Thursday, May 7, 2009

Gimme A Brake!

We brought a new 2005 Subaru Outback with us from north of the border.  It seemed like the perfect car to have in an area which may experience driving problems from time to time, say during a hurricane.  With All Wheel Drive and a ground clearance of nine inches,  it is a rugged vehicle and quite favored by drivers from the Great Pacific Northwest.  Yes, it is a law that we from that region of the country have to say "Great" before we can say Pacific Northwest.
The problem is this:  when taking this wonderful example of Japanese engineering into a local Yucatan auto shop, one might as well be pulling up in the Mars Lander.  Subarus are rare in Mexico and seemingly even rarer on the peninsula.  Fortunately at the local tire shop in Progreso Llantica, they do our oil changes with no problems having found a suitable oil filter replacement that isn't exactly Subaru genuine but seems to do the job just fine.
This week, however, a little bit bigger task was at hand.
The brakes started making that grinding sound that indicates new pads are in order so we took it into Llantica in Progreso to see what they could do.  In short order, they said they could do nothing but no problem.  If we went to the Llantica in Merida (the big city), they could help us there.  Well.....yes and no.
The hombre in charge at the Merida Llantica sadly informed us that he could not do the job.  However, he steered us to another place, Clutchs y Frenos Chuburna.  They deal with clutches (clutchs) and brakes (frenos).  This was not in Chuburna the little fishing village, but Colonia Chuburna in Merida.  For the uninitiated, Merida is made up of many colonias or small neighborhoods and driving around town is very, very confusing as the street names and  numbers change from colonia  to colonia.
The hombre in charge obviously could see my confusion from the open-mouth stare I was giving him, i.e "this gringo will never find this place on his own", so he commanded one of his muchachos to get on his "moto" (motorbike) and lead us to Clutchs y Frenos!
All of this day so far, by the way, was being conducted in Spanish.  Sort of makes it a little tougher, but not impossible.
So off we went.
...for about 4 blocks before he ran out of gas.
No problem, he informed us and went trotting down the road with his moto to get some gas.

One thing you quickly learn about Mexicans.  Most things are "No problem" even when they are a problem.  So we waited.  And, about 10 minutes later, back he came and we were on our way again.  We never saw the gas station where he refueled....
Eventually we came to Clutchs y Frenos.
We bid farewell to our guide, marveling at the helpfulness of the guys at Llantica.  Before we headed out to the brake place we had asked the head hombre to quote us a price for a full tune-up which he did.  Do you think he earned our business?  Damn straight!  We will have that work done there.
At Clutchs y Frenos we were warmly greeted by the Gerente de Servicios, Mario Can Cuevas.  We told him we were possibly looking for a set of rear brakes as the front brakes appeared just fine.  He assured us he would have a look and to give him a call bout 2 p.m.  This was a 10:45 so we had some time to kill.
Let's look around Clutchs y Frenos.
It's a very basic and busy shop.
The machine shop complete with nudies on the wall...

And evidence of mucho clutchs replaced.....

So with over 3 hours to kill, we hot-footed it (literally it was a cooker in Merida today) to Avenue Technologico  and caught a combi bus  to the Gran Plaza Mall to have lunch and do some shopping.  If you've never ridden in a combi, you're in for a treat.  They have no shock absorbers.  That task is performed by your spine.

Only 3 pesos for a ride on a senior rate(see senior card)
And when you hit a topes (speed bump)'s a lot of "pow for the peso".
After lunch and shopping we opted for a 40 peso cab ride back to the shop to spare our senior skeletal system further combi abuse and prepared for abuse of another kind:  the dreaded "repair bill".  Sr. Cuevas met us at the cashier's window and they presented the tab:  $350 pesos (about $30.00 U.S.).  Indra immediately sensed something was wrong and they didn't replace the brakes as we had requested.  Sr. Cuevas calmly informed us that the car didn't need new brakes after all, just a cleaning and adjustment.  And sure enough, there is no more grinding sound.
I don't know of your past experiences north of the border with this type of situation, but Indra and I agreed it probably wouldn't be too difficult to find a repair shop that would have just replaced the brakes, and probably would have given us a scary story about a soon-to-fail master cylinder to boot.
Two plus years into our Mexican adventure and we continue to be amazed on a nearly daily basis.
More later,


Mary said...

Indra's probably right.

Malcolm said...

You need some spam protection, stat. That being said, this is one of my favorite blog posts of yours, so far. It is really hard to capture that snowballing-problem scenario that dominates the day to day of our lives here in Mexico, and you do it very well in this piece. I had a good time reading it.

Ray said...

Nice work on this description. Being a car guy for decades I have done my own brake replacements as well as have experienced the flip side going to dealers and garages. Dealers and garages would have done the full deal whether it was required or not and would have shown you the brake pads as proof, however they would have come from some other vehicle as I caught one shop doing.

Margie Moss said...

I really enjoy reading your blog! It is so well written that I actually can imagine myself right there with you riding the combi! Ouch! LOL
You sure got lucky with that repair shop! I loved the Subaru that I had before and I am thinking about getting another one now! :-)
I can't wait to read your next adventure!

norm said...

I was told years ago that there are three people a man needs in life: a honest Doctor, a honest Lawyer and a honest Mechanic. Good luck with the other two...

Anonymous said...

I don't suppose you have the actual address to post - the street and "entre" streets?

Great article! Thanks!