alexa Before you decide on a car, ask yourself what you will use it for - Daily Nation

Before you decide on a car, ask yourself what you will use it for

Wednesday September 5 2018

First decided what you need the car for before considering other factors such as price.

First decided what you need the car for before considering other factors such as price. PHOTO| FOTOSEARCH 

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Hey Baraza,

Any advice for a driver-to-be planning to buy a good, affordable saloon Toyota/Nissan vehicle on the market? What kind of car should I get and what should I check for?

Get a car you can afford and check for stuff that looks askew. Really, this seems fairly obvious, no? A question that answers itself even before you are done asking.

Buying a car is not rocket science, especially if we avoid specifics like you have in your query. The general rules of life apply here as well. Don't live beyond your means and be wary of that which seems sketchy. Get a car suited to your needs and fits in your pocket.

If you are a little wet behind the ears on matters automotive, befriend someone knowledgeable. While not exactly murky waters, the car world is also not devoid of charlatans, opportunists and deliberate trolls who mislead greenhorns like you for reasons that are not always clear (but greed could be one of them).

Stay safe out there and don't be afraid to ask questions, but be a bit more specific than you have been here: that is, what is your shopping budget? What do you want/need the car for? Where will you be driving it most of the time? Start by filling in these blanks then we can move forward from there.


An old engine in a new car could mean a sales overlap or market restrictions

Dear Baraza,

You have increasingly become the inevitable "go to" expert when one thinks of cars, particularly upgrades.

My question is on Toyota Prados, a subject that you have really reviewed, but this does not stop many of us from coming back to you before making that final decision.

In your column of August 4, 2015, you concluded that D4D is one of the most advanced and economical engines. But you also noted that the 3.4 L V petrol engine is your favourite.

But when I read several online blogs, I get the impression that the D4Ds were introduced in 2006, and that the 3.4l engines were discontinued in 2006 to pave the way for the powerful 4.0l engines.

But I still find 2003-2005 Prados fitted with D4D engines. I also see 2008 Prados with 3.4l engines. Am I missing something? Finally, is it possible and recommended to fit a TRD Supercharger on a Prado 2.7L (3R-ZE) engine to boost power? Dominic R. Pkalya

Hi Dominic,

True, the old 3.4 was discontinued in favour of the 4.0, which then made it my new favourite (briefly), but now I have a new favourite: the twin-turbo 1VD in the 200 Series. Anyway, that is not what we are discussing here.

The D4D (1KD) engine was introduced in 2006, yes, so if pre-2006 Prados have such engines, then the most obvious explanation here is that a swap was done. It is not uncommon for this to happen.

But for the 5VZ 3.4 V6 to feature in a 2008 Prado seems a bit … odd. However, there could have been an overlap somewhere since we saw the introduction of the 4.0 litre 1GR towards the tail end of the J120's life cycle (closing in on 2009), so there might have been a few 5VZs (final cars) in 2008 to sell alongside the new 1GR.

It might also be dependent on market: some markets will continue with “discontinued” engines or models due to complexities that void the justification for a newer engine, such as taxes based on engine capacities, horsepowers; or due to low regional fuel quality.

It is possible to install a TRD supercharger in the 3RZ (or even the 2TR) but do you really want a supercharged Prado? Do you? When people out there barely have a grip on how to drive one, you want to warm one over and make it even faster? Sure?

Supercharging a Prado is risky, since most
Supercharging a Prado is risky, since most people have trouble handling one. PHOTO| NATION

To get rid of a faulty car, break it down and sell it in bits


I always agree with you but I don't agree that a car with a faulty airbag should be disposed of, that is, sold. That is transferring a problem, or even death, to an unsuspecting person. Mbogo

Hello Mbogo,

I totally understand where you are coming from, and I agree. What I was doing was exploring all possible exit strategies from my inquisitor's perspective.

Of course, there is the hapless buyer's perspective, which is "They sold me a death-trap and now I am a translucent apparition with little angel wings and a shiny halo around my head, floating slowly upwards while playing a harp; what's happening?"

There are people who don't care about safety equipment in their cars — for example those who take tongue-in-cheek bumper stickers to heart; bumper stickers with wording like, "We don't need airbags, we die like real men".

These are probably the engine-and-gearbox intact crowd, the calibre of individual who would buy a Mark X cheaply because the airbags are dysfunctional. If you crash, you've had it anyway, right?

Something about Darwin and natural selection comes to mind, but let's not be callous (I see the irony in this, given that in my previous article I advocated for the palming off of an unsafe car on to someone else, but please note, that someone else is not an unsuspecting party. Full disclosure is not only a legal reprieve; it is good for the soul. You will sleep well).

After giving it a bit more thought, the religious alternative to giving someone a rope to hang themselves with would be a part out.

Break down the vehicle into its constituent components and sell them piece by piece. The downside of this is, you need a storage facility and a workshop, but the upside of this is if you manage to sell every single item, you will end up with more money than the car is worth, probably, excluding the offline airbags of course.

Thank you for the correction. I'm glad somebody is paying attention.

