supra Mk IV, BMW M3) and V6 engines (Nissan GTR R35, Lotus Evora).

V6 engines have the added benefit of being compact, allowing for a more stubby bonnet or installation in a mid-ship platform, what we call mid-engined cars, or rear engine chassis.

Eight-cylinder engines develop huge torque. Straight 8s saw action a long time ago but these died a natural death. It was only sensible to make V8s. W8 engines were recently “discovered”, but since they involve the juxtaposition of two V4s, they do not get much airtime.

Twelve-cylinder engines have very good power and can rev to “abnormal” levels (the V12 in the Ferrari F50 road car could soar to about 10,000 rpm).

That is why they are used in top-end sports and performance cars (Lamborghini, Ferrari, top-flight Mercedes-Benz AMG and BRABUS cars). Sadly, the engine in the recently released Lamborghini Aventador will have the last automotive V12 to be used as manufacturers are now favouring turbo-charged V8s, which are simpler to build, more robust, and meet ever-tightening emissions standards.

Weirdly, some army tanks also use V12 engines, diesel powered. V10 engines share tendencies with V12s.

Beyond this point, most engines take a W configuration rather than V for the sake of length. The W12 engine (a creation of the VW Group and commonly found in Bentley and Audi) is just the mating of two V6s, side by side. The W16 (Bugatti Veyron) is the joining of two V8s.

The CTS-V is America finally waking up to the realities of life. The original 400 hp car was good (which is saying a lot for a Yank Tank), but the 556 hp supercharged version was great (this has never been said of any American car).

The blown CTS-V killed the BMW M5’s lap record for fastest four-door saloon at the Nurburgring, what with the M5 having two more cylinders (V10 vs the Caddy’s V8) and 50 less hp.

This war is not over. BMW have brought out a new M5 (the F10). They have gone back to V8 engines, they have lowered the engine capacity but (the trump card) to compensate for that, the M car now has two turbochargers slotted under the bonnet.

Initial reports indicate the car goes like stink and is so good it could end hunger in sub-Saharan Africa and bring peace in the Middle East — this is of course an exaggeration. The car will actually bring more war as each country fights to be the one supplying the unleaded that goes into the M5’s fuel tank.

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Avoid running on ‘E’ all the time, just fill up

Hi Baraza,

I have a well-maintained Mitsubishi Lancer Cedia, 1500cc, 2003 model. I often drive it when the low-fuel light is on and the car covers many kilometres before refuelling.

What are the implications of driving a car when this light is on for a long period? Another issue is that, whenever, I top up with fuel worth about Sh500, the light goes on immediately, even before I am out of the petrol station. Why? How effective is this vehicle in terms of fuel consumption?

I would also like you to generally comment about Mitsubishi Lancers as I have found this car to be much nicer compared to the Subaru Legacy I had before.

Frederick.

How many kilometres does your Lancer cover from the moment the light comes on?

If it is more than 100, then you might have a special car in your care: either the fuel consumption is extraordinary or the electricals are playing with your mind.

The biggest implication for running a car with the fuel light constantly on is that you might run out of fuel far from a filling station and you would go to a lot of trouble getting it running again.

Most cars indicate ‘empty’ or have the light shining when there is about five to 10 litres of fuel remaining.

So, if your tank was very nearly empty (say, had less than 100ml of petrol left) and you put in Sh500 worth of fuel (given that petrol is going for about Sh120 a litre, that is about four litres of fuel ), then what you have in your tank is still below the empty mark. Fill your tank if you can.

The Cedia is very economical, even in the 1.5 litre form, especially if the car has a GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection, similar to D4 in Toyota) engine, but to harness the maximum effect from GDI, maintain steady throttle openings (a light constant pressure on the accelerator) as the GDI system reverts to the normal stoichiometric charge ratio whenever the throttle opening is adjusted.

Let me get my hands on a Cedia and I will definitely give you something worth reading.

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Hi Baraza,

Let us separate two warring factions here: the D4 engine haters (a larger group) and those who praise it.

First things first; is the D4 engine different from a VVT-i one? Or, if I may shoot more straight, can D4 technology be used in a VVT-i engine?

I have heard things that make touching the engine sinful — it is significantly thirstier than the others and requires you to talk to the HR department for a loan to repair it once it goes nuts.

Please clarify whether all these things are true.

Finally, please confirm whether the new car models, specifically the Toyota Premio and the RAV4, can come with the D4 engine.

And is it possible for the D4 label not to appear on the engine cover?

