Ask the Mechanic: Buying used Nissan X-Trail: What to avoid

Hello Paul, I drive a Toyota Raum but I would like to buy a used Nissan X-Trail due to its two-litre engine size and it being an SUV. What are its advantages and disadvantages?


Hello William, upgrading from the Toyota Raum to the first generation X-Trail is like graduating from primary to secondary school. The X-Trail is a sturdy medium SUV from the Nissan stables. Its 2.0 litre engine gives moderate but ample torque and power to cruise on the highways or use its four wheel drive system to maneuver slippery terrain during offroad driving.

The X-Trail’s reasonable ground clearance and wide wheel base give it good handling qualities, which inspire driver confidence on and offroad. The interior, although ‘plasticky’ is thoughtfully crafted to provide ample legroom, headroom and load space. The interior layout is comfortable for a family trip with easy access to control knobs, buttons and storage spaces.

When you buy a third-hand locally pre-owned Nissan X-Trail, as any other used car, you will probably get it at an attractive bargain price. This could be because it has a poor resale value or the previous owner is running away from technical faults due to a poor maintenance regime. To rule out the latter, start and drive the X-Trail. Notice if it smokes excessively, lacks power uphill or shifts gears abnormally. You may also take the car to a garage for diagnostic inspection. Key areas to look out for include:

A failing valve timing chain kit, which makes noise during cold starts because of use of the wrong engine oil and filter, which creates sludge and delays buildup of oil pressure. This damages vital engine parts such as piston rings and valve chain guides. Also, look at the mileage on the odometer. If it hovers around 100,000km, then consider replacing the fuel filter and gearbox filter and ATF fluid.

Your worst nightmare is if the engine smokes excessively, a sign of severe piston ring failure due to poor engine oil maintenance. On the positive side, a good garage can carry out a compression test to confirm engine health as well as inspect all fluids, gearbox and suspension condition. This will help you to tell if the price is worth the car.


Hello Paul, I want to buy a used Subaru legacy GT at Shs6m. However, the alternator runs nonstop, over charging the battery.  Could there be other issues for this car to be this cheap?


Hello Kon, does the Subaru start and run? You need to take it to a garage for inspection by a qualified car electrician. A voltage and alternator tester can be used to confirm the status of its alternator. You may need to replace that Subaru’s alternator. It may have a faulty regulator which is not easy to repair because of unavailable spare parts.

Occasionally, a wrong type battery can cause an alternator overcharge, especially in newer type vehicles built with battery control module. To confirm if that Subaru is worth the Shs6m, check the condition of the engine lubrication system and do an engine compression test to confirm that it does not burn oil. Check the automatic gearbox too. A road test is a good idea to get a general feel of the car. Also, rule out major accident repair.


Hello Paul, my 1994 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado has been performing well but when I accelerate while driving on the highway, it feels like driving over humps on one side. A mechanic has checked the wheel hubs and changed two of them but the problem continues. We have replaced all the worn out suspension parts but the car continues to misbehave. Is it time to part ways?


Hello Joseph, get a tyre expert to examine the surface of the tyres for radial or lateral run out. This is extreme uneven wear of the tyre tread surface because this can cause wheel wobble or a sensation of hobbling as you drive faster on the highway. You may not see the tyre surface imperfections with the naked eye. A tyre specialist will use a special tool called a dial indicator to test for the run out.

Excessive run out can sometimes be seen by a very observant mechanic or tyre technician. This is common with tyres that have been damaged during an emergency braking incident or due to severe poor wheel alignment. The solution to this problem is immediate replacement of the damaged tyre (s) before they damage the wheel hub assemblies.


Hello Paul, my Subaru Outback automatic gearbox does not respond even after engaging drive. The hydraulic oil is full and the A/T oil lamp is on.


Hello Lee, ATF fault lamp suggests mechanical or electrical failure of the automatic gearbox. Get a computer diagnosis to rule out electronic valve block or solenoid failure. An inspection of a sample of the gearbox oil drawn from the draining point should reveal if the oil is very dirty, smelling burnt or showing presence of metallic debris.

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