I must first appreciate the advice and knowledge that you have consistently bestowed on us through your weekly column. Not forgetting the humour. This is what keeps me looking forward to the Nation on Wednesdays.
Now, I've followed Alice Wambua's Honda Fit issue to its conclusion and appreciate your assistance in regard to the jerking issue. I too, an owner of a 2007 model of the Fit, have experienced the issue for almost a year to date. As usual, I tried brainstorming with two different ‘mechanics’ but neither of them helped much. Googling about it late last year, I thought that it may have been a manufacturing problem that occurs in the long run. I thought so because of the numerous enquiries there are about the matter. I don’t wish to transfer the vehicle’s problem by selling it, because I think it is morally wrong to do so, so I’d like to get it fixed first and give it to my sister who is graduating later this year. My views are influenced by my religious background, medical profession and upbringing. I therefore kindly inquire what was changed in Alice’s Fit so that I may not agonise much in the search for a solution. This Fit has served me well and I believe she will do a good job introducing our last-born girl into Kenya’s motoring world. I plan to get my growing family a more family-friendly model, a Volvo, just in case you’re wondering.
Thank you for your correspondence.
You are right, the jerking issue may have been a model-specific Fit problem if it is as widespread as you say it is, just like Peugeots and doors, Subarus and gaskets and Land Rovers and oil leaks.
It is honourable of you to not transfer the problem to someone else by palming off the vehicle to them in exchange for money, but I find that view a bit extremist and one-dimensional. You know there are people out there who will still buy the vehicle even with full knowledge of the problems it has or may potentially have.
I am one of them, by the way, given how I bought a twin-turbo Subaru knowing full well those twin-turbo engines are not the last word in reliability. Sure enough, I had to replace the engine some years down the line, because, can you take a guess why? Yes, you are right: I blew a gasket and the replacement job was nothing more than a hack that completely killed that EJ208. Anyway …
People will still buy such cars for a variety of reasons. They may be willing to overlook the weak points and prepare themselves for subsequent eventualities, kind of like I did. Others may buy such cars to break them down for parts, which, if done craftily enough, may either recoup the purchase costs or maybe even turn a profit depending on the buyer's business acumen. Others may need the platform, maybe for race work, and replace the offending parts with something sturdier and more dependable. Then others may be unsuspecting younger sisters on the brink of graduation who are well advised to read this column before accepting hand-me-down cars from frustrated siblings. I joke, I joke, I kid, I kid.
If I remember correctly, Alice Wambua’s car followed the chastising words of a biblical character, and like the physician in that reference, healed itself, though there was plenty of input from other readers on what the matter could have been.
Alice herself confirmed the self-healing properties of her car, so as we speak, the cure remains a mystery, though she is convinced the problem was in the gearbox, which, as of April 24 (the column with the most recent correspondence) remains unchanged.
You, however, can change the gearbox if you so wish, and preferably install a manual one. Revisit those same forums you visited earlier and see if you can gather information on the intricacies involved therein, but it should be a fairly straightforward affair.
Also, manual transmissions are generally cheap, especially on the second-hand market. Then you can introduce the last-born to the rarefied atmosphere of Operators Of The Manual Transmission. It is an honourable one.
What’s wrong with my Peugeot 206sw?
I'm an ardent reader of your column and I appreciate your expertise on motor vehicles. I read your article on Peugeots and I can't agree more. I bought a 206sw a few years ago and I've had issues left right and centre. It performs well most of the time but I don't go for long without having to fix something. Currently, it is jerking when accelerating. I'm guessing it’s the fuel pump or I need to change the ATF. What do you think?
There seems to be a whole lot of jerking going on today in this column, huh Robert?
Well, I don't want to reiterate on the reliability (or lack thereof) of Peugeot cars mostly because I have already stated it ad infinitum and also because I now belong to the owners' club's social media circles which in turn mean I can now be easily traced by miffed supporters if I used the marque as the butt of any more reliability jokes.
The jerking could be a dying fuel pump, dying spark plugs, clogged filters (air and/or fuel) or a gearbox problem. The best way to narrow it down is to experience the jerking in person — this allows the diagnosing technician to isolate the source of the jerking — engine or transmission — and start narrowing down the possible suspects. You know what a synonym for "diagnosing technician" is? A mechanic. Do the needful and find one ASAP.
