What you need to know:
- Buy a used German car and you will single-handedly keep the spare parts industry afloat with your regular fiscal inputs.
- “Japan” is not always synonymous with “reliable”. There are certain brands that will go unnamed for now.
- There is also another factor to consider: previous ownership.
On real-time personal assessment, I want to get my first car, a used VW Golf 1.4 TSI 2013/14 (import, fairly at 90,000 mileage).
However, on a friend’s advice, German machines are not the best ‘start-up’ vehicles. He advises that I get a Japanese vehicle like a Toyota, Nissan or Mazda.
He further says German cars require close attention compared with the former. On the brighter side, contrary to the statement, nowadays there are so many VW Golfs cruising the roads, which means the market has embraced it as an economical and reliable vehicle.
Further, from a bit of research on the VW Golf TSI 1.4 from various website articles, it seems this particular model, VW Golf MK7, is a mixed bag, frequent issues with the timing chain, valves and majorly the DSG issue, especially if one is importing a VW Golf with mileage of 40,000 onwards.
I’m conscious that online stories bring out the horror of a used VW Golf, but I would like to know the straight genuine fact here.
These are the questions that usually lead to an uncomfortable Wednesday-to-Wednesday week where certain truths are bound to rub select individuals the wrong way given how I present them.
Let me give some truths as I know them:
Truth 1: German machines could be good start-up vehicles, just don’t buy one that is already used. A good start-up example is the Polo Vivo — I’m sorry if I sound like I am marketing, but this car won our prestigious award at the end of 2017, and with very good reasons.
It could cost as much as (or even be cheaper than) the Golf you are trying to buy, yet it sports the same 1.4 litre TSI engine without the turbo, which, depending on how you look at it, may be saving you from trouble further down the road.
There is the three-year, 100,000-kilometre warranty as a buffer against unforeseen eventualities, or even foreseen ones like our friend with a seized Hyundai elsewhere in this write-up.
There are financing options, as little as a Sh180,000 down payment and roughly Sh35,000 per month. I don’t think any importer will offer any of these incentives and yet you get most of the features in the Golf in the Polo at that price.
So, yes, you can have a German as a start-up car, but for peace of mind, keep it small, keep it cheap and buy new.
Truth 2: Buy a used German car and you will single-handedly keep the spare parts industry afloat with your regular fiscal inputs.
Once they start ageing, they tend to maintain their elegant gracefulness but this beauty is only skin deep.
Beneath the metal is a mechanical and electronic nightmare waiting to manifest itself when you least expect it.
The problems you have listed are known issues with the Golf, and at 90,000 kilometres, expect them to show up sooner rather than later.
So yes, a used German will keep you on your toes in a way you won’t like. You could get a brand-new Polo with a warranty and good financing.
Truth 3: “Japan” is not always synonymous with “reliable”. There are certain brands that will go unnamed for now because I hope to be given a Nissan Patrol next week to drive and therefore I don’t want to anger them; but these brands are not known for their longevity.
There is also another factor to consider: previous ownership.
The Land Cruiser is known as a bulletproof car but buy one that has evaded service (like the Hyundai) or has been driven by a masochist and it, too, will not be reliable or last long. Provenance for used cars matters more than brand reputation.
Poor installation or poor quality of plugs could be the culprit
Mine is straightforward: My Toyota 5L diesel engine blows heat plugs immediately I replace them, why?
Due to this, I start the engine by turning the ignition key and keeping it in that position until the engine fires, same as an engine with hard start. Will this action damage the engine?
My response is also straightforward: Poor installation seems like the prime suspect here; either that or a missing fuse/rheostat somewhere that puts the electrical current in check.
There is also the possibility that whoever is selling you these glow plugs does not prioritise quality or originality. In other words, fake parts.
How you start the car may not damage the engine in the interim but expect frequent hard starts especially in cold weather.
These hard starts place a lot of strain on the battery and may cause the starter to overheat.
Also, without the glow plugs’ influence, you will be shortening engine life due to poor lubrication in the initial stages of engine operation (the frequent cold cranking).
What first car would you advise me to buy?
I am interested in buying my first car. I need your advice on the type of vehicle to purchase. I have been thinking of a modest, unique and affordable car. Nothing comes to my mind due to my little knowledge on cars. I have toyed with the idea of the Toyota Premio but it’s common and expensive.
Kindly suggest an affordable vehicle I can go for.
The sheer number of car brands and models are simply too many for me to pick one over the other without a shortlist coming from you. Secondly, modesty and uniqueness are contradictory: If you are modest you won’t stand out, but if you are unique you will.