*Full disclosure: I am in a Landcruiser forum — despite the absence of a massive Toyota SUV in my driveway, but one is allowed to hope — and at one point I noticed so many people breaking down 80 Series trucks for parts.

Now the 80 is a highly desirable product, which is why they still command high prices despite approaching age 30, so I wondered out loud why these people would go to the trouble of disassembling entire collector's items when they could still fetch a pretty penny when sold wholesome.

The response I got restored my faith in humanity: most of these vehicles being parted out have reached the end of their usefulness; despite appearing intact, they actually are not. Some have bent frames, others have been attacked by rust, some are salvage vehicles and so the owners cannot in good faith sell them on and be comfortable with themselves, knowing that somewhere out there is a lumbering J80 that will soon wind up in a spectacular shunt and they are responsible for letting it loose into the wild.

A Toyota Mark X 2010 is unlikely to have
A Toyota Mark X 2010 is unlikely to have lane-keep assist technology. PHOTO| NATION

If your car is pulling to the left, something is bent

Hello JM,

I have a Toyota Mark X 2010 model. Lately, the car has been pulling to the left (which I noticed after a friend drove the car) and I have gone to several garages for alignment and the problem keeps recurring.

I have heard suggestions that some cars pull to the left as a safety measure to avoid a head on-collision in case the driver falls asleep. I have changed the tie rods and the stabiliser link and done some inspection and the bushings are quite okay.

The second problem is with the shocks, which are worn out. I am told that the model should have electric shocks while I can see it is fitted with normal shocks and has no provision for electrics shocks. Also, this pulling doesn’t happen on rough roads. Kindly advise.

Yea, about cars pulling to the left by themselves as a safety measure … that sounds like “alternative facts”. A car designed to do that either has lane-keep assist, some form of active and deliberate collision avoidance system, or is autonomous, and it will pull to whichever direction is necessary to avoid a collision, not necessarily to the left.

If the driver falls asleep, some cars have detection systems for this and jolt the driver awake either by some loud noise (beeping, usually) or a vibration in the steering wheel.

I don’t think the 2010 Mark X has any of these technologies fitted to it. Pulling to the left is not really a road traffic injury solution; what if the car pulls to the left and right into a bus stop, mowing down a crowd of people in the process, like a Ford Mustang leaving a car show? It might save two lives (yours and the oncoming driver’s) at the expense of 20 other innocents who were minding their own business standing exactly where they are supposed to stand.

The long and short of it is: something is bent in your car. Alignment is not working, right? Tie rods, stabiliser links and bushes are all fine, yes?

But you say the shocks are worn out. Replace them and see whether the problem goes away. I would place some money on the odds that these are the culprits.

In case they aren’t, you have one more very grave question to ask yourself: has that car been in an accident before? The entire chassis could be bent and no amount of alignment and replacement of steering assembly is going to cure it.

For that you need a jig, but even then, the honourable thing to do would be to follow your fellow Mark X owner and scrap the car. But this seems a bit extreme; first, replace the shocks, if that doesn’t work, get the car on a jig and prepare for the worst.

Speaking of “electric” shocks: these are another feature I seriously doubt the 2010 Mark X has. I think those people you hang out with like “measuring brains”, to borrow a crudely translated Kiswahili expression.

Whatever they are talking about is called magnetorheological suspension and it features in a number of high-end cars — Audi R8, all kinds of Ferraris, Range Rover Evoque to name but a few — and these cost several times what the Mark X does.

It is not exactly cheap technology (and neither are the semi-autonomous systems described in paragraph 1), so it is unlikely to feature in a middle-of-the-ladder car.

Things going on and off? It’s either the speed sensor or some shaky electrical connection


Thank you for the good work you are doing. I have a Caldina year 2000, which I have used for the past four years. It has served me well, with no issues apart from normal servicing and changing a few parts here and there, which is normal, I believe.

But of late it has developed an issue which no one seems to understand: the check engine light suddenly goes on when I’m driving and the overdrive light on the dashboard displays on and off, the odometer goes off, the rev counter goes off and the car start starts shifting to overdrive and off. This goes on for a while then stops, and everything goes back to normal.

When a diagnostic tool is run, it says the speed sensor is the problem but my mechanic says the vehicle has no speed sensor but uses the front wheels to calculate the speed. What do you think might be the issue.
Henry Mwangi

Well, the car said the speed sensor is the issue, so I think the speed sensor is the issue. Even Googling “Toyota Caldina speed sensor” produces immediate results (try it and see) so clearly, your mechanic knows not of what he speaks and is, therefore, talking out of the side of his neck. Ditch him, pronto.

You might also have some shaky electrical connections to the instrument cluster, which causes the clocks to go AWOL. In fact, this whole set-up reeks of something electrical or electronic being loose somewhere, the prime suspect of that “something” being the eponymous speed sensor.

Staying longer on the Google reveals that the symptoms you list are synonymous with a speed sensor problem, so there you are. Forget the half-baked mech and go with what the diagnostic tool told you.


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