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Hello Baraza,
As an ardent reader of your weekly column in the Daily Nation, I was taken aback by your March 27 analysis on the diesel Volkswagen Touareg and “local” and “European” diesel.
Hello Baraza,
As an ardent reader of your weekly column in the Daily Nation, I was taken aback by your March 27 analysis on the diesel Volkswagen Touareg and “local” and “European” diesel.

Intially interested in importing a similar vehicle from the UK, I now feel a bit discouraged. My question is, does this problem occur in all diesel cars from the UK such as the Audi A6 or Audi A8, and what is your take on Chevrolet Captiva, Nissan Qashqai, or KIA Sportage (all 2006 models) in relation to local diesel? What other problems should one be aware of when purchasing them.

I want a comfortable off-road vehicle with maintenance, fuel cost, and resale value in mind.

Peter Kimani.

The issue is not limited to ex-UK diesel cars. Essentially, it affects any diesel engine fitted with a DPF and complying with Euro III emissions standards and above.

The Chevy Captiva is a fresh alternative to the usual Japanese and Korean diet of crossover utilities. I especially like the 3.0L petrol version, though the 2.2L diesel is not too shabby either.

South Africa gets both models, so I am sure the diesel version will not present too many problems.

If it does, then just get rid of the DPF (at extra cost). And it has that American face so you can lie to yourself that you are driving a Suburban, like Tony Soprano.

I am not a particularly big fan of the Nissan Qashqai because;

1. I do not like the way it looks.

2. It is underpowered — at least the versions offered in our showrooms seem that way, and,

3. It does not know what it is. Well, what is it? Why would I bypass an X-Trail to get into a cash-and-carry? And given how limp-wristed the petrol 2.0L car is, I do not want to imagine the diesel equivalent.

KIA: If you followed my explanation on DPF, I said Hyundai will NOT bring their diesel engines over here.

KIA is an extension of Hyundai (in Korea at least) owing to mergers and takeovers and whatever other financial manoeuvres are involved that result in things like Renault-Nissan and DaimlerChrysler and whatnot. So the Hyundai thing applies here also — just get a petrol if you really want something from the land of Internet addicts.

When purchasing ex-UK cars watch out for rust, mostly because they salt the roads in winter to prevent them from icing over. Thus, check the undercarriage, suspension, brakes, and steering components for signs of rust.

Hi Baraza,

I recently survived a near-fatal accident on Thika Road after ramming an unmanned, broken-down lorry with no lifesaver sign. My car was subsequently written off.

I want to buy a C180 Mercedes but do not know the difference between the Japanese and the UK one. Someone recently gave me a quote and mentioned that it has a supercharger. I want a 1800cc car that is not turbocharged.

Kindly let me know what a supercharger in this car means and which make — Japanese or UK — is best for Kenyan roads.


First off, my deepest sympathies concerning your near-fatal accident. It is good that you are still with us.

The major differences between Japanese and UK Mercedes’ would be spec levels, which, in a word, is the amount of kit and equipment available to the customer.

The Kompressor Benz is supercharged, not turbocharged, so buying one will not go against your desires. Just out of curiosity: Why don’t you want a car with a turbo?

A supercharger is a forced-induction device used to pump more air into the engine than normal, just like a turbocharger.

The difference is that a turbocharger uses the momentum of exhaust gasses to run while a supercharger is driven by a belt which is, in turn, driven by the engine itself, thus in essence it saps some of the power that it is creating.

The ideal Benz for Kenyan roads is the one sold by DT Dobie, but between UK and Japan.... get an ex-UK. The British model may have clocks running on miles instead of kilometres (the conversion factor is 1.06093 kilometres to the mile), but the Japanese car will have things labelled in Japanese, which will be difficult to fathom.

Hi Baraza,

Thanks for your eye-opening articles concerning the motoring industry, very informative.

Now, a quick question. I noticed that the Toyota Mark X 2005 2.5L quite easily reaches the indicated top speed of 180Km/hr, yet still feels like it can do more. What happens when it reaches 180Km/hr? Does it stop accelerating automatically, cut fuel, or is the speedometer just cosmetic beyond that?

Thanks in advance,


There is fuel cut-off at 180 Km/h for all JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) cars because of a gentleman’s agreement among those manufacturers. A good number of those cars will top 200 easily but they have been limited to 180.

The fuel cut-off is caused by a speed governor which can be removed (the governor in this case is a code in the ECU software, rather than a physical device, like in Kenyan PSVs).

