Car Clinic: Bidding, Blocks And Korean Hatches

Car Clinic: Bidding, Blocks And Korean Hatches


I’m a first-time driver and I’m planning to buy a car at an auction. Please advise on the advantages and disadvantages of buying a car at an auction. Is it true that it’s risky to buy a car with more than 50 000 km on the clock?



Auctions are extremely risky places to buy a used car, Phumi, even for an experienced bidder who also happens to be an accomplished motor mechanic, because you can normally not take the car for a test-drive.

For a first-time driver, it would be sheer madness. Oh, you may hear of wonderful guarantees, but then you may also hear that the moon is made of cheese.

For someone in your position, the best options are:

-Find a reputable used-car dealer and look for a late-model volume-selling car with low mileage (preferably under 30 000km). From October onwards, the bigger franchised dealers get one-year-old cars back from car rental companies. These have usually been serviced regularly and can be a good buy. They often come with a believable warranty.

-Scour the classified ads for used cars for sale by private sellers. If you stick to volume- produced models, and can find the right kind of seller, you can buy a reliable, economical car this way for a reasonable price. In all cases, it’s essential that you take a mechanically knowledgable, streetwise person with you when viewing a car. In the used-car game there are good guys and bad guys.

Believe me, you want to avoid the latter.


I have been looking for a Haynes-type workshop manual for my 2008 6.0 Chev Lumina. I would even be happy with the Holden version. Can you steer me in the right direction?



Peter, you are a lucky man to be the owner of a Chev with the 6-litre LS2 V8 engine, the successor in spirit to Ed Cole’s legendary “small-block” Chevy V8 of 1954/55, an engine which, in various displacement sizes, became the most widely used V8 yet produced.

By 2011, more than 100 million small-block engines had been built. As an engine displacing 350 cubic inches (5.7 litres), it was the GM corporate standard for years, being installed in everything from sports cars to station wagons and even in boats.

The small-block engine was available in GM vehicles right up until 2002 (a 47-year production run), and the 350 is still being produced by GM’s plant in Toluca, Mexico, for marine and industrial applications, and for dyed-in-the-wool petrolheads.

When it comes to DIY maintenance, owners of American cars are fortunate in that there’s a strong tradition of “backyard tinkering” (in the best sense of the term) in the US. The manufacturers cooperate by keeping parts interchangeable, and by making spares and workshop manuals freely available (in contrast to some European and Asian manufacturers, which seem to actively discourage owner involvement).

I see there are workshop manuals for the Holden Commodore (VE series), almost identical to our Chev Lumina, on eBay. Beware of crazy postage charges and if, like me, you dislike manuals on CD, make sure it’s an actual book you are buying.


I am a first-time car buyer, and am looking at the Hyundai Accent or the Kia Rio sedan. Please advise which of these (or which other brand) you think is the best buy.



Lorraine, the Accent and Rio sedan are so evenly matched that personal preference really is the overriding consideration. Try to obtain one of each for a weekend test and spend some time on the road with it.

It should then be clear which one you like best, and at the same time it will give you the opportunity to get to know the dealers. Thereafter, it becomes a matter of negotiating for the best price, or waiting until a special promotion for the car of your choice.

The market for new cars is very much a buyer’s market at the moment — most dealers will do their utmost to capture a first- time buyer. A lesser, but significant, consideration is that Hyundai has its own network of authorised workshops (107 of them) around the country, backed by what I believe to be a good training scheme for mechanics, whereas Kia uses multifranchise workshops, which also cater for Renault, Daihatsu, Tata, and FAW — and there are fewer of them.

During a car’s warranty period, the proximity and professionalism of the nearest authorised workshop will influence your enjoyment of the vehicle. The two Koreans provide excellent value for money; you won’t easily find better. Good luck with your purchase — one’s first car always has a special place in one’s heart.

-Gerrit Burger

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