Thank you for the good advice you give us on cars. My 2012 Forester SH5 XT has been having vibrations that can be felt on the steering wheel when at speeds over 120kph when braking or not. The car is only about four months since import and did not have this issue when I received it. Before taking it to the mechanic, I did wheel balancing and alignment but issue persisted.
The mechanic did a diagnosis and informed me that the problem could be on the wheels, a diagnosis I didn’t fully understand. He said we may need to put a new set of wheels and see whether the problem was indeed there. What on the wheels themselves could cause such vibrations? What other areas could be habouring this problem? GK
Your mechanic is right, it could be the wheels. They could be out of round (sometimes invisible to the naked eye), they could be flatspotted, they could be bent too.
Sometimes the answer to a problem is obvious and staring you in the face the whole time. Have you tightened your lug nuts sufficiently? Another theory is a stuck brake caliper or warped rotors/discs.
Ensure that your brakes are in good nick, something that can be guaranteed via servicing the braking system, paying particular attention to the rotors, pads and calipers.
While at it, check your suspension as well, especially for seized joints. An unlikely suspect is a wheel bearing that is shot and has lost lubricity, which will need replacement.
The steering geometry could be off as well, but if this is the case, the vibrations will be felt mostly under braking.
Did you drive into a pothole recently? I admire your mechanic’s technique of eliminating all suspects to narrow down on one, starting with the most obvious. I would have asked you to indulge his whims since they seem to be those of a consummate troubleshooter, though this comes with a rider: only if it is not at your own cost, otherwise you might find yourself with two sets of tyres for the same car and still stuck with your problem.
If your mechanic is worth his weight in rock salt, let him find a set of tyres to test his theory with, but you could meet him halfway and source a set as well, possibly from a friend.
Once you are sure the tyres are absolved, that is, the problem persists even after changing the wheels, then you can proceed to another phase of diagnostics.
The upside is that most of these other theories can be checked at no cost. A suspension check mostly involves a analytically voyeuristic up-skirt peek of your motor vehicle’s stilts, preferably with a torch.
Brake service is par for the course, so when done, irrespective of whether or not the calipers/rotors were to blame, is just as well.
A wheel bearing check involves jacking up the front of the car, grabbing either of the front wheels in both hands and tugging them in and out.
Too much play or clunking noises when doing this mean that yes, your wheel bearing is gone. One disclaimer to this is that if the wheel bearing is gone, the vibration felt through the steering wheel is more pronounced when turning than when driving straight.
All the best in your quest. Vibrations are really annoying and worse yet, they tend to aggravate issues by rattling or wearing components if allowed to continue, so you do understand the urgency of addressing this problem don’t you? This is not one of those maladies that go away by themselves.
A Mazda cx-7 2009 that needs lots of coaxing to start…
My mother owns a Mazda cx-7 2009 model. We recently swapped the engine after the original one spoiled the engine block. It is in good condition except for the fact that every morning and evening as she returns home from work, it is unable to crank the engine smoothly on its own. You have to pump the gas and make a lot of noise, waste time and waste fuel as you wait for it to run on its own. All the filters have been checked, the fuel pump too, but still no change. Everything else is perfect. Please help as this annoys her very much. Thank you
It may be of great interest to you to learn that there was a starter ignition recall affecting the CX7, but I don’t know how far-reaching this recall was and whether or not it actually has any contribution to make towards hard starts. Of greater interest is some little known thingamajig called the intake manifold runner control valve, or the IMRC valve.
The valve had “problems” which were not serious on the surface but were exacerbated by cold weather. You may be wondering what on earth this IMRC valve is. Well, it is a railman that switches tracks for any air coming into the intake ports.
You see, to develop good low-end torque, you need a long intake plenum. For a good burst of high end-power, you need a short one. These two are antagonistic – it’s one or the other – but engineers have figured out a way to have both in the same engine with a valve operating as a gateman to channel the air into whichever plenum the prevailing circumstances demand. This gateman is the IMRC valve.
Someone I talked to also suggested that instead of poking around gadgets people have never heard of, how about checking on more obvious things like the high pressure fuel pump, or a glow plug/block heater if so equipped? Perhaps he is right.
Then again perhaps he isn’t. Another Mazda expert expanded the list of possibilities to the point where I politely reminded myself that I am not a mechanic and I insist on repeating that factoid over and over in this column. Just a sample of these said possibilities:
1. Have a starter amp draw test done to see if the starter motor is drawing too much current.
2. The positive battery lead needs to be taken apart and cleaned thoroughly since it is a well-known source of electrical resistance in these cars.
3. Engine and body grounds should be clean and tight.
4. There is a possibility that the VVT or timing chain may be binding.
5. A leaking injector may be flooding the combustion chamber.
6. Excessive carbon build-up in the valves, cylinders or piston. Perform a fuel inductions service and add injector cleaner to you fuel, or simply run on V Power/Excellium at high revs through a tank or two.
7. A belt-driven accessory like the power steering, AC, water pump or such causing the problem. Try removing the belts when engine is cold and see if the hard start disappears.
