CAR CLINIC: Subaru’s boxer diesel was simply an experimental project

Wednesday November 14 2018

The diesel we import is of 50 ppm Sulphur content or below, good enough to run a Euro 5 engine.

The diesel we import is of 50 ppm Sulphur content or below, good enough to run a Euro 5 engine. PHOTO| FOTOSEARCH 

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Hi Baraza,

I would like to know your thoughts on the 2013 Subaru Outback 2.0/3.0 turbo diesel. How reliable are Subaru turbo boxer diesel engine and would the sludge we use as diesel locally adversely affect this engine? Feel free to ramble and give me your opinion, experiences, pros and cons. Nyaga

Hello Nyaga,

I don’t like rambling, so I will keep this brief. The Subaru boxer is not a very common item; not here, not there not even in its own home market. I’ve not heard much about its reliability or the lack thereof, but I came across something very interesting: Subaru itself did not care much for this engine.

Called the EE20, the engine lasted for about 10 years with no update or improvement whatsoever. Some may view this as a testimony of its awesomeness but they’d be wrong.

Management just did not care enough to develop this engine in any way, and eventually it got guillotined in the Australian market in 2016 despite the desperate pleas of derv-loving dealerships, ahead of its global death come 2020 — making the exact same power and torque and producing the exact same emissions that it did when it debuted back in 2008. And emissions are what killed it.

Fuji Heavy Industries looked at the regulatory structures for diesel engines in the European market (the same market that led to the birth of the diesel in the first place, as Subaru sought to compete more actively there) and said “Pass”. They could live without the stress.

So, what is the point here? The boxer diesel was a world first, meaning it is more of an experimental project than anything else.

The lack of parental love from the Fuji boardrooms should also be a red flag; don’t expect too much support or attention for you little oil burner from anybody, least of all the purveyors themselves.

Which begs the question: is it worth it? I don’t think so. The EE20 is clearly the runt of the Subaru litter and they cannot wait to relegate it to the basement where they won’t have to look at it anymore.

Just buy a petrol-powered Subaru like a normal person.

As for our sludge … well, good luck with that. The diesel we import is of 50 ppm Sulphur content or below, good enough to run a Euro 5 engine.

But what happens between arrival at the port and dispensation at the pump cannot be safely vouched for, so you’ll be gambling. All the more reason to eschew this engine.

Subaru Outback


Is there expertise in Kenya to make necessary modifications on Nissan patrol engines?

Hi JB,

This is a follow up query on Nissan patrol after the Y61 and Y62 pieces. My interest is with the ZD30 common rail diesel in the pickup Patrol.

Am not sure what the current stand is on the so called ‘grenade’ and manifold damaging engine due to set up of exhaust emissions. Is the issue resolved for the current Nissan Kenya stock? Please review the issue.

I fear a five million purchase might be a soko-ya-muda. Also, is there expertise in Kenya to make the many apparently must do modifications all over YouTube? Cheers, CK.

Hello CK,

At the moment it is hard to tell whether or not Nissan Kenya stock has been vaccinated against the ZD30 malaise, but my guess would be no.

This means that any preventive or curative modifications will have to be DIY. What I am sure about is this: there must be someone out there who can do such a modification; after all, how hard is it to reroute an EGR pipe?

(Disclaimer: the answer is “a bit hard”, actually, though it is not quite rocket science. But it is doable, you just need to exercise a little care.)

ZD30 Engine.



The engine light for my Mitsubishi RVR keeps going on and off

Hi Baraza,

Thank you for the rich information you provide your readers with. I have a Mitsubishi RVR for a year now. The problem is that the check engine light comes and goes for about a month now.

When it was checked, it showed that the oxygen sensor was the issue. It was replaced but the light keeps coming especially after driving for a long distance.

What might be the problem and what is your advice on this? Also, what is your opinion on this Mitsubishi RVR. Joy

Hi Joy,

There are two things involved here. The most likely one would be that the ECU needed flushing (resetting) to get rid of the light and it wasn’t done; or the wrong sensor was replaced.

Just to be clear, it’s best you do another diagnostic to confirm what the persistent warning light is about. Then, if you replace any sensors, have the ECU flushed by someone competent.

(Note: there is a much cheaper way of flushing an ECU to get rid of a warning light. Disconnect the battery for at least fifteen minutes — some people do it overnight, even- which will cause the computer to reset itself. Warning: some cars, especially high-end European marques, are not suited for this kind of treatment and will pitch a fit if the battery is disconnected. So, before you cause a blackout on board your vehicle, first find out the ramifications of doing this.)

Mitsubishi RVR

I have a Mitsubishi RVR for a year now. The problem is that the check engine light comes and goes for about a month now. PHOTO| COURTESY

Is the BMW 318i a good choice for a first car?

Hey Baraza,

You have become the crème de la crème when it comes to anything involving cars and their mechanisms. My bugging issue is about the BMW 318i; more precisely the 2002 or 2004 msport.

Would you recommend it as a first car? What should I consider before owning one? I am a big fan of manual transmission, but for this model of BMW, I am willing to switch up to automatic transmission.

A friend of mine once raised an issue about its sensors as advice after I asked about BMW’s. Would you mind staying within the confines of the BMW club-I don’t mind you being extensive in your advice about the BMW. Sam.

Hello Sam,

Forget about the sensors, they may or may not fail; that is neither here nor there. There are other things to watch out for, primary among them being the engine and the rear suspension.

