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Author: Subject: Breakdown stories
Paco Facullo
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[*] posted on 8-13-2019 at 09:15 AM
Breakdown stories


So I was a wondering the what if's of a major breakdown while in Baja. Like a transmission going out.

How did you get towed ? (and cost)
How long and how did you get repair parts ?

Any stories ? Tips ?




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SFandH
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[*] posted on 8-13-2019 at 10:04 AM


I've had a transmission break and an engine fire. One a Chevy 1/2 ton between San Felipe and Mexicali, the other a Ford 1/2 ton between Viscaino and Guerrero Negro. Tow trucks, hotels, giant hassles. We spent almost a week in G. Neg. The mechanic took the transmission apart and put it back together 3 times before he got it right. Had to get a torque converter delivered by bus from Ensenada.

The engine fire (overheated transmission, fluid bubbled up dipstick onto the exhaust manifold and caught fire) ended with the truck being totaled by the insurance company after I had it towed to Mexicali, and then another tow truck across the border to Calexico, and then another tow to San Diego. The insurance company, Mercury, reimbursed me for all the tows and gave me a good price for the truck.

Then I bought a 3/4 ton Ford and had an extra transmission radiator installed.

Lost count of the number of flat tires.

But, I've been driving around Baja for 35 years. Stuff happens.



[Edited on 8-13-2019 by SFandH]




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[*] posted on 8-13-2019 at 10:30 AM


I finally had something break on my Tacoma, but I didn't need to be towed. I drove it home from the road between Mike's Sky Rancho and Rancho el Coyote. It was my rear drum brake mount, on the wheel backplate. Caused the fluid to leak... Larry (bajatrailrider) was at El Coyote and gave me a pair of vise grips to close off the brake line so I could get home. I documented the incident in detail in my Trip #7 report (Oct. 2017).



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[*] posted on 8-13-2019 at 01:04 PM


Ok, a break down story, the short version! I lost a bolt connecting my rear axle to the frame of my Kia while driving through San Felipe.

Not a major breakdown, because of where and when it fell out, but if it had happened a few miles south at highway speed, it could have been life altering (or ending)!

Cost, 200 pesos for parts and labor. Time for repairs, about an hour and a half. Here is a link to a more detailed version of the story; http://forums.bajanomad.com/viewthread.php?tid=87047&got...



[Edited on 8-13-2019 by AKgringo]




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[*] posted on 8-13-2019 at 01:14 PM


The Squarecircle should tell his breakdown story. He broke down north side of San Vicente. Hassled by the cops, problems with tow truck drivers. Two days in a nightmare.
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[*] posted on 8-13-2019 at 01:23 PM


I've never broke down where I needed help. I've been in wrecks where my trucks were badly damaged, one needed towed no problem there. The only problem was the insurance company claimed they couldn't find it for 6 months. I knew exactly where it was, hidden in plain site at the tow truck drivers place in La Rumorosa. The last wreck in Mexicali Ken Cooke towed me to the border but I had to payoff two different set of cops. It was close to Christmas time so what would you expect. $100 to the cops at the wreck site and $150 to another set of cops for towing me with a strap along the border wall.
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[*] posted on 8-13-2019 at 01:56 PM


lost an alternator between catavina and chapala, hitchhiked back to catavina the local mechanic towed her back then headed off to pick up a new one....three days at the la pinta:(
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[*] posted on 8-13-2019 at 02:03 PM


We had a travel trailer leaf spring break at about 60 mph on the four lane between Ciudad Insurgentes and C. Constitucion. Straight smooth road - the rear spring top leaf just snapped right at the contact with the next lower leaf in the spring pack.

When the leaf snapped, the rear axle was free to move forward and that let the equalizer flip over and slam the two tires together. That resulted in an almost complete wheel lockup and we skidded over to the shoulder of the road and to a stop pretty much across the entrance to a local Mexican's driveway.

As luck would have it, he was coming down his driveway headed to town before the dust even had a chance to settle. With his help we got the rig off the road, out of his driveway, and into his front yard.

