To secure your car, park in safe areas and avoid driving at night

Hi Baraza,

Thanks for the good work you are doing. I can personally attest that i have grown in leaps and bounds in terms of my knowledge and passion for cars. Keep up the good work! I have three questions;

1) Last year in February, i wrote to you about my Toyota Corolla E80 fondly named ‘Whitney’ by family members.You gave me some very solid advice on what ailed ‘Whitney’ and how to fix her. Unfortunately on November 15th 2015, the car was stolen in Karen outside Regina Caeli Catholic Church. It is only now that i am coming to terms with the loss of the car because for the life of me i couldn’t understand why anyone would want to steal an old car in Karen no less! I would like to ask if you have any advice to car owners out there on how well to secure their cars? What are your thoughts on cut-outs, Immobilizers, gear locks, steering wheel locks and car alarms and tracking?

Hello Alvaro,

Such sad news! What pathetic, poorly bred, desperate, bottom-feeding, cave-dwelling breed of heartless knave would want to steal a Corolla 80? It’s bad enough that they would want to steal a car, but a classic? Why? Let me join you in wishing him or her ill on their every endeavor. May their lives be miserable henceforth. If they are reading this, please give back the car, it will not benefit you in any way.

I’m not fond of quoting governmental platitudes but this is one case where I’ll say security starts with you. Sure, you could install all sorts of aftermarket anti-theft hardware -and software too- as a deterrent against TWOCCing (Taking Without Owner’s Consent), but you could go a step further. Four vehicles down the line, the only time I have been a victim of car-related pilfering was when the radio was stolen from the Mazda (knock on wood). I know who stole it; it was the garage personnel that I once mentioned here; the ones who frustrated me to the point where I repaired my own car on their premises. So how did I achieve this kind of track record?

I’m very choosy about where I park. Plan your trips ahead. For starters I only park in the private allocations of the city; I never rely on council slots. With those vehicle tags issued in private parking lots, it is difficult to drive out in someone else’s car unless you have a tag of your own, which implies you already have a car and are less likely to be interested in boosting mine. Where possible, I’ll park at a friend’s house. Outside of town, I either park where I can constantly see the car, or I’ll park in a private residence (after having a word with the owner, of course). Sometimes I park at a police station. It will take a certain amount of unwise and self-destructive bravado for a chav to try boosting a vehicle from under the nose of the constabulary. I never park overnight unless a) I’m at the airport and flying out of the country or b) at home. No exceptions.

TWOCCing is not always done when cars are parked. Carjacking has on more than one occasion been a trending activity among members of the criminal classes and is a much easier avenue for acquiring high end cars fitted with security systems that would put Fort Knox to shame. Make yourself less conspicuous or less available as a potential victim of the whimsical carjack. Again, plan your trips ahead. Operate mostly in daylight hours and in populated areas as much as possible. If I get home late, I always carefully scout my environment before pulling up at the gate. If I see even a SINGLE motorbike nearby – I don’t care whether it’s a legitimate boda boda or not- I will not stop at the gate; I’ll drive past, turn around and come back. Motorcycles are the new getaway vehicles: highly versatile, unidentifiable and impossible to trace, they are the preferred transport for those of ill intent.

There is an extra step taken by some, but this will depend on personal taste. Make your car unattractive to thieves. Paint it a ridiculous color, festoon the bodywork with stickers or do anything to make the car stand out and easily identifiable with you. I doubt anyone would steal the green Lamborghini that has been doing the rounds in Nairobi, however much it may cost. In other words, don’t drive around in bait. Common models in common colors (white Corolla NZE, anyone?) take first priority in the car thief’s to-do list. Be safe, and again, sorry for your loss

2)Please could you also expound on the fact that despite being willing to pay, no insurance company agreed to a comprehensive cover for  ‘Whitney’. Their argument was that cars which were manufactured after a certain year cannot be covered comprehensively due to lack of availability of spares? Is that a logical point? I would like to believe that their are many car classic owners out there who would like to purchase comprehensive in order to protect their motor vehicles.

Kenyan insurance companies are a peculiar lot. If they are not refusing to insure vehicles past a certain age, they are blacklisting particular models of cars on their lists. Stand up Subaru and BMW drivers; and smile for the camera. They also have this nebulous concept they call “excess” in which you not only pay them premiums to cover your car, but when you actually need their assistance they trick you into paying for that assistance yourself. They compete with lawyers for the title of the most conniving profession out there.

The lack of availability of spares is a flimsy excuse on their part, because they are afraid you cannot handle the truth. The truth is that much as you give them your money, they do not trust you; just like banks. You see, insurance companies and lawyers are not the only dishonest ones here; their clients are even more dishonest. There is more than one way to skin a cat, right? In the same vein, there is more than one way to get rid of a ramshackle that you are sick of besides selling it. A jalopy is unlikely to fetch much on the open market, so an easy way out is to over-insure it then intentionally wreck it or “arrange” to have it “stolen”; then claim insurance. That way the aging tumbledown is gone and you get your money. Another technique is to take out a loan using the vehicle logbook as collateral and then intentionally defaulting on the loan. It’s a way of “selling” the car to the finance institution by force. That explains why whenever the bank issues a loan secured by a vehicle logbook; they will intentionally undervalue the car.

