Every Wednesday is either a painful reminder that I should’ve read your column before venturing into the motoring world or proof that informative and excellent writing still exists in today's world of tweets, emojis and memes.
After flushing my hard-earned benjamins down the drain (aka buying a Jeep Wrangler Sahara — whose fate is still in the hands of cardiac surgeons at DT Dobie), I sold my kidneys and acquired an entry-level 2.7L Petrol Prado TX TRJ150 after following your advice (on the Prado part, that is; the kidneys idea was mine).
Since then, I have accumulated close to 60,000 of happy kilometres on that car and all that I have done is servicing and a change of battery once.
Despite that, I have been feeling that the 2.7L engine is “too weak” for that car. It struggles to accelerate, and every time the likes of — you know who — fly past me on the Naivasha-Nakuru highway, my ego suffers.
My question is, should I consider changing the engine to a more powerful one? If so, what good options do I have?
What would be the implication of the engine change on the car's handling, fuel consumption, stability, etc.? I appreciate your advice.
I am glad to be of assistance, and may I just reiterate that you chose wisely in going for the petrol Prado.
It may seem weak, but rise above the temptation to drag lesser motorists. Let me first explain why the 2.7-litre is the perfect engine for the Prado, for those of us operating outside the “tenderising” circles of government — 4 cylinders and VVT-i mean relative simplicity, thus ruggedness and reliability. This engine never breaks.
The simplest engine is also the smallest, which also means fuel economy is at a premium given what it is.
There are bigger petrol engines that have more power (the 4.0-litre V6) but the Motoring Press Agency once did a film starring a Prado V6 and … naah. You can contain the thirst, but that will mean underutilising the power.
We used a Toyota Surf as a tracking car for that film, which, incidentally, was packing the 2.7-litre plant and at no point did the Surf feel out of its element or get humiliated by its more popular platform-sharing stablemate.
If you want power, sure, go for the V6 and floor it, but 4000cc and wide open throttle means improved trade relations with the Middle East for this country and strained relations between you, your wallet and the missus.
The diesel version is a wonderful development of the Land Cruiser line, with the acclaimed 1KD plant. It has the economy and it has the power, and torque, and evocative turbo whistle to go with it, but do you want to maintain one, given how sensitive modern diesel engines are to fuel quality and how expensive diesel parts are compared with petrol?
This is not to mention the short service intervals and the high cost of acquisition. The diesel variant is the true enthusiast’s car for those who buy Prados and use them as Prados were meant to be used (mud-plugging and attacking the clag).
But you seem to prioritise tarmac-bound showdowns against vehicles better suited for that kind of activity compared to the Prado.
If you want more power, I don’t see what’s there to stop you, besides driver skill — I sincerely hope you know how to handle a strung-out Land Cruiser, because many don’t and end up killing themselves.
But in the quest for more power, is an engine swap really the best course to follow?
You see, there are hundreds of Prados of all iterations on sale at any given moment and it will be easier to just trade in or sell-buy your current vehicle for another one.
Engine swaps can be a bit convoluted, fraught with errors and missteps. And Prado engines are not exactly cheap, which brings another problem to the fore: what to do with your old engine once a replacement is in place.
Sure, you may get a buyer, but it is easier to sell a complete motor vehicle than large metallic lumps thereof.
Trade in your TRJ150 for a KDJ150 (expensive but with a nice spooling whistle from the turbo) or a GRJ150 (smooth V6, but thirsty).
Which engine do you recommend? The EFi or VVTi?
Congratulations for doing a great job of educating us on car issues. I recently acquired (more like inherited) a Datsun 1200 pickup from a relative. I would like to swap its engine for an EFi or VVTi engine. Would you kindly tell me which engine would fit? It should not be more than 1500cc and should preferably be a Toyota engine.
Anthony Muchangi Mureithi.
Go for a Nissan SR20 engine. Thank me later.
It’s true, a wrong driving position will kill you
I have always wondered why some drivers, especially women, hug the steering wheel instead of comfortably using the back and head rest provided. Could it be poor eyesight or being too short? What advice would you give such drivers, since ergonomically speaking, they are hurting themselves?
There is a video by Jaguar (the car company, not the controversial politician with a now-defunct career in music) that shows the best sitting position for the driver.
