When overheating becomes a thorn in your side

Overheating can be a real menace. PHOTO| FOTOSEARCH

What you need to know:

  • The engine design of Freelander intrinsically inhibits air flow around the rear cylinder bank and coolant flow follows a convoluted path within and around the engine block.
  • Experts say 41 per cent of overheating Land Rovers had the coolant make a break for it via the water pump, radiator or any of the hoses that you will find snaking around inside the bonnet area.
  • Having car trouble? Write to [email protected] for free advice.

I’m always as clueless as when I started after reading your vehicle analyses, but I always come back for the humour. What are your thoughts on Land Rover Freelander 2005. Is overheating a common complaint? Any remedies?

Listen, if you are as clueless after reading my article as you were before reading it, why are we even doing this?

By answering your Freelander question — which is yes, by the way — am I doing what the Swahili refer to as kuchezea mbuzi guitar? I certainly hope not.

The 2005 Freelander was the final bow of the first generation car which has been adversely mentioned at length in these pages before. No need to dig up all that dirt again, so let’s look at what can be done to alleviate the cooker-grade under bonnet environment:

Given the contents of our cloak-and-dagger history lesson on the troubled genesis of the Freelander line, it should come as no surprise when I ask you to check a lot of things. The fans may be offline, the cooling system may need bleeding — not easy with a Freelander, more so the V6; and therefore airlocks are a common cause of overheating — the radiator cap may have a busted seal … check the coolant for combustion gases as well, which will be indicative of head gasket failures incipient or present.

The fact that the engine design intrinsically inhibits air flow around the rear cylinder bank and coolant flow follows a convoluted path within and around the engine block does not help matters in any way. As stated in that previous article, the Freelander 1 was doomed from birth.

That’s not all. The NHTSA (which came to the fore last week and may end up featuring a lot more frequently given my road safety bias post-Baltimore) has recorded various other complaints around the cooling system of the Freelander 1. Defective thermostats, broken hoses, cracked manifolds, slipped sleeves, coolant leaks … all these create issues with effective cooling and have been documented in great detail, sometimes on the same car!

Land Rover Freelander 2005. PHOTO| FOTOSEARCH

In other — equally meticulously documented cases — the overheating problem was recurrent because the causes would line themselves up and rise to the breach one after the other like the honour roll at a particularly malevolent graduation ceremony for mechanical demons that do not want to see any prosperity in your driving life.

Please note: the preceding paragraphs may read like a generic troubleshooting guide to any overheating issue and most cars that have a tendency to overheat have one of the problem spots mentioned above as a major causative. Not the Freelander.

With this baby Land Rover, all of them are high-probability potential flash points en route to a seized engine and subsequent replacement; all of them. This may explain the plethora of Toyota-rised, 3S-powered Freelander 1s struggling to stay alive under the relentless onslaught of RAV4s and CRVs on the right and X3s and Q5s on the left.

If you want 3S power in an all-wheel drive crossover because the KV6 was as reliable as a wet matchbox and just as useless, why not buy a RAV4 in the first place …

They say if you love something you should be willing to let it go, but before waving bah-bah to the plucky but hapless Englishcar, check for coolant leaks. The experts, who are not me, say 41 per cent of overheating Land Rovers had the coolant make a break for it via the water pump, radiator or any of the hoses that you will find snaking around inside the bonnet area.


My car seems fine. Please clarify remarks

Hello Baraza,
I’m an avid reader of your column. However, I didn’t understand your comment on August 1, 2018 when you wrote “it is appreciably better to drive than a lot of the white rice that they throw at their home market, which eventually gets imported here like the Beltas, and the Ractis and Passo”. I own a Ractis from 2014, ex-Japan and except change of tyres and battery, I haven’t experienced another problem. What’s your assessment of a Ractis? Mwangi


The comment meant the Ractis is very boring to drive and is less a car and more a "mobility solution" for those suffering from "automotive disinclination": if I'm to sound like I'm trying too hard to appear clever (I am).

Problems? None that I know of. Just keep in mind that it is a cheap, small car and as such, it will not last forever; so give it a lifespan of about eight to 10 years and it will fall apart all by itself, by which time you will want another Ractis; or better yet, you will buy something more befitting of a budding petrolhead … like an Auris, for instance.

Toyota Ractis 2006. PHOTO| COURTESY

Spine-chilling moment with my Mark II
Hello Sensei,

One, you rock — as wordsmith and teacher.

Two, I own a 2.5-litre Toyota Mark II, JZX100 (YOM 2000). It ran well enough when I acquired it last year, but it runs great now, after lots of work into it’s drivetrain, engine and suspension.

I recently had the happy accident of careering about the roundabout (what is known in conventional terms as drifting), while trying to avoid hitting the police officer who had just signalled us to exit, and who chose that precise moment to dart across the lanes to say hello to some big shot on the other side.

It was a heart-stopping moment for me and my passengers — they thought I had done it on purpose and used, first, shock silence and a gripping of the seats and, afterwards, a wringing of the hands, sighs and a cocktail of muffled and clearly articulated expletives all at once, aimed at nobody in particular, to express their displeasure with my road skills and manners.

