BEHIND THE WHEEL: The NZE can be made to go fast, but it brakes poorly so take care



I have a Toyota NZE which I use for my everyday runs, and I’ve managed to max the speed gauge a couple of times.

1. I am aware that JDMs are limited to 180kph, but I’ve also been told that the limiter can be overrun. Is this possible and if yes, can you refer me to a garage where it can be done and indicate how much it will cost.

Also, is it safe to delimit a car (I have a friend who delimited his Subaru and achieves speeds of 240kph)?

2. Can I also fit a dump valve in it, considering it is automatic?

3. Will mounting 16” rims affect its stability?

4. Can I fit another engine in it or will I have to do performance modifications?

Now off to my true love, the Golf: A friend advised me when buying one to get a TSI or GT. Could you elaborate on this since he told me they often fail, considering I seriously outran a TSI (or so I believe since I could hear the turbo struggling to keep up) with the NZE recently.

Then, regarding the GTI, is it also factory limited to 260kph or can you achieve greater speeds in it?

Can you explain what “torque” is and as well as its significance?

Hello Speeding Suspect,

1. Yes the limiter can be overrun. All you need to do is access the ECU, which can be done using appropriate cables and a laptop with the necessary ECU-reading software in it.

As for particular garages that can do it, there are quite a number, but more importantly, there are a few individuals who can do it too, so you won’t need a garage for that.

It can be done even at your location; after all, how hard is it to carry a laptop and a cable around? Unfortunately, I cannot name them here, so to find these people, join the pertinent forums online and call them.

The cost will depend on how smooth a talker you are when it comes to haggling. Safety? Not so much. In the early days of this column, I reviewed the NZE and unequivocally declared it treacherous at high speed, more so if you are running on skinny tyres.

I have also noticed (after driving more than 22 different NZEs over the years) that the car doesn’t brake so well. I’m not sure you want to do 200+ in one of these.

2. You can install a dump valve but on one condition: first install a turbocharger. What do you want the dump valve for? Is it for the “pssshh” sound it makes? If so, forget the turbo; there are fake electric dump valves on sale on the Internet.

What they do is simply emit that dumping noise and nothing else. And they can be extremely annoying, especially when installed in a car with an automatic transmission.

It hisses every time you come off the throttle, irrespective of the preceding throttle opening.

The day you try parking such a car or driving it in closed quarters is the day either you, or a nearby bystander, will fling open the bonnet and yank the offending device out before tossing it into the deepest pool of water you can reach immediately.

Just let it go.

3. It depends on what tyres cover those 16” rims. Fitting bigger rims is typically accompanied by lower profile tyres so if you go for high-profile tyres, what you end up having are bigger wheels overall.

They compromise the gearing, the speedometer, the ABS and the steering geometry, so the already questionable stability inherent in the NZE will be further aggravated by the larger running gear.

4You could swap engines or you could do some “modding”, the choice is yours.

You need to ask your friend which part of the Golf fails. The transmission is the known culprit, but only for automatic versions. The manual car is just fine.

Sure, the engine is more complex with its forced induction, fancy injectors and myriad sensors, but well live with it. If you defeated a GT/TSI/GTI in your NZE, then good for you, but don’t expect to repeat that result with similar cars.

Perhaps you were competing with a weak or uninterested driver. I don’t encourage that kind of behaviour on the road anyway, especially if you are driving a car that handles funny and won’t stop properly (the NZE).

Torque: torque is twist or turning force. Torque is the outright ability of an engine to move a load as opposed to power, which is how fast you can move that load. People who do not properly understand torque will tell you “torque is what gets you going,

power is what keeps you going”. Sounds catchy for a TV advertisement that is; but it’s not very helpful, is it?

To properly visualise torque (and power), think of it this way: An average man can lift a 100kg gunny bag of sugar/maize/whatever one metre off the ground, no further.

If you increase the mass, say to 101kg, he will not be able to reach 1 metre; he will get as far as maybe 95cm. So the maximum torque he is developing is 100kg.m (torque = force x distance).

Torque is his ability to do the work equivalent to lifting a 100kg bag exactly one metre – lighter loads will be lifted higher, heavier loads not so high. Power, on the other hand, is how fast he can run with that 100kg bag, having already lifted it 1 metre off the


There is the maximum speed at which he can run with that bag. For him to run any faster than that, he will have to lose some of that “torque”, that is, reduce his load – this is where power and torque curves come in but that is a topic for another day. Are we together?

Hi JM,

I occasionally get a whiff of fuel when driving with the windows open. What could be the cause?

E. Murano

Hello Murano (are you really called “Murano”, like the car?),

Smelling petrol while driving can only mean one of two things:

a) Leakage: there is a leakage somewhere, could be along the fuel line, or at the fuel pump, or at the fuel filter or just somewhere in the fuel system.

