Saturday, February 9, 2008

Honda Repairs

After 240,000 KMs the old '89 Accord was finally demanding some attention. The (original) rear suspension was so weak our rear seat passengers were commenting on it "bottoming out" on every bump. The rear end of the car probably has well in excess of 275,000 KMs on it as a result of being towed on a dolly several times across the USA. The rear brakes were also in bad shape as a result of my driving the car with the emergency brake on. This is not the first time I have done this.... ( ;>(

I asked Andreas in the office if he knew of a good "Taller Mechanico", and he immediately recommended Ignacio Lozano Ramirez or, "Nacho" of Multiservicios Automotrices. Andreas called Nacho and arranged for him to meet me at the RV Park the next morning to ride with me for almost an hour in this huge city to his shop. Nacho is a former Commercial Lear Jet pilot who got tired of that boring job ("Fly for 18 minutes and then wait in a hotel room for two days") and decided to start working with his hands. His shop is open air, dirt floored and well equipped although not in the way most of you in Canada and the USA would expect but he had the tools to do every job. He took the brakes off and discovered both hydraulic cylinders were ruined as well as the shoes. He called his supplier who arrived on a motorcycle to take the old parts away to be replaced including the drums to be turned. Next Nacho's mechanic (his cousin) started taking the old shocks and coil springs off while Nacho's wife started calling parts suppliers for replacements. She found new shocks by the time she got to the "G"s in the Yellow Pages but by the time she got to the "XYZ's she still had no coil springs.

This is where you see the difference between Mexican and Canadian (or USA) mechanics. Instead of admitting defeat, Nacho got on the Internet and started researching. He discovered that 89 Accords had very similar suspension as several other years and some other models. His wife then started at the "A"s again and modified her search and finally found some springs. When they arrived, again by motorcycle, Nacho compared them with the old ones and found they had more coils and were slightly bigger (stronger). He looked hard at the pieces they had to mate to and declared, "I can make them work". He got a hacksaw and cut a couple of coils off, filed things down a bit where they joined the mounts and pretty soon we had a complete new rear suspension, much stronger than the original. That is a good thing as we use the car as a "cargo trailer" as we move around the country.

The brakes were now back but the replacement cylinders did not have the correct mounts to fit the Honda. Nacho looked at them and decided he could take the pistons and seals out of the new housings and put them back in my original housings. No Problemo!" He successfully did that and soon the Honda was sporting new brakes. A testimony to the ingenuity that comes from years of working with what you have.

All this took from 10:00 in the morning until 7:00 at night. Except for a short time when we were waiting for material, there was at least one and at times three people working on the car in addition to the hour or more that Nacho's wife was on the phone looking for parts. I was confident that my bill would be substantially less than it would have been in Canada but even then I was surprised when presented with a total bill of only $4700 Pesos or about $450 CAN. Of this about $360 was for parts and contracted out work (turning the drums) and the rest was labour. A very good deal!

Everyone worked very hard but had fun at the same time. They would tease each other and tell jokes which Nacho would translate for me. Soon everyone tried to tell their jokes in English for my benefit. Much was "lost in translation" which made them even funnier. Nachos daughter showed up with his six or eight month old granddaughter, Maria Carmalita, a beautiful little girl who was absolutely fascinated by my "white" face! She started laughing and giggling every time I got close to her. I played with her and talked to her mother and grandmother in the office for a couple of hours until she fell asleep and her mother took her home across the street where I think the whole extended family lives. By now it was dark and the car was finished. We test drove it by driving Nacho and his wife back to the RV Park so they could pick up their car and return home. He had been working for eleven hours with only one meal break and was hungry and exhausted. People who say Mexican workers are lazy should have been in that shop for the day! They would have changer their opinion.

The reason I had to stay with the car for the day is that Mexican Nationals cannot legally drive any vehicle with foreign plates! This makes life very difficult for mechanics as they cannot pick up, deliver or test drive the vehicles they are working on. The Mexican Government usually tries to make things easy for workers but this is a big exception!

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