Best ways to maintain your engine

Thursday April 16 2020


By Paul Kaganzi

Hello Paul, I am purchasing a 2005 second hand Suzuki Escudo. However I am also looking for its engine. What challenges do they have? Moses

Hello Moses, the J20A is a 2.0 litre, 4 cylinder Suzuki Escudo / Vitara engine. The J20A is a crossover engine which was used in the 1998 second and 2005 third generation Escudo / Vitara. This engine is more popular than the H25A 2.5L V6 and the H27A 2.7L V6 because it is simpler to maintain or repair and has better fuel economy. Of course like most post 1995 engines, the J20A has precautions that should be followed to avoid costly repairs, especially because you are likely to buy a used engine.

This Suzuki engine is designed with the efficient multi point fuel injection system which requires precision of fuel system components. It is crucial to renew the fuel filter following the Suzuki recommended service intervals as well as fuel cleaner differentiated unleaded petrol to maintain engine intake valve and fuel injector cleanliness. The J20A has the efficient coil on spark plug ignition system which requires timely renewal of spark plugs using genuine or Original Manufacture Equipment (OEM) spark plugs.
The counterfeit cheap spark plugs tend to burn out and damage the ignition coils. The J20A’s aluminum alloy cylinder head and engine block, like most modern engines, offer the fuel efficiency benefit of less weight. However, aluminum engines usually get damaged beyond repair if exposed to frequent severe overheating.

To avoid overheating, full coolant service should be carried out at installation of the engine and every two years thereafter to protect the water pump, radiator and other cooling system components.

The J20A has an efficient Double Overhead Camshaft (DOHC) 16v valve train which together with the timing chain system and aluminum pistons require attention to the engine oil quality. Timely engine oil service with reputable OEM filters and engine oils designed with detergent and anti-corrosive additives is necessary. At 100,000kms, you should renew the timing chain, guides and tensioner.

The chain tends to slacken and cause a retardation of engine timing which causes abnormal running and poor performance.


Does my engine require block and head refacing?

Hello Paul, my Subaru Forester 2000 with an EJ20 engine recently over heated. A mechanic in Mbale says the engine block has to be resurfaced before replacing the head gasket. However, my usual mechanic insists that the engine block does not need resurfacing. This has left me confused and I request your guidance on this. Andrew.

Hello Andrew, your model year 2000 Subaru EJ20 engine cylinder head gasket has failed. You need to replace the cylinder head gasket and may not need to machine reface the cylinder head or engine block. The problem is unique for first and second generation EJ20 engines like the one in your Forester.

Head gaskets in the EJ20 were designed with a defective multilayer steel shim coated with a graphite layer. This head gasket allows coolant to leak into the exhaust pressure and combustion chamber. Subaru realised the problem and redesigned the cylinder head gasket without issuing a recall.

Signs that you have head gasket failure include oil trickling down between cylinder head and block surface of both sides- external coolant leak on the left or right side head gaskets- smell of sulphur or fuel in coolant reservoir- higher temperature readings and recurrent overheating. Action to take. Identify a smart mechanic and buy a replacement cylinder head gasket only from a genuine Subaru parts outlet to avoid a reoccurrence. Unless the engine suffered severe overheating, you most likely do not need to reface the engine heads and block.

Keeping cars roadworthy during lockdown

Hello Paul, with the Covid-19 lockdown, we do not know how long we have to park. How can we keep the cars road worthy? Nelson.

Hello Nelson, there are a few tips on how to keep your cars safe and sound when parked for extended periods. Some of the reasons you might need to store your car safely include for safety purposes, to prevent damage of the battery, protect your car paint and interior, maintain switches/electrics, preserve tyres and avoid cockroaches, rats or small animal intrusion, among others.
The steps you ought to follow include:
1. Get secure and ventilated parking
2. Remove valuables.
3. Vacuum dust and food particles
4. Service important fluids: engine oil & coolant.
5. Wash and wax the car.
6. Clean the interior
7. Correctly inflate the tyres
8. Jack up car and keep on axle stands or keep moving positions to prevent harmful flat patches on tyre surfaces
9. Do not apply the hand brake to avoid corrosion of brake shoes. Instead use chocks and park in gear (manual transmission) or select Parking (Automatic).
10. Block the air intake tunnel before the air cleaner, and the exhaust tail pipe with suitable covers to prevent intrusion of small animals like rats.
11. Park the car on a vapour proof plastic sheet to prevent under ride, axle and suspension corrosion.
12. If outdoors, use a breathable car cover to protect the paint work.
13. Place a plastic wrap around the wipers to prevent their damage due to sticking to the windscreen.
14. With technical guidance from user manual or mechanic disconnect the car battery negative terminal.

• Do not lock the bonnet, trunk or doors securely when you disconnect the battery as you may not be able to gain access to the car.
• Note down all measures taken, which may require adjustment or reversal before you attempt to start the car upon return. Stick this note on your steering wheel.

Does Toyota Wish have a temperature gauge?

Hello Paul, I have just bought a Toyota Wish and unlike other vehicles I have driven, this one does not have a temperature gauge. How do I know that the vehicle is overheating? Fr Adrian

Hello Fr Adrian, the Toyota Wish does not come with a conventional temperature gauge. However, it has a temperature warning light, which looks like an image of a thermometer floating in water. During cold starts, this light is blue which means the engine temperature is cold. When the light is off, the engine is at operating temperature.

When the same light sign appears red, it is a sign that the engine temperature is very high. Should that happen, you ought to stop and switch off the engine until the overheating is rectified.

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