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Fuel tablets do not improve consumption

Hi,

I had a 1982 Toyota DX-KE70 model that had a 1300cc carburettor for five years. The car was lovely, extremely hardy and very reliable.

It used to do 10kpl but I used to buy fuel tablets, which I would put in the fuel tank — one tablet for every 30 litres or as recommended — and that would improve fuel consumption to 13 kpl.

I sold the car eight months ago and replaced it with a 1995 1500cc Toyota AE100 LX model with an EFI engine that does 15.4 kpl.

I decided to try the fuel tablets on it but there is no significant change; the best it can do with or without the tablets is 16 kpl at an average speed of 100 km/h, which I do on the Nairobi-Embu highway.

I thought that with the tablets and the EFI engine, I would get better results, like 18 kpl. Why is this not the case? Please advise.

Phil

Fuel tablets belong in the same category as snake oil and Father Christmas; they are best left as bedtime stories. They NEVER work, much in the same way that Santa Claus will never show up at anyone’s house at Christmas time.

If you achieved a lower consumption with your E70, then the tablets had a psychological effect on you and turned you into a gentler driver, hence the improved economy. In simple terms, you have been buying a placebo.

Hey,

I have a Forester and I’m now thinking of buying a Wingroad for the sole reason that the price is fair and the interior does not look too bad.

Kindly tell me what I will be getting myself into with this car and if you think I should put out this fire. Thank you.

Flo

From a “personal friend” point of view, I’d ask you to “put out this fire”. But if you owed me money, I’d say ditch the Forester, get a Wingroad and pay me sooner than immediately.

As it is, it is entirely up to you. I don’t entirely agree with your judgment of the Wingroad’s interior, but this is an apple juice-lemon juice sort of thing, so I will not dictate matters of taste.

Beware of the car’s flimsiness and watch out for various electronics, especially the dashboard lights. They may light up like a Christmas tree once in a while.

Stick to proper roads if a suspension overhaul is not on your budget in the near future. Fuel is not a problem, nor is the asking price.

Hello,

I will be a first car owner very soon and need your advice. I am thinking of getting one of these Japanese “econoboxes”; FunCargo, Passo, Vitz or a Mitsubishi Pajero Mini. If you were in my situation, what would you go for?

Sandra

If I was in that position I would go for a Vitz, but not for the reasons you might think. It turns out that when a Vitz is supercharged, it becomes a pint-sized Bugatti Veyron for those living close to the poverty line.

What do you expect from these cars? Forget any sort of performance (you could supercharge a Vitz though) and forget space. If it is economy you are after, any of these cars will do, but the Pajero Mini is not a very smart choice.

It is a very smart choice, however, if light off-roading forms part of your weekend activities.

Hi Baraza,

I have a Mercedes A160, a 2000 model, which is a beautiful little car. But a year ago I blew up the sump pan after hitting a stone while driving on a rough road.

This damaged the gear box and it cost me almost another car to fix.

During my time at the garage, I learnt that these cars are poorly designed and heard that almost all of them experience a gearbox failure in their lifetime. Others say that the Mitsubishi Cedia also suffers from the same illness.

In summary, these small cars tend to have a problem with the gearbox design.

I’m now scared of these small cars and have lost faith in them. What do you have to say about them?

Small cars are awful, and you get what you pay for. You see, small cars exist so that the not-so-well-to-do can also experience the world of motoring, but these cars are half-baked lest the not-so-well-to-do forget their station in life and think they are now haves and have-mores.

Truth is, for small cars to be as cheap as they usually are, R&D costs have to be minimised, and cheap, fragile materials used to build them. Learn to accept this.

Hi Baraza,

I have a Nissan B15 and it recently developed a fuel pump problem. I changed the pump but the new one is now producing some funny noise when I start the car or when moving.

The mechanic tells me that new pumps behave that way and that the noise will go away in time. What do you think? The car is also consuming more fuel than before.

Your mechanic seems to think every component of a car needs a bedding-in period to work properly, but this is not always the case.

What is the noise like? It may be that you are running on low fuel and the pump is sucking a mixture of fuel and air (and sometimes just the scent of fuel) hence making a buzzing noise.

Or maybe you have sludge in your tank and it is getting into your pump, in which case the new pump will go the way of the old one. Check these two theories out, if it is none of the above, get back to me.

Hello Baraza,

Do you have any experience with the Citroen C3 Super Mini, specifically the 1.4-litre petrol model in the Kenyan market?

I understand that, in accordance with its manufacturer’s (PSA Group) policy, the C3’s chassis was used for the Peugeot 1007 and 207, and that many of its components are the same as those of the 206. Is this true? You have written of your experience with Peugeot models, so I am hoping you can advise me on this.

Also, I would like to hear your thoughts on why the Citroen WRC team tends to excel consistently with their range of Citroen racing cars. I thought that, on this basis alone, people would be buying this make, but you can hardly sport a modern-day Citroen on our roads.

Mwaura

I have not had much experience with Citroens, new or old, nor have I had much experience with the new crop of Peugeots. The newest I’ve tried is the 307, I think, which is currently obsolete anyway.

It is true that some Citroen cars share platforms and components with Peugeot products. Whether or not the franchise will take this into consideration is a matter of conjecture.

Citroen’s WRC success comes from a variety of factors, some of which include a strong team and the withdrawal of past supremos like Subaru and Mitsubishi. Also, the Citroen WRC is not on sale as is, while back in the day, the Impreza WRC, Lancer Evo, and even Group B monstrosities like Lancia’s Delta HF and Stratos could be bought in a spec very close to that of the competition car.

Kenya’s taste in cars is an odd one. Citroen cars in Europe enjoy a huge market, especially with the successful DS3 (a new car), but here in Kenya, if the car is not Japanese, then it had better be cheap to buy, cheap to run and its spares readily available for plucking from the nearest tree.

Hi Baraza,

Why do you say the B14 belongs to the gutter when I was thinking of getting one? Second, what would you say of the Mazda Familia in terms of fuel consumption and spare parts availability.

Lastly, what would be a good car in the rural area where I work and operate a chemist? And would you recommend a second-hand auto or manual?

Eliud

Drive the B14’s main competitor, the Corolla 110, and you will see where Nissan went wrong. Check power, suspension and build quality especially. The Mazda Familia is an OK car on both fronts.

What exactly will this rural-based car you seek do? And how is the infrastructure in that rural zone? These two questions will decide the type of car to buy. Auto or manual is entirely up to you. Which one do you prefer?

Hello,

My friend bought some Tata 407 trucks in a public auction by a parastatal and wants to sell one of these to me. Please advice on cost, maintenance and fuel consumption. Do you think it would be a wise investment?

Given what it is, it cannot cost much. Given that it is sold locally, maintenance should not be too difficult. And given that it is diesel-powered, fuel consumption should not be too high.

Whether or not it is a wise investment, hmmm… I find it crude and badly built at best, with poorly contained NVH (noise, vibration and harshness), and unresolved design. So many of these that I see on the road smoke harder than wet firewood. You decide.

Hey Baraza,

I own a 1977 Range Rover Classic three-door model with an original 3528cc petrol engine. My mechanic proposes that we fit it with a TD27 power plant for better fuel economy.

He further proposes that we retain its original four-speed gearbox. Please advise on the merits and demerits of this move.

Macharia

Die-hard Land Rover lovers like me will deride you for installing the engine of a Japanese commercial vehicle into something as regal as a Range Rover Classic.
More importantly, how does your mechanic know that the engine will fit? The 3.5 was a V8, the TD27 is an in-line four. And then the gear ratios may not be appropriate.

Baraza,

I want to buy my first car, which must be either a Toyota NZE or a Premio, and there are some issues I would like you to advise me on.

1. Is it true that a 1800cc Premio has a fuel consumption similar to that of a 1500cc NZE?

2. What is the meaning of the alphabet letters at the end of the model name, like Premio G, and Corolla X?

3. How can a 1200cc Datsun have a speedometer reading a top speed of 200 km/h and a 3000cc Prado have one ending at 180km/h?

4. If an 1800cc Premio and a 3000cc Prado are driven on a straight 20-kilometre stretch, both at a speed of 120km/h, which car will reach the end before the other?

1. Depends on very many things. How and where are they driven? How loaded are they? Their aerodynamic profiles? The 1800 might be more economical at highway speeds but thirstier in town, though by a very small difference, if everything else is kept constant.

2. It is what we call spec levels, or trim levels: cloth vs leather seats, wood vs aluminium trim and such. These letters differentiate the various spec levels.

3. It is mostly because at the factory, the 1200 was given a 200 km/h speedo while the Prado was given one maxed at 180 km/h. Actually, the Prado is most likely ex-Japan while the 1200 isn’t. In Japan, there was a gentleman’s agreement that all cars made in Japan will have a power cap at 280 hp and will be limited to 180 km/h. Finally, a 1200cc at 200 km/h is drivable. A Prado at 200 km/h (if it can even get there) is a handful.
4. This is not a very well thought out question. Read it again. Which one do you think will get to the other end first?

Dear Baraza,

What is the fuel consumption of a 1000cc Toyota Platz? Can this car be driven for over 500 km? Does it have a problem in climbing a road that is steep?

If I take a Platz on an economy run on the highway, I can clock 22kpl. I have managed that in an EP 82 Starlet. I have a friend, though, who I am sure will do no better than 8kpl.

The difference between us is body mass (I am a bean pole) and driving style (when the mood takes me I can be ridiculously snail-like in pace). Go figure.

About the driving distance, yes it can. Surely, there would be no Platzes (Platices?) on our roads if they could only drive 500km or less (other cars get to hundreds of thousands of kilometres before dying).

