Second-hand buyer’s guide: Mitsubishi Pajero

Mitsubishi Pajero Saudi

The Mitsubishi Pajero is something of a legend in these parts. And with good reason. It’s powerful, it’s comfortable, it’s great off-road, and it’s extremely well-priced. Even brand new, you can pick one up starting at AED 89,900, and that’ll get you a 3.5-litre engine, a very capable four-wheel-drive system, and most of the safety and convenience gadgetry you can reasonably expect from a modern car at that price point.

Naturally, if you want to spend more, you can. That AED 89,900 is enough for the base model with three doors, but if you’re willing to increase your budget, the Pajero is available as a full-sized, five-door family SUV with a 3.8-litre engine and luxury trimmings like leather seats, Bluetooth connectivity and satellite navigation. And you’ll still be paying less for that than you would for an equivalent Toyota Land Cruiser Prado.

Because of its good pricing, and because of its capabilities as an all-round family car and a desert-dwelling dune basher, it’s little wonder that the Pajero one of the UAE’s most popular cars. As you may have noticed, there are loads of them here. And though they’re very reasonably priced brand new, they look even better on the second-hand market, which is flooded with used Pajeros.

Indeed, the current one has basically remained the same since 2008 – this means that there’s a good eight years’ worth of second-hand models that are almost as good as the new car. And if you’re interested, there are plenty of older models, too – the cheapest one we’ve seen on is a 1999 model and it goes for AED 6,500.

But before you get any ideas about taking advantage of a deal like that, be sure to consult our buyer’s guide for second-hand Pajeros. It could save you a lot pain in the long run.

The Pajero’s chassis was updated in 2000, with Mitsubishi ditching the traditional two-component (body on top of the car floor) set-up for a monocoque design (body and floor are one structure). With that in mind, you’re unlikely to encounter a second-hand Pajero using the old chassis design – though that AED 6,500 one mentioned above does use the two-part structure.

Either way, though, both chassis designs are well-known for being tough (some even believe that the old design was stronger). There are virtually no stories of Pajeros suffering from major chassis problems, meaning you only need to look out for wear and tear.

That said, bear in mind that, because of the Pajero’s off-road capabilities, the car you’re looking at may well have been pushed pretty hard off-road during its lifetime. Be sure to check for damage to the chassis rails (the frames holding the floor of the car together). And look carefully at the underbody protection plates – if the car has seen off-road action, a common injury is protection plates that are either bent or pushed up above the components they’re supposed to be protecting. The front guard is especially prone to damage from off-roading (though it’s an easy and cheap fix if you need a new one).

The Pajero hasn’t had many engine updates over the course of its life, with Mitsubishi apparently adopting an “if it ain’t broke…” mentality. The 3.8-litre V6 has been the top-of-the-range engine for a number of years, and it’s legendarily reliable. The same can be said for the 3.5-litre V6, which, while a little underpowered, is still a good engine.

As a result, you shouldn’t be put off by Pajeros with over 100,000 kilometres on the clock – the engines will still have plenty of life left in them, if they’ve been serviced properly. Still, take the car on a test drive, and if you notice fumes from the exhaust, it could be an indicator that the engine is on its last legs. A high-pitched rumble could also serve as a warning that the engine isn’t quite right. Be wary of these things because, in general, the only way to fix them is by conducting a full engine overhaul, which, while affordable, will still end up being more expensive than if you’d just bought a good second-hand model.

The majority of Pajeros sold in the UAE come with automatic gearboxes, and they should slide into Drive and Reverse instantly and without any drama. If there’s a clunking noise, or if there’s a noticeable delay between moving the gear shifter and the car actually engaging that gear, it could indicate a knackered gearbox. As with the engine, the only fix for this is a full overhaul.

Wheels and steering
Wheel alignment is definitely something to watch out for when buying a used Pajero – precisely because people tend to take them off-road. Carefully check the positioning of all four wheels, making sure that they’re aligned with each other – use a tape measure to measure the distance between the wheels if you have to.

Another common malady is a bent steering rack, which can again be caused by rough off-road use. Have someone come to inspect the car with you, and ask them to turn the steering wheel while you inspect the front wheels. Both front wheels should be pointing straight ahead when the steering wheel is centered, and they should both turn at the same rate when the steering wheel is rotated. Aside from this, check that the steering wheel turns smoothly and quietly – listen out for any grinding noises, which could indicate bigger problems with the steering.

One of the most common issues seen on used Pajeros – even ones that haven’t been off-road – is a cracked shock absorber. It’s not the end of the world, and is an easy fix, but if you can, buy one with perfect suspension components. Unfortunately, you can’t really tell if the shock absorber is cracked on your own, but any issues will present themselves if you get the car checked at an RTA Tasjeel centre.

Gadgets and interior
Many second-hand Pajeros tend to be light on gadgets, so there’s often little that will go wrong from an electronic point of view. Still, be aware that some Pajeros have issues with their reversing parking sensors, so check that they’re functional by backing the car up towards something. Otherwise, check that the sunroof and electronic side mirrors are all fully operational. CD players in older Pajeros also tend to go wrong, so if you want to play CDs in the car, bring a selection along for the test drive.

In terms of the interior, the Pajero is generally pretty tough, but bear in mind that many here are used as family buses – and everyone knows the damage that bored kids can inflict on car interiors. Check thoroughly for stains, tears and other imperfections. A worn seat won’t be a dealbreaker, obviously, but it’s best to know what you’re getting into before signing on the dotted line.

Aside from the advice above, always be sure to get a second-hand car fully checked at an RTA-approved testing centre before making a purchase.

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