I’d like a car that is cheap, fast and reliable
My name is Patrick. I first want to commend you for the amazing job that you are doing. I have been keenly following your expertise on how you offer solutions to various needs expressed in this column. Well, mine is to seek your direction on which car will be affordable, economical and offer me good performance. Thanks
If you have been following this column keenly, you should know by now that a general question attracts a general answer, which is sometimes borderline offensive. I was just about to write that an affordable car is a cheap one, and an economical car is gently driven and a good performer is … let's just cut to the chase, shall we?
There is a mantra that goes round in the automotive world, that of a set of three characteristics, a car can only have two. The three traits are: cheap, fast and reliable. No car holds all three traits at the same time, one is lost in the quest for the other two. Reliability calls for plenty of R&D which increases costs, and/or a very mild engine tune to maximise component life, which means very low outputs (weak or slow). Speed places stress on engine and transmission components, so that means a fast car is rarely reliable. These components could be made from exotic materials to extend their lives, but then again, this means high production costs which are transferred to the buyer. I hope you can fill in the third scenario for yourself.
Your three criteria are not so different. A car with good performance is rarely affordable, and will most definitely not be economical because the rate of fuel consumption is directly proportional to the amount of performance being squeezed out of that engine. The relationship is an exponential one, but that is detailed engineering we don't need to go into right now, but you get the message.
For the second time today, I will give reference to my Subaru because it seems to tick all three of your boxes: I bought it relatively cheaply (so it was affordable), it has an estimated range of at least 800km on a full tank — 60 litres' worth — based on my constant fuel consumption calculations (so it is economical) and it has good performance: the original engine was good for 280hp which was a lot, but the replacement comes from an Impreza WRX Version 7 which you may recognise as the starting point for a budget rally car. I don't need to say the rest, but I will install an addendum: the car is really old.
So, am I asking you to buy a Subaru? I think I am. It's the closest you can come to the balance of cheap, economical and a good performer … if age ain't nothing but a number for you.
Would you recommend a Land-Rover Freelander?
Am interested in buying a Land-Rover Freelander but I am hesitant because I have heard that some unscrupulous car dealers swap its engine with a Toyota Engine in it. How can I ensure that if I buy this model I won’t find myself in such situation?
Two words: steer clear.
Fuel quality is still a grey area
Good job on your continued column on all things motoring. You promised last year that you would write a follow up article about race tracks and amateur motorsports in the country, just in case you may have forgotten. On another note, I've come across some information recently regarding the quality of fuel in the country, what negative consequences can this have on high performance cars in the country?
I recall the promise I made but a lot has happened between then and now, and a lot more is about to happen. I have put the project on ice for the time being because some of that information is now proprietary and protected by both gentleman's and non-disclosure agreements, but I will say this: the scene is changing a lot faster than most people think. The best way to have a comprehensive discussion about this is to first allow some events to come to pass after which we can unpack them and dissect the contents thereof in retrospect. I can't speculate because I definitely know of the plans in the works for the foreseeable future, but we just have to wait to see these plans take form then decide whether they worked or not.
Fuel quality is still a grey area, and grey is the colour of the smoke that will be coming out of the tailpipe if you fill your tank with bilge water, but this is only if the car will even run in the first place. For the most part, outlets will sell you clean fuel, but now that you mention performance cars, I have to tell you that there are performance cars and there are performance cars. The biggest fuel-sensitive variations come from the ignition timing — which is adjustable both automatically by the ECU (engine management system) and manually through the ECU via mapping/aftermarket tuning. There is also the compression ratio: higher compression ratios call for higher octane fuels, some levels of which we don't have, as well as boost pressure in the cases of forced induction. That is why it is important to know what kind of fuel the manufacturer recommends and what kind of fuel is available, and then make a decision. Many of us drive cars that require higher octane fuels than we get, so we are forced to feather and pussy-foot our way around avoiding wide-open-throttle antics lest we kill our engines (a situation I am deeply familiar with).
Negative consequences of using sub-par fuel are of course knocking/pinging/preignition which, as mentioned above, will cost you your engine or parts thereof. That is why we have a flourishing aftermarket modification scene where cars can be detuned or adapted to lower quality fuel compared to what the manufacturer had in mind.