If you are asking whether it can do 500km in one shot, then the answer is maybe. I wouldn’t risk it though, one or two stops in between are advisable.

How steep is the road? If the slope has an aspect ratio of 1:1, or what we call a 50 per cent incline (forgive the jargon, this simply means the slope is at 45 degrees off the horizontal), then no. But a Land Cruiser can. Much gentler slopes can be tackled in a Platz, though.

Baraza,

We all know that Kenyan number plates are some of the ugliest in the East African region. As a result, many owners, especially of high-end cars, are getting customised plastic plates with all types of artistic fonts and customisation.

What is the rule on such plates? Are they illegal and can one be arrested for having them? Does KRA issue customised number plates, and how does this work?

Moses

As far as I recall, custom plates were and are still illegal. This includes funny fonts and personalised plates, like BARAZA 1. One can be arrested for having them.

Thing is, these are mostly found on high-end cars, and there is no telling who is being transported inside that car. I doubt if there is a traffic police officer willing to risk his employment just because he pulled over the “clandestine arrangement” of a high-ranking individual for having illegal plates.
JM,

I came across an article about the CVT transmission (specifically in Honda cars) and was amazed that they perform way better than all others in terms of fuel economy and power output.

Yet we Kenyans remain stuck with the Toyota mentality. Now I think I know why you were quite positive about Honda cars, though a select few. Maybe you could tell folks around here to look at that brand.

Yes, it’s true, CVTs are close to sorcery in operation and efficiency. Don’t be so quick to deride Toyotas though, they do have CVTs also (Allion, Wish…), but not all. Some are just regular automatics.

And no, that is not why I rave about Hondas. I like Hondas chiefly because of the high-revving, dual-natured VTEC engines (where available) and the trick helical differentials that make the front-wheel-drive variants such sweet cars to drive and corner with.

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On the STi, Evo and ‘Godzilla’ battle, the jury is still out

Hi Baraza,
I have been arguing with my friends over which would be the winner in a battle involving the Subaru ST-i, the Mistubishi Evo VIII and ‘Godzilla’ (the Nissan GT-R R34).

I believe in the Evo due to its superior handling capabilities while the others go with the ST-i due to its superior acceleration.

Now, I’m not that well versed with the GTR, but from what I’ve read in this column, it seems that Nissan is a miracle of Asian engineering. So would you kindly set the record straight; when Jeremy Clarkson featured the cars, there was no straightforward answer.

And, on another note, was the M-class series of Mercedes a failure?

There has been no clear winner between the Evo and the ST-i. Personally, I swing the Evo way. The two cars are fundamentally the same, but there are differences.

The Impreza, through its numerous iterations, used mechanical differentials whereas the Evo applied a variety of electronic gizmos (AWC, AYC, etc) to switch torque back, forth, left and right.

The result is that the ST-i was harder to turn and had a tendency to understeer. and unprofessional suspension tuning usually made the understeer worse.

The Evo, on the other hand, handled sharply, turned better and carried more speed into and through corners, besides having a slightly higher corner exit velocity. It lost out (ever so slightly) to the ST-i in straight line speed.

ST-i pundits will yak about the near-perfect balance (owing to the boxer engine forming a straight line with the transmission and final drives through the centre of the car), against the Evo’s transversely laid in-line engine. Ignore them.

The R34 allegedly made 280 hp in factory spec, but since it developed more torque and carried that torque to higher revs than the R33, car reviewers suspected that the output was more like 320 hp, which was in direct contravention of a now-defunct gentleman’s agreement in Japan that all Japanese domestic market manufacturers will not build cars with a power output greater than 280hp.

I wonder why none of those reviewers never put Godzilla on a dyno to find out.

The GT-R’s magic comes from the ATTESA 4WD system that makes it turn at unbelievable speed. The vehicle enjoyed spectacular success in many racing series, particularly the JGTC, prompting race organisers to repeatedly make rules disfavouring the R34, if only to create a bit of competition and variety on the podium.

Its biggest disadvantage is weight, tipping the scales at close to 1,800 kg against the 1.5 tons of the two four-door saloons.

About the M-Class, the first generation was not exactly a sales failure, but it was a low point in Daimler’s history. They learnt never to design and build a car in America again, because it would come out American, which has never been a good thing.

Hi,

I’m really interested in cars and currently drive a Nissan B15 to school. I would like to know why you, in a way, hate on it because so far its okay for me.

It is not so much hate as disregard. Reliability issues, especially concerning suspension components and the fact that it ages disgracefully, has put the car off in my books. But take good care of it and it should return the love. Treat it the way some Nyeri women treat their hubbies and it will be just as unkind to you.

JM,

I have noticed that almost all Japanese cars, even fairly new ones, are permanently topped with engine coolant — you pop into a petrol station (especially ladies) and the attendants quickly notice how low your coolant is and offer it for a fee. But is engine coolant a necessity?

A normal operating engine with a working cooling system is designed to automatically keep your engine cool at all times. If your engine is overheating, you don’t need the cooling stuff, you need to have your engine checked. Correct me if I am wrong.

Yes, you are partly wrong. Sometimes coolant leaks and needs topping up. Remember heat capacities in physics? A greater mass of liquid will absorb more heat (that is, require more energy to warm up) than a smaller mass? The more coolant you have, the longer the engine will stay without getting unduly warm.

The reddish (coloured) coolant is actually anti-freeze, stuff we do not really need here, unless you live in Nyahururu where it sometimes “snows”. Anti-freeze is made to have an extremely low melting point so that it will take temperatures far below zero to freeze over.

Coolant is water based, and, again, from physics, we know about the anomalous expansion of water, where between 0 and -4 degrees, ice actually expands rather than contracts with a drop in temperature, and this expansion can do a great deal of damage to the cooling system and engine block.

Anti-freeze added once in a while (after several top ups of water, how many is not important) is a good idea even here around the equator because it also contains cleaning and anti-corrosion agents, which will keep your cooling ducts/pipes and radiator clear of build-up and rust. Okay now?

Baraza,

You have mentioned on about two occasions the engine of a Honda car — can’t remember the specific make — and you heaped a lot of praise on it, especially in comparison to the Nissan X-trail and that class of engines. Please enlighten me on this.

Secondly, my understanding of turbo engines was about more power and same fuel consumption as a non-turbo car, but from your articles I gather that this is not the case and that turbo engines are “fragile”. True?

Actually, what I like about Honda engines is the V-TEC boffinry (Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control).

It gives the engine a Jekyll-and-Hyde personality: below 5,000 rpm, it is docile, quiet and “teetotal”, get beyond 5,000 rpm and it turns into a wild, manic, racer-like dipsomaniac and will keep revving all the way to 9,000 rpm for most Type R cars and 10,000 rpm for the Honda S2000 sports car. Heady stuff, this.

I also mentioned the two-stage CVCC cylinder heads pioneered by Soichiro’s engineers way back in 1975. These revolutionised emissions control and fuel economy so that Honda did not have to fit power-sapping catalytic converters to its cars (the tiny cartoon-like Civic at the time).

These heads were tried even in the huge, thirsty American V8 engines and the results were spectacular.

Lambda sensor technology has since rendered the CVCC heads unnecessary.

Turbo engines will burn a little more fuel because a lot more air is going into the engine, and to avoid burning a leaner mixture than 14.7-to-1, a bit more fuel has to be fed in.

But the power jump is astonishing and worth the effort, especially compared to tuning an NA engine to produce the same power without forced induction. The result is actually improved consumption, for the output.

These engines are not exactly fragile, but they don’t take abuse very well. Damaging the turbo (very easy with a little carelessness) is an expensive mistake. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions keenly and you will be fine.

Hi Baraza,
I would like to know what ‘cruise control’ is all about. Is it good to have a car with this feature?

Christopher

Cruise control is an electronic feature that allows a car to maintain a steady speed without the driver using the accelerator or the brake. If you want to cruise at 100 km/h, accelerate to 100, set the cruise control and let go of the throttle.

You can either disengage it manually, deactivate it by braking or accelerating, or adjust it upwards or downwards using buttons around the driver (mostly on the steering wheel). This is how it worked in the Jaguar XJ saloon I drove last year.

The problem is that the car will try to do 100 km/h EVERYWHERE, including uphill, so fuel consumption might not be to your liking. There are chances that it may also have a soporific effect on the driver, leading to reduced alertness and consequently, sleep-swerve-hoot-screech-crash-bang-wallop-blood-tears-hospital bills-funeral expenses.

Hi,

I would like some general advice regarding the small Maruti Omni. I want a small car to use in my small business and also as a family car, occasionally travelling upcountry without struggling with matatus. I don’t mind the image associated with the car.

Mulwa

So far, you seem to have it down pat, apart from two things:

1. Use as a family car: I’m sure you love your family, but toting them from A to B in a Maruti is a sure-fire way of ensuring you will not get any gifts from them come Father’s Day.

2. How occasionally is “occasionally”? Your upcountry base had better be no further than Machakos because, again, this is not a vehicle to spend too much time in. Ukambani in general is hot, and the lack of interior space or an air-con will be a heavy cross to bear in this pre-April rains heat. Especially with your family on board.

Hi JM,

Kindly offer me your advice on these two cars: a black Subaru Impreza (hatchback) and a silver Subaru Impreza (sedan), which one is a better buy when considering efficiency, spare parts and so on?

Both cars have 1.5-litre engines but the hatchback is a 2005 car while the sedan is a 2006 car. The last car I had was a Mitsubishi Cedia, which was just hell.

The gearbox collapsed after just two months and getting a replacement was like going to the moon!