The rear suspension is prone to breakage, if end user feedback is anything to go by, particularly the shock absorbers. It is not unusual to find an E46 squatting on its haunches after the aft stilts decide to call it a day and pack up.

Something else to watch out for is the presence of Vanos, BMW’s take on the variable valve timing malarkey. These systems may or may not be prone to failure but they are expensive and difficult to replace.

However, an E46 is not half bad. Subjectively it may be the prettiest 3 Series of all time (proponents of the E30, silence please, we will get to you some other time) but it was a bit of a sell-out from a driver’s perspective.

Everything was softened and damped, to the point where driver engagement was not at a premium, which was ironical given that driver engagement had always been the 3 Series’ calling card (E30 proponents, your time is now). It’s not as bad as it sounds but then again it’s not as good as it should have been.

Go for the E46, but for a more painless ownership experience, try not to buy junk.


Singaporean imports are a no-no

Greetings Baraza,

From experience, Singapore used cars are the worst decision one can ever make — chances of getting a vehicle in pristine condition from the Northern Frontier Districts are much higher than from Singapore, where I had a supremely bad judgement call of procuring an E200 from.

The bodywork is in good condition, but the electronics, engine and gearbox came straight from hell. I am considering swapping the 271 engine and 5 G-Tronics auto gearbox for a more robust set.

And now my question: is it possible to convert to the savvier E350 V6 Bluetec diesel? If not, what is a reasonable alternative and can you point me in the direction of a competent workshop for this job? Not the dealer, please! Jack

Hello Jack,

I think we established conclusively that Singaporean imports are a no-no. Anyway, you could do the conversion, but it will be one hell of a hectic time, especially if you are going from petrol to diesel.

You will basically rebuild the entire car which makes one wonder if it is worth the trouble. Perhaps you want to sell the 200 and buy another car altogether? This will be much easier, less of a headache, possibly cheaper and guaranteed to work; like I said swapping from petrol to diesel is not as simple as it may sound.

Besides engine and gearbox, you'll need a new CU, a new instrument cluster, a whole new fuel system and driveshafts robust enough to handle the diesel torque.

Perhaps engine mounts as well to deal with the vibrating engine. You can see where this is leading to. That change you are talking about is doable but it is not advisable.


The front lights of my car are jaundiced, please help!

Dear Baraza

I love your articles on CAR CLINIC which appears in the Daily Nations of Wednesdays. The articles are well researched, educative, challenging and written in a beautiful language.

I own a Toyota Mark 2 (YOM 2004). It’s eyes (front lights) turns yellow even after scrubbing by Jua Kali artisans. This has happened twice but the effectiveness of the lights at night is not hampered. But turning yellow (jaundiced) makes my car to appear like it has smoked ‘bhangi ‘ yet I love beautiful things. Car doc, please give me the solution. K. Thiongo

Dear Thiongo,

Toothpaste. Apply toothpaste to the headlamps, smear it a little using a rag, let it sit for some minutes then rinse. It should yield results if any of the myriad anecdotes floating around are anything to go by; though I have never tried it myself. What’s the worst that could happen? The lights are already yellow anyway.


What's your opinion on the Dodge Journey 2014

Hi JM,

What is your honest opinion on the performance of the Dodge Journey 2014 and later in this market? I am interested in value for money, spare parts availability as well as fuel efficiency. Your advice is appreciated. Michael Ng’ang’a

Hi Ng’ang’a

You are putting me in a fix here. I’ll explain. The Dodge Journey either is or was sold by DT Dobie under their FCA product portfolio that included some Jeeps. I want to test drive cars from DT Dobie now and in future, possibly including the aforementioned Journey.

However, I cannot expect DT Dobie to be hospitable if I say unbecoming things about their products, and unfortunately for the Dodge Journey, it is so bitterly disliked in its own domestic home market that there isn’t much I can add to the vitriol spewed in its direction by native hacks. See my quandary?

Anyway, a quick council-of-war with my DT Dobie contact reveals that the last unit was sold a month ago, and maybe they are not that sad to see the marque go.

He adds that it was a slow moving product, which may explain some things and it also means that it is no longer their problem so I can go ham on it.

Dodge Journey 2014

Dodge Journey 2014. PHOTO| COURTESY

The Dodge Journey was junk, that is why nobody bought it. It was so bad that even FCA could not bring itself to be enthusiastic about its four-speed automatic (in this day and age. Speaks volumes.

Not the same volumes that the Journey failed to achieve in the sales registry) on their website. The car also lasted a little too long un-updated.

It is actually based on a Mitsubishi GS platform and is quite possibly the most boring car you will ever attempt to drive.

The interior plastics were awful, acceleration was non-existent and fuel economy was a joke. Handling? What’s that?

This applied whether you opted for the 3.5 litre V6 or the 2.4 litre in-line four: both were mated to the same Mesozoic 4-speed auto that did its best to crush the hopes and dreams of those who dared to helm this ship.

(The V6 actually came with a 6-speed auto. In 2015, engine capacity grew to 3600cc with the introduction of the Pentastar which also saw duty in the Jeep line. That did not improve matters much, though. The vehicle still draws invective from unimpressed owners and there have been instances of disillusioned owner-drivers setting their vehicles on fire. There is at least one video on the Internet of a disgruntled Journeyman driving over his three-row tumbledown in an army tank)


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