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ASK THE MECHANIC: Why you should buy a Mazda

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By Paul Kaganzi

Posted  Thursday, June 12   2014 at  01:00
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Thanks for the wonderful updates on cars and their maintenance. I think I am a car addict but I would like to finally settle down with a user -friendly easy to maintain won’t-rob-a-bank car. I have driven a Nissan Presea, Mitsubishi Chariot, Toyota Corsa, G Touring, Corona, Ipsum, Vista, Harrier and a Nadia, all these in less than 10 years. I am so fed up of Toyotas (because of fake parts) regardless of what Ugandans say about their resale value, etc.

I need your advice on which car to buy which may be a bit more reliable. I am thinking of a MazdaTribute, BMW X3, Volvo V40 and a Mercedes Benz C-Class though the last one is too luxurious for everyday use. If I could find a 1999 Chariot, I would be happy to go because it was the strongest and most reliable of all. Please advise or better still suggest one that may be good. I hate going to the garage every month and my budget is not more than Shs25m. Thanks a lot and keep up with the good work.
Regards, Alexandra Cindy Gimbo

At some point we all look for a car which pushes the performance, comfort and design envelope. A car that will give you sheer driving pleasure. The obstacle between you and your dream car seems to be the reliability issue. Reliability in this context is having a car that won’t let you down and gives you peace of mind. To help you establish which car fits the bill, let us define car reliability in terms of how often it needs repairing (rate of failure), how much it will cost you to put right (including parts availability in Uganda), the inconvenience you undergo during the breakdown / repair cycles and driveability on all road terrain in Uganda.

Let us not forget your budget cap of Shs25m.The choice of cars on your hit list: Mazda Tribute, BMW X3, Volvo V40, Mercedes C-Class and Mitsubishi Chariot have a solid reputation for robustness, good build quality, good overall performance and comfort.

However good these cars are, their reliability index in Uganda depends on a few factors when you buy them: their age or mileage should preferably be between five to 12 years or 60,000-80,000km this reduces frequency of replacing age related engine or suspension parts.

The age factor will put the Volvo, BMW and Mercedes out of your budget ceiling. The repair or service history (car maintenance by the previous owner) and the availability or cost of spare parts in Uganda will affect all these cars equally. Mazda and Volvo do not have official parts dealers in Uganda, however a couple of independent dealers offer service parts like filters. Major engine, suspension or body parts will have to be imported.

Mercedes and BMW have appointed dealers and many independents with both service and repair parts. There are also used parts dealers to offer body parts, gearboxes and engines in case you need them.

The major repair parts for newer BMWs i.e. five to 10 years are more difficult to find in Uganda. All factors considered you ought to buy the 2001 Mazda Tribute whose better ground clearance, off road ability and cost price (about Shs25m) gives it an edge over the 1999 Chariot whose age (depending on maintenance record) might mean more frequent breakdowns and its parts availability is questionable because few Mitsubishi new and used parts dealers carry Chariot parts.

My Toyota Opa is stressing me. All was well until the steering system started failing. As I drive along, the steering becomes hard intermittently. This problem started after I changed front shock absorbers and put plates between the shocks and mountings to raise the car. The mechanic has changed my expensive steering rack twice and the steering pump too. The problem persists. What can I do?
Mutebi. J

You need to urgently arrange for the removal of the spacer plates that were fitted between the shocks and mountings. This will restore the normal operation of your steering. The use of spacer plates to alter a vehicle’s suspension and make it higher will result in the vehicle chassis or body moving up and away from the differentials and axles. This affects the steering and stabilizer operation. The position of the steering rack and linkages (rack and tie rod ends) together with the stabilizer should be parallel to the axle in order to work well. Since the steering rack and stabilizer are attached to the car’s body and chassis, raising them invariably distorts the steering geometry. This alters the steering performance and accelerates damage of components with ball joints like the tie rods, stabilizer link bars, control arms and bushings (bushes). Raising the car with spacers makes the drive shaft angles extreme and stresses the central (constant) velocity joints. Spacers also reduce the articulating role of suspension when driving over uneven sections of the road affecting stability and safety.

Thank you for advice. My car had check engine light (CEL) and 4WD lights on dash cluster. I was very puzzled. Your advice that it was related to emission system and your diagnosis helped a lot. It was actually some impurities in the fuel pump/fuel filter system. My mechanic disassembled the system and cleaned it up. Soon after the lights cleared. By coincidence in the latest newsletter from RAV4 World Forum, the members discussed the same topic - CEL and 4WD lights on the dash. The causes highlighted on the forum were mainly emission ranging from a poorly replaced fuel cap to faulty oxygen sensor, and the diagnostic machine Codes related to each cause. I wish you could share this problem of CEL & 4WD/TRAC lights with your readers so that they understand the causes and handle the same from an informed point.
Godfrey Buyondo

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