Allan

I would go for the sedan, repaint it blue, add a stonking huge rear spoiler, body kit and gold rims and fit a noisy exhaust; then I would drive like I was about to die and only three-figure speeds could save my life. ST-i owners/drivers, do you read me?

The car to go for is entirely up to you, Allan. Do you want a sedan or a hatchback? A hatchback may offer more practicality in carrying luggage, but the sedan looks better. Mechanically, the two are the same.

Hi Baraza,

I’m a businessman based in Nairobi. I also double up as a farmer, so I’m a complete “off-roadholic”.

I am looking to buy a double cabin 4WD pick-up truck that will comfortably do my kids’ school runs, carry bags of fertiliser to my farm every now and then and on school holidays, comfortably handle the terrain in Maasai Mara during the long rains… if you get my drift.

I’m torn between the Toyota Hilux, the Nissan Navara, the Isuzu D-MAX and the Ford Ranger. Please rate these cars for me in terms of consumption, build quality, durability, off-road handling, and cost and availability of spare parts.

Kevin

If you followed my articles last year, you may have noticed that, were it not for the outright weirdness of the act, I would buy a Navara as a Valentine’s gift. Luckily or unluckily, I don’t own a Navara. Yet.

Consumption: That same Navara is a bit worrisome; I suspect it either runs a higher boost pressure in the turbo or it has a small tank, either way, when pitted against a Ford Ranger, it emptied its tank quite fast.

I have driven the latest Hilux, two weeks ago in fact, but I did not get to empty its tank, nor did I empty the Ranger’s tank last year, so it is hard to say which of the two will give you a better range. Absolute consumption depends on the degree of madness within your right foot.

Build quality: The Navara. Its build quality is an exercise of near-Germanic obsession in terms of panel gap consistencies, solid feel and material science. Better than the other three.

Durability: I’d have to say it is a close call between Toyota and Ford, with my observations leaning towards the Ranger. Strange, yes, but the Ford seems like it is built out of rock — I have yet to see a weather-beaten example.

On the other hand, the Hilux pick-ups in use by large corporations and municipal councils don’t look too good after some time. The Navara also faces some complaints by users, some of whom complain that somebody somewhere cannot do a proper diagnosis. I don’t know how true this is.

Off-road handling: They should all do well, because more often than not, if the going gets military, the weakest link is usually found behind the wheel.

Cost: The Hilux is dearest and the D-MAX is cheapest. With the Ford, it depends on which spec you go for, but it varies within these two extremes. The Navara is second to Hilux in expensiveness.

Spares: These cars are all franchised, so DT Dobie for the Navara, GM for the D-MAX, Toyota Kenya for the Hilux and CMC for the Ranger. Costs of spares will depend on what these people tell you.

JM,

I would like to bring you back to your article in which you said that the Toyota Verossa is an ugly car. In my opinion, I think the principle applicable here is the same one used when judging the beauty of woman — beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.

I agree with you that the car is ugly, but of late, it has been growing beautiful by the day, like a woman you might not find so beautiful on the first day but as you get to know her better, you start to notice her beauty.

To support my point, I will remind you of the Mercedes W210. When the car was first introduced to the market, there was an uproar from die-hard Mercedes fans (including me) who found the round lights peculiar.

However, with time, the car has grown on us and become more and more beautiful, I am sure you agree with that.

A woman will add weight if too thin, shed weight if too weighty, she will lose her pre-pubescent clumsiness as she matures, and life experiences will instill confidence in her and her eyes will acquire a worldliness that we find attractive whenever we gaze into them.

A car, on the other hand, embarks on a relentless downward free-fall the moment it leaves the showroom, shedding 30 per cent of its value at the door. It can only lose shape from that point onwards. Starting off ugly does not do it any favours; it won’t “mature”, or lose baby fat, or tone its muscles with a session at the gym.

This explains why the Verossa had the shortest life span of all Toyota cars ever, except, maybe, their Formula 1 car.

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A Subaru should not turn you into a revving idiot

Hi Baraza,

Thank you for the informative articles on motoring. I would like you to clarify something about Subarus.

Are they the strongest and most powerful cars around?

I am saying this because all the people I have come across driving Subarus are big-headed and arrogant on the road.

They go to the extreme of blocking your way when you want to overtake them, hardly give way, and they overtake at corners.

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No, Subarus are neither the strongest nor the most powerful vehicles around. They are not even the fastest.

These cars are fast earning a reputation for being the wheels of choice of indisciplined sociopaths, a rather sad state of affairs because the cars are quite good.

Buying one now, especially an STi (WRX or Forester, huge spoilers and massive exhaust in place) has become a social no-no; the law will watch you a bit more keenly and ladies will avoid you, suspecting that you are not as mature as you might look. Unfortunate.

But, no, Subarus do not turn you into an idiot.

Last Friday, I took one to Narok and back (Legacy saloon, black, two-litre, non-turbo) and, while the temptation to bounce off the limiter at 180 km/h was quite strong, I do not recall feeling the urge to privatise the road and inconvenience other users.

If anything, I remember being quite courteous, yielding more than I normally would.

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Hi Baraza,

I own a Subaru Impreza. Everything about it is okay but I am concerned because when I start the engine, the car smokes for about five seconds after which the smoke disappears.

I service the car regularly after every 2,500 km, so what might be the problem?

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Five seconds you say? Hmmm! ’Does not sound too bad, but all the same a car should never smoke.

What colour is the smoke? Blue means you are burning oil, in which case the valve seals may be leaking.

White smoke means you are burning coolant, so the head gasket may be leaking.

It could also mean you are burning ATF if your car is an automatic, so check the transmission seals for integrity.

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JM,

We have a 2003 Nissan X-Trail and I am not comfortable with how the fuel gauge rapidly falls even when the vehicle is in 2WD mode.

We replaced the fuel filter and it is still bad compared to a normal Nissan X-Trail.

The mechanic checked and saw that the bonding record of the fuel gauge was up, not down, as it was supposed to be.

I request you to enlighten and advise me on what I am supposed to do.

1. Do I request the mechanic to kindly re-check it and try to correct it?

2. If not to re-check it, what could be the problem?

3. In your view, what should be done to correct the problem?

Thomas

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1. Yes, request the mechanic to have another look at it. Not necessarily kindly, unless you want him to do it for free, in which case, yes, request kindly.

2. The problem was identified: you said the issue was the irregular movements of the fuel gauge and you found an anomaly in the equipment, so through syllogism, it follows that the equipment is the harbinger of chaos on your dashboard.

3. Repair. Replacement. Anything that will get it working well again.

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Hi JM,

I have owned a Nissan B15 for the past 11 months. Recently, it started to produce a strange sound from the engine.

My mechanic told me it has a slow knock and we bought motor honey for it.

What are the signs of a knocking engine and what measures should one take to prevent this?

Nyagah

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Motor honey? Anyway, signs of a knocking engine: first the oil warning light will come on, which means you should top up the oil (honey?) shortly.

It might go off and on a few times, or it might stay permanently on if you do not top up.

Depending on how hard, how far, and where you are driving, sooner or later a slight rattle will emanate from around the cylinder head area whenever the throttle is opened (off throttle, everything sounds OK).

If you can hear the rattle, then it is too late, you have suffered an engine knock.

To prevent an engine knock, always have the right amount of oil flowing through the engine.

Regular checks, especially before and after long/hard driving should be done to determine whether an oil change is due.

And always change the oil after wading through sump-deep water.

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Hi,

I would like to buy a 2002 Peugeot 406, 1800cc. How would you rate this car and are its spares readily available?

Where can you service this vehicle in case you have it?

————————————-

This calls for a bit of research because I am not sure if Marshalls turned over all things Peugeot to Urasia, or if they still have stocks of old model Peugeot parts.

What I know is they are there. If these two do not have them, then good ol’ Grogan Road will.

I have found spares for my old 405 there on numerous occasions (and that silly thing is now 24 years old).

I rate the 406 very, very highly, and would buy one too once the money comes right. Servicing can be done at any garage of repute.

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Hi Baraza,

I own a Toyota Corolla NZE, which is a full-time 4WD. Please advise me on consumption as compared to a 2WD.

Secondly, someone told me that the gearbox for this kind of vehicle is difficult to repair in case need arises, that it is difficult to even transform from manual to automatic.

Please help me understand this.

————————————–

Consumption is just a touch higher in the 4WD, but you will never notice under ordinary driving conditions.

And yes, the transmission will be a swine to fix once broken because the marriage of the primary gearbox and secondary transfer case makes for an elaborate mechanical maze.

However, I am not so sure about the swap. It is usually easy in other cars, but I cannot declare anything yet until I study the schematics of the NZE powertrain.

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Hi Baraza,

I own a Toyota Trueno and want to upgrade the carburettor engine to EFI.

It has a 1428cc 3A engine and I feel that the consumption is a little bit on the higher side (currently doing 10 kpl) so I want a more fuel efficient engine.

Should I replace it with a 6A or 5A Toyota engine? Which EFI engine is compatible with a 3A carburettor engine?

If I maintain the same carburettor power unit, how do I make it more fuel efficient?

—————————————–

The 5A is a better unit and you have a choice of two: the 5A-FE, for really good economy, or the 5A-FHE, which offers the economy but is tuned for a more aggressive output and better performance.

In order to maximise economy on a carburettor engine, the first thing you need to do is drive slower.

Then make sure the choke is in the correct position. If you want to get technical, you can fit smaller carburettors.

If you want to get really technical, you can swap the entire cylinder head for one of Honda’s CVCC heads, if you can find one, that is (this is technology from 1975, but it works like magic).

The CVCC engines have two-stage cylinder heads and two-channel carburettors.

