Buying a second hand vehicle (in Uganda) can be a bit of a gamble at the best of times, but throw in vagaries of this environment and you could have better luck taking the money to the Kampala Casino — and that’s saying something!
Having been round the second hand and Japanese import depots over the last few years, I am not that surprised these days at what I see. But recently I went to look at a vehicle for an organisation and the battery was flat. Not surprised; but what happened next did give me a bit of a start!!
Instead of changing the battery over the “mechanic” turned the donor battery upside down and then attempted to connect the terminals directly. I was shocked into immobility — but was able to get at him before the terminals managed to touch. Not only was the battery upside down, the terminals were also the wrong way around!! And this was on an EFI vehicle as well.
I have been toying with writing a “about buying second hand 4wds” article for a while, but this incident did jump start me into action so to speak.
Which is the best buy is always a hard question to answer. If you take into context what actually happens to these vehicles once they land on the shores of this side of the Indian Ocean you are taking a bigger risk by buying one without it being thoroughly checked over.
First of all, the vehicles could be sat around the docks for who knows how long being moved around by a Schumacher wannabe. Then the vehicles come out to be serviced and “tropicalised” by a mechanic who has usually learnt his trade at the school of trial and error and hard knocks. Tropicalised means taking out the thermostat from the engine. A big no no if you understand the workings of the internal combustion engine; and people often wonder why these vehicles have a hard time in Africa when they are obviously being used in Japan with great success.
It may be at this point that the speedometer is clocked (wound back). You can usually tell if it’s happened by looking at what is showing on the clock and comparing it with the mileage that’s been recorded on the sticker on the timing belt cover. For instance, I had a look at one a while ago and the clock read 36,000 kilometres and the sticker on the timing belt cover informed me that the belt had been changed at 92,000!!
Then the vehicle is driven at breakneck speed from the coastal town of import to Uganda. This time Schumacher has more to contend with. He has to get to Uganda in a certain time and instead of ignoring them drives straight through the many meteorite storms of potholes. With the largest holes being hit and hit hard. Resulting in … well I’m sure you can imagine. Anything from bent rims to damaged tyres and thrown out and wildly so wheel alignment. Of course the agent promises that all will be sorted before you take the vehicle away!
Every now and again one of these fine vehicles gets pranged along the way. “Accidents” do tend to happen in this part of the world at alarming rates if you haven’t noticed. Some of them get so badly damaged that they would be written off anywhere else. But they are patched back together and sometimes it’s done well and sometimes it’s not.
Another experience I had was looking at one vehicle for a friend and it looked lovely only I had a bad feeling about it. It looked good but there was something not quite right and further investigation found that it was bent. The whole vehicle from front to back was totally out of line and apart from some over spray marks on some bolt heads you could hardly tell it had been touched.
So, the moral then is, if you are going to buy a second hand 4wd or 2wd for that matter make sure that you bend the odds in your favour by getting the vehicle checked out as best you can before putting the chips down.
Cheers and drive safe.