In November 2015, I switched from 2000 Suzuki Mehran to a 2004 Suzuki Baleno JXR. The car was in superb shape and required some maintenance jobs like clutch/pressure plate, some repair in suspension system and a weak engine gasket. It so happens that I have to travel between Karachi to Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Umerkot and Sehwan along with my family quite frequently. As a family man and a car enthusiast, I always keep my ride in best possible running conditions. That means that I am constantly listening for the emergence of unwanted noises and always rectifying the problems proactively. It is important to note that I am a government servant, and our organization has a few buildings in Karachi at different locations, and my residence is about 25-30 km away from my office. It takes approximately 1.5 hours to reach my office from my place.
It is going to be a long story so buckle up!
Start of the my “flop car” experience:
After only a single visit to Hyderabad, I instantly formed the opinion that clutch pressure plates need instant replacement. I went to a cousin of mine, who works in a body shop and asked him to get the job done for me from his colleagues. One of his colleagues stepped forward; he informed that it will take a day during which he will change the clutch pressure plate and on complimentary basis will wash the fuel injectors and check all the necessary DIY type of jobs. The next day I took the car to his workshop as agreed upon, and asked him when to come for the car. He said that it would be better if I come the next morning so that he can be sure of completing all the tasks. I agreed and on the next day, while returning from office at 5.00 pm I went to his workshop directly from my office and was really ‘pleased’ to see that the bonnet of the car was still up, the gearbox was not available, and one of the shock absorbers was missing!
Also Read: Used Car Reviews: 2001 Suzuki Baleno
On investigating, it was learned that the car will be ready the next day, I informed my cousin, and he also was furious with his colleague. I told him “Ustad parson mene har sorat Hyderabad jana hai, tumhary meherbani kal muje gary de dena (I have to visit Hyderabad the day after tomorrow on an emergency basis, so please make sure I get the car tomorrow).” The ustad agreed, and regarding the shock absorber he said the mounting was broken (which was true). The next day came and passed, and in the evening, I again got the pleasure of meeting the ustad. The gearbox was installed, but the shock absorber was still missing. I was really furious, but since he was a colleague of my cousin I remained calm and asked him that I need the car one way or another, so please complete the fittings. Somehow the ustad managed to perform the necessary fitting and during the process kept on urging that in the morning it will be ready. I did not waver and told him I need to go therefore I need the car. During the fitting process, he kept on checking other cars as well. Meanwhile, I called my cousin, and he arrived there. He was also very embarrassed, and I was feeling sorry for him. In the very last, when only a few of the bolts remained, the ustad went away to another car and did not return, my cousin called him after 15 minutes, and he replied that I will tight those in the morning. He got furious and abused him in the language of Ustaads, took up the wrench and tightened the bolts himself. Luckily the clutch pressure plate task did not require any setting or rechecking. That was the last day I met that ustad, and thereon I never visited him again. In the final stages when my cousin was tightening the bolts one of his other colleague who was present there said to my cousin “Yaar ustad Baleno hai he nakaam gary (Ustad, Baleno is a flop car)” I was not in the mood for an argument and kept quiet.
When it all went horribly wrong:
During the travel, I observed engine missing problem. In Hyderabad I have a friend who owns a workshop, he gave his opinion about Baleno that it is a good car, but once it gets the issue of missing and coils, it never gets resolved. However, he was able to fix the coils problem by changing them to side coils. After that, I did not visit the workshops for next four months except for routine oil change. Recently, in April 2015, I was traveling to Hyderabad from an unfamiliar route (via Thatta) when I bumped the car over a speed breaker at a speed of around 90-100 km/h. Instantly I recognized some noise in the front shock absorber. I went to the workshop of my friend in Hyderabad where he checked that the shock has leaked and after checking the market, we opted for brand new ones. They were for about PKR 11000 (along with the mountings and new springs). I spent a total amount of PKR 18000 that day on the suspension system. The task took about 4 hours to be completed as the shocks had to be brought from Hyderabad city. I got the car on the same day. The next day I was driving back to Karachi when I noticed that the car was not accelerating properly and was not going above 80 km/h. I checked the radiator, and I thought that the gasket was near end (there was a pressure created in the radiator). After reaching Karachi, I asked one of my office transport colleague to get this job done for me.
