I arrived at the garage early this morning and within an hour or so, the engine had been pulled and I learned that the ring gear was worn, as was the starter bendix. The shaft of the water pump had a bit too much wobble and I told them to replace it too. The U-joints could be rebuilt. I was driven to the next large town, about an hour away, where I was told parts were readily available. It was my job to purchase the needed parts and return to the garage where the mechanics would finish the repairs. This is where I fully expected things to fall apart. What were the chances that anyone would have parts for a 1982 Daihatsu 4X4? The whole way there, I imagined a month or more or waiting for parts.
We pulled up in front of a plain looking small shop with a counter in front. As I approached the counter, I could see that the shop was a block deep and lined with neatly stacked shelves of parts, some hanging from hooks in the ceiling. Two well-dressed men about my age stood behind the counter and introduced themselves. One was the owner and the other was his best friend. My driver began to unload my worn parts onto the counter from the box we had brought. The owner picked up the used water pump and said, “Daihatsu, Si!” He picked up the next part which was the large ring gear and said Si.” Part after part was picked up, briefly examined and then affirmed with another Si. No computers. No large books to search. Simply experience. In less than 10 minutes, all the new parts had been assembled on the wooden counter and carefully matched with the worn parts we had brought with us. Small bushings, belts and all. In the states, a parts list like this could easily run $700 or more. My bill was $135.
While the bill was being tallied, the men wanted to learn about me, a North American buying parts for a car. I explained our story and was warmly received with “Welcome to Ecuador New Friend”….in Spanish of course. I was giddy and felt a bit like I had won the lottery.
I told Diane when we bought the car that I anticipated between $300-$500 worth of repairs to be done right away. Even with labor of about 6 hours anticipated, I don’t think we’ll hit that number. But if we do, it would cost about $1300-$1800 in the states for similar work at $85 an hour shop rate. Plus the shop would mark up the parts cost and add that to your bill.
This is an industrious country that is used to repairing things. Nothing is thrown away. Parts stores are abundant for bicycles, motorcycles and automobiles. Each parts store has a flock of independent, entrepreneurial, grease covered mechanics hovering out front, prepared to repair your broken transportation right there at the curb. Buy the parts and they’ll fix your thing! There are no air-driven tools. Everything is done manually and with skill and effort, just like the old days….and MUCH CHEAPER! There are generations of experience handed down from father to son and experience is truly earned.
Today was a culturally enriching day as my driver, Antonio, and I stopped at a roadside restaurant for a traditional lunch of soup, rice and fish with fresh juice. There was more than I could eat. I paid $5 for both lunches.
The car will be ready tomorrow morning after having been well tended by craftsmen the old-fashioned way. And the Great Ecuadorian Retirement Adventure Continues!