Nyaga.

The D4 technology was supposed to be the motoring industry’s second-coming, but Toyota rushed it and. because of that, it does have a few weaknesses. It is my understanding that they are back to the drawing board over this.

D4 and VVT-i are two different technologies: one concerns fuel delivery (D4, Direct Injection 4-stroke cycle) while the other concerns valve timing (VVT-i, variable valve timing with intelligence). It is, therefore, possible to have both on the same engine.

Why would a D4 engine be thirstier than others?

The technology is supposed to improve fuel consumption, not make it worse. I have driven some cars (Toyota Vista the most) with D4 and if carefully driven, the 1.8 litre would return astonishing mileage.

Toyota Premios and RAV4s do come with D4 engines for some trim levels.

Most D4-equipped cars have the logo plastered on the engine cover. I have not seen one that did not, but this is not to say that it is impossible. I just have not seen one yet.

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Hi Baraza,

I always look forward to reading your articles even though I do not have a car yet. However, I’m planning to buy one in January and I needed you advice.

There is this car I see, Toyota Lexus/Altezza salon. I have not seen many on our roads, though, but I admire its aesthetics and I’m planning to acquire one.

Please advise me on its performance, engine size, handling, fuel consumption, speed, and spare parts availability. Your advice will be much appreciated.

First off, there is no such thing as a Toyota Lexus. Those are two different brands under the same umbrella. You either have a Toyota or you have a Lexus.

The car you are referring to is the Toyota Altezza/Lexus IS 200. Although you claim not to have seen many on our roads, believe me they are there, and in increasing numbers.

Answering your queries in order of presentation: damn-near excellent (in the 3 Series league, possibly faster); it is a 2.0 litre (the IS 250 that is strictly USDM is a 2.5); the handling is sublime, courtesy of the rear drive chassis; fuel consumption is passable under normal driving conditions, but it gets a bit thirsty when pushed; it is fast with good acceleration (clocks 100 km/h in less than 9 seconds); I am not too sure about spares but take heart in the fact that, with increasing numbers, their availability will improve.

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Hi Baraza,

I am interested in purchasing a Mitsubishi Pajero. I have already identified one, a 1998 Inter-cooler Turbo which looks fairly good and is going for Sh700,000. What do you think, is the price fair? How come a Toyota Landcruiser of the same age goes for almost double this price?

For a Pajero of this age and make, what mechanical problems are likely to plague it? Are spare parts available and is it a guzzler?

Robert

The biggest issue would be poor diesel combustion accompanied by a lack of power, so check for a smoky exhaust.

A good service/overhaul should put it back in order. Also, take it to a specialist to have the turbo looked at since most people do not know how to maintain turbodiesel cars.

It is not what you would call a guzzler, given its size and class. The price seems a bit optimistic but a thorough check should reveal whether or not you are going to pay more when fixing it.

Toyota SUVs are generally expensive to begin with, and their reputation for hardiness and reliability means they will not lose value fast.

I know of Landcruisers from the late 1990s that still have an asking price well north of Sh2.5 million.

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Dear Baraza,

I have two issues I need your wise counsel on:

1. We own a Toyota Noah 2000 model, 2184 cc, diesel. The car’s timing belt broke about four weeks ago. We got a mechanic to fix it and that is when the woes started. At first, he could not get the part and had to have it imported. Later the sleeves and pistons had to be replaced. The car is now working but it is smoking like a jiko, has a hard start, and shakes when idling. What could the mechanic have done wrong and how can we correct this? Is it worth it to continue fixing this engine or should we jut buy a new one? The mechanic reckons that the smoking will go away after three days.

2. If options run out for us, we are thinking of getting a new car but would like your advice on imports from Britain as compared to Japan. What would you recommend for a family of four? We would like a small 4×4 that can go to shags and also do local running in town. I had thought of a Land Rover Freelander but have no idea how the car performs. Your advice will be highly appreciated.

The smoking means a lot of things could be wrong. The valve seals, the piston rings, or even the entire cylinder head could be leaking. The hard start could be caused by faulty electricals or poor fuel delivery, and the shaking during idle means that one or more of your spark plugs could be giving up. That also ties in with the hard start.

It might be easier to just get a new engine, especially nowadays when a new one costs as little as Sh30,000 (expect to pay up to Sh70,000 for your Noah engine, but it will be a good investment in the long run). And next time, go to a proper garage that has a reputation to stake if they ruin your car.