One channel from the carburettor feeds a rich mixture into the upper combustion chamber, in which the spark plug is located, for easy combustion.

The other channel feeds a lean mixture into the lower combustion chamber, and the ignition heat from the rich mixture burning lights up the lean mixture, so the plugs do not have to be strained trying to ignite the lean mixture.

The result is almost 18 kpl from a 1.5 litre carburettor engine. Neat.

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Hi,

I am a part-time university student who is thinking of buying my first car.

I really admire the Land Rover 110 but know how costly they are. Recently, I found used ones that go for around Sh500,000.

Should I go for one and slowly change its looks by going for bodyworks and other stuff or should I purchase a different car that you would recommend, based on fuel consumption, maintenance, and resale value?

Griff

—————————————–

Griff, what do you want, or expect, from the Defender?

I also crave one too, just so you know, but fuel consumption and resale value are primary considerations for me, more so given that my heart is set on the petrol-powered V8 (it has a fearsome thirst, not even a loan from HELB could get you substantial mileage).

The diesel engines are a bit so-so. Anything pre-1999 is going to introduce you to the diametric opposite of a Lexus in terms of smoothness. And acceleration.

The petrol variants, on the other hand, will help clear your HELB loan faster than a feminist female classmate on a revenge mission against men.

There is a five-cylinder model that came out at the turn of the Millennium that might please you.

Turbocharged and intercooled, the 2.5-litre diesel can manage up to 11 kpl (avoid Thika Road at rush hour, if you catch my drift) and it can propel the Defender up to 140 km/h, at which point the laws of physics and nature take over to remind you that your car is not the last word in aerodynamics.

Maintenance sessions should fall within the “manageable” classification; not necessarily cheap, but thankfully far between, and the body construction of the Defender means prangs are easily cured by replacing the low-cost body panels rather than going for a hit-or-miss panel beating and/or repaint.

The addenda will cost you, though, especially those knobbly tyres. The exact costs will depend on what you want to add and what shop you buy it from.

—————————————-

Hi Baraza,

I intend to replace my Toyota Mark 2 (XJ100) 2000 model with a Mercedes S class W140, but my wife will hear none of it, saying Mercs are expensive to maintain.

But I know that Merc owners see garages less often than their Japanese vehicles counterparts, thus more savings in the long run.

Is there anything you can say to help me convince her?

Marto

———————————–

Yes, there is something I can add. It is a sad day when a woman chooses a Toyota over a Benz.

Suddenly, there is no need for us men to work hard any more if buying a Mercedes rather than a Toyota makes no difference to a woman — the woman we are trying to get on the good side of — or worse yet, she goes for the underdog Toyota. What gives?

———————————–

Hi Baraza,

I work in the automotive industry and regularly read your column. I wonder if your responses are based on facts.

You could be de-marketing some models, you know.

Nyambura Njuguna

————————————-

“De-marketing some models”? Mine is not to promote vehicle models, or demote them for that matter. I just answer questions.

And I should take exception to the fact that you suspect my responses are the product of pure conjecture or guesswork.

But I am good like that, so I will not.

The various franchises and dealerships/outlets have their respective PR and marketing departments, so I will not do their work for them.

I gain nothing by marketing one make of car over another without good reason to, or without supporting evidence; much in the same way I gain nothing by “de-marketing” others.

If the advice I dole out happens to hurt one brand over another, I am sorry, but that is from my various observations.

It is thus up to the respective PR/marketing firm/department of that company to do some damage control, and that does NOT include saying “Baraza JM (not Jim, by the way, as some people insist on calling me) knows not what he speaks”.

Please go over my answers again, carefully. You will notice that I answer questions according to how I am asked.

If a reader asks what the fuel consumption of a Cadillac Escalade is and I tell him “very poor”, it is because the Escalade is heavy on petrol: 4kpl is pretty whack, even for a lorry, and the Escalade WILL do 4kpl.

If a reader asks me what I prefer between a Land Cruiser and a Ranger pickup, I say Ranger pickup because I ACTUALLY prefer it to the Land Cruiser (but not to the Navara, incidentally).

If I do not know the answer to a question, I will confess my ignorance, as was the case over the Audi franchise holder.

What I know about are the horrors of posting untruths in a national newspaper: it is safer to say I do not know rather than publish nonsense for which I will take the flak, and what for?

As regards mechanical difficulties, mine is a consultation service, for which I charge my readers no fee; what I offer them is guidance or a starting point for them to solve their problems.

It may or may not work, but I am proud to say it mostly works.

Long story short, the answer to your query is yes, there is research behind my answers. And a personal touch too; I am human, after all.

And if you think I “de-market” cars, go watch a programme called Top Gear, you will thank me for how polite I am.

Posted on

I insist, the Verossa looks horrible

Hi Baraza,
I have owned a Toyota Verossa for the past two years and I am aware that you included it in your list of most ugly cars, and that one of your readers requested guidance on whether to go for a Verossa or a Premio (DN2 Dec, 7).

Surely, looks should not be the only yardstick when judging a car’s performance. My opinion of the Verossa is that it handles well, is spacious, and spare parts are easily available, same as with Mark II.

Being a V6, it is a good alternative in handling, comfort, power, cost of running, and spare parts availability when compared to either a BMW or a Mercedes Benz.

In as much as I enjoy your column, which is quite educative, please be objective on all fronts, not just on the looks of a car.

Keep up the good work!

Jack.

Jack, tell me why I would walk past a Mark II, a Mark X, and a Crown (all Toyotas), a Diamante (Mitsubishi) ,and a Skyline (Nissan) just so I can place my hard-earned money into another man’s hands and relieve him of a Verossa.

All these cars cost more or less the same, and in the case of the Toyotas, they share plenty of parts, seeing as how they are almost all the same thing underneath — the Mark X is a spiritual successor of the Mark II.

When I spend my money, it has to be worth it. Why buy a car that you cannot gaze at for longer than five minutes before nausea makes its presence felt?

I am sorry, Sir, but in car reviews, looks do play a part. They are not the biggest thing, but in some cases they are the deciding factor for two or more very similar cars. Verossa, Mark II, Crown? I would go for the Crown any time.

Objectivity comes into question under brand loyalties (a colleague would die for a Mercedes and thinks all other cars are crap) rather than looks.

Some cars are downright beautiful (Mark X), some split opinions (BMW X6), while we can all quietly agree that some (Verossa, Will) are the reason women leave their husbands, children play truant, and dogs bite the hands that feed them. Yes, they are that ugly.

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Dear Baraza,

I am keen to delimit my Forester Turbo S/TB (please do not lecture me on the dangers or law issues). It currently does slightly above 180 kph.

I have done my research and asked around and have been presented with three options: buy a gadget called a speed limit defencer that is connected to the ECU (it supposedly overrides the limiter) but I will not know how fast I am going as the speedo will just keep rotating, “fool” a sensor at the back of the speedometer (the downside being that the check engine light will probably appear and again I will not know how fast I am moving, and, last, buy a speed dial that reads more than 180, probably from the UK. I am for the first or last option.

My question is, will installing a dial that reads more than 180 actually work? I have always thought it is a bit more complicated than that. I thought the speed limit is programmed in the ECU, hence the need to remap.

Hilary.

The third option will not work, for the reasons you suspect. Combine either option one or two with three to know what your exact speed is when past 180.

But the ECU could be reprogrammed or even replaced instead of employing “fools” and “defencers” to circumvent the electronic nanny.

There is a company called Ganatra that deals in ECUs, among other things, like combining a Platz, a Landcruiser VX, and a supercharger into a 450hp Mendelian road-going progeny that inherits all its parents’ phenotypes.

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Hi Baraza,

I have a Mercedes Benz-124 series 200E. What is the difference with the E200? I have heard talk that the latter is superior.

Nick.

There is no clearer way of putting this, so let me speak Japanese. In Japan, cars like the Mazda RX-7 and Nissan 240 SX have “Kouki” models and “Zenki” models.

Zenki models are the ones that were produced in the early lifetime of that particular model of car, while Kouki versions came after recalls, modifications, face-lifts, and adjustments, though still on the same model.

So, while the 124 200E and the 124 E200 might be the same car, the 200E is a “Zenki” (early) model while the E200 is a better developed, better specified, and better engineered “Kouki” (late) model. I hope this clears the air, Jap or no Jap.

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Dear Baraza,

First, I would like to know how one can fix the flashing on/off light of an automatic RAV4. It started this problem after changing the engine.

Two, immediately after engaging gear D or R, the vehicle jerks. What could be the problem?

Gikaru.

What light is that? Is it overdrive? That sounds like an electronic problem. The jerking is because the clutch does not fully disengage when the transmission is shifted from neutral into gear, so there is something called shift shock. I have seen it in a B15 before, what was supposedly a “new” car.

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Hi Baraza,

Thank you for the good job you have been doing. My auto Nissan Wingroad, a 1497cc 2002 model, has started consuming every coin I make on fuel.

For 13 litres of fuel, it covers a distance of 98 km instead of between 170 km and 182 km, the way it used to.

Friends who own a similar ride have given me various reasons, including the sensor and braking.

Kindly let me know what exactly is the problem, where it can be diagnosed, and how to fix it, once and for all. The engine runs smoothly, picks fast, and does not misfire.

Seven kilometres per litre on a Wingroad? Clearly, something is wrong. Diagnosis can be done at any garage with an OBD II device. Get it done and get back to me with an error code.

As for brakes and fuel consumption, unless the brakes are binding, I do not see what the efficiency/mechanical state of one has to do with the magnitude of the other.

