Ask the Mechanic


Hello Paul, what should I look out for when buying a second hand car that has been on the road for some time?

Hello, buying a used car that has been on our Ugandan roads (locally pre-used) can be as daunting a task as buying a used car from the bond. There are similar challenges one will encounter such as the need to establish the service and repair history. Has the car had its regular or periodical service actions to renew components such as fuel filters or timing belts? One would need to know if the car has a major component overhaul or repair for instance the engine or gearbox, which may add value to the car. It is also prudent to inspect the car for possible major accident repair and evaluate its repair needs.

 Buying a locally pre-used car has a few advantages. It will come tested having been driven on Ugandan roads. If the current owner is a responsible motorist, they will have dealt with any major issues or service required. A locally pre-used car may have some improvements or extras fitted by the current owner before putting it up for sale. A keen or enthusiastic motorist will accesorise the car with new mats, alloy wheels, tyres, audio CD entertainment, and seat covers, among others.

That is a plus you will not find with used cars in the bond. However, some competitive bonded warehouses will offer to accessorise their used cars at a cost. A pre-used car can be driven and tested extensively to rule out mechanical or electrical damage at your convenience. One from the bond may not be easily driven around except in a few cases.

Before buying a locally pre-used car, it is imperative to carry out due deligence checks.

Confirm the true ownership of the vehicle. Sometimes vehicles are sold without full authorisation of the owner by money lenders. In a worst case scenario, you may end up with a stolen car and find problems trying to transfer ownership of the said vehicle.

Confirm that the vehicle has no tax dues with Uganda Revenue Authority, the local city authority parking fees or the previous owner.

Request a road test and permission to let your mechanic examine the car and issue a mechanical status report. A look at the repair history if it is available will give you confidence to proceed. Also, try to ask why the previous seller is parting ways with the car in case the reason is a technical condition.

Get an expert to check if the car has an accident repair history. It is useful to establish the extent of the damage and quality of repair thereafter. A car involved in a severe accident and patched up or put together will never be the same again as it will have drivability issues.


I have Shs15m and want to choose between the Runx and the Rav4. Which of these two is better in terms of low maintenance and low fuel consumption? Chris

Hello Chris, your budget of Shs15m can only buy a locally pre-used 2002 Toyota RUNX and 1999 Toyota RAV4 first generation. These cars straight from the bond with new registration will cost about Shs22 and Shs25m each.

However, both options have one thing in common; they are low maintenance vehicles.

The RAV4 has a four cylinder straight engine with the first generation Toyota 3SFE 1.8 litre multiport electronic fuel injection engine. Arguably, the RAV4’s older coil, distributor and tension lead ignition system is simpler than Runx’s coil on spark ignition system. It is easier to maintain the RAV4 in the countryside.

However, the Runx’s newer 1ZZFE 1.8 litre engine’s fuel injection system, coil ignition system and variable valve timing system (VVTi) provides more prompt bursts of power and better fuel economy. The 1.8 litre engine suits the sporty size of the Runx and gives a more thrilling drive on the highway.

On the more practical side, the RAV4 is a more attractive option in terms of passenger and luggage space, ground clearance, four wheel drive and off roadability, which gives you the flexibility to drive on and off the road to your village. These attributes notwithstanding, the RAV4 1.8 litre 3S engine will not thrill you in performance terms as it is a little under powered for the 4WD SUV. But you cannot have it all with either of the choices.


Hello Paul, I own a Nissan Tiida which loses power when going uphill (it cannot go beyond 50kph). Service is up to date but the same problem persists. Why?       


Hello Francis, loss of power or poor performance of your Nissan Tiida when driving uphill could be caused by fuel delivery restriction. This can be caused by a dirty fuel filter, which is overdue for replacement, especially if your car’s mileage has exceeded 100,000kms.

A mechanic should test the fuel pressure and compare it with nominal values to confirm if it is the problem. Also, consider servicing the CVT gearbox. A well serviced automatic transmission will promptly shift down to lower gears when you need ample performance as you drive uphill. These two factors are often ignored but significantly affect performance.

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