The Freelander is good, but get a late model first-generation car, preferably diesel. The very first Freelander cars off the assembly line had a litany of problems that you do not want to deal with, believe me.

Or you could try the Nissan X-Trail, also in diesel, although even the petrol is not so bad. Avoid automatic for the X-Trail if you can. RAV4s are expensive and a touch thirstier than the X-Trail, while the iO is delicate and wobbly on the highway.

I have not visited the import scene that much to make a declaration which is better between Britain and Japan, but, as a personal preference, I would go Jap.

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Hi Baraza,

I have a Toyota Premio D4 manufactured in 2000. The body of the car and the mechanicals are as good as new.

However, while idling, the rev sometimes just shoots up even to 2000 without any obvious cause, hence seriously increasing fuel consumption. The interesting thing is that on some days it returns to normal by itself.

My mechanic appears lost on this. I have replaced the whole throttle body, including the sensors, but there is still no change. One mechanic thought there is a damaged pipe that sucks in air but he cannot say which one. I have tried a number of reputable garages but none can tell where the problem lies, but they insist there is a sensor somewhere with a problem.

Kindly let me know if there is a mechanic who can sort it out even if privately. I know D4 engines have issues but I believe there must be a way out.

Remove the IAC (idle air control) valve and clean it then put it back. Disconnect the battery for about five minutes to try and flush the ECU memory (if possible), but first try and use a scan tool (OBD II device).

Other causes can include: vacuum leaks, a build-up of contaminates obstructing movement of the IAC valve, a sticking or binding EGR valve or throttle linkage, an improperly adjusted or a sticking throttle position sensor, AC leakage from the alternator into the electrical system, fuel injector leakage, the evaporative control system, positive crankcase ventilation system, air leaks into the intake system, exhaust system leaks or a restriction, a contaminated oxygen sensor or an erratic sensor signal, and other related sensors.

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Hi Baraza

I would like to invest in the matatu business here in Kenya but I do not know which bus to choose. I want a 51-seater, either Isuzu FRR, Nissan MKB 210, or Mitsubishi. I am looking at durability, fuel economy, and ease of maintenance.

I have heard from a number of people that Isuzu is durable and easy to maintain while the Nissan is not that durable.

I also do not understand why the Isuzu FRR has a bigger engine (8200cc) than the Nissan MK210 (6900cc), yet the two vehicles yield the same horse power.

Does the Isuzu consume more fuel due to the bigger engine? Also, why is FH the most popular and fastest selling truck in Kenya?

Mwangi.

The MKB 210 is turbocharged and intercooled, that is why it yields almost the same power as the FRR (180 hp vs 187). The FH is popular due to its power (more than both MKB and FRR, at about 215 hp) and durability (the vehicle is quite hardy).

I am not sure about their fuel consumption yet, I will check with some industry players and get back to you.

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Hi,

I have a few questions concerning my Lexus RX330.

First, how can I change the language settings on the DVD screen, and where is the control DVD located?

The other problem is that when I attain speeds of between 60 to 80 kph, it vibrates, but when I stop accelerating it stops. I have tried all manner of wheel balancing and alignment but in vain.

Lastly, is there a DVD with Kenyan maps and can it work in my car? I hear something about PAL and NTSC, but I’m not familiar with these. Please help.

A tuning outfit called Auto Art says they can do Japanese-English translations for those telematics systems. Find them and ask. I do not know where the control DVD is located (or what it is, for that matter).

The vibrating could be caused by worn out engine or transmission mounts. Lexus were known to have installed active engine mounts on some cars (these mounts vibrate at the same frequency but half a wavelength out of sync with the engine vibration itself to cancel out the engine vibrations, which is why Lexus cars are so smooth).

I do not know who has the DVD with Kenyan maps, but I have seen cars with Nairobi sat-nav, and CMC boast that their Discovery 4 has a Kenyan road map sat-nav that includes game parks.

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Dear Baraza,

I live in the UK and read your article touching on V-Power fuel and I just wanted to make a comment.

I use a B6 VW Passat diesel and was recently introduced to V-Power diesel by Shell.

This is what I noticed: V-Power diesel is made from a different base stock. Instead of being refined from crude, a percentage will consist of liquified gas and is meant to be a “purer” fuel with cleaner burning. Whether it is worth the price premium is a point for endless discussion.

For what it is worth, I have tried every type of diesel fuel here (BP Ultimate Diesel, Total Excelium) plus a range of additives, and none has made any measurable, repeatable difference in performance or economy. All diesel fuel on sale from reputable UK forecourts meets or exceeds the EN590 standard that car manufacturers specify.

