Ask the Mechanic: Which car can I buy with Shs10m or less?

Hello Paul, with a budget of between Shs8m and Shs10m, please advise me on the best fuel efficient and easy to maintain car I can buy.


Hello Musimenta, if you are looking for the most fuel efficient locally reused car with a budget of Shs8m to Shs10m, you can choose between the slightly more spacious, higher and better looking 1998 Toyota Corolla Spacio 1.6 litre or the boxier, more brawny 1998 Toyota Raum 1.5L. These two compact Toyota mini vans have flexible seat layouts, are fuel efficient and retain excellent value for money if well maintained. In comparison, the Corolla Spacio’s bigger 1.6 litre petrol engine gives you 110 horsepower output and a fuel economy of 13.6 - 14 km/litre, while the Raum 1.5L petrol engine gives you an output of 93 horsepower and fuel economy of 13.8 - 15 km/Litre.

These fuel economy statistics can be altered upwards or downwards depending on how you drive, tyre condition, engine service condition, as well as choice of efficiency and economy enhancing fuel saving petrol. For such low budgets, look out for hidden major repair needs, especially for the engine and gearbox.


Hello Paul, I need some advice. My Nissan X Trail brake pedal feels hard when I apply the brakes and the car delays to brake. Our regular mechanic says the brake pads are okay but cannot figure out why it cannot brake. 


Hello Mr Kiggundu, the hard braking pedal and longer braking distance suggest brake vacuum system failure. There is a need to inspect the vacuum servo booster and look out for a leak on the vacuum line between the servo and throttle unit. The absence of a leakage on the vacuum line may be an indication of failure of the servo booster unit. The vacuum or suction effect from the car’s engine intake system or throttle helps to amplify your brake effort and stop your car promptly when you apply the brakes. The vacuum in your Nissan’s braking system is collected in the servo unit, which is positioned between the brake pedal and master cylinder containing brake fluid.


Hello Paul, my Toyota Corolla with a 5A engine recently suffered a broken a timing belt. A mechanic replaced the timing belt and the car was test driven. However, it soon developed engine failure. My mechanic has replaced the fuel pump and now I am told the distributor is faulty. What could be the problem?


Hello Baguma, there are several factors that can lead to failure of an engine to start. Broadly I will categorise them into: engine management system, fuel system, ignition system and air intake system. The engine management system (EMS) relies on the engine computer to control the amount of fuel injected and ignition timing.

 This system relies on sensors such as the crank shaft poaition sensor, camshaft position sensor and coolant temperature sensor to help it know when to deliver sufficient fuel and spark for efficient engine combustion. A breakdown of any of these sensors can prevent the EMS from starting the car or running smoothly. The EMS performance and health can be investigated with a computer diagnostic tool.  

The fuel system delivers sufficient fuel pressure for prompt ignition. I see your mechanic has looked into it by replacing the fuel pump. A faulty fuel pump can cause a no start condition. Did your mechanic fit a new pump and has he measured the fuel pressure and compared with recommended values? The fuel filter should also be replaced and the performance of fuel injectors assesed. The ignition system in your Toyota 5A petrol engine generates a spark or heats an electrode in the spark plugs to ignite the fuel air mixture.

This system on your car engine works with the distributor, which allocates the spark, ignition high tension leads and the spark plugs. These three must be investigated to ensure that they work well. Having replaced the engine timing belt, it may be a good idea to confirm that the engine timing was correctly done using the manufacturers’ timing reference marks.

Failure to get the timing right, either retarded or advanced will affect ignition or spark timing. This can prevent prompt starting or cause poor performance. It is also prudent to confirm that the distributor was timed well and not damaged after timing belt renewal.

A compression test is also in order to confirm that there is sufficient compression to start and run the engine. The air intake system is broad but investigate the intake hoses for air leak between the air filter and throttle potentiometer. Inspect the throttle potentiometer for operation and rule out a carbon clogged or stuck throttle valve. Sufficient in restricted air affects the prompt ignition of any car. You need a patient and knowledgeable mechanic to investigate.

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