What you need to know:
- The reason I am yet to experience this vehicle with that engine is because Toyota Kenya has not started selling it yet, and with good cause.
- The word you are looking for is “tropicalisation”, a topic I discussed on these very pages over the course of two weeks back.
Why is my beloved car suddenly guzzling diesel exhaust fluid at an alarming rate?
For a year-and-a-half now, I have owned a 2015 2.8 Ltd Diesel Turbo-Charged TZG Prado, crème de la crème of the Prado stable, a real superfast and comfy ride!
Those who say Prados are underwhelming have their nemesis in this 1GD-FTV model.
Serious torque. Serious power. Great fuel economy too. I have had no issues at all with this car, except the occasional stolen spare tire and, like many a Nairobi motorist, having to spoil the car by riveting almost all detachable parts to deter small-time criminals.
However, at the last service in September this year, I noticed it is guzzling diesel exhaust fluid with more gusto than that of the Covid-19 thieves who gobbled up our funds. The 8ltr AdBlue tank typically takes me to 10,000 km, but after the last service, I had barely gone 250km before the AdBlue warning light lit up.
I re-filled it up and same thing happened, the dash lit up, only that now other warning lights (anti-skid) also sprang up on the dash. I confirmed the vehicle’s AdBlue tank had no leakage.
Three top-ups later, the warning light still came back. Non-official dealers reviewed the diagnostics and told me the ECU is literally pouring the diesel exhaust fluid on the SCR system rather than only when needed.
They suggested they can upgrade/edit the software to remove the AdBlue bits, and then remove SCR system altogether. I was very skeptical of this, but reset they did, and while all the other warning lights have gone, the AdBlue one remains.
How do I resolve this issue permanently? Further, am I likely to encounter the DPF issue this model has faced in other markets, mostly Australia, given our diesel fuel grade/quality?
I reckon better to be pro-active and know how to handle this DPF issue if it comes, rather than wait for it to come and then deal with it. My car does have the manual DPF button for performing manual DPF regen on the filter when it will be necessary.
Plus, I drive on the highway at average speed and through jams daily, which I suppose will minimise need for a DPF regen.
Would you know of any patch management/ECU update done since Sept 2015 when the 1GD-FTV engine debuted? If so, where can I get this upgrade should I need one, to help resolve the diesel exhaust fluid and potential DPF issues permanently?
Thank you for the correspondence on my favorite SUV packing an engine that I fell in love with at first rev, but would you believe I have never driven this particular permutation?
I have experienced the 1GD engine - several times in fact - and I have experienced the J150 Prado through all of its various facelifts and updates, but I have never driven a Prado with a 1GD engine, that happened with the Hilux double cab and the Fortuner. Odd, right?
Not so odd, apparently. The reason I am yet to experience this vehicle with that engine is because Toyota Kenya has not started selling it yet, and with good cause.
The word you are looking for is “tropicalisation”, a topic I discussed on these very pages over the course of two weeks back when my awesomeness in automotive journalism was still in its infancy but my competence had long since been established (forgive me, I like to brag).
Tropicalisation simply means adjusting or modifying a vehicle to suit a specific environment, in this instance the environment being ours, which just happens to lie within the tropics, hence the name.
It involves a lot of things such as bolstered suspensions, cooling system upgrades, detuned engines, sturdier chassis and in your case, either lowered emissions control or complete removal of the same. This is why the Prado may be sold locally with the 1GD in the near future, but at the present, that will not happen.
Before you don your sustainable hemp jacket and eco-friendly bamboo pants to go picketing outside Nyayo Stadium about how Toyota Kenya is endangering the natural habitats of the Emperor penguin, allow me to firmly place my hands on your shoulders and push you back into your seat.
Hold up. It's not their fault. They are simply adapting to the environment, and you, sir, are living proof of exactly why they will not sell the 1GD Prado here until it has been detuned and decatted.
We have no real emissions standards in this country, so selling a vehicle that swills urea (AdBlue is pee, by the way) alongside diesel and probably oil is shooting oneself in the foot. Maintenance of the smog elimination equipment is going to be trial by fire and the reputational damage that will stem from it will lead to massive losses in sales.
This is a multi-tiered mud cake where the blame game starts from the top. Allow me to smudge your windscreen with the filthy picture.
At the very top of this unpalatable confectionery is the government, the authorities, or a term I was taught in Baltimore: political will.
Humans being humans will always require administration, if we leave it up to the people to police themselves as far as environmental impact is concerned, everybody will be driving around with massive twin Weber carburettors and straight/through-pipe exhausts because a car with no equipment is cheap - you don't pay for any extras - and we like cheap.
So the government has to step in and issue protocols, regulations, ultimatums and codicils to save us from ourselves.
