In Summary
  • Modern Subarus have one glaring problem — the use of electric power assistance for the steering system, rather than hydraulic.
  • In this day and age of Covid-19, the global pandemic has shown us that civilisation could be wiped out in short order despite our technological and cultural advancements.

Hello Baraza,
Is the manual Mitsubishi Lancer Cedia 2006 model a good car for a bachelor like me? How reliable is the car and what are the pros and cons of owning it? Michael Okun Oliech

Hello Michael,

Well, the upshot of owning a manual Cedia is that you have a car with a manual (read “manly”) transmission, if uninformed, sexist and unfounded internet chatter based on owner bias is anything to go by. Other than that, I’m not sure what else would draw a person to a 14-year-old Mitsubishi saloon that is not an Evo: power is lacking as is style and probably reliability, though one of the Cedia’s biggest issues, the lazymatic, has been addressed by the specification of a manual.

Since you’re a bachelor, I’d ask you to get something a little more exciting. In this day and age of Covid-19, the global pandemic has shown us that civilisation could be wiped out in short order despite our technological and cultural advancements. Never has the term YOLO — You Only Live Once — been more apt than in The Year 2020 OTC (Of The Corona)

Ehe, here’s how to order spare parts on the internet …

Baraza, How can I order spares for the TD54 Suzuki on the internet?
Regards. Masinde

Hi Masinde,

I never imagined that after 10 years of writing about motoring, I’d be teaching someone how to use the internet. Well, 2020 is shaping up to be a very strange year, so I’ll just roll with it. Here goes:
1. Ensure you have a device that is capable of connecting to the internet. Such devices include smartphones, tablets, phablets, pamphlets (no, not pamphlets), laptops, desktops, ragtops, blacktops, redtops, tabletops (no, none of these — only electronics) and such.

2. Connect this device to the internet. The various methods of connecting these devices to the internet vary according to the device type, manufacturer and internet service provider.

3. Open a browsing app.

4. Go to the address bar of the browsing app and type in the URL of whichever search engine you fancy. A majority of users favour the Google, so you can access this late 20th century invention by typing in “google.com”, then clicking on Go or tapping the Enter key.

5. Once the search engine loads on your screen, use its input allocation to type in “Suzuki TD54 parts for sale” then start clicking the various results one by one until you find what you are looking for.

6. Whatever you find will be hosted on one website or the other, and I actually did a search for “Suzuki TD54” and it gave me 1.55 million results so you will forgive my reticence about going any further. It’s you looking for spares, not me.

7. The search results also revealed that a Suzuki TD54 is a third-generation Grand Vitara or Escudo that went into production from 2005 to date. It is also a vehicle sold and serviced by The Dealership Formerly Known As CMC Motors who usually remind me on a weekly basis that they have chicken-teeth Holy-Grail Mazda parts that nobody else seems to have, which implies they must have Suzuki TD54 parts as well, so perhaps you may want to start your search at Al-Futtaim (aka CMC) before tumbling into the minefield that is the internet, where men are men, women are men and children are FBI agents. You can’t trust people you can’t see.

Baraza, please prescribe lasting treatment for my truck
Dear JM,

Thank you for your informative column. You have liberated many, myself included, from the slavery of motoring-related ignorance. I’ve got two problems with a Mitsubishi truck with a 4M50 engine. First, it heats up when going uphill, almost to the red part of the meter and only restores to normal on a flat surface.

The second and main problem is that it does not start completely. It started behaving abnormally two years ago and could only do around 50km/h on a flat surface loaded or unloaded, with insane fuel consumption levels.

My mechanic gave me short-lived solutions. The nozzles were replaced but the condition didn't improve. Earlier last year, it started misfiring, not forgetting morning hard starts and with a white cloud of smoke until it warmed up for about 20 minutes. Another mechanic advised clearing mufflers, etc, etc. Once, it stalled on the road and refused to start, even after completely cooling down.

Later, the nozzles were replaced, again, and the problem resolved. It became the super machine it once was, but a few months later, it stalled again and had to be towed to the garage. Note that replacing nozzles and the ECU has borne no fruit.

Please help me out.
Ian.

Hello Ian,

I have only had good things to say about Mitsubishi trucks, it is therefore against the grain that you say you have a problematic Mitsubishi truck. Most owners swear by them, not at them.

That said, have you tried to consult the Mitsubishi franchise? They do sell Mitsubishi trucks after all, so I’m pretty sure they know a thing or two about those engines.

I believe the address is Crater Automobiles, which falls under Simba Corp, who have a beautiful building in Westlands called the Aspire Centre, a comely edifice that is symbolic of 21st century corporate growth. Crater Automobiles is headquartered on Mombasa Road, if I’m not wrong, and they have outlets all over the country, so you don’t have to drive your truck to the Aspire Centre in Westlands and ruin the picturesque ambience by stalling in front of it.