He was very kind to take my car to a local workshop from where the official vehicles having small issues are repaired. In the evening on my return, I got the car and was pleased to see it. My office colleague was there, and he produced the bill and informed me that a bearing was noisy, so we changed it, we changed the timing belt and other belts as they were worn and we replaced the timing belt cover. A total bill including mechanic fees of PKR 6000/-. I paid him the money and thanked him, and he said you may check the car for few days if any issue we will get it fixed. I said fine and in the night I took the keys and in a joy started the car to enjoy the ride. The car cranked, and the silencer vibrated giving a pleasant sound of a beating drum. I said to myself ‘no problem it’s a small issue I will tell my colleague and he will get it fixed” then the check engine light caught my eye. I reassured myself with the same thought. I turned on the A/C, and it was not working.
The next day I wrote these issues on a paper and delivered the keys and that paper to my office colleague who took the car to a mechanic. On that evening, the mechanic informed me that he has fixed the AC and in the morning the electrician will come, and he will fix the Check light. On the next evening when I got to the mechanic he said: “Sir the ignition system is taking load and needs replacement, the battery is worn out, the fuel injectors have a problem that’s why the car is missing, and this is also the reason of check engine light.”
I was livid but didn’t reply him, I called my office colleague and said: “I don’t know why or how my complete car has turned into trash and no system is working in it, however, it was all right the other day.” He talked to the mechanic and answered me that “sir the mechanic is agreed that in the morning he will service the ignition system, and he will arrange fuel injectors from any other vehicle and get your vehicle ready.” I replied that I am in no mood of going back to that person, so the office transport section guided me to the bigger workshop nearby with the recommendation and praised the guys over there that they will sort out everything. But the next morning my car did not crank! The battery had died. Somehow I arranged the battery and drove my car to that workshop and met with the manager. He instantly assigned a mechanic on the car and informed me that the check engine light is probably because of some jugaar of that ustad and due to the jugaar the alternator was not charging the battery properly. The final solution, complete wiring check of the engine bay and mechanical checkup along with checkup of the timing of car.
The bottom line was that I will get my car in two days. I had no other way than to agree with him. During these two days, I kept on visiting him for status. On the second day, he informed that when AC was turned on there was a smell of burning and on investigation it was found that one of the transistors in the ECU has burned. The solution being repair of ECU. Meanwhile, it was also established that the car was missing due to the leaking of valves. The head was removed and sent for valve replacement. On the fifth day the head was received back and fitted, and when we tried to start the car, it refused to start! It was established – this time – that the damage to ECU was irreparable, and the attempt of repair did not succeed, the solution being arranging another ECU from scrap market. Since that day, I kept on visiting him on the daily basis, but the answer remained the same that ECU is not available, and I have asked my contacts even in Lahore and Islamabad to arrange an ECU. I was shocked and stuck with this guy who was telling me that ECU of a car manufactured in Pakistan is not available in Sher Shah Market and need be checked in Lahore and Islamabad. With all due respect to Islamabad and Lahore, but it was completely illogical as in my understanding Sher Shah market serves as a source for Islamabad and Lahore as well.
On the 15th day, I discussed this issue with another cousin of mine who owns a leaf springs workshop. On the call he started abusing the manager of that workshop, on the next day, he came to my place with an ECU of Baleno and an electrician to fit it. We went to the workshop and started the car after trying for about 15-20 minutes. The manager displayed pleasure that I found the ECU but refused to release the car saying that we need to check the work we performed. I told him that as per your setup, your workshop remains closed on Sundays and tomorrow is Sunday, why do you want to stop the car when you do not intend to work on it in the morning? Halfheartedly he agreed and asked his handyman to fix the panels (which are still not properly set due to the unavailability of clips).
The conclusion of this horrific tale:
The next day I took my car to my cousin. He called his colleagues, and it has been decided that he will personally overlook the CNG fittings and other fittings, and he will get them performed from his contacts. Moreover, this task will be completed in 3-4 hours, and I can hopefully get my car in the ready state in the evening. It was further advised by my cousin that never to visit that workshop again, and if he asks for money, then I should ask him for compensation of damaging ECU of my car as, in my cousin’s opinion, it was damaged (intentionally or unintentionally) by that workshop.
The final unanimous opinion of all the colleagues of my cousin is, “Baleno nakaam gary hai, bohat tang karty hai! (Baleno is a flop car, and it gets you in trouble)”.
But I must ask, is it Baleno’s fault, or is it the fault of all those ustaads who had absolutely no idea what was going on? I think the answer is pretty clear.