Try to isolate the origin of the smell when the car is stationary.

b) Poor combustion: your car might be overfuelling/running rich, meaning some fuel is going unburnt and this is coming out of the exhaust, though this would be a little hard to detect by smell when you are moving. I’d check for a leak if I were you.

Hallo Baraza JM,

I am glad you started motoring in a power mechanics class just like I did and was wondering whether we were in the same school that straddles the equator along the Kisumu Busia Road. I hope one day many schools will take up the subject.

1. Why is it that army trucks have a wheel missing on the rear axle and what is the reason for this configuration?

2. What technique is used to raise the wheelbase of these trucks to give them the clearance they have?

3. You might be able explain a feeling I usually get when the big trucks rev, making the earth tremble and my windows to vibrate, giving me an adrenaline rush. I want to hug the monster but dare not risk it,

so I open my windows to inhale the foul breath of the animal to bond. A feeling close to a smitten adolescent overwhelms me, especially when it is a Steyr truck, which produces an earthshaking sound. I wonder what their capabilities are.

R. Mwangi


I’m glad to meet a fellow power mechanics alumnus, but the school I went to does not straddle the Equator, nor is it in Western/Nyanza. So no, we weren’t in the same school.

1. These trucks do not need that extra wheel on the rear axle. They have a single wheel for the sake of manoeuvrability and cost management. Most civilian trucks have double tyres (or what is called the “super single”) on the rear axle because they need it,

given the loads they tote (the rear axle is load-bearing). The army trucks you see with single tyres are personnel carriers. How heavy are those soldiers anyway?

Munitions trucks, missile carriers and supply vehicles will have the double rear tyres because they carry heavier loads (volumetrically speaking, guns and grenades are heavier than people per cubic foot) to the war theatre.

2. They use what is called a “lift kit”, which is in essence taller suspension. And it is the ride height that is raised, not the wheelbase.

3. That feeling, my friend, is a symptom of acute motor-philia, or “being a petrolhead”. Don’t go hugging any trucks if they are in motion; you could hurt yourself. Don’t go hugging military trucks at all, whether they are moving or not; we live in unsafe and paranoid times, so the military will take a dim view of your antics and might not understand your motives, so they will hurt you.

Stop inhaling the exhaust fumes too, addictive as it might be; the gases will damage your lungs and brain and probably give you cancer.

I am still unsure of the capabilities of a Steyr truck. There are two ways of countering this conundrum: either a) ask the military if I can drive one of their trucks, in which case there is no telling how they will react (perhaps I should hug it too, hey?),

or b) wait for military surplus hardware to go on auction after outliving its usefulness then go bidding for a Steyr truck (if available) but the problem with this approach is:

i) I can’t tell whether or not the Steyrs will be sold at all, or even when; and ii) the only time I hear of these auctions is when people are returning from them (“Hey Baraza, check out this Land Rover Defender I got from the army!

It has no floor and the seats are metal but I like the colour!”)

It might be a while before I test drive a Steyr truck

Hi Barasa,

Thank you for your entertaining and very educative column.

Now, allow me to ask you two questions.

1. I recently took my car to a reputable garage for a mechanical check-up but I was not happy with their service. They took the liberty of writing their name on the rear windscreen of my vehicle without my permission.

When I called them the following day to complain, they seemed unapologetic. Can I sue them for infringing on my privacy and can I succeed in court?

2. I bought a Mazda Demio 2007, 1500 cc on the strength of the many praises you have heaped on it in your column and so far it has not disappointed. It is a good car to drive – comfortable, stable, economical on fuel and very fast.

I was thinking of challenging my Subaru Impreza brothers in a speed competition.

The problem is that the ABS light on the dashboard goes on and off, sometimes remaining on for several days. What causes this and how can it be sorted out. I also drove a friend’s Honda Mobilia and noted that the ABS light was on throughout.

John Nthiga-Embu


1. I find it extremely irksome too that these garages plaster their stickers all over their customers’ cars at will. I am a stickler for a clean, fuss-free vehicle; you won’t find any stickers on my car except for what the government requires (insurance)

and my I’m-in-trouble-please-help-me benefits-imparting AA sticker. Suing them might not lead anywhere; the judge might simply ask you to peel those stickers off and be on your way.

2. These are the likely reasons for the warning light: there is a fault in the ABS (anti-lock brakes) system, there is a fault in the normal brake system or the brake fluid level is low in either the master cylinder or the reservoir.

The safest thing to do is to have it checked out at a garage.


I am a big fan of your weekly column and value your expertise on all things mechanical in our crowded, used-car market.

I am interested in buying a 2010 Mark X but a similarly priced 2009 Subaru Legacy GT caught my attention. Which one should I go for, taking into consideration the long-term running costs and availability and cost of spare parts?

I must admit they both look dashing, with the Mark X perhaps having a more refined interior. My heart wants the 203bhp Mark X but my head wants the 265bhp LGT.

Emmanuel Kimutai

Between your head and your heart, which one sways you most? Follow your head (rational thought) and get the Mark X.