He and I jacked up the trailer and got the broken spring off of the trailer. He told me where there was a spring shop in Constitucion and said to leave the trailer (and my wife and dogs) in his front yard for as long as it took for repairs.

I kissed my wife goodbye and headed off to Constitucion with the broken spring. Found the spring shop and found that they did not have the right sized spring. Not to worry.

They fired up a forge, cut the eyes off of a longer spring, heated the steel red hot, and proceeded to roll new eyes onto the spring by hand with an anvil, mandrel, and a blacksmith's hammer.

In less than a hour I had two new springs custom made to fit the travel trailer. Had them both replaced in other hour or so and we headed on down the highway towards La Paz.

Total elapsed time from the breakdown to being on the road again - Just under four hours.

Those custom made springs are still in the trailer five years later.
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[*] posted on 8-13-2019 at 03:20 PM


Quote: Originally posted by RnR  
We had a travel trailer leaf spring break at about 60 mph on the four lane between Ciudad Insurgentes and C. Constitucion. Straight smooth road - the rear spring top leaf just snapped right at the contact with the next lower leaf in the spring pack.

When the leaf snapped, the rear axle was free to move forward and that let the equalizer flip over and slam the two tires together. That resulted in an almost complete wheel lockup and we skidded over to the shoulder of the road and to a stop pretty much across the entrance to a local Mexican's driveway.

As luck would have it, he was coming down his driveway headed to town before the dust even had a chance to settle. With his help we got the rig off the road, out of his driveway, and into his front yard.

He and I jacked up the trailer and got the broken spring off of the trailer. He told me where there was a spring shop in Constitucion and said to leave the trailer (and my wife and dogs) in his front yard for as long as it took for repairs.

I kissed my wife goodbye and headed off to Constitucion with the broken spring. Found the spring shop and found that they did not have the right sized spring. Not to worry.

They fired up a forge, cut the eyes off of a longer spring, heated the steel red hot, and proceeded to roll new eyes onto the spring by hand with an anvil, mandrel, and a blacksmith's hammer.

In less than a hour I had two new springs custom made to fit the travel trailer. Had them both replaced in other hour or so and we headed on down the highway towards La Paz.

Total elapsed time from the breakdown to being on the road again - Just under four hours.

Those custom made springs are still in the trailer five years later.


Cool story...
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thebajarunner
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[*] posted on 8-13-2019 at 05:57 PM


Prerunning in the forest by Laguna Hansen for a big race. Old ragged F150 prerunner, with lots of miles (and character) Been raining a lot, so around a sharp turn right front drops deep into a rut and we come to a grinding halt. Right front points directly right, everything else points straight ahead.
Took off the tie rod, fortunately there are lots of big rocks up there. Bent the rod back into reasonable shape between big boulders, a little more hammering with smaller rocks and we are on our way back to Ensenada. Little out of toe, but on dirt who cares.
Back in town went to our favorite back yard welder friend because once bent the tie rod is probably gonna bend again.
He dug up an old tire iron, got the front toe pretty straight, and welded the tire iron to the bottom of the tie rod for rigidity.
Couple years later I looked under the front end of my partner's old pickup and sure enough, there was the tire iron, still holding the tie rod in position.
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[*] posted on 8-13-2019 at 06:04 PM


Camped out close to shipwrecks in an arroyo north from San Jose.
A buddy had followed us in our VW bus and him in his Peugeot down to the cape for a week of surfing.
He headed back into town one evening solo and crawled out of his tent with a royal hangover the next morn.
Me; "Where's your car Jack?". Him; "Out of the arroyo, I had a flat on the way back from town last night". Me; "How much did you have to drink?" Him; "Enough not to remember".
We walked out to his car and found that he had driven on the rim of the 'flat' long enough to bend the rim bead down over the lug nuts. I gave him a hack saw and small pry bar and he spent a few hours cutting the bead and bending the metal enough to get the nuts free and replace all with his spare.
We had the length of Baja to get back home so we hit La Paz on the way north for a new rim and tire. Not for a Frenchy car though… no match for the lug pattern anywhere. The tire guy took a torch and cut the lug pattern center out of the damaged rim and then did the same with another rim matching the size of the non-match-able. He welded the Peugeot center into the center of the matching rim and mounted a used tire on it.
Forty bucks US.
Jack sold the Peugeot.
Got a VW bus.
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[*] posted on 8-13-2019 at 07:30 PM