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Hello Baraza,

I am trying to decide which is the best car to buy, so could you please compare the Audi A3, Ford Focus, Mazda Premacy, and Volkswagen Golf (GTI grade) — all with a 1.8cc or 2.0cc engine — in terms of fuel consumption, maintenance, long mileage coverage, and some added comfort.

I am not planning to go for a new car, but I prefer post-2001 models. Any other recommendation would be highly appreciated.

Charles.

Correct me if I am wrong, but the Mazda Premacy is a van, is it not? The rest are hatchbacks. Ignoring the Mazda temporarily, the fuel consumption should be highest in the Ford and lowest in the Audi, with the Golf languishing in between, but for non-GTi. The GTi is thirstier than the Ford.

Maintenance is the same for the Audi and the Golf because they share a platform, but availability of spares for the Audi may be subject to a lot of factors.

When it comes to long mileage, Golf goes first, then Ford, then Audi. This split is — despite the shared platform between the Audi and the VW — because of the Audi’s high waistline and thick C pillars: view is obscured and the interior is dark and cramped. Comfort? Audi, Golf, Ford.

The car I have been talking about here is the MK 5 Golf. The MK 4 was pathetic and a sham, an embarrassment to the GTi badge.

It was abnormally heavy, ponderously slow (slower than a Rover automatic and Skoda Octavia Diesel, of all things!) did not handle too well and the interior was not the best.

The Mazda, on this scale of things, lies next to Ford in almost all aspects: they too, share a platform and engines.

—————

Hey,

I am researching cars with a turbo engine to know the advantages and disadvantages. Kindly assist.

Advantages: Insane power, volumetric efficiency, fuel consumption is low comparatively (likened to a car of similar power and capacity but naturally aspirated).

Disadvantages: Delicate (needs tender care, especially turbo-diesel), a swine to fix once the turbo goes phut, generally costlier than naturally aspirated equivalents, cooling problems, sensitive to oil type and temperature fluctuations, and lag (the delay between throttle action and corresponding turbo activity), if anti-lag is fitted, engine damage is common and fuel consumption is no longer a strong point.

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Hi,
I have a 2003 Wingroad. Every time I hit a small stone, it feels like a thud on the steering. I have at the front new Monroe shocks and the original springs at the back. I drove a Fielder for some time and hitting the same stone in it would give a springy feel. Why the difference?

The difference lies in the steering system and the front suspension/chassis setup. The NZE 120 model (Fielder is the estate version of this car) was built with driver orientation in mind, so the steering feel, performance and handling, among other things, feel quite good, especially compared to Wingroad.

The Wingroad comes off as a loveless white good strictly for generating profit and serving the most basic of motoring needs.

—————–

Hi Baraza,

I am a frequent reader of your motoring column, keep up the good work. I am planning to buy a saloon car early next year.

I am, however, torn between three choices, which somehow look similar but are of different makes and models.

My major concerns are on cost price, fuel consumption, availability of spares, and durability. My options are a Toyota Mark II Grande, 2000cc, VVT-i, second-hand direct import from Japan or Singapore, a Nissan Teana 230JM, 2300cc, CVT, second-hand direct import from Japan or Singapore, and Mercedes Benz E200 Kompressor, 1796cc, used in Kenya, probably a 2002 model.

Kindly advise on the difference between VVT-i and CVT engines in terms of fuel consumption and, based on the above concerns, which of the three vehicles is best.

David.

David, go for the Benz. The others are basic clones of each other and are not entirely dissimilar. The added advantage of a locally sold Benz is that it would be tropicalised and maintained under warranty, so more likely than not you will end up with a car with FSH (full service history) and the ability to run in our conditions.

CVT (the valve control system, not the transmission type) and VVT-i do the same thing (varying the valve timing and controlling valve lift in real time) but in different ways.

There is neither the space nor time for me to get into the actual differences here, maybe in a future article, but rest assured the effects are the same: better performance, better economy, and reduced emissions.

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Hi Baraza,

I have been considering swapping my Caldina, which I have used for five years, with a bigger car for a big family. I wonder if there are Prados of that range and if not, what the best alternatives for a civil servant would be.

Yes, there are Prados of that range. There are also 4Runners (also called Surf), Nissan Terranos, Mitsubishi Pajeros, and maybe an old school Land Rover Discovery (could be costly, though).

“The best alternatives for a civil servant”? Are you planning on keeping your car a secret? Try a Land Rover Defender. Seating for 10, go-anywhere ability — and climate control by God Himself courtesy of the huge panel gaps and absence of A/C in some models.

————-

Dear Baraza,

I am planning to buy a BMW 318i or 320i, 2005 model saloon sedan. The main reason is security — I notice the car is not popular with carjackers or robbers.

However, I am not sure about the performance of this car, especially its fuel consumption, and parts availability in Kenya. I will appreciate your advice on this. Also, do we have alternatives in the market for this car?

Jared.

The performance of this car is exactly what you would expect from a BMW: class-leading, quick, and it handles like magic. The fuel consumption is better than these Toyotas that everyone is trying to get into: the degree of German technology under the bonnet means that 16 kpl is possible, even realistic, from a two-litre engine (or up-rated 1.8, which is what the 320 is), provided you do not try and reach 200 km/h. Drive sensibly.

Parts are available; we do have Bavaria Motors, BMW specialists, you know. But BMW is a premium brand and so parts cost in keeping with the image and quality of the car, so you will pay through the nose. But treat the car well and drive maturely and you will not have to wear your wallet thin running it.

Alternatives are the Mercedes C-Class (not only available, but also common) and the Audi A4 (less common). A recent entry into the class is the VW Passat (bland MK1 version and the MK 2 makes you look like a government official/NSIS spy), while a cheaper option is the Peugeot 406 (yes, I actually did it. I recommended a Peugeot)!

—————-

Hi,

I am in a dilemma here; I have a passion for Impezas, specifically the 1490cc ones, but almost all my friends say Subarus are thirsty, their resale value drops pretty fast, and their spares are expensive.

When I compare the cost of acquiring the Impreza with that of the NZE/Fielder, the latter is far much expensive whether already used on Kenyan roads or not.

Kindly advise me on whether to take the Impreza, considering that I have no information on its fuel efficiency when in the heavy traffic common on our city roads.

Charles.

What is stopping you from buying the Impreza? If it is not a turbo, then there is nothing to worry you about fuel consumption. Spares are there; how else would you explain the growing number of Subarus on the roads? And you yourself admit that the Fielder is costlier to “acquire”.

I see you yearn for the little Scooby, go for it. But take good care of it and try not to race fellow drivers if you want your fuel economy to stay within affordable margins.

—————

Hi,
Kindly tell me the difference between turbo-charged and turbo-unchanged. Also, what does naturally-aspirated mean?

Most tuning outfits specialise typically in Japanese cars (STi Subaru, Lancer Evo, Toyota Supra, Mazda RX-7, Nissan GT-R etc), a good number of which are turbo-charged.

Sometimes, in the quest for bigger horsepower, the factory turbo is either replaced for a bigger unit or another one is added to create a twin turbo setup if the original was single.

Also, the stock turbo can have devices added/modified/replaced such as the anti-lag, wastegate, blow-off valve and actuators.

Naturally, an engine built to develop 280hp will not last very long if forced to output 500-plus hp, and the kind of people who do this kind of thing do not go easy on their cars.

As a result, the resale value of tuned cars is next to nothing. If you own one of the cars I mentioned, or other performance vehicles (especially from Japan) and you intend to resell it, you might have to say “turbo-unchanged” to mean that the car still runs on a factory turbo.

This means that any outstanding warranties will still be valid, the vehicle’s manual can be followed if the turbo needs repair, the performance and fuel consumption will not be too far from the manufacturer’s claims, etc…. In other words, the car will not have any surprises under the bonnet.

Turbo-charging is the act of forcing air under great pressure into an engine (any engine) to increase the power output.

The fan (impeller) that forces this air into the engine is driven via a shaft connected to another fan (turbine), and this turbine is driven by the force exerted by exhaust gases leaving the engine. This is as opposed to supercharging, whereby the impeller is driven by the engine itself rather than by an exhaust turbine.

Naturally-aspirated means “neither turbo-charged nor super-charged”, i.e air goes into the engine under atmospheric pressure only; no extra force is exerted.

—————

Hi,

My Mitsubishi Cedia is back on the road after your advice, thanks a lot. I recently bought a Toyota Prado TX but it did not come with a manual. Kindly expound on the following available gadgets, their use, and at what times or situations they are to be used.

1 Button marked PWR.

2. 2ND.

3. Red button.

All these buttons are next to the main gear lever with all the other functions well indicated, that is, P, R, N, D, 2, L.

The vehicle is auto but with a manual 4WD gear lever and I wish to ask, why is the vehicle very poor in handling slippery terrain?

It skids too easily. And what is this overdrive thing and when is it supposed to be used? When it indicates “Overdrive Off” on the dashboard, what does this mean?

Juma.

Where were you when I was discussing overdrive and how to drive an automatic? Anyway, mine is not to chide, but to inform and educate, so here goes:

1. The PWR (Power) button is a function of what Toyota calls ECT or ECT-i (Electronically Controlled Transmission). When that button is pressed, the settings for the gearbox change, shifts happen faster, downshifts happen earlier, and upshifts later (much higher in the rev range) to maximise the car’s performance.

2. 2ND locks the transmission and limits the gearbox from going beyond second gear.

3. I have never found out what the red button is for, but I suspect it is a shift lock. I have pressed it surreptitiously (out of owners’ view) in the numerous automatic cars so equipped but nothing happened, as far as I could tell. Further research is on-going.

