CAR CLINIC: Much ado about brakes - Daily Nation

The hissing is no more than a cleverly created sound effect

Wednesday January 3 2018

A Toyota Hiace’s braking system needs no modification. PHOTO | COURTESY

A Toyota Hiace’s braking system needs no modification. PHOTO | COURTESY 

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Hello Good Sir,

Thank you for your continuous tips and informative articles – commendable job.

I was a bit disappointed that you or your editors decided to pick one J. Jesse’s rant as your main piece on October 25, 2017.

Now, as a fan of this column, whose title is Car Clinic, not Baraza for president (we don’t have to like you, we are here to learn), I believe you are not in the business of proving yourself. That was really prime real estate and it went to clap back at a small-minded man who drives a Lexus, and a hybrid at that! I mean... what? Come on Baraza, know your worth!

Away from that, I know a few weeks earlier you had written about the 7L Toyota Shark’s freno (why is it called that?)  sounds and mentioned  it being a DPF customisation by our local mechanics. I couldn’t trace the article so I kindly request  you to revisit that topic with all the technical terminology and engineering jargon. Please give a  detailed explanation because  I’d like to know how it all works. How the brakes or release of the same results in that “fooosh” sound. In traffic, I always hear this sound and wonder, what is that? Everyone I ask claims it’s the freno (?)  but the KD engine has no air brake system so what’s that? How do they mate the brakes to the DPF? What’s the catch? I know most of these engines don’t last since most  matatus have gone back to the trusty but underpowered 3L/5L.

Otherwise, keep up the good work. I’d like to see more content and fewer  pictures. We all know what a Lamborghini and an Audi A4 look like and in any case we don’t need pictures that are bigger than the article itself. Too much real estate going to waste.

Is there a forum affiliated to you where we can quench our thirst?

I’m planning on a certain build, a sleeper wagon: A 2JZ engine into a Vista Ardeo or the Outback but mostly the Vista. Strange I know, but that’s where sleeper comes from. Would do the Outback but it would be easier to fit a big turbo EZ36 and the engineer in me wants a challenge.

Besides, no one expects a Vista to pop antilag or make boy noises, or light up the rear end, or effortlessly pass them. See where I’m going with this? Sleeper! Will let you have fun in it once it’s done.

Runyora N 


Hi Runyora,

Once in a while it is important to clarify one’s stand on certain matters to prevent future misunderstanding; that is why I responded. None of my readers is beneath notice, no matter how caustic their observation and/or feedback might be. I was not proving myself – seven-and-a-half years in the business is proof enough; I was merely laying down the law as it occasionally behooves me to. I know my worth.

Can we stop with the erroneous “7L” tag and correctly refer to the vehicle by its rightful label: the H200? That aside, this is what I found out about its mythical, fictitious “jake brake”: it is a modified emissions-control device tweaked to operate when the brake pedal is pressed. Typically, at low engine speeds the emissions are higher and the exhaust system has been designed to withhold the exhaust gases within itself for more thorough “cleansing” before release into the atmosphere. This is very similar to how the exhaust brake works, the difference being that the exhaust brake works at the manifold level and slows down the vehicle while the desmogging kit works with the DPFD/catalytic converter and has no gross effect on vehicle speed. They both make a similar noise upon disengagement, the puff/hiss as the slightly pressurised exhaust gases are released to the environment.

This led some enterprising grease monkeys to simply wire the desmoggers to the brake pedal and create an audio effect even more resemblant of an exhaust brake: the cumulative growl under choke and the puff-hiss upon release follows the exact same script that some automatically activated exhaust brakes do. It is actually reminiscent of the exhaust brake in a Scania. But that is just the thing: a Scania needs supplementary braking systems to augment the performance and increase the operational life of the wheel brakes because it is a heavy vehicle running on drum brakes. A Toyota Hiace does not need this auxiliary stuff; the factory wheel brakes are more than enough to bring a fully loaded (legally) Hiace to a halt within a reasonable distance. Adding extra braking setups is just needlessly increasing the production costs of what is already an expensive vehicle.

The engines don’t last because we know the denizens of the public transport sector are not exactly the sharpest knives in the drawer and they fully believe in their own self-taught shortcuts that sound impressive when spewed from a khat-chewing rictus on a slow evening but don’t make much sense upon closer scrutiny and are ultimately detrimental in the real world. This is like putting a nine-year old in charge of his own nutrition. He will only try to impress himself and cause damage to his health at the end of the day. These operators skimp on maintenance under the guise of “no need for that”. They actively and passively eschew further self-edification on technological advancements (most still do not know how to properly care for a turbo engine) and they fuel in shady locations where the diesel on sale is probably 45 per cent not diesel anyway. You cannot expect an engine as highly developed as Toyota’s 1KD to survive this kind of mistreatment and still pound away a thousand kilometres a day at full load, do you? There are limits. So if a person cannot handle a laptop (KD), send him back to a pocket calculator (5L); or even further back to an abacus (3L).

The content quantity of this column is standard — circa 2,100 words a week — but the editorial to photography ratio is determined by my editors; and I can’t say I mind what they do. Pictures provide a respite from the steady stream of prose which can be admittedly a bit heavy-handed at times. The pictorial is a visual and psychological tool to increase the appeal of the page and make it easier to digest for a wider spectrum of readership.

There is the website that I have mentioned several times here:, but it, too, has photos, sometimes in larger, more in-your-face amounts than what my editors feed you. Just bear with them, the pictures don’t hurt anybody.