The video is quite informative, prepared by Dr Steve Iley, chief medical officer at Jaguar Land Rover. It includes such oddball titbits as emptying your pockets for a better driving experience, but that is neither here nor there.
We all have our idiosyncrasies, up to, and including, but not limited to preferred seating position while driving.
I have friends who sink their seats as far down and push them as far back as they can go, even when these friends are noticeably shorter than I am.
They seem to prefer the West Coast rapper look where one’s limbs and extremities are stretched as far out as their bone structures allow, with only their head just barely visible above the window line, and the backrest tilted awkwardly such that their main view is of the sun visors, not the windscreen.
We also have the huggers you mention, who sit so far forward, a persistent Check Engine Light could easily burn an image of itself on their chin or neck, leaving a permanent tattoo as a grim reminder that perhaps the concept of personal space could apply just as appropriately to instrument clusters as it does human beings.
Me? I like to sit as high up as I can, where I not only have visibility, I have a view too. That is what the glasshouse is for, and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to use it.
I like to push the wheel as far forward into its telescoping column as it can go, because my unusual frame has me as the proud owner of a long neck and hands (among other things) but woefully short legs, which have to reach the pedals comfortably, and by comfortably, I mean the brake and clutch pedals are actuated by the balls of my feet (and/or the arch when coming to a full emergency stop) and not tickled by the tips of my toes like my Eazy-E-Dr Dre lo-lo-riding wannabe friends who sometimes have to partially leave the seat to ensure the clutch pedal goes all the way in. That is madness and it is uncomfortable.
I hold the steering wheel at the quarter to three position with my elbows at an angle slightly greater than 90 degrees. I’ve never measured, but I’d say 120 degrees is a fair guess. Any closer and I’m hugging the wheel.
Any further and I’m a heartbroken former youth desperately grasping at the coattails of a departing lover.
At the quarter to three position, my arms should be able to cross each other into an X after applying exactly half a turn of steering lock in either direction, which means I should be able to do one full turn of the steering wheel without taking my hands off it or sliding my palms over the rim. It has to be exact.
The same goes for the knees. If I sit too far forward then I look like a tailor wrangling an ancient sewing machine with a kick-plate too far back and I’m testing the temperature of an icy swimming pool with my toe before taking a dip (Team Lazy Legends from Mombasa, your transgression against me in Himo last Sunday morning has not been forgotten).
My backrest angle is slightly off the right towards the obtuse, but not too far back. My entire back has to rest on it with my nape slightly brushing the headrest but only just.
These exacting standards have brought about strange outcomes in recent times. I found the seating in the new RAV4 awkward (to be fair, other people did not, so I belong in a class of one) and the cruise control knob in the new Hilux I had a fortnight ago kept brushing my knee every time I turned the wheel with my foot on the brake (this too was easily alleviated by allowing a wider knee angle, taking my precious joint out of the path of wilful cruise control knobs), but long story short: I put 500km (499 actually) on the Hilux in the space of 48 hours and each and every single one of them was tireless. Huh …
This brings us neatly to your point: you are right, these people you talk about are hurting themselves. You can’t do a long distance or spend several hours in your car in that far-forward position without various aches and pains making themselves felt.
It could be poor visibility — perhaps the windscreen is aged or has a refraction index that warps your view, but windscreens can be replaced, or perhaps they are short as you say though more than once I’ve seen short people use pillows and go to the extent of fabricating pedal extensions to ensure they sit comfortably in their cars, so that too can be solved.
What they don’t understand is that the safety systems in the car are not designed to work with them in that position.
By hugging the wheel, you leave no room for the seat belt to effectively restrain you in case of a frontal collision, which means you will smack the wheel painfully with your chin and chest. This will be immediately followed by the airbag exploding on that same chin and chest, throwing you back faster than you hit them the first time (at speeds of up to 350km/h). The same safety set-up designed to save your life will end up killing you.
Same thing applies with being rear-ended. With your back and head distant from the seat and headrest, your entire backside now has space to gain momentum before hitting the seat. Whiplash, one of the most painful accident-related injuries ever, will follow, the same whiplash that the seat is designed to mitigate or eliminate entirely.
People, take your time and watch that Jaguar video, then adjust your drivers’ seat accordingly.