4. Overdrive allows the engine to spin at fewer rpms for a given road speed at a particular gear. The effect is to save fuel and reduce strain on the engine and transmission. If it says Overdrive OFF on the dash, then the unit has been disengaged and you should turn it on again. The circumstances that warrant its disengagement may be outside your skill range, judging from your email.

Finally, when your Prado skids, is it in 2WD or 4WD? Allow me to digress a little. The advent of ABS led to more carelessness among drivers and as such braking-related accidents went up statistically.

It is in this vein that I should ask you not to fall into the same trap: your car having 4WD does not mean that after engaging the transfer case (4L or 4H) you are now a driving god and can go anywhere.

If anything, off-roading is one of the most difficult driving tactics ever and requires plenty of skill. You will still skid, spin, or wedge yourself into the countryside if you do not know how to use the hardware available to you.

—————

Hi Baraza,

Thanks for your informative articles. My question is, what are the advantages of a Toyota Corolla NZE, G-Grade, for example?

Ben.

Advantages: It is cheap, common, easy to maintain, easy on the fuel, and has an eager autobox.

Disadvantages: It is VERY common, the eager autobox is actually overeager and hunts too much, I do not like the looks too much (my opinion), and the car is treacherous if you are not paying attention.

Posted on

Car clinic: expert answers to your motoring woes

I’m in the process of acquiring a used car. I have realised that I can get a nice Mitsubishi, Mazda or Subaru for about Sh400,000, but the same quality of Toyota costs almost Sh600,000.

However, I’ve been advised that these cheaper cars have serious problems when it comes to spare parts, and that they consume a lot of fuel even when their engines have low ratings.

I have had two Toyotas in the past and though their spare parts are easily available and cheap, one often runs the risk of buying fakes, which raises the cost of maintaining the car.

I have especially fallen for the Mitsubishi, either Lancer, Cedia or Galant. I will use the car to go to work daily, a round trip of about 32 km on a rough road. What’s the truth about the availability and cost of their spares as well as fuel consumption?

Njeru.

——————

Hello Njeru,

I keep saying over and over that though some cars consume more fuel than others generally, the biggest deciding factor is one’s own driving style. The spares cannot stay rare forever, especially given the abundance of Cedia/Lancer cars on the road.

As for fakes, I cannot risk giving you a definite answer right now without proper research; I might be forced to eat my words tomorrow.

I am yet to see a small Japanese car grounded on account of spares. The problem is usually money (or the lack thereof) on the owner’s part.

The spares themselves may cost more than equivalent Toyota parts, but if you take good care of your car, what you will need to replace are universal sundries like brakes, tyres, wipers and other small things, which means it will cost no more to maintain a Lancer/Cedia than it would a Toyota.

And, no, these cars are not thirsty, at all. In fact you could drive them as carelessly as you wanted and you still would not feel the pinch felt by someone running a petrol engine SUV.

———————

Dear Mr Baraza,

I have a Toyota Vista saloon with a 1800cc VVT-i engine whose steering wheel shakes when speeding at 140km/h. What could be causing this?

I’m selling this car and going for a bigger one. My options are Mercedes Benz 2010 E300CDi, 2004 S320CDi or 2004 BMW 520i.

My main concern is fuel consumption and maintenance costs. I’m told that diesel engines, especially for the S320CDi model, may not be compatible with our kind of diesel and such cars are made for European countries, yet I see them on our roads.

Kindly advise.

David Malonza

———————–

Hello Malonza,

The steering shaking at 140 km/h could be due to bad alignment or unbalanced wheels, especially at the front.

I did not experience that kind of thing with the Vista I wrote about (and that was one Vista I drove quite extensively).

Just wondering: did you mean the E300 CGI by any chance, because I doubt there is a 2010 300 CDI. I know of an E320 CDI.

One is petrol-powered (the former-CGI), the other one (the latter) diesel. If you can afford a 2010 E-Class Benz, why would you want to plump for a 2004 5-Series, instead of a 2009 or 2010?

Anyway, that is not for me to judge. What I would advise you is this: step carefully around Mercedes cars, especially those with diesel power.

And BMW cars have far superior dynamic abilities. For sheer pose-worthiness, go for the S320 (if you can avoid the diesel, even better).

—————–

Hello Baraza,

As a WRX owner, it was of interest to find out that you would prefer the Evo to the WRX, even with the Evo’s limitations. Is it that the WRX has more serious limitations than the Evo?

Muriithi

—————-

Hello Muriithi,

Fear not, one man’s meat and all that. Actually the Impreza STi has consistently beaten the Evolution in terms of torque and outright performance (especially in-gear acceleration), but I would still go for the Evo because all those computers (AYC, ACD, AWC and so on) make the car handle sharply and zero-counter driving is easy (four wheel drifting).

But with the two latest models (Evo X vs 2010 Impreza), I think the Evo finally outdoes the Soob in everything. When I finally lay my hands on these two I will definitely let you people know what’s up.

——————

Dear Baraza,

I am about to buy a car and a German make is my preference for reasons of stability, power and durability. My first option (within my range of budget) is a VW Golf 2005 model.

My brothers, however, insist that a BMW 318i or a Merc C-200 Kompressor are a better bet since they will cost me about the same to purchase and a VW will be more expensive in the long run in terms of parts, maintenance and consumption.

Apparently, VW parts are mostly only available at CMC. Kindly help me unravel these issues.

Grace.

—————

What your friends tell you about the spares and CMC might be true but the rest is horse manure. Consumption will depend on how and where you drive, as will maintenance.

Parts will vary, but a little bird once told me that the exhaust system of a 3-Series goes for about Sh300,000, that is Kenya shillings and not Zimbabwean dollars (but I don’t know how true this is). Try and top that with a Golf.

Maybe your brothers just want a prestigious brand of car in the family. An ex-Singapore Benz will cause you nothing but grief, and the 3 has minimal ground clearance.

It is up to you to make the call but the choice in this instance is between the 3 (class leader, outstanding dynamics, excellent performance and BMW reliability) and the VW (another class leader, in the hatchback world, good dynamics and more practical than the other two).

————-

Hi Baraza,

I’m interested in buying the older model Pajero (the one just before the new one currently in the market).

Would you recommend it? If so, diesel or petrol? How is its consumption? Manual or auto? What other issues do I need to know about?

Henry.

———————

Hello,

Diesel/Petrol: Depends on where you intend to use it and how deep your pockets are. For exclusive on-road use, the petrol is better, but if you have the finance to keep it running.

If you will venture off-road, the torque offered by the 3.2 diesel is awesome and better than most rivals. Consumption: Stratospheric for the 3.5 litre petrol, and I wonder why they still do not offer a V8.

The diesel is okay, but it is still outclassed by the BMW X5, ML 270 CDI and Landcruiser Prado. Manual/Auto: Depends on how deft you are with your left foot, but I’d choose the manual.

Better performance (marginally), better economy (marginally) and the freedom to choose your own gears.

Any other issues? Yes. The car is outdated by now. And if you intend to go off-road, the body kit will be an inhibiting factor, as will the long rear overhang and long wheelbase.

But it is quite comfortable and very capable on-road. A good used buy.

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Hi Baraza,

I recently bought a Nissan X-Trail, 2007 2.2 Turbo Diesel. The car runs smoothly but it emits a lot of black smoke from the exhaust when trying to pick speed on the highway and has no power when climbing hills.

I tried getting advice from DT Dobie to no avail (this a local vehicle bought from them by the previous owner).

I hear it’s a common problem with the 2.2 Turbo Diesel X-Trails. Please advise on what you think could be the problem.

Really Frustrated X-Trail Owner

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Sorry, Mr Frustrated,

The problem could lie in the quality of diesel being fed to the engine: if it has been corrupted in any way (typically by adding a dash of paraffin), black smoke will be the order of the day for not just the X-trail, but generally any diesel engine.

I’m yet to establish if this problem is endemic to X-Trails, especially the Mark II versions.

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My Nissan X-Trail stalls for no reason, what’s wrong

My X-Trail has become a constant ulcer-inducer. Around the time of the recent fuel shortage, I had to accelerate hard, and when I slowed down the vehicle went off.

Since then it has been doing it every now and then. On particularly bad days it can go off four times on a 10-kilometre stretch, yet other times it can go for weeks without as much as a whimper.

I have had the car checked and I changed the crankshaft sensor since that was the only error registering on the computer.

I also suspected the cause could be the fuel, so I changed the fuel filter — it had never been changed since I bought the car because my mechanic and some blogs say this does not have to be changed.

I have also noticed that if I refuel during one of those dying spells the car becomes perfect… until the fuel starts inching towards the quarter tank mark. Do you think I need a fuel system cleaner?

Regards,
Gitau

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Hello Mr Gitau,

Yours sounds like a fuel pressure problem. Maybe it is time you looked at the fuel pump if the filters are fine.

You say that, as the fuel gets less in the tank, the problem gets worse. You could be suffering from another fuel pressure problem called “running out of gas”.

I have seen this happen before, in a Toyota Ipsum (the old one), where the car would go off at exactly the quarter tank mark, and nothing less than Sh1,000 worth of fuel would get it moving again.

So another diagnosis would be a faulty fuel gauge. The constant stopping is usually a failsafe that is fitted in most cars: the first time it goes off is a warning that you are running on fumes.

The next few engine cranks will see you actually running on fumes, so coming to a dead stop would be a gamble.

About those blogs and those mechanics, depending on what you feed your car, where you feed it and where you drive, sometimes the fuel filter WILL need to be changed, just like the other filters: the oil one and the air one.

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Dear Baraza,

I drive an old model Subaru Impreza (1998). I have been having two problems with my hitherto well serving machine.

First, I one day woke up to some whistling sound from the engine when I turned it on, coming from around the bearings near the alternator, the fan belts and the bearings.