So there you have it. I’ve said enough. Car diagnosis by correspondence is a guessing game, which is why I will repeat: I am not a mechanic
I am considering importing a used 2012/13 Toyota SAI or Lexus CT 200h because of their reported impressive fuel consumption. However, I noticed from previous articles (going back to 2013) that you wouldn’t recommend getting a used hybrid car. Considering the developments in technology, would you still consider hybrid cars expensive and irrelevant? If the answer is yes, which low maintenance sport compact hatchback would you recommend for long distance travels to the Coast from Nairobi? Would a used 2012 VW Variant, a 2012 Mazda3 or a 2012 Honda Stream make economic sense in terms of cost of purchase, fuel consumption and overall maintenance?
I look forward to hearing from you.
I may have called hybrid cars inappropriate for this market way back in 2013, but I sure did not call them irrelevant, and here is why. Even before 2013, as far back as 2010 in the formative years if this column, I did a treatise analysing the future (or lack thereof) of internal combustion, and I mentioned the advent of hybrid technology as an inevitable step in the process by the automotive industry towards divesting itself of dependence on fossil fuels. Something inevitable is rarely irrelevant.
The reason I was not enamoured by hybrid tech was because back then, it was personified by the Toyota Prius and was not “sexy” at all. Things have changed a lot since then.
What hasn’t changed are the logical reasons to avoid buying a used hybrid, primarily because the onboard batteries on a used hybrid have already gone through their best lives under the previous owners’ hands and will be due for replacement any minute from the moment you take ownership, and this replacement is not cheap.
Another reason on the list of cons is unfamiliarity of local experts with the technology, which means trustworthy repair work is yet another inevitability you will be facing. Blind leaps of faith can have very expensive outcomes, just ask any gambler.
This may sound contradictory to things I write in this column, but if you want a sport compact hatchback ideal for long haul trips, you are better off in a German, particularly those that carry a premium or semi-premium badge.
This kind of driving calls for high performance and maximum comfort if you don’t want what should be an enjoyable activity to transform into purgatory.
A Golf GTI comes to mind immediately, but I also see a Mazda 3 listed somewhere in your email and will admit it is a worthy alternative. A third-generation Mercedes A Class is not half bad either.
So now, you want to choose among a Variant, a Mazda3 and a Honda Stream. You said you like sport compact hatchbacks, so that tosses the Stream out because it is not compact.
Neither is the Variant, come to think of it, but being based on a Golf, we may choose to look the other way temporarily. In the interest of fairness, the Stream rejoins the competition.
Cost of purchase: a 2012 Honda Stream will cost you about Sh1.2 million, give or take. I’ve seen Variants of the same vintage with lows of Sh1 million flat and highs at par with the Stream’s asking price, which seems to have less variance (pun intended) compared to the Golf’s. The Mazda3 goes for between a million and Sh1.1 million.
Fuel consumption: this will heavily depend on how you drive, but opt for a 1.4 liter TFSI in the Golf and you will dominate the other two summarily.
The Stream comes in 1.8 and 2.0 liter variants (again, pun intended) which may not be city-friendly but should prove quite handy in those long haul trips you speak of.
The Mazda too has good economy, but there is a tendency for drivers to be heavy-footed with it which makes them claim, somewhat erroneously, that Mazdas are not as economical as people may think they are. This is not entirely true.
Overall maintenance: try and get a vehicle with a good FSH (full service history). All three models are reliable in their own way, but again, all three brands have isolated cases of horror stories involving things going wrong. The Variant is a German, so you know what that means.
There are claims that Mazda parts are hard to find, and it was only earlier this year that we had the longest correspondence involving the highest number of people when one Alice and her husband reached out to us concerning their jerky Honda that cured itself any time it was taken in for treatment.
It is a close tie between the Mazda and the Variant because both are really good to drive, even on long journeys, but the Golf Variant takes the cake. It has that premium feel and solid road-holding that you can only get from a German, its 7-speed gearbox is a revelation and the 1.4 litre TSI is a teetotaler when you need it to be and a racehorse when you want it to be.
For Subaru Legacy lovers only…
Six years later, my Subaru Legacy is still up and running. Actually, that is being modest, it is better than when I acquired it, it is a beast of a car, a remarkable technology of a vehicle with excellent performance.
Your discussion with a reader called Jeff in regard to the same model was like attending a (SA) Subaru Anonymous class. Your article spoke to me, especially the vivid description of the void and feeling of nothingness through the VoD, the only time of helplessness in a Sub. I am also happy to inform you that the fuel efficiency has increased to an average of 9.5km/l – I recently changed my rack and fuel pump.
Despite my last point, I think the BH5 model is a gem and a keeper, something to showcase to the upcoming generation in the future world of electric cars, on what a real testosterone twin turbo-charged car used to look like. As I said your article spoke to me.
I’m glad my article spoke to you. You know what? My car speaks to me too, and right now it says it needs a new gearbox seal because there appears to be an MTF (manual transmission fluid, a.k.a “CC”) leak that leaves an embarrassing stain everywhere I park for more than a few hours.
Leaving a stain anywhere after sitting for a while is never a good thing, be it among human beings or among motor vehicles. Despite its incontinence, my BH5 is a gem and a keeper too…