That being said, classic cars do deserve comprehensive -and very specific- insurance covers. Vintage vehicles, particularly Ferraris, sell for seven or even eight-figure dollar sums due to their rarity and desirability. If you buy such a car, surely insurance would be the first priority to protect your investment, wouldn’t it? Maybe it’s time these companies reconsidered their stand on vehicle ages. It doesn’t have to be a blanket acceptance – even I would balk at comprehensively insuring a clapped-out crummy Nissan Sunny B13 used as a taxi cab – but there have to be exceptions.

3) I don’t think that for the 6 years you have been writing for the Car Clinic, you have ever spoken about Peugeot and in particular the Partner 1 (1st generation). Could you write about the Peugeot Partner 1 in terms of maintenance, spare parts, fuel consumption e.t.c. We recently acquired a Peugeot partner 1 that had its diesel engine switched to a Toyota petrol engine. Why do you think they switched?

Are you sure? I have actually mentioned Peugeots severally and I have once done an entire 2,000-word writeup on them in this very column. Perhaps you should search harder, eh? What I have not discussed is the Partner in particular, mostly because I don’t know much about it. I can, however, make an educated guess about why the engine was swapped in the unit you acquired.

Diesel engines are not very good. Peugeot cars are not very good. It therefore follows that a Peugeot car with a diesel engine is best left to those who know no better, but very quickly learn the folly of their decision. Unreliable, limp-wristed, gruff, peaky; the diesel Partner was not the last word in automotive engineering. The petrol version was better by far.

Finally i would like to leave you with the following snippet from Pirates of the Caribbean “Wherever we want to go, we go. That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and a hull and sails; that’s what a ship needs. Not what a ship is. What the Black Pearl really is, is freedom.” -Jack Sparrow in The Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. Allow me to revise it “ Wherever we want to go, we go. That’s what a car is, you know. It’s not just an engine and a body and wheels; that’s what a car needs. Not what a car is. What a car really is, is freedom.

Alvaro Thuo

Soulful… And also apt. But sometimes a car is just an engine, a body and wheels. Anyone who drives a Toyota Passo will testify to that.


I read with horror your advice to that young man (March 24) to get himself a marcdez or bmw. These cars, even when used cost upward of 1.75m. Add insurance  and continental tyres and you are at 2m.l don’t know how much DT Dobie charges for major service but should be up to 50,k..That assumes no major parts need to be included,struts,spark plugs ,brake pads.. Your Randy young man should be looking at Toyota corsa ,cami,or your beloved demio. Even Auris,premio,etc cost 1.3m.I would love to include the impresa here but being a subie Forrester guy myself I desist. Before he makes the mistake of touching the sti he should take a walk to Subaru Kenya and have a look at the big blue service chart at the reception.He may also want to know that the self levelling stuts cost 45k apiece,excluding 16%vat.  The boy should be told in no uncertain terms to  crawl before he can run.  Have a nice day.

Listen here, the young man asked for options and I gave him those options.

There are BMWs and Benzes that sell for around a million bob, and these are mostly the models I specified (the E46 and the W203 respectively). Those costing around 1.8 to 2 million shillings are slightly newer models. I narrowed down to these two models because I did do a survey -at great risk to established friendships with the fair ones- and these two models polled highest.

The Corsa and Cami are out of the question if it is image you are going for. No one will take you seriously if you park one of these and strut all over the parking lot acting like you just pulled up in a Bentley; you will get laughed at. These are not cars, they are appliances, or in the world of PowerPoint presentations, they are “transport solutions”. As for the Demio….

I had a very pretty and well-kept DY Demio. All my lady friends would say things like “Nice car”, “the paint is lovely”, “I like it”… until I sold it and bought a humongous and very lengthy Subaru wagon that occupies two parking spots and requires a three-point maneuver at a regular T-junction. It’s like driving a long-distance passenger bus. What do the ladies say now? “Manly car” (is it?), “it fits you more than that little Demio ever did” (does it?), and “do you race in it?” (No). Conclusion: much as I loved the little Mazdalago, the LP111-2 is a car for vegetarians. No offense, Mazda Owner’s Club, I am still one of you.

The Auris, Premio (and Impreza, to some extent) may work briefly, right up to the point where a merry-making happy-go-lucky follower of this column pulls up in a borrowed E46 or W203, in which case you will be forced to watch all the second-year coeds get whisked away in German hardware while you kill time having arguments about variable valve timing in the Toyota Owner’s Club internet forum until the administrator sends you a private message: “Just go to sleep, will you? Dude, it’s 3 a.m., we’ll discuss VVT-i tomorrow”.

As far as maintenance and repair costs are concerned, I covered that quite well, thank you. I will not repeat it.

Y’all have a good week now.




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