At the Chilean Automobile Association mentioned in the previous story, we got permission to use their workplace and set up camp. I lifted the engine and got the broken engine mounts out. A mechanic drove me to the rubber shop where I could choose my flavor.
The stiffness, compound and density of the mounts as well as the size were all up to me. I think those where the best mounts we’ve ever had.
When you live a stationary lifestyle you know your way around and you know where to go – or not – for a certain job. On he road, however, I don’t have that knowledge and I depend on others to get that information.
Changing oils and filters, lubricating the chassis components and rotating tires are simple things that don’t need specialized workshops. Generally I will do them myself, often at a gas or service station. These are handy places as they sell engine oil, might have a big jack I could use, and collect the used oil.
The same goes for a flat tire, easy to fix. Shops with old tires piled up in front of them can be found in the most desolate places. In the worst-case scenario I can fix our split-rim tube tires myself.
As for generic welding or fixing a leaking radiator, I prefer finding a place to spend the night, disassemble the part and hop in a bus or taxi to the nearest shop that can tackle the issue.
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When leaving the Netherlands in 2003, we didn’t know all this. Initially, in Greece and Turkey, we would automatically head for a Toyota Workshop. By the time we reached Iran and Pakistan, we discovered that capable people were easily found outside the dealerships as well.
In India we’ve had a mixed bag of experiences with the guys in red overalls. Today we tend to look for simple roadside workshops before trying our luck at Toyota Garages.
Some jobs require special tools or specific knowledge, like welding aluminum or stainless steel, or reinforcing a cracked frame. They are hard to find in a regular workshop.
So how do I find the right person for these kinds of jobs?
Most jobs don’t require an on-the-spot solution and a few more weeks without solving the issue wont hurt. I’ll look for a local 4×4 club. Especially in South American countries such as Brazil and Venezuela these clubs have been a tremendous help with out-of-the-box solutions. And, not unimportantly, they have given us life-long friends.
In South-America, we were having major issues with the custom-made, aluminum, raised roof. We had crossed the Transamazônica from west to east Brazil and two ten-inch cracks had materialized on both front corners. We were in Belém at the Amazon estuary.
We had to find a solution for the roof and met up with the local Jeep Clube do Pará (In Brazil ‘jeep’ stands for any 4×4, and ‘Pará’ refers to the state) on their weekly Thursday evening get-together at the Ver-O-Rio waterfront establishment. Here, the club sponsors a weekly, cultural event and we enjoyed an evening of dance, music, food and drinks.
After the customary showing of our Land Cruiser and the in South America ubiquitous shocked response to our car having a diesel engine, there followed a couple of speeches and exchange of gifts. After hearing about my need for a good aluminum welder one of the members told me his family company was specialized in making gigantic stainless steel and aluminum automatic doors for sub zero warehouses.
“Sonia and I would be honored to have you at our place and we’ll see what our head engineer has to say about the welding problems,” Antonio said.
The next day I met Carlos, who had worked at Guimarães Nasser for 23 years. We connected immediately. He was smitten by our journey while I fell in love with his workshop where I saw the rarity of workers using calipers and reading technical drawings.
It was also the first place on our journey where I saw a plasma cutter and TIG welders using a clean, copper earth clamp instead of the more commonly used rusty, scarred hook full of welding pockmarks.
Carlos wanted a solid solution for our car, which entailed disassembling the roof from the bodywork. To achieve this, Karin-Marijke and I emptied the Land Cruiser from all its contents in order to access the bolts behind the wooden panels of our living-room-cum-office-cum-bedroom.
Antonio offered us an on-site apartment where we could store our stuff and sleep. With the roof and aluminum edge separated from the car, Carlos set to work and he did an excellent job of fixing and reinforcing the corners.
Meanwhile Karin-Marijke and I had fun driving around in a topless car and we decided it would be a good idea to get some regular bodywork done as well.
In their enthusiasm for our car and journey, Carlos and his men did other jobs as well, among which fixing the rear aluminum bumper and upgrading it with a vise. If I had let him do his own thing, he would probably have converted our Land Cruiser entirely into stainless steel.
After three productive weeks it was time to set our wheels in motion again. The Land Cruiser was smiling and shining, eager to hit the road. To remember him Carlos made a memorable key chain for us using his plasma gun, which he gave us when we said goodbye.
We were touched by his dedication to doing a good job, and I really felt I had made a new friend.
With regard to the latter: apart from the regular forum you will find a section of chapters with people from all over the world who are lending a helping hand to overlanders.
The iOverlander app arguably is the most-known place to get information, not only on workshops but also other overland-related information such as GPS waypoints on campsites.
Originally published in Overland Journal 2016 Gear Issue
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