Thursday July 17 2014

Is buying from the UK okay?

By Paul Kaganzi

I am an ardent follower and reader of your column. I must say you are doing an excellent job. You have been a very good “doctor”, answering peoples’ queries. However, I now come to you as a “patient”. I am seeking to buy a double cabin pick-up truck preferably Toyota or Mitsubishi for both personal and light commercial use like: carrying foodstuffs and cement. On searching the Ugandan used-car market, the Toyota Hilux 1998 pick-up truck is too expensive for what it can offer. Fortunately, I have found a good match in the Mitsubishi L200 turbo 2002 pick-up truck model which I intend to purchase from the UK.

On consulting with various drivers and car buyers, they strongly discourage me from purchasing a turbo pick-up and even suggest that I purchase the vehicle from Japan. But, I have a very bad experience with importing cars from Japan as they never meet my expectations and require numerous repairs before driving them on the road.
I therefore have the following questions;
1) Is it wise to purchase a car from the UK taking into account the variance in terrain and road network? (I intend to use the car for town and upcountry running)

2) What is the pessimism surrounding turbo engines and should there be a reason to worry?
3) Is it true that Mitsubishi cars have a poor mechanical quality, high service costs and spare parts are very expensive irrespective of the car one purchases and why?

4) Is it possible and would it be wise for me to remove the turbo and drive without it?
5) What other specifics do you advise I look at before purchasing the vehicle?
With those five inquiries, I hope you find time to respond to my predicament as I wouldn’t want to make a third fatal error in purchasing a vehicle. Any other crucial information would be highly appreciated.

Buying a used car from the UK, Japan or anywhere around the world has similar and unique challenges. I will briefly outline them as I answer your questions.

1) Buying the Mitsubishi L200 2002 turbo diesel from the UK with the intention to use in Uganda will not be immediately affected by change from UK’s modern road network and terrain. The L200 Mitsubishi pickup is built to perform well in light or heavy duty tasks irrespective of the market. However, it is important to note the mileage of the used pick-up you select because the higher it is, the more likely you are to buy expensive suspension and brake parts.

High mileage suspension wear may not be immediately noticed when you test drive a vehicle that has been running on the developed UK roads. However, as soon as you exert the worn out suspension components to some of the uneven or corrugated dirt upcountry or side roads in our city suburbs, these parts will give way. Modern turbo diesel engines are built with altitude compensators which cater for altitude (height above sea level) changes. This applies to any other vehicles bought from anywhere else in the world.

2) In the 1990s turbo diesel engines were unpopular in Uganda because the technology was new to the users and some of the technicians in Uganda. Essentially the turbo charger helps to improve the performance (power), fuel economy and reduction of emissions of a diesel engine. The turbo’s purpose, construction and operation design makes it sensitive to the quality and unrestricted timely supply of engine oil.

Motorists must learn how to avoid damaging the turbo by letting the engine idle when they start the car before accelerating to allow a sufficient buildup of engine oil pressure to lubricate the turbo which kicks in at about 2,000 revolutions per minute. Before switching off the engine, one must let it idle for about 10-15 seconds to slow down the turbo in order to avoid damage due to premature cutting off of the engine oil pressure.

Maintenance of a turbo diesel engine requires strict and regular oil change with recommended turbo specific lubricants and genuine oil filters. Fortunately, over the years, users and independent maintenance technicians have gotten acquainted with the above knowledge. There are gadgets called turbo timers which you can install to help you prevent premature engine switch off in case you are forgetful. Most of the post 2005 diesel engines running about in Uganda have turbo chargers in them.

3) Mitsubishi vehicles are built with equally high quality standards as any other reputable vehicle brands on the market. It is not true that they are mechanically inferior. Their genuine parts cost as much as the Toyota genuine parts. Perhaps Toyota has more used and non-genuine parts outlets hence creating the impression that Mitsubishi parts are more expensive. What is true however is that some of the Mitsubishi vehicles with the petrol engines come with the modern and efficient charged gasoline direct injection (GDI) engines which require maintenance discipline and knowledge.

The lack of that knowledge in the past has given motorists and their preferred independent mechanics a hard time. However, of late there is improved maintenance knowledge (use of clean fuels, recommended lubricants and regular replacement of filters with genuine ones). The same situation applies to Toyotas with direct four (D4) engines.
4) The turbo charged diesel engine is designed to run well with the boost pressure from the turbo.

Altering the design by withdrawing the turbo is possible but costly as it requires some expensive component replacement and specialist diesel engine skills otherwise the diesel engine will lose power and start excessive smoking if you simply remove the turbo. Why bother when you can learn how to use and maintain it. 5) Before buying the pick-up of your choice, establish the legitimacy of the seller and the vehicle. Spend about £23(about Shs104,979) to get an HPI check which ensures that this vehicle has had all its legal annual mechanical and safety checks. This confirms that it is not a stolen vehicle and is sold to you by a bonafide dealer.

Avoid high mileage (above 90,000 miles or 150,000km) but often cheap vehicle offers because you will spend more buying replacement parts. Look out for expensive corrosion damage of the suspension, brakes and chassis from the salt used to improve traction on snow during winter. Four wheel drive vehicles tend to suffer this damage as they are the choice of vehicle in winter.

We do not have effective means to repair this sort of damage. The Mitsubishi L200 in UK offers the Triton or Warrior models: check that your choice has Anti-Lock brakes and twin airbags. Bear in mind that the Uganda tax legislation imposes an environmental fine for the importation of a vehicle which exceeds eight years find out how much it is so that you factor it in your costing. Carefully choose your clearing and handling agent in Mombasa so that the vehicle is promptly cleared.