You might want a challenge but slotting a 2JZ into a Vista frame is really quite ambitious. The legendary six-cylinder block is a bit sizeable and will take some work shoehorning it into the Vista’s compact engine bay. Then there is the fact that you are trying to fit an engine oriented for a rear-drive platform into a compact front-drive chassis. You can see the scope of work you are facing here, can’t you? It’s not impossible but the big question remains whether it is worth the effort. I don’t think it is, despite the strength of your desire to create a shocker of a street brawler. Once you succeed, let me have a go at it.  Three weeks ago I was in a steroidal Golf and I liked what I felt.



How good a taxi will Nissan Tiida make?


Hello Baraza,

I appreciate your weekly updates and advice on cars. I have been in the taxi business since the pre-Uber days, when even with a 2000cc, the profit margins were still highly acceptable. Then Uber came and the margins have dropped by about 60 per cent.  Things have changed and cheaper maintenance, low fuel usage and cheap cars are required to keep up with the Uber age, where Sh1 million gets you a Toyota Belta or Ractis, not a Premio. With that in mind, I have been thinking of buying a Nissan rather than a Toyota, and to be specific, a Nissan Tiida. There is this tendency  among Kenyans to buy cars with a  high resale value; Nissans in Kenya don’t have good resale value although if the car can give me four years of good service as a taxi I wouldn’t mind giving it away for free. My worry is that I have never driven  a Nissan model before, and there are all sorts of rumours about fast wear-and-tear, high maintenance costs and mechanical issues. Can you demystify the Nissan Tiida for me? Is it reliable and it can survive rough handling, potholes and endless Uber pick-stop trips for three years without booking permanent  parking at Kirinyaga Road  garages for repairs with mechanical problems. If the Tiida is not hardy enough, kindly recommend another car or model.

Kennedy Ngugi

The Tiida is a flimsy little sedan designed for inner city use, not rough work. PHOTO | COURTESY

The Tiida is a flimsy little sedan designed for inner city use, not rough work. PHOTO | COURTESY

Hi Ken,

I am with you on the resale value front. Sure, it sucks knowing that you have bought a case study in depreciation but at the end of the day I ask most people to look at the value the vehicle will bring into their lives rather than the value it will still command after a period of misuse (“Hi Baraza, I want a Premio to ford river beds with...”). Given that most of these vehicles are bought and used by the same people worried about their cars holding value, and that the import market is not showing any signs of slowing down, and with the added bonus of shortcut, misinformed maintenance and blatant misuse, the general answer to the question about resale value after a certain number of years will be, “not much”. People need to move on from this unhelpful pattern of thought.

The Tiida can give four years of relatively pain-free service, the key word being “relatively”. Yes, Nissans of this era and class have a whiff of ephemera about them but you can survive it if you are clever about how you handle matters. It is not expensive to maintain; what might get you is the frequency of both preemptive and reactive maintenance. Reliability slots in somewhere south of the high Toyota standard, but it is nowhere near terminally fatal.

You only threw a spanner in the works by introducing rough handling and potholes: these will guarantee that you will hate Nissans by the time you let go of the Tiida. It is a flimsy little sedan designed for inner city use and not rough work like you describe. In this case we will declare it not hardy enough and recommend that you join the cliché bandwagon by getting a Fielder or one of a myriad similar Toyotas.



You should have told Cortina enthusiast to go for Lotus MK 1

Dear Baraza,

In Car Clinic, you write a serious page and I have  disagreed with you only once in the past for all the years you have been published (and this was when you advised a reader not to prep a Peugeot 504 for local rallying).

However, I’m inclined to disagree with you once again in your response to the classic car collector when he sought your advice on the Ford Cortina MK1 (November 8, 2017). Sir, you dashed his hopes and I can only empathise with him as I have the same passion, except for the fact that so far I have not come across the project of my desire (either a Datsun 240Z, or a Colt Gallant GTO-GSR).

I feel you should have pointed the collector in the direction of a Ford Cortina Lotus MK1, a priceless icon which spawned the eminent racer of the late Sixties to the early Seventies, the Ford Escort MK1 RS in all its derivatives, including Mexico et al. Your reader has possibly laid his hands on one of these Lotus twin cams.

From my  interaction with local restorers, it is evident the Ford marque is second to the classic Mercedes Benzes in availability of period parts as the model is very well supported in the UK in terms of period parts availability, also helped by workshops specialsing in the manufacture of period parts.

All in all, keep up the good work; I never miss any of your articles.

Sammy Ng’ang’a

The Ford Lotus MK1 is extremely rare and pricey

The Ford Lotus MK1 is extremely rare and pricey today. PHOTO | COURTESY

Hello Sammy,

Great expectations make frustrated men. With that as a preamble, kindly let us know where our dear reader is to source a Lotus Cortina or Escort RS and in what condition, at what cost and how he is to bring the vehicle into the country. These vehicles are extremely rare and as such have become extremely pricey auction set pieces. I have no idea how to gain access to RM Sotheby’s and I’m not sure our reader does either; or whether he can stomach the pain of disappointment as his dream cars quickly surge into six-figure dollar/euro/pound terms as richer, more dedicated enthusiasts let their wallets speak for them. It is good to have dreams, but some dreams can only be achieved with a pile of money and might not be worth pursuing aggressively. This does not include windfalls or barn finds.

Parts availability for old Fords might not be a problem, but these two cars are not just any old Fords. They’re low-volume specialist models with a racing bent in their construction. Anything with Lotus parts will be expensive, irrespective of the mother badge nestled in the grille. For some parts, the pundit might need to contact a fabrication shop to have them fashioned by hand since they are out of production and the low vehicle numbers do not justify a surviving after-sale market of any vibrancy. This is a financial and psychological minefield to navigate which is why, much as I hate being a wet blanket, I just had to advise him to leave well enough alone.