Thankfully, the driver nearest to me had the presence of mind to stop to let me have my “fun” until I emerged on the other side in a blaze of undeserved glory. That aside, perhaps you can help me with some issues here, for I take full and exact pride in the mechanically intended meaning of “well-oiled”.

1. First, its gearbox clunks loudly when I shift from P to D and vice versa. I have had the gearbox filter changed, as well as flushed the transmission, to no avail. What else can I do, short of replacing the unit?

2. Secondly, the car jerks sometimes (eight times out of 10) when I lift my foot off the gas, particularly but not always in traffic. Is this about its somewhat archaic technology, age of the drivetrain or something I need to look into?

3. Lastly, whenever I am turning at an elevated incline (particularly when turning left, a popping/clicking sound issues from the front right wheel area — the tie rod ends, hub bearings, struts, mountings, stabiliser bushes and links are all new — when the wheel is almost full turned and my foot is on the brake pedal.

4. Is oiling the mounts a thing for monocoque chassis or is it only for body-on-frame anatomies?

Three, as long as the red mist still descends on your eyes, please keep shifting, and keep writing. Kevin

Greetings Ken Block,

I agree. Having the car unintentionally wipe out from under you can be quite a sobering experience, especially if done in full view of a traffic policeman (ha!). I’m glad you are still in one piece, but try not to do speeds that can induce drifts in urban environments. Risk factors and all that jazz …

The symptoms listed in 1 and 2 are indicative of loose transmission mounts, so you may want to have those checked. The clicking noise may be from the CV joints: a torn boot lets dirt in which gets into the grease and causes the clicking.

I’ve never heard of anyone oiling the mounts on a car, monocoque or ladder. I may need to ask around a bit more about this. I sure will keep writing, but you have to promise me to keep the stunt driving off public roads and away from potential victims.

Please don’t drift in roundabouts, unless you have a specific set-up to do so; a set-up that involves the authorities (turns out it’s not that difficult to close off a road if you want to drift on it in peace and free of risk).


I need affordable car but feel like I’m downgrading

I am currently looking forward to buying my first car. Something small, reliable — tow truck drivers are not known for their customer service nor their friendly prices — and pocket conscious to avoid pecuniary embarrassment when service time comes beckoning. As such, I am obviously looking to the Orient.

Despite my love for the Suzuki Swift Sport, I have decided to settle for its lesser, Sport-free sibling, the plain Swift, due to its automatic transmission as I shall permanently be in start-stop traffic. I am, however, hoping to find a trim that has paddle shifts to console myself (they are available but rare).

Thus, please let me know whether the car has any specific gremlins that should make me reconsider its other two sisters, the Vitz (too bland and overpriced) and the Demio (too common and well, just no), and any other model that you may deem appropriate, aside from boot space, which I know and accept is inexistent in the Swift. All models being considered are in their 2011 variants.

I also happen to currently drive a 3.5l (I think) Harrier loaned from an uncle. Any advice for how to deal with the downgrade in power and ground clearance? Maina

Hi Maina,

I find it just a little bit noteworthy and not at all coincidental that you inquire after the Swift, an inquiry whose similarity to another on my social media (my now infamous Facebook group, specifically) did not go unnoticed.

There seems to be a lot of crossover activity between the group and this column, but then again, why wouldn’t there be? The former exists because of the latter and the two are meant to be complementary.

Anyway, end user feedback in my group revealed the Swift to be a generally painless car to own, and a little fun to drive — better than the average Oriental white good that dominates Uber usage in the country; which is just about consistent with my own observations behind the wheel of a contemporary model. The only gripe people seemed to have was cost of parts — they claim parts are expensive — but when I looked askance upon these responders to be a bit more specific in their feedback — such as what parts exactly are these and what do they cost versus, say, Golf parts or Auris parts — I was what millennials call “left hanging”.

I am still waiting for a more solid answer, but in the meantime feel free to dive right in, costly parts notwithstanding. They may be relatively more expensive than their rivals’ but they cannot be crazy-expensive, like German or English territory, right? Right?

Steering away from the Vitz and the Demio (grrr!) seems more a matter of personal choice, so hey, I can’t fault you on that. It is even laudable to some extent, in that you don’t want to kowtow to the current Kenya-style and follow the stream like a dead fish.

I like someone who thinks different, but still keeps it logical. It helps create a bit of colour and variety in the industry without sacrificing reliability or affordability. You are warmly received in these pages, I am sure you will like it here.

As for the downgrade … well, just grin and bear it. There is no other way to put it. It will not be a downgrade per se, but it will definitely be a different experience.

You will miss the effortlessness of the 3.5-litre V6, but gain handling prowess and chuckability in return. You will miss the luxury and comfort, but you now have a vehicle that is compact and much easier to park. You will miss the ground clearance (you now have to be careful how you negotiate potholes and bumps), but you gain outstanding and vastly improved fuel economy in exchange.

So, instead of viewing this as a downgrade, how about regarding it as a trade-off? After all, that is exactly what it is.


Having car trouble? Write to [email protected] for free advice.