The whistling disappears after some minutes when I continue moving. Two, the vehicle is auto, and it jerks when I slow down and need to accelerate again.

I recently changed the fuel and ATF filters. Earlier I had changed the CC and ATF oils. The jerking has reduced, but it is still there. What could be causing these issues?

Thanks,
Mwangi.

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Hello Mr Mwangi,

Is the whistling more of a shriek or is it just a whistle? If it sounds like someone is stepping on a cat with a sore throat, then the fan belt is the problem: it could be worn out or out of kilter within the pulleys.

If old, replace. If out of place, push it back into place. One bush remedy I learnt from a motoring mentor is that a cure for the symptom is to splash some brake fluid on the fan belt, irrespective of the cause.

This is a temporary respite from the noise; you will still have to solve the problem. Then again, maybe the bearings have reached the end of their usefulness and are just expressing their need for change or replacement.

To confirm whether it is the fan belt is simple: while stationary, with the engine on, turn the steering wheel all the way to the end (either left or right, you decide).

At full lock (the very end), the shrieking should start again, and stop the moment you let go of the wheel. About the jerking transmission, I was going to suggest you check the ATF, but you beat me to it.

Now, which ATF are you using? One local brand (I dare not mention it) is notorious for its uselessness and unreliability, and is only used in power steering systems.

And I thought automatics only use ATF*, while manuals use CC*, so why did you put CC in your auto? (* this is pending confirmation).

The last suspicion would be that maybe it is time you got a new gearbox; your current one also having reached the end of its usefulness, in which case you have my sympathy because the repair bill that is coming your way will be horrendous. Let us hope this is not the case.

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Hello Baraza,

I have a 1997 Mitsubishi Galant VRG. When cornering hard left, I feel a pulsating tug to the right through the steering wheel, at the rhythm of a ticking clock.

There is no cracking noise to suggest any problems with the CV joints, but could this be a problem with the same?

And while you’re at it, Sir, please tell me at what rpm my engine should idle. I suffered low idling (as low as about 400rpm) and occasional stalling recently.’

Had a mechanic adjust it to 1,000rpm, but now it has an annoying vibration that only goes away when I engage ‘Drive’, bringing the rpms to about 700.

Regards,
Kuria.

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Hello Mr Kuria,

How bad is the pulsating? If mild, it could be what we road test people call “steering feel”, the pulsating could be the shock wave coming from the tyres as they scrabble for grip at the limit, as well as the self-centering I talked about last week (the harder you push, the more nature — and physics — fight back).

Then again maybe the bushes in your steering arms/tie-rods/knuckles are aging, so they do not do as much damping as they should, hence the feeling.

Four hundred rpm is ridiculously low for a petrol engine to idle, even though the larger displacement units idle at lower revs than smaller plants.

Your car should idle at about 850 rpm, so even the 1,000 you set is higher than normal. The prime suspect in the vibration at idle is a dying spark plug, or one problem commonly experienced but not commonly diagnosed correctly — and thus not commonly cured.

You might have a problem with a vacuum leak. Check the intake plenum, the PCV valve (Positive Crankshaft Ventilation), hose and elbow.

Also check the connection between the air cleaner and the throttle body. If a crack or a hole appears anywhere on these sections, then you have your culprit.

Silicon should shut these escape routes convincingly. IAC (Idle Air Control) is supposed to send more air through the engine to compensate for an additional load such as A/C or alternator.

Clean the terminals to it and take it off and spray some WD40 into the two chambers. It is located on top of the throttle body.

To check for a vacuum leak, put a vacuum gauge on any intake port and it should read 18 to 20 inches at idle.

If it has less than that you have a leak or the catalytic converter is plugged or the muffler is plugged. If you have normal power at speed this can be ruled out.

Another cause could be loss of compression in one of the cylinders. A simple compression test would confirm this, and from there your mechanics will tell you what is next: maybe a leaking gasket, worn piston rings or little oil (very unlikely).

The lack of equality in compression pressures across the cylinders causes vibrations.

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Hi,

I recently changed my tyre rim and size and now notice that, to achieve a 100kph on the speedometer, the car takes the acceleration needed to achieve 120kph on earlier tyres.

The vehicle seems slower now, yet I only changed from size 14 to 15. What is the effect of bigger rims/tyres?

Anthony.

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Hello Anthony,

I had discussed this before. Bigger tyres have the effect of gearing up a vehicle (takes more torque to turn the bigger tyres than it does smaller ones.

That is how gearboxes work). So, in effect, the gears in your powertrain are virtually “taller” courtesy of the bigger tyres.

Bigger rims on same-size tyres have no effect on torque delivery to the tyres: the low profiles look good and improve handling, but send the comfort levels to the dogs.

However, the difference between 14- and 15-inch tyres should be negligible. Consider looking at the tyre type and pressures you are using.

Lower pressures increases rolling resistance, causing you to overwork the engine, while low friction eco-tyres offer little push-back to reduce the need for hard acceleration.

Posted on

How the Probox escaped list of ugliest things

While last week’s article may have been a bit controversial, it did not provoke a post-bag of outrage as sizeable as I may have desired, but there were responses.

Suspects were fronted, and disagreement reared its ugly (pun intended) head more than once.

Of note was the concord over the Toyota Will’s lack of visual appeal. This is how those who replied thought of my lists, and these are the offenders and unrecognised beauties.

Toyota Platz

One reader, a lady — quite obviously — defended the Platz as not just an art student’s runabout, but also a means of escape for those who cannot afford costlier hardware but would still wish to eschew the insanity that passes for public transport around this corner of God’s green planet.

Maybe, but just because women like it does not mean it is pretty. It still maintains its place on the queue of syphilitic warthogs on our roads.

Toyota Probox

Most of our readers expected to see this box on wheels vilified as an eyesore, but let us be honest, is it really that bad?

Yes, it lacks any sort of charm whatsoever, but keep in mind that this successor to the venerable Corolla DX is a commercial vehicle first, and commercial vehicles are not really about getting dates. They are meant to lug stuff and staff from one site to the next.

The Probox is what the Fiat 124 estate would have looked like had the Italians kept building it: instead, they gave the whole factory, plus parts, paperwork and foundries, to the Russians; who rebadged it the Lada Riva; and who in turn handed it over to the Egyptians; who still build the damn thing exactly as it was built 30 years ago.

That it is not sold (or imported to these shores) saves it from occupying a place on last week’s list of nasty sights; otherwise it would have been a more fitting replacement for the Probox.

Porsche Cayenne

Evidence that automotive ugliness is created by the manufacturer but propagated by the customer appeared in my inbox in the form of a man claiming that this car is “cute”.

What’s more, he went ahead to claim that it should have been listed there instead of the Jaguar XJ. Have your cataracts checked, Sir. In no way is this car “cute”.

The Nissan Micra is “cute”, and so is the Ford Fiesta, but the Porsche Cayenne has been listed as one of the ugliest cars in recent history, and not even by me.

The face of a 911 sports car grafted onto the body of a Volkswagen Touareg does not make “cute” anything. Thank God that the Porsche has the performance to justify the asking price.

BMW X6

A vitriolic response showed up on Twitter about “this writer thinking that the X6 is ugly”. What would you call the result of mating a swimsuit model’s torso onto the lower extremities of Arnold Schwarzenegger?

An aberration, most likely. BMW’s attempt at creating a niche that nobody asked for got the acerbic reaction it deserved from the world’s motoring Press.

The X6 tries to be a sports car and an off-roader, but it fails at both and loses the looks along with it.

It is too heavy to be any good on-road; and too focused on trying to be impressive on-road to be any good off it; and the huge, tall body with that sloping roofline leads to an epic fail in what would otherwise have been a good alternative to the Range Rover Sport.

The Design Process

It is time to start pointing fingers, and, to narrow down the list of likely suspects, we have to look at what exactly goes on during the design process of a given motor vehicle.

While it can sometimes be done purely by computer (leading to designs as disparate as the manufacturers are far apart: the Nissan GT-R is not pretty, but the Ferrari 458 Italia is, and both are computer-generated.

Maybe one company used a Mac while the other used a PC), what we are interested in is the handiwork of living, breathing humans.

Most cars are designed by a team, typically made of people with degrees and backgrounds in art.

More often than not there is a lead designer, though in some cases a car could be drawn by one man only, and this lead designer receives a brief from the big fish in corner offices.

The brief could be to go retro, to “revolutionalise” car design in general, to establish a corporate “face”, or quite simply, to “shock” the world. And it is at this point that problems arise.

While the brief could be worded in such a way that it will sound pleasing to shareholders, artsy types are not known to decipher such flowery language or show initiative that will be at cross-purposes with the administration, so they follow instructions to the letter.

This is how cars like the bug-eyed Ford Scorpio came to exist (the horror, the horror…).

Going retro also sometimes tends to fail quite badly, especially when designers are asked to draw from iconic elements in that manufacturer’s past.

The old Jaguar Mark II was a paragon of elegance, so the English firm thought that visage would look good on a modern car, and they proceeded to slap it onto the S-Type.

The result almost moved bowels. Thankfully, the S-Type has been replaced with the XF saloon. The Porsche Cayenne suffers from a similar problem.

So what would happen if a designer took it into his head to show initiative? Cars like the outgoing 5-series and 7-series BMWs creep into existence.

Chris Bangle wanted to make an impact design-wise, and make an impact he did. The 7 was so bad it had to have a facelift less than a year after launch.

The 5 was “controversial”, to put it diplomatically, and these two cars made the man famous as the “one who will finally bring BMW to its knees”.

It is a wonder these cars were bought at all: it says a lot about BMW’s technological supremacy that they were able to sell any of these cars at all.