So which is which? If the bias is towards uniqueness, then this is yet another contradiction with affordability: People actually pay large premiums to have cars that not many others will get.
Check any limited-edition vehicle on sale; it always costs more than the regular version.
The Premio is a safe, if a trifle overpriced, bet; and this is what you want from a first car — not something that will put you through a steep learning curve as far as the downsides of motor vehicle ownership are concerned, and the downsides are numerous, mostly centred on maintenance and running costs.
Modesty is good — and the Premio checks that box convincingly — and is a sign of good taste.
Uniqueness tends to attract attention.
These two traits are not a priority in selecting a car, unless you have been in the game for a while or you are establishing a collection.
You could shop around for a reasonably priced car of your choice, in this case the Premio.
They are few and far between, but they do exist. Just watch out for high mileage and/or vehicles that have either been in an accident or are “hot” (they have a lot of issues, legal or otherwise).
I’m in need of your candid advice regarding my Subaru Leone...
I’m Wambua, guilty as charged and arraigned in the highly esteemed court of this column. Alice (my better half), like me, has become an avid reader and follower of this column and has given a good discourse of the tribulations, triumphs and the general learning curve on things cars and motoring for us as family.
My livelihood chores keep me in the bush most of the time and offline for a long time, so Alice has to deal with most of the motoring and motoring counselling — seeking and intelligence gathering when challenges abound.
As you advised when she brought up the Honda issue, I will be back at the Honda Mombasa Road centre at the earliest moment.
I also present to you my most treasured good old Subaru Leone (carburettor/Magneto), which is now exhibiting all the old-age tendencies: stalling on the road in spite of good quality service (in my view), having replaced many parts already and after years of being super reliable.
One of the most lovable traits of the Leone is the ground clearance as you observed.
I’m yet to find another Subaru with such ground clearance and grace for off-road and muddy-road performance (including Kitengela’s dreaded black cotton mud in the rainy season).
Performance in such conditions has been admirable with this car. It was comprehensively serviced when it fell due two months ago and barely a week after service, it developed mysterious misses and jerks — occasionally stalling on the road.
When this was checked, the cause was diagnosed as the ignition coil.
When this was changed, the miss and jerk was not eliminated. That is where we still are. What could be another cause?
Hello Mr Wambua,
As you may have noticed, the missus and I have been talking behind your back.
After you visit the Honda Service Centre, let me know how things transpire. I guess they saw the last correspondence from Alice and must be keenly awaiting the follow-up visit.
To our beloved Leone; if you replaced parts and did servicing and the problem is not the ignition coil, I’ll have to ask: Did you check the wires, such as the high tension spark plug leads?
These could be a cause of the stalling because of the age factor.
What about the fuel pump and fuel filters? I had a Peugeot 405 that did the exact same thing: jerking violently and stalling soon after service and it turns out that some frayed wires were causing an arc, which in turn causes current drain to the plugs and thus fail to fire.
Where can I find Hyundai spare parts?
I bought a brand-new Hyundai Santa Fe from the Hyundai showroom when their head office was located in Kenya.
For three years, everything was perfect, only to find out later that they gave the dealership to somebody in Tanzania.
At only 30,000 kilometres, the engine seized and finding spare parts has been a nightmare.
Calls to the Tanzania dealer go unanswered. I have even written to the head office in Korea with no response.
Please advise how I can get the spares and further sue Hyundai Korea for damages and inconveniences caused.
Let us take this step by step: First, why did the engine seize at only 30,000 kilometres?
Did you never service it at all? I would have asked about the warranty but I guess not everybody does three years or 100,000 kilometres like Toyota.
Usually, when an engine seizes, the remedy is to replace the whole block; not to look for spares. This may or may not be the reason the vehicle has never got back to its feet.
That being said, how hard is it to find a Hyundai engine anyway?
I neither know why nor understand why they would ignore you, a customer, even if you may have bought the vehicle when the dealership was under different management.
If you want spares, your best bet now would be to either trawl the dusty streets of Industrial Area looking for someone who sells engines, or trawl the dusty streets of the internet looking for someone who sells engines.
You did not provide enough details for me to know whether there are grounds to sue the manufacturer.
I am also not a legal expert but I daresay you don’t have much going on here.
The warranty on the car has most likely expired and I am pretty sure they reserve the right to serve who they want.
They can choose not to serve you, it’s their prerogative. My sincerest sympathies on your tribulations but it seems like you will only be shopping for parts but not a lawyer.
[Social media is a saviour of sorts, particularly Facebook and WhatsApp. There are people on these forums whose sole work is to source car parts from overseas for importation into Kenya. Try and get yourself into one or more of these groups and seek assistance from there. You will most certainly find someone with the right wares.]