Quote: Originally posted by thebajarunner  
Prerunning in the forest by Laguna Hansen for a big race. Old ragged F150 prerunner, with lots of miles (and character) Been raining a lot, so around a sharp turn right front drops deep into a rut and we come to a grinding halt. Right front points directly right, everything else points straight ahead.
Took off the tie rod, fortunately there are lots of big rocks up there. Bent the rod back into reasonable shape between big boulders, a little more hammering with smaller rocks and we are on our way back to Ensenada. Little out of toe, but on dirt who cares.
Back in town went to our favorite back yard welder friend because once bent the tie rod is probably gonna bend again.
He dug up an old tire iron, got the front toe pretty straight, and welded the tire iron to the bottom of the tie rod for rigidity.
Couple years later I looked under the front end of my partner's old pickup and sure enough, there was the tire iron, still holding the tie rod in position.


what works really well for bent (and thus weakened) tie rods - the round hollow handle bar of a HiLift jack
unscrew one tie rod end, slip handle bar over tie rod, put tie rod end back on
voila!
on smaller vehicles (Jeeps) handle might need to be shortened with hacksaw




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[*] posted on 8-13-2019 at 07:31 PM


what a great thread....breaking down in Baja is always an adventure. Many times we met amazing people who went above and beyond the call of duty and managed to get us going again with some of that famous Mexican ingenuity!
like many here I broke down many times in 30 years here as well as towed people with my vehicle to get help.

One of my favorite moments was when we broke down between San Ignacio & Sta.Rosalia in an area of no cell service. Several people stopped to help but we needed to get a real mechanic. So Juan said I should hitch hike back to San Iganacio to find one...OK.

First car that came along stopped and I was a bit nervous about a single guy in a beat up old car...turns out it was my nephew!!! Epic BAja luck!

He knew a mechanic and the boys looked after the truck and I hung out swimming and napping at Don Chongs on the river...ahhhh baja!




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[*] posted on 8-13-2019 at 07:50 PM


I am lucky, never had a break down. Occasional flat tires. A cracked window or two. I maintain my truck well, so haven’t had a breakdown anywhere in over 20 years.



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[*] posted on 8-14-2019 at 06:36 AM


I think both of my major automatic transmission breakdowns were due to heavy loads. Both times I had Callen cabover camper shells, no wider than the truck and no rear overhang. But I was going 65 - 70 mph on HOT days. The next truck had a separate transmission radiator and a transmission temperature gauge, and it ran cool. No problems.

Baja is tough on transmissions. My advice is to add a transmission radiator if you're running heavy or towing.




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[*] posted on 8-14-2019 at 10:01 AM


Quote: Originally posted by RnR  
We had a travel trailer leaf spring break at about 60 mph on the four lane between Ciudad Insurgentes and C. Constitucion. Straight smooth road - the rear spring top leaf just snapped right at the contact with the next lower leaf in the spring pack.

When the leaf snapped, the rear axle was free to move forward and that let the equalizer flip over and slam the two tires together. That resulted in an almost complete wheel lockup and we skidded over to the shoulder of the road and to a stop pretty much across the entrance to a local Mexican's driveway.

As luck would have it, he was coming down his driveway headed to town before the dust even had a chance to settle. With his help we got the rig off the road, out of his driveway, and into his front yard.

He and I jacked up the trailer and got the broken spring off of the trailer. He told me where there was a spring shop in Constitucion and said to leave the trailer (and my wife and dogs) in his front yard for as long as it took for repairs.

I kissed my wife goodbye and headed off to Constitucion with the broken spring. Found the spring shop and found that they did not have the right sized spring. Not to worry.