Sometimes one man’s need to “express” himself ought to be checked, lest such terribleness afflicts us all.

On some occasions, I presume, the sheer volume of cars under manufacture also leads to bad design, and that, I strongly suspect, is the reason

Toyota scored freely on the list of uglies. Maybe the engineers are coming up with chasses faster than the designers can draw corresponding bodywork art, and so some of them come out a little bit rushed (Verossa). Either that or no imagination at all applies in the overall design (Probox, Platz).
Engineering also fudges up an otherwise passable design, especially when form follows function.

That is how winged and spoilered monsters like the Impreza WRX and Nissan GT-R rise from the depths of factory recesses to fill up your side mirrors menacingly on the road.

A good design could bite the dust when engines get too big or suspension components cannot be well-hidden, resulting in lengthy overhangs and bizarre fender flares; or when the outlandish performance on tap demands the installation of air dams and spoilers for aerodynamic integrity and stability at speed.

Geographical preferences

Can we surmise that geography also plays a part? America has never come up with what we could call a gorgeous motor vehicle — size seems to be their obsession; while the Asians don’t seem to even bother.

But Europe has been constantly churning out a steady supply of stunning bodies, especially England (Aston Martin, Jaguar) and Italy (Lancia, Alfa Romeo).

Small wonder then that all the great automotive artists (both firms and individuals) are registered in Italy.

Bertone, Giorgetto Giugiaro and the great Sergio Pininfarina have been charged by car builders all over the world as great artists, and their skills are highly sought whenever one company wants to have one up on their competition in good looks.

Planned obsolescence is a business concept dreamt up by one Alfred P Sloan, Jr, former head at General Motors in the early 20th Century, and the idea was that, to entice the client base into show rooms on a regular basis, they needed annual model changes in their lineups.

Sounds good, but people tend to run out of creative thoughts rather fast, leaving them in trouble when it is time for another refresh.

This, I think, has also been an affliction in Japan, as it closely follows the surplus of chasses and dearth of designs theory.

Henry Ford, forever the visionary, rejected this notion and stuck to the principles of simplicity, economies of scale and design integrity.

Much to his consternation, the planned obsolescence thing worked and GM overtook Ford in sales soon after.

All in all, I have just one suggestion to make. To all aspiring car designers, do not do it like your colleagues have been doing: at one point take a step back and have a good look at whatever you have drawn before you release it for manufacture.

It will save a lot of people some embarrassment.

Posted on

Simple things that will bring back the vroom to our lives

Last week I may have waxed lyrical about my sad but enjoyable adventures behind the wheel of a pint-sized open-wheel racer, and this got me thinking:

I have never discussed motorsport on these two pages. In Kenya, car-based sporting events are few and far between, and our once-strong rallying culture is slowly dying out.

Let us talk a little about motorsport in general, and the Kenyan/East African scene in particular. Consider this an open letter to KMSF, the overseeing body in charge of all motorsport events in the country.

Karting

This is what led to my ill-placed prejudice against this sport: go-kart racing is mostly the preserve of pre-teens, more so if they are of Arabic or Indian descent.

(Yes, that is a bit racist and politically incorrect, but look at the driver register of any karting event and you will see my point).

While largely ignored by the majority of us, karting has the biggest potential for gaining and maintaining a veritable fan base, especially among petrolheads. After all, it is the closest thing we have to F1.

Teams could face off, drivers could face off and team managers could get on TV talking rubbish about each other, and this will not only liven things up and increase exposure (leading to sponsorship deals and increased interest), but it will introduce the je ne sais quoi, the X-factor that draws interest, viewership and television deals, much like NASCAR has in the US, or WWE Wrestling worldwide.

If it can be done, a few more tracks and a bit more advertising could improve the rather thin fan base that the sport enjoys. Mombasa, Nairobi and Nakuru should not be the only towns to boast about having a go-kart track.

Motocross

This is another field infested with children as competitors, but, admittedly, it is the most fun to watch.

The wild antics of the young riders that are aired briefly on prime time news are quite a sight, the tracks they use (with all the jumps and turns and, of course, the dust) are alluring for all, both spectators and aspiring riders, and I can proudly declare that some of these young ones are of world-class standard.

In my opinion, it is one of the most underrated sports, and another event that needs more aggressive promotion. This is coming from yours truly, who has little respect for (and much fear of) two-wheeled transport. Go figure.

Rallying

The beauty of rallying is that it is not a racing event; it is a time trial, so, as a spectator sport, it can be a little boring for those who are less than fanatic about it. However, this has not prevented it from being the most popular form of motorsport in the country.

It was once a national event, watched by many, but, over time, it has degenerated into a fiesta of drink and gaudy garb for the spectators and a medley of dangerous driving as fans leave the war theater in an attempt to show their peers that, were it not for their tight 9-to-5 work schedules, men like Lee Rose and Ian Duncan would experience first-hand the competitive wrath of a “true” driver.

This begs the question: What the hell happened? Where did charismatic drivers like Patrick Njiru (so loved was he that he was used to promote a certain brand of cooking oil. A rally driver appealing to housewives?

It is hard to beat that kind of charisma) disappear to? Why are the rally stages now so far removed that the common man (people without their own cars) finds it hard to track the action all season round? And why has the driving become less spectacular?

To return to the good old days, the sport needs a little sexing up. KMSF (the chaps who oversee the whole thing) also do not seem to have a clear rulebook, as far as the unknowing layman is concerned.

I am not against any driver in particular, but when was it a fair competition where a man in a puny N16 Impreza had to do battle with another man in a Landcruiser pick-up for the same shot at glory?

If any among you readers remember the late Colin McRae, you will also recall that he was the man who single-handedly brought the Subaru Impreza WRX to fame and cult status.

He was also famous for spending more time air-borne than on terra firma in the early days of his career, and on very few occasions did he return the car to the paddock in one piece.

While this kind of behaviour is risky for the driver, it is also the kind of thing spectators want to see: the most hardcore anoraks, especially in Europe (Finland, Portugal, Italy and England have the most dedicated fanatics) will tell you that the three things they came to see when spectating are; one, a car airborne; two, a car sideways (drifting through corners) or; three, a car crashing. The rest is stuff that you can see anywhere, on or off-season.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not asking anyone to intentionally wreck their car just to make a name as an entertainer. But please remember the heady days of Group B rallying (back in the ’80s).

It was a thrill watching drivers struggling to handle 600hp in a 2WD hatchback that may or may not have had ABS or power steering.

Nowadays they have to make do with a piffling 300hp and plenty of electronic driver aids, plus 4WD is almost a mandatory requirement.

A little more ambitious driving wouldn’t hurt anyone.

Rhino Charge

Now these are the people who know how to spend a good weekend — having fun, providing entertainment and flair, oozing charisma and, to top it all off, do good in the process: save the wild animals and plants of the Aberdare.

The Rhino Charge is always held on the Madaraka Day weekend (first weekend in June) every year, and the organisational skills behind it are a hard act to follow.

The venue of the competition is kept a mystery until the last possible moment, mostly to prevent the contenders from scouting the place and clearing the whole thing in one smooth move come Judgment Day, but the side effect this has had is to pique curiosity within the fan base, and nothing maintains the interest of the hoi polloi as much as suspense. Agatha Christie realised this and made a killing penning mysteries and whodunits, so there.

The main event, though staged in some obscure backwoods somewhere, never fails to attract a sizeable crowd.

This is because that crowd knows that they will get their effort’s worth as they watch teams pit their sense of teamwork and off-road driving skills against each other as drivers rush in where goats fear to tread in the best and most entertaining wheeled competition since Ben Hur drove a chariot in a suicidal way in the Roman arenas.

To spice things up is the presence of lady teams, such as the Pinks In Charge (catchy moniker) who always try to show their mettle against the “boys”. The Rhino Charge is now a world-class event, and this brings some noticeable questions to the fore.

For starters, the Rhino Charge is now where the Safari Rally once was, and should still be: hugely popular and recognised the world over as a competition not to be trifled with. Incidentally (or coincidentally) it is not run by the KMSF — the Rhino Charge, that is.

Are the two connected? I don’t know, but all I can say is that maybe, just maybe KMSF has a lesson to learn from the Rhino Ark Foundation, the fellows who run the Rhino Charge.

It beggars belief that an NGO (if that is what the Rhino Ark is) can put on a better show than a dedicated motorsports body.

Once upon a time the Safari Rally was an event in the WRC calendar that so inspired the fear of God in manufacturer teams that when Ford were marketing the MK I Focus hatchback in Europe, they simply put a picture of the blue and white Focus WRC with the tagline “Winner of The 1999 Safari Rally” in magazines in an attempt to sell it.

And sell it they did, in huge numbers: in the UK alone they were selling as many as 270 cars per day. How about this? KMSF could rethink their branding and marketing strategies.

How about seeking more corporate sponsors, besides KCB (who are not backward about coming forward to let everybody know that they are the big fish when it comes to sponsoring rally competitions), not only for themselves but also for drivers.

Distinct teams could be established, complete with livery, and the introduction of constructors’ championships be done, so there would be two titles, not one, at stake.

How about increase media exposure for the drivers so that we, the fans, could get to know them better as people, and not just filler material in the back pages of the local dailies?

And, for God’s sake, how about a steady calendar, where we know in January, the rally will be in Eldoret, in February it will be in Thika, and so forth.

How about the rallies are held less on private farms and more on public roads (but closed off to ordinary traffic for safety reasons)?

It feels a bit odd creeping into somebody else’s farm just to watch a few minutes of lethargic mud-plugging in liveried saloon cars, and then calling it a day.