(Disclaimer: I cannot be accused of talking ill of Mitsubishis this time, because it is you complaining about it, not me.)

So, the sad attempt at humour aside, let me explain why I haven’t and will not give you a definite repair protocol. First, diesel engines are notoriously difficult to diagnose and repair, a lot more compared to petrol engines. You say the overheating and underperformance were briefly treated by a nozzle replacement, a cure that failed the first time round.

TD54 Suzuki.

This sounds a lot like a hit-or-miss approach where you throw (redacted) at the wall to see what sticks. A third nozzle replacement and ECU change has not helped the recurring condition. If you and your mechanics who are on the ground are unsuccessful, what chances do I, hiding behind a newspaper column, have of guessing correctly what the exact problem is?

This leads us neatly into the second reason I will not give a diagnosis: I have said it before — it is extremely difficult to give an accurate response based on correspondence alone, more so if the root cause of the problem is not immediately obvious, but I have to wonder: with symptoms such as low power, white smoke and overheating, why has none of you bothered to check for a blown head gasket?

It seems pretty obvious (at first) but the fact that a nozzle replacement temporarily cured the problems completely throws a spanner into the works and lays waste to that theory, but I wouldn’t ignore it outright if I were you. It won’t hurt to check. While at it, check that fuel injection timing is correct or properly set and that the nozzles deliver enough fuel because it could be a lean burn situation that is causing the white smoke and lack of power (some say it causes overheating as well).

Subaru Forester XT.

Do I get a turbocharged Subaru Forester XT or non-turbo?
Hi Barasa,
I’m looking to buy a Subaru Forester XT, but I’m torn between getting a turbocharged one or the non-turbo. Please share your views in terms of their efficiency, reliability and cost of repair. The car is majorly for long drives as well as a little bit of off-roading.
Regards. Simon

Hi Simon,

I have stated many times that there isn’t really any point to buying a Subaru if it isn’t turbocharged, and it has led to many people claiming owner bias (I do have one of these) and an absence of clear rationale behind that statement, which I originally made semi-seriously, quasi-tongue-in-cheek if you will.

Well, these people can now keep their opinion to themselves because there is a logical reason behind buying a turbo Forester besides the RAV-killing power outputs, and it has to do with reliability.

You see, modern Subarus have one glaring problem — the use of electric power assistance for the steering system, rather than hydraulic. This unit is known to fail, and a replacement costs something in the region of Sh130,000 depending on how hard you are being fleeced for making a poor car-buying decision against my recommendations.

All is not lost for those who want a modern Subaru but don’t want to replace the steering: turbocharged Foresters use the traditional hydraulic set-up rather than the electric unit that their naturally aspirated siblings pack at the front axle. So not only is there hope for punters, but it also provides vindication for my allegations. I’m not crazy.

Efficiency in the turbo car is good, better than the atmospherically fed version. Street talk says otherwise, but street talk is uninformed.

Besides, you will one day find yourself on the highway, and being in a Subaru, you will be challenged by a man in a Mercedes-Benz C200 who thinks he is better than you since he has a logo on his bonnet that implies “The Best Or Nothing” while you have a rally-derived yob-mobile associated with men who run away from responsibilities.

Mitsubishi truck.

This man in the Baby Benz will need to be taught a lesson. That lesson is from a curriculum supported by forced induction and executed by wide open throttle. Follow the rule book and this man will see dust, and order will be restored in the universe. This cannot be done using natural aspiration.

(Disclaimer: DO NOT race other vehicles on the road. That little treatise is just an ode to Subaru power from an excitable automotive writer who likes to annoy his neighbours by idling his car longer than is absolutely necessary, it is not a clarion call for street racing or speeding or recklessness. Road safety is very important. If you are indeed challenged by a man in a C Class, walk away from that trap and let him race himself, it is never that serious.)

Reliability: It has been said and proven time and again that Subarus are tough vehicles, so there isn’t much to say except keep an eye on the stabiliser links if you pound rough roads on the regular.

Secondly, now that I have done my best to convince you to go the turbo way, make V Power your friend should you desire stratospheric rpms and wide throttle openings. In normal driving, you can use ordinary premium (Super) and you’ll be fine.

Cost of repair: Modern cars are quite expensive to fix, especially electrical and electronic items. Thank goodness then that the brand is known for its dependability.

Since you didn’t specify which exact model of Forester you are eyeing, all I can say is the SG is the last car you can fix cheaply. Anything that came after that will be painful to the pocket if you ding it and break something. Insurance will be vital if you have a tendency for dinging cars.

The long drives and the mild off-roading will be a cinch in the Forester. It is basically what the car was built for, and for those long drives, the turbocharger really is a palliative against strain. I do long drives every now and then and more often than not, I end up glad for the tin snail living under my bonnet. It makes for effortless, fuss-free driving, it really does.

It also makes men in C200s stay away from bumpers, willingly or otherwise.