They fired up a forge, cut the eyes off of a longer spring, heated the steel red hot, and proceeded to roll new eyes onto the spring by hand with an anvil, mandrel, and a blacksmith's hammer.

In less than a hour I had two new springs custom made to fit the travel trailer. Had them both replaced in other hour or so and we headed on down the highway towards La Paz.

Total elapsed time from the breakdown to being on the road again - Just under four hours.

Those custom made springs are still in the trailer five years later.


man i love mexico, great story brother!




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Paco Facullo
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[*] posted on 8-14-2019 at 10:14 AM


Some great stories here, thanks for all the input.

Yes, Mexicans are some of the best mechanics around and are able to take "jury-rigged" to the next level, as most of the time it ends up being a permanent repair !




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[*] posted on 8-14-2019 at 10:22 AM


Quote: Originally posted by Paco Facullo  
Some great stories here, thanks for all the input.


Paco, did you ever see the post from two years ago? There a few pages of 'stuck or broke down' storys here; http://forums.bajanomad.com/viewthread.php?tid=87047&got...




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[*] posted on 8-14-2019 at 10:25 AM


Was out in Scorpion bay for New years, noticed I was overheating a bit when I arrived, once we got to the beach I started investigating and found that the rutted roads had cracked my upper radiator neck where the hose attached to the radiator, it was a hairline crack but enough to leak under pressure.

I JBwelded it at the beach and kept on partying, a few days later we were headed back to Loreto, over the same rutted roads.

well my JBweld held for a bit, but eventually let loose and the crack got even bigger, dumping coolant out at an alarming rate

Luckily i was in the RV with plenty of water onboard so just kept pulling over every 5 minutes and dumping another gallon of water down in here to keep her cool. Each time I was pulled over with the hood popped, every single car that passed by would stop and ask if I was OK. :cool:

Limped her into Cid Insurgentes and stopped at the local auto parts store who directed me to Don Jose, the radiator man, tracked him down in a local neighborhood. Pulled up and explained the situation.

Jose crawled under the truck and pulled the lower rad hose before I had a chance to say lets grab a bucket! dumping coolant all over the street, luckily by this point it was mostly water anyway.

He had the rad pulled out in 5 minutes and took into his dirt floor workshop, he took a giant torch and started blasting the rad with flames, melting down the solder that connects the rad neck to the rad itself, he got the neck popped off and used some sand paper to clean up both pieces, then he grabbed a random blob of solder, dropped it into an old corrugated piece of siding, heated it up with the torch until it melted and ran down the corrugation, then let it cool into a nice thin bar of solder

grabbed his new bar of solder and a smaller torch, holding the filler neck back onto the rad, he methodically worked melted the bar of solder all around the rad neck, firmly affixing it back to the rad

splashed it all with some cool water, took it out back of the shop where he had a cement pila full of water, he had 2 old pieces of rad hose that had been capped off with what looked like old pieces of rubber boot, he capped one end had a schrader valved worked into it. he capped off both ends of the rad with these homemade caps

he dropped the rad into the water tank, grabbed an old bicycle pump and pumped the rad up with air, checking for any bubbles

no bubbles! no leaks!

Had the radiator put back in the truck in another 5 minutes, filled it back up with water and away we went.

total time less than 30 minutes from start to finish!

total cost: $5!!!




[Edited on 8-14-2019 by defrag4]




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[*] posted on 8-14-2019 at 11:15 AM


I forgot about the radiator failure! Driving the back roads from Los Barrilles back to La Paz, the top tank developed a leak where the plastic top was crimped to the metal core.

This was in a 2002 Kia Sportage, a model that was never sold or serviced in Baja! I drove very moderately back to town, stopping often to check and add water as needed. I also kept the radiator cap loose, because it leaked worse under pressure.

Back at Campestre Maranatha, Jose (the owner) did a phone search of parts house and repair shops, and found a new radiator that had been sitting around long enough that they were delighted to get rid of it!

I brought antifreeze from Walmart with me, and got it swapped out the next day, and it cost less than the radiator alone would have cost at a parts house in the US.




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