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Car trouble

Oaxaca, February 2007, 30,000 mile maintenance

We gave the car in for the 30,000 mile maintenance at the Toyota dealership in Oaxaca. First problem: they didn’t know what a 30,000 mile maintenance was. In Mexico, Toyota maintenance specs are in kilometers. In the end they agreed to change the oil and filter, the rear differential oil, rotate the tires, tighten the bolts on the chassis and clean it.

The work on every single thing (except cleaning the chassis) was flawed. They put 6.5 quarts of oil instead of 5.5; didn’t include the spare tire in their rotation, didn’t tighten the bolts on the chassis and put an extremely high torque on the differential plug. These problems plagued us for quite a while, we were able to redo everything except check the differential oil; we managed to strip the bolt since the torque was so high. Finally we put this problem to rest in Playa del Carmen, where a recommended mechanic was able to crack the bolt, check the oil level and replace it with the new plug and gasket that we had bought.

Playa del Carmen, April 7, 2007, Chassis wash

Having been in the salty beach air for a while as well as over rough roads, we decided to get the car body as well as the chassis washed. We should have paid more attention to the “Engrasso” signage. A chassis wash in Mexico includes coating the underside of the car with used motor oil to protect against the ocean salt. For us, it was back to the lift to remove as much oil as we could from the brake lines and the CV joints.

Nebah, April 23rd, 2007, Hi Lift Jack mount

The knob on the Hi Lift Jack mount fell off on the rough road from the Quetzal Biotopo to Nebaj. We probably didn’t tighten it enough after the tire rotation in Coban. The jack was temporarily fixed in place with a ratcheting strap until we could get a bolt of the right size.

Antigua, April 30, 2007, Oil change and Spark plug replacement

This time we got a recommendation for a mechanic from Fernando’s Kaffe, next to our hotel in Antigua. The mechanics at the shop were very good, however, we still had some minor issues. The first problem was the availability of 5W30 oil in Guatemala. Everyone apparently uses 15W40 or 20W50. Luckily he was able to find the oil grade we needed, since we plan on being at higher altitudes and cooler climates we didn’t want to chance it with the thicker oil. Another issue was the large amount of anti seize compound they put on the spark plugs when they were replaced. We later fixed this in La Ceiba, Honduras. We had asked them to clean the cabin filter too which caused us problems later when the ac stopped functioning. Luckily all it took was a re-seating of the cabin filter.

Quirigua, May 5, 2007, Alarm malfunction

Our Clifford 50.5x alarm suddenly started malfunctioning in Quirigua. We couldn’t arm the car without the alarm tripping and reporting a compromise of the trunk. We finally decided to call our installers, Custom Car Alarms in San Francisco. After a bit of troubleshooting, consulting wire diagrams and making sure that none of the sensors were malfunctioning, we concluded that it was a short in the trunk circuitry and decided to cut the offending wire going to the alarm “brain”. Since a true compromise of the trunk (for our car) is reported by the door circuitry, we hoped that this wouldn’t compromise the alarm functionality. Everything worked after the surgery was made and all the various sensors are still functional.

A complication caused by our fiddling with the alarm was that we managed to dislodge the power line to the secondary fuel pump, its gauge along with the one for the secondary battery. This was corrected in extreme heat in La Ceiba, Honduras.

San Jose, May 5, 2008, Window malfunction

After an adventurous (for the car) ferry crossing parked next to a truck full of cows pooping and peeing on it on the ferry from San Jorge to Isla Ometepe (Honduras), the driver’s side window started to malfunction. It shortly got worse and upon opening it up we found that both the plastic pieces connecting the window to the metal arm that raises and lowers it were broken.

Unfortunately, Toyota doesn’t sell the plastic pieces separately and we had to buy the whole window and get it installed at the dealership.

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