In Summary
  • Lose unnecessary weight. Shut any windows that you don’t really need open. Inflate your tyres properly.

  • Get rid of roof racks or bodykits that serve no real purpose - they only increase drag.

  • Plan your trips beforehand to ensure your drive has the best possible permutation of good roads, short distances and little traffic.

Hi Baraza,

Your research and knowledge qualifies you for the position of transport CS now or in future. My Corolla 91 is fitted with an EFI engine. Is there a VVTI engine that is compatible with this vehicle?

You once wrote on how you drive to and from Western at a good speed and return very good fuel consumption figures. Could you kindly share with us some of the good driving tips that you use?

Itonga.

An average of 12km/l from a 1500cc Corolla NZE isn’t half bad but is indicative of mixed use between intra-urban city centre assault and open-air highway cruising. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

Well, almost any later-generation VVT-i equipped Corolla engine will go into the 91 without any compatibility issues. Now, about my driving: I think I have outlined my technique before but I will gladly share it again.

First is to go easy on the throttle. Allocate yourself enough time for your journey so that your drive is more of an enjoyable tour and less of a frantic ambulance driver-esque flailing at the wheel and rat-killing stomping of the pedals weaving in and out of slower traffic.

Not only is it hard on fuel and hard on your car, it is also hard on you. Go easy on the braking as well. I brake as little as possible, but not so little as to cause consternation to the people I’m sharing the road with.

I always look up to a kilometre ahead when conditions allow to anticipate whether I will need to slow down and simply let off the throttle rather than use the footbrake.

This also makes overtaking easy because you can time yourself to get back on the power early such that by the time you are overtaking, you are at a good pace that sees you complete the manoeuvre quickly and cleanly.

Many people wait until they are at tailgating distance to brake hard, then swing out, mash the firewall in second, seeing the tach soar to 5000 and then possibly fail to complete the exercise because of oncoming traffic, forcing them back, which means they have to have another go at it... and another.

This will not win you any economy awards.

These two techniques will take you places as far as saving fuel goes, but there is more to it. Lose unnecessary weight.

Shut any windows that you don’t really need open. Inflate your tyres properly. Get rid of roof racks or bodykits that serve no real purpose - they only increase drag. Plan your trips beforehand to ensure your drive has the best possible permutation of good roads, short distances and little traffic.

Lastly (but definitely not conclusively), only drive if you really have to.

Of course, driving a car with a manual transmission helps a lot too. I recently went on a long trip, maintained a steady 100 and averaged 11.8km/l. I was going uphill mostly, despite the vehicle going into its limp-home setting (a.k.a “safe mode”) for some few kilometres. Not bad for an 18-year old Subaru....

I plan to get a car from Japan, which importer do you recommend?

Hi Baraza,

My name is Elvis. I am planning to buy and import a car from Japan. I am not sure which car export company in Japan is genuine, so understandably, I am wary of losing my hard-earned money. Kindly advise me.

Hi Elvis (Presley?)

Imported vehicles

Imported vehicles leaving the port of Mombasa. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

We are not in the business of analysing car importers in this column, so names will go unmentioned – doing so would come with the risk of libel, free marketing and so on, you understand. But I do understand your caginess about the whole thing, though.

There is quite a tidy sum involved in buying a car and one wouldn’t want to see their nest egg summarily vapourised courtesy of unsavoury and shady elements who do not understand the concept of honest work.

Feel free to ask friends for recommendations or better yet, join an online forum and run a poll or vox pop to establish who to trust and who to steer clear of.

That should provide some clear answers as well as offering up a wealth of information on how to go about the process.

Subaru Impreza Sports vs the Golf

Hi Baraza,

An older cousin recently bought a Subaru Impreza Sports but not everyone is impressed – it picks up fast and it has been a cause of accidents lately. Kindly advise on its safety and benefits it may have over the Golf.

Subaru Impreza.

Subaru Impreza. PHOTO | COURTESY

Well, the Impreza may have AWD, but so does the Golf (4Motion, where available) so that cancels that out.

The Golf is more prestigious, the Impreza is more rugged. Both are smallish, egg-shaped pods for inner city exploration and the occupation of tiny parking spaces.

Go for the Impreza if you want to put up with the constant barrage of baselessly judgemental aspersions cast towards “Subaru” people, go for the Golf if you don’t mind a persistent Check Engine Light.

The Golf is a nicer car, though. Really refined and “affordable premium”, if there is such a thing.

Safety? Well, for starters. the Impreza was a Top Safety Pick for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety back in 2012, which is saying something. It scored a green G (Good) in almost everything except for structure and safety cage where it scored a yellow A (Average). The green G is the highest accolade attainable in the crash tests of 2012.

(I have to correct you here on your notion that Imprezas have been the cause in accidents lately. I seriously doubt that because the statistics say otherwise. Imprezas are not that many to begin with, and the few that are there are not driven as badly as people tend to believe.)

And now the Golf.

It scored an otherworldly 94 per cent for adult occupant safety, 89 per cent for child occupant safety, 65 per cent for pedestrian collisions and 71 per cent for safety assistance on the Euro-NCAP tests, which tend to be more stringent than the American IIHS one.

I know these are two different scales of merit, so in comparison, the Golf scored a green G in everything except for right foot injuries for the driver where it scored a medium, but keep in mind this was a left-hand drive vehicle so that means the passenger’s foot.

