Broken Transaxle Mount in Mulege'
We spent the last few days tinkering with the bus on the beach, and taking advantage of having a neighbor with expertise. Some small jobs that we have simply not taken care of yet (replacing spark plugs and wires, distributor cap etc), but also tweaking some adjustments with John in an attempt to figure out why we seem to be running on 3.5 cylinders instead of 4. The broken front transaxle mount was a difficult part to find, but one of the shops outside mulege had one in the back. We return to the beach after another oppressively hot and exhausting day in town.
After the sun starts to go down and we think we can deal with the heat we jack up the bus and start pulling out bolts to replace the mount. John has us convinced this will be a quick job, but as we get knee-deep we realize that the mount isn't simply bolted on but is connected by 4 studs that dont give us enough room to remove the mount without removing (or at least pushing back) the entire engine and transaxle. Not the news we had hoped for and we will have to head into town tomorrow to try and find a mechanic to help with the job. We keep hearing of a great vw mechanic in LaPaz, but at this point we can barely shift and LaPaz is (for us) a two+ day drive away.
We work past sunset, and then try to focus on our surroundings and the first cool evening in a week rather than our string of mechanical issues.
In the morning we head into the mechanic, work a bit to explain the job and he has us wait an hour until the pit is clear so we can all look together. We await our turn, then climb under the bus with el mechanico and do our best to describe the problem in broken spanglish. He understands and can do it, but wont be able to get to it until monday morning. We ask about other shops and he directs us to an amigo with a junkyard a few km away. He is also kind enough to call and explain the problem in spanish so we arent starting over.
We take John back home to the beach and head to the junkyard (where i presume all good mechanic work in baja is done). We climb into the cesspool/oil pit, jack up the engine and transaxle and start wedging bars to lift/shove everything back a few inches. Much easier here than on the beach. They get the old part out, we see that the mount has simply delammed between the steel and rubber portions, and (of course), both of the rear transaxle mounts have done the same. es una problema.
The guys struggle to get the new mount in place before we realize that its a slightly different part and just too big to fit- una problema grande. This is where things get interesting and we start trying to problem solve in spanglish and hand-gestures. We go through a few possible solutions including calling Ciudad Constitucion about ordering the part and drilling a new hole to simple tie the pieces together, but they dont have a phone and there isn't enough room for the drill. I suggest taking off the built-in mount studs and drilling holes to pass new bolts through the mount to the trans, and i think he is simply going to ask his father if it will work- but by the time i climb out of the pit he has already ground one bolt off and we are committed. The mount won't function now, so if this doesnt work we are sleeping in the junkyard for a while.
A bit of machining later, the original mount is back in place we we push the transaxle back and tighten everything back together. The shifting feels smoother than i can remember, and according to these guys the idea makes the mount "better than new" but i'll wait and check in with the experts on the samba and see if thats true. Either way, it should get us easily to LaPaz and a better mechanic/parts shop.
Im not sure how much this rush part swap and several hours of labor/machine work would have cost us back home...but im guessing well more than the $15 we paid.
Instead of back to the beach, Jen and i head into town since we had already packed up camp for worse-case scenario. We decide to rent a cheap hotel for the night to catch up on internet, get a real shower or three and watch the ducks season opener...not bad timing as far as we're concerned. The hotel and services cost us less than we would have spent on some drinks and fried chicken in the first half at our favorite duck bar back home...so we figure we got our temporary repairs and lodging for less than the normal price of watching a game. Not too shabby, although this game had a 3 hour delay and was announced in spanish...so i guess that accounts for the difference.
I think we had almost forgotten how good a true shower and a/c felt. We love staying in the bus and hadn't really anticipated needing a hotel, but this week was so swelteringly hot we welcomed the chance to reset our internal body temps and go at it again.