So, in a way, the numbers beyond 180 (if they are there, which I find unlikely for JDM cars) are both cosmetic — in that the car will not exceed 180 straight from the shop, and not cosmetic — if your car is powerful enough and you get rid of the speed limiter.

Hi Baraza

a, Thanks for your expert advice. What is the approximate cost of an imported 2008 Toyota Passo, with an invoice cost of $3,300 including, clearing agent costs and KRA duties?


Your description is a bit vague, but I will try and see if I can help.

There is a tool on that I use to calculate import costs of a motor vehicle. The required fields are vehicle make, model, YOM (year of manufacture), and cost.

I typed in Toyota — Pass — 2008 — $3,300. There is also a field for typing in the current exchange rate between the dollar and the Kenyan shilling. For that conversion, I used a Sh84.7 to the dollar exchange rate and the outcome was:

Cost of Vehicle: Sh279,510 KRA Taxes: Sh373,377

Total Cost: Sh652,886

Note: Values are exclusive of freight and clearing costs.

Hi Baraza,

Thanks for your weekly advice. I own a Toyota AE91 with a carburettor engine that is in good shape but with the current fuel prices, I am thinking of going for an EFI engine.
My worry is;

1. Is this convenient or should I sell it and buy a new car?

2. Can a VVT-i engine fit on my car?


1. If the swap is in the name of saving fuel then the venture is not worth it. How much more fuel does your carburettor-equipped car burn compared to an equivalent one with EFI (electronic fuel injection)? Get an approximate figure.

Now compare this figure with the cost of getting a new EFI-equipped engine, an ECU (engine control unit), a wiring harness, plus the cost and fuss over installing all this. Is it really worth it?

There is a sort of dilemma concerning buying-selling/replacing a car in the name of saving money. Using the figure above (difference in fuel costs), compare with the extra cost of the new car — buying price of new car minus what you get after selling the old one. How do these numbers stack up? There are indirect benefits to getting a newer vehicle, one being that it will last much longer than the current one.

You may have to get a new vehicle if the carburettor in your current one is causing sleepless nights.

2. There are many VVT-i engines. The one in the Harrier will obviously not fit, but I believe the one in the NZE could (1300-1500cc).

Hi Baraza,

I have a year 2000 Platz. Sometimes after driving the car, stopping, and switching off the engine, if I touch the car body — with my fingers or my skin — as I exit, I feel a needle-like pricking or mild electric shock. The car runs well, but the mechanics have no idea what is causing it. What is the cause and does it have a negative effect on the car?


Your suspicions are right: what you are experiencing is a mild electric shock. This electricity is not from your car’s electrical system, so do not start pulling wires looking for a short circuit, a naked wire, or flux leakage in a coil or point; it is something called static electricity.

This is best demonstrated in the following ways:

1. Rub a plastic ruler or pass a plastic comb through your hair several times, then place it about a centimetre from a piece of paper. Watch the plastic “attract” the paper like a magnet
2. In a dark room, take off your sweater really fast. You may (or may not) notice tiny “sparks”.

Both are examples of the effects of static electricity. Lightning (from the sky) is also caused by static electricity (but the magnitude of the charge is in the region of 20 million volts).

The static electricity on the car body is caused by the vehicle “brushing” against the air, much like the ruler or comb in the first example.

This causes positively charged particles to line themselves up along the body. By touching the body, you are grounding (also called earthing) this charge by acting as the earth (electrically neutral receptacle) or a conduit for the charge to reach the Earth (planet).

This is also why people get struck by lightning. The unfortunate fellows act as conductors for the massive positive charge in the clouds to reach the Earth.

Here is an interesting fact: it is generally assumed that the Earth is electrically neutral, hence the use of terms like “earth” or “ground” to describe an electrically neutral destination for charged particles, but in reality the Earth itself has a massive negative charge that cannot be calculated.

If you are struck by lightning, it is because you are covered in a negative charge induced by contact with the Earth, and the positively charged particles in the clouds cannot help but be attracted to you.

The static electricity present on motor vehicle bodies is the reason you see (mostly fuel) trucks having chains dangling off the body — typically on the bumpers or off the frame chassis.

These metallic chains act as conduits for the static electricity to be grounded safely. If not, this will happen:

1. The passengers may get “zapped” the way you were as they exit the vehicle. Sometimes the electrical charge accumulates to levels high enough to cause discomfort (but not injury or fatality).