Below this are the corporations who have to abide by these laws dealt from above. Unfortunately, a corporation's first priority is the bottom line, the cabbage, their “responsibility to their shareholders”. Mullah. Cheese. Bread. Money. They will cut costs at any cost, so to speak, and sometimes end up cutting corners to achieve this end. Cutting corners covers a whole lot of shady activity, be it dodgy refining processes in the fractionating columns energy companies use to distill crude oil, or putting old engines in new cars and hoping their customers don't read Baraza's witty scribbling every Wednesday and decide to open their bonnets to find out for themselves what is going on there.
Below this we have the distribution network, the dealers. These too are not immune to scrutiny. A connection of mine at Total tells me the diesel that enters the country is A1 and can run a Euro 5 or Euro 6 engine without fuss, the problem with fueling at a petrol station is what happens between the diesel landing in Mombasa and it being dumped into the storage tanks underground beneath the forecourt where you pay money to have your car display persistent AdBlue warning lights in the cluster.
The word we are looking for is “adulteration”. Before I continue, allow me to absolve the above accused of blame.
There is political will by the government and as we speak, there are statutes in place to bring this country at least to Euro 4 or Euro 5 standard within the next few years, and they are serious about it to the point of threatening franchise dealerships with punitive action if they do not toe the line with their inventory.
And it is not just random law-making, have you ever wondered why fuel prices keep fluctuating, more so the price of kerosene? It is because of juggling. The government is in a fix. Price it low to cater for members of the lower economic classes who depend on kerosene for their energy needs, and it finds its way into diesel fuel by way of greedy and unscrupulous distributors out to make a quick buck by topping up your bottle of Hendrick's Orbium with a dash of Nubian gin (aka chang'aa).
Once the diesel is adulterated thus, we have cases like yours on a good day and wrecked engines on a bad one. To prevent adulteration, the price of kerosene has to rise so that it does not make economic sense for distributors to mix it in with diesel, but now what?
You have put the low income citizenry into a quandary when they did no wrong (if you have a heart of flesh and blood), and/or you are alienating the same voters who put you into power and will look elsewhere for a friendlier representative if you don't tend to their needs (if you have air conditioning inside your chest and have an ice box where your heart used to be, you're so cold, you're so cold, you're so cold...)
What of the car dealers? Scania has been very assertive in raising the emissions standards of not just their own vehicles, but the ones the country is supposed to abide by. The same GD engine in your Prado is in fact installed in some of the locally sold SUVs and will eventually find its way into local Prados (I was not supposed to disclose this but I guess I'm in too deep to back out now), and the new Starlet is a tree-hugging gem.
The Corolla Cross that was launched yesterday was engineered to be as lightweight as possible specifically to reduce fuel consumption, and the model lineup includes a hybrid which may or may not be sold locally. These companies understand the responsibility that lies on their shoulders and want to meet it for the sake of the greater good.
Enough absolution. Let us continue chewing our way painfully down the carefully crafted manure cake that I was baking earlier. Below the shady distribution network, we reach the final level: the unschooled customer, he who is either unable or unwilling to see the bigger picture.
You, me and anybody else who thinks saving a few shillings per liter on fuel or a few thousand shillings on a poorly equipped vehicle with no emissions control is being financially savvy. Our penny-pinching ways are the reason we have these shady dealers in the platform immediately above us: they exist to feed our stupidity and short-sightedness because they too are trying to be “financially savvy”.
So what is up with this cake of mine? It is meant to highlight two ways to approach a major underlying issue: one, everybody is at fault. We all play a part in this mess. Two, this cake can be eaten in the opposite direction.
The blame could start either at the top for lack of proper enforcement despite the existence of political will, or at the bottom for lack of intelligence and inability/unwillingness to see the bigger picture, the bigger picture being the pursuit of self-interest comes at the cost of the survival of the species.
I will save money by buying a cheap, polluting vehicle and fueling it behind a bush, true, but my descendants will walk around in expensive gas masks if the sky does not choke them to death and raze their skins full of melanoma first.
As the president said when he imposed the current 10pm curfew, this is not the time for popular decisions, so down to the reason I went off on that hippie chant: your car. Some ECUs cannot be reprogrammed (Toyota being famous in the tuning world for this), but they can either be overridden through what we call “piggy back” chips, and when accessible, some of the codes can be deactivated rather than changed.
You will have to deactivate emissions controls on your vehicle to get rid of the errors, both by physically removing components and by messing around with the ECU.
This being a counterproductive measure, I will not recommend anyone for the job, but these people exist, right here in this country. Look hard enough and you will find them, and the day Toyota Kenya starts selling the 1GD Prado, make a beeline for them and trade in your car for something actually engineered for this market.
Sayonara, Maina-san. I'm out.