Musau.

Thank you Musau. When V-Power was first introduced back here in the motherland, Shell were careful to point out that it will not turn your Corolla estate into a Ferrari (in spite of using images of Ferrari cars to popularise the fuel).

It is more of a cleaning agent than a high-power output fuel. With the increased octane rating, it can be used in performance cars with high compression engines.

It will not, repeat NOT, increase the performance of your car or the fuel economy, but it will clean the engine of deposits in and around the combustion chamber.

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Hi Baraza,

I have a Subaru Forester 2003 Turbo. The turbo makes a whining sound at 5,000rpm while the boost has a slight delay. The sound can be heard from the cockpit. I have checked all the hoses. Is the turbo going? I am using V-Power and fully synthetic oil (Quartz 9000).

The car could be suffering from boost leak, which means that somewhere in the turbo or intake, there is an area where the air (boost) is escaping.

Typically, a boost leak is caused by a loose or bad seal or cracked housing. When there is a boost leak, the turbo will be able to generate boost, but it may not be able to hold it at a constant level, and pressure will drop off proportionally to the size of the leak.

The funny whining noise is a cyclic noise caused by unstable compressor operating conditions known as compressor surge.

This aerodynamic instability is the most noticeable during a rapid lift of the throttle following operation at full boost, which it may have in your case since you talk of running at 5,000rpm.

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Hi,

I have this car that I call an animal because I was driving on a highway and did not realise that I was doing 160km/h. It is an 1800cc Fielder S. Kindly advise on the most fuel-economic speed on highways.

I also wish to know whether switching the lever to neutral and back in attempt to save fuel, in an auto, can cause damage to the gearbox. Thanks.

The most economical speed depends mostly on engine capacity, but it lies between 90 km/h for small-engine cars and about 125–130 km/h for cars with large engines (3.5 litre plus). Shave off about 20 km/h each for diesel powered cars. You, however, need to have your windows shut and keep a steady throttle foot.

I had done an article on driving in neutral and declared it redundant in the face of current technology.

You are better off leaving the car in gear and getting off the throttle completely when going downhill.

Driving in neutral does not damage the gearbox but there is a big risk of you getting the shift wrong, like if you accidentally bump the lever up into R instead of down into D.

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Hi JM,

Your recent comments on the value of spacers needs a reply. The level of ground clearance of a vehicle when loaded is a vital and too-often-ignored factor when making a purchase. Many imported vehicles have soft suspensions and, even with small loads, cannot negotiate the ill-designed speed bumps without making contact.

While spacers may reduce the visual appearance of your favourite vehicle, it may be better for you to get something more practical for everyday use.

During the days of the 305, 404, and 504, the Peugeot factory spent a day every three or four months making these models for the African market with over 100 modifications, which included stiffer springs and increased ground clearance, and the 305 I owned never grounded when loaded.

The rules on importation of cars should be changed to include an established minimum ground clearance when loaded with the recommended load.

Muckle.

Thank you so much, Muckle. I did discuss tropicalisation and the import market in my first two articles of 2011, but, as has become the norm, accusations of being on the payroll of some local franchise flew left and right. It is difficult to help people when they do not want to be helped.

That was the beauty of the Peugeot cars of yore: they were built to a standard and the local driving conditions were taken into consideration.

If it was up to me, I would turn the import market into a forbidding venture for all but the most determined. It is time to get people back into proper cars and have them stop complaining about ruined suspensions, incompatible fuel systems, and other such problems.

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Dear Sir/Madam,

Recently, I came across an article on toxic cars from Japan. It seems that following the last nuclear disaster in Japan, unscrupulous used-car dealers and exporters are playing around with re-registration papers and processes in order to sell and export cars that are unsuitable for use, cars condemned by the Japanese government as having too high a radiation reading, hence unfit for use.

I do believe our “tough” business men and women will find a way of exporting these condemned units to unsuspecting consumers in Kenya and wherever RHD cars are used. If I recall correctly, after the Chernobyl nuclear fall-out, some pints of condemned milk did find their way into the local market.

Daniel.

Dear Sir/Madam? Seriously? I do not want to sound like a pompous, narcissistic, self-centred person here, but did you not see that the picture in the paper was that of a man?

That aside, you seem to be on to something here. If our government was serious, they would acquire a set of Geiger-Muller tubes and deploy them at the port to intercept any radioactive material that would otherwise be passed to the mwananchi.