2. If the above happens, there is usually a small spark that is the electrical charge jumping from the vehicle body to your own body. Imagine the vehicle in question is a fuel truck. On a hot day. It is surrounded by fuel fumes. Then you have a spark. Somebody say “BOOM!!”.

Dear Baraza,
I have two questions for you:

1. Can you review the Nissan Skyline (250G or 350G), highlighting its strengths and weaknesses as compared to two or three similar vehicles?

2. What would be the benefits of modifying the exhaust system of a 2005 Subaru Legacy GT Spec B Wagon to include larger-bore tail pipes other than enhancing the aesthetics or increasing noise production levels? Would adding a dump valve do anything for the power output?



1. I was supposed to drive a Nissan Skyline in the past two weeks, but the arrangement fell through, an occurrence that has been repeating itself with alarming frequency in recent times... If (not when), I eventually drive a Skyline, then for sure the review will be there.

2. Larger-bore tail pipes are mostly aesthetic. And for noise. For performance-enhancing changes, you need to increase the diameter of the entire length, starting from the down pipe through to the tail pipe, while removing the catalytic converter in the process (or replacing it with a high-flow cat, which is very costly) and maybe modifying the back-box too.

If you have money, you can replace the headers too.

The dump valve does not affect power output. It just increases turbo life by reducing wear and minimising risk of damage by compressor surge.

Having car problems? Send your questions to

Hi Baraza,

I would like your opinion on which is the better between a Toyota Landcruiser VX (petrol 4.7L and diesel 4.2L engines) and Nissan Patrol (4.2L Turbo Diesel and 4.7L Petrol engines)
I would like a car I can use for work, travelling and off road cruises.

Which one is suited to the Africa’s rugged terrains? How do these cars compare on the following grounds: Power, speed, comfort, stability, off road use and ease of maintenance (not prices but accessibility to spare parts etc)

Thank you.



Apparently there is a new Nissan Patrol out, but I have only seen one on the road. One. And that was on the road, I don’t even know if DT Dobie has them in stock. As such, I will base my arguments on the outgoing model.

Power: The best is the petrol-powered Landcruiser VX 4.7L at 314hp, mostly because it has clever VVT-i and it is turbocharged. The 4.5L turbo-diesel is not half bad either.

The Nissan Patrol’s best is the 4.8L GRX with 28Lhp (no match for the VX, though the current model uses 5.6L engines which I doubt we will get, until smaller engines are available).

Speed: See above. The VX petrol rules. The Nissan Patrol does struggle a bit with its weight, low power, lack of forced induction and breeze-block aerodynamics

Comfort: Ahem... VX, again. It is stable, smooth and well optimized. The Patrol is floaty and wobbly and bouncy, like a ship in a less-than-calm sea
Stability: see comfort above. That roly-poly chassis of the Patrol can be treacherous if you try to keep up with a VX when the going gets gnarly.

Off-road use: Would you believe it, but these vehicles are evenly matched. Some say the Patrol is more capable, and for older versions this was somewhat true (the underpowered engines were the weak link in an otherwise perfect setup) but take it from me: these two vehicles will keep going long after any competition has fallen by the wayside.

If the going gets extreme enough to split these two on ability, I am yet to meet the driver skilled enough to get to that point. This one is a tie.

Ease of maintenance: There is a reason why the car in front is always a Toyota, and that is because spares are everywhere. Drive a Toyota and you should NEVER ever worry about spares availability.

I expect to hear from you about how life with your new VX is; because the VX is what you will buy.... I think.

Hello Baraza,

I have a Premio which has served me perfectly for almost five years now. Recently I have noticed oil like stuff in one of the plug holes and my mechanic advised that the seal valves were leaking hence needs repair.

Whilst I understand that the leakage may compromise the performance of the car, my worry nonetheless is that opening up the engine to fix the problem may even create bigger trouble like loss of compression in the engine. So question is;

1. How much more would I ignore the leakage?

2. Would the Process of fixing it compromise the entire performance of the engine?

3. Would you recommend such a move?

Kind regards,

Impressed reader.

1. No more. Repair immediately. Never ignore an engine problem hoping it will “go away”: it won’t. More so problems involving oil or leakages. You are headed for huge oil bills and a misfiring engine when the plug electrodes get coated with oil and can’t provide a spark

2. No it will not if the job is done properly. Repairs are supposed to optimise performance for an otherwise ailing engine.

3. I would strongly recommend you replace those valve seals.