I would say the two cars are fairly balanced as far as safety goes, but the high scores that Golf is hitting for adult and child occupant safety on the Euro NCAP look very impressive.

Help! What’s wrong with this car?

Dear Baraza,

My name is Becker Maroko. I am having some issues with my car, AE 110. When I get to 100km pH, I experience some weird shaking of the steering. I've changed the CV and ball joints and also tightened the belts but still no change. I am in dire need of help.

Hi Becker Maroko,

Have you tried balancing or aligning the wheels? Or changing the tyres?

My Toyota Spacio is acting up…

Baraza,

Your sound car advice is appreciated. My Toyota Spacio 2003 (serviced two months ago) recently developed low speed power and constant jerking when idling or in gear. Fuel consumption is bad. Sometimes when starting the car, I can smell fuel fumes.

Now, when I switch off the car, there is a ticking sound in the engine. There are no dashboard warning lights or “check engine” to indicate any problem.

The plugs and coils were replaced but no change. A friend suggested that I use fuel injector cleaner and change the gear box oil (mechanic confirmed gear box oil never changed). If the problem persists, then I should do an electric diagnosis.

Please advise.

Victor

Hi Victor,

Let’s quickly go through this: the low power, constant jerking, poor fuel consumption and stench of unburnt fuel can only mean one thing: a weak, non-existent or erratic spark in one or more cylinders.

The primary suspects are usually the spark plugs and coils, but you say you changed these. Did you check the high tension leads?

They may be loose or worn out, which may cause current leakage straight to ground (not the literal ground, but an electrical earth, typically the engine block but generally the nearest conductor which more often than not takes the form of a metallic accessory).

Fuel injector cleaner may not be of much help because if the injectors were blocked, the symptoms would be similar but without the smell of unburnt fuel.

Change the gearbox oil if you need to – it may be way past its due date – but this will have no bearing on your current predicament, a predicament I am sure is electrical in nature.

Now, the ticking sound of the engine when switched off... that is perfectly normal and is physics at work. The engine, after running for some time, gets hot, components expand, then when turned off, cools down and the components contract.

That ticking sound is from the metal components under the bonnet contracting as they lose heat.

If you have spent any significant amount of time in the village like yours truly, you will notice that ticking sound is very similar to the one that comes from the roofs of houses after dusk and in the early part of the night: and these roofs are invariably made from iron sheets. Same principle.

Which, between these two, would make a better tour vehicle?

Greetings sir,

I want to acquire a tourist vehicle in Kenya. I am going for the Toyota Hilux new shape and Toyota fj74-76 series all single cab, either new or old petrol and diesel. Kindly advice on the pros and cons as well as maintenance needs.

The Toyota Hilux 2.4 GD-6. PHOTO| COURTESY

The Toyota Hilux 2.4 GD-6. PHOTO| COURTESY

Hello,

Interesting. I haven’t seen a tourist vehicle based on the Hilux, current or former. I have seen a few Nissan Hardbody pickups adapted for this kind of use in South Africa, but the more common conversions are Nissan Patrols and Toyota Land Cruisers.

Anyway, I am sure you know what you have in mind.

The Land Cruiser is hardy and time-tested, but the Hilux is more modern. The Land Cruiser is slower, but you don’t need speed for this kind of thing, but in case you do, the Land Cruiser can be imported from Australia with a V8 turbodiesel that transforms it into a dust devil.

The Hilux is more comfortable, but after you do the necessary modifications to its running gear to spec it up enough for tourist work, the two vehicles will ride more or less the same.

More people believe in the Land Cruiser for tour work, and there is a very good reason for that, though before reading this, I’m not sure any of the drivers will be able to point it out.

The 70 Series is built as a hardy workhorse that serves duty both humanitarian (UN missions) and otherwise (tactical vehicles favoured by rebels and insurgents during their guerrilla campaigns). Their frames are hewn out of very thick steel that provides a resilience that is scanty this side of a Sherman tank.

This makes them good candidates for extension because most cars lose their torsional rigidity when stretched. The 70 will too but since it was already very tough to start with, the loss is barely discernible.

Try stretching any other random car in that manner and take it to the Amboseli or Mara roads and see it move its body like a snake, ma. Frame twist is a b--h.

The Hilux is brilliant. I had one earlier this year and it beggars belief just how far pickups have come. However, tour duty is not its lot in life, unless you are just ferrying yourself around with one or two friends and have to carry gear, which is where the bed comes in handy.

But for the love of Classical Physics, don’t stretch it. The AN10/20/30 model acquired notoriety for having a bendy frame, and that was in its stock state.

What would you expect to happen if you induced some priapism in its chassis? The AN120/130 takes care of this shortcoming (quite well, I might add) but it still does not quite attain the volcanic hardness of the Land Cruiser. When it comes to tour duty, there is only one clear winner.

The 70 Series Toyota Land Cruiser.

Was changing the engine a bad idea?

Hello,

We changed our Prado engine from 1KD to 1KZ, plus the bellhousing, but since then, when I change the gear of automatic, from P to R or D, they shake in the diff and the gear box. What could be the problem?

Kuria

Hello,

Clearly the installation of the new engine was not done conclusively. Sounds like either something didn’t fit properly or there is an issue at the torque converter that is causing partial lockup, which is why there is the transmission shock when put into gear.