Welding Two Cracks in Aluminum

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This is part 1 of a 3-series story of a big welding job on the Land Cruiser in Brazi. Links to the other stories: part 2 and part 3

Done! The roof is back on! The last stage of getting back on the road has started.

We can both breathe freely again. The surgery has been successful. We have been extremely lucky with Carlos, the aluminum and stainless steel welder at Guimarães Nasser. This factory in Belém produces cold storage rooms, sometimes so large you can drive around in them on a tractor. To construct those rooms they need highly, qualified employees. Carlos is one of them.

Jeepeiros Have the Solution

We arrived in Belém with the intention of staying only a couple of days. However, there was one Land Cruiser job that needed to be taken care of: the welding of the seriously cracked aluminum (dark-brown) edge of the bodywork. Around both front corners were long cracks along the front and the sides. It was just a matter of time before the whole edge with the top would be ripped off on some potholed road and crash on the ground.

On the night of our arrival we joined a weekly reunion of Belém’s Jeep Club at Ver-o-Rio. We met, among other people, Antônio and Sonia who late that night offered us to follow them to their home and business grounds, where the welding could be done.

A glance by the experts brought the dispiriting news there was no such thing as a quick fix. The welding couldn’t be properly done from the outside but hád to be done on the inside – and just taking away the insulation layer was not enough.

The Land Cruiser is empty and hollow again
Storage

“The welding is done at 4000 degrees Celsius. It will burn all wires, rubber, the laminate roof and what have you here. You’ll have to take off the roof with the aluminum edge to get this done,” was the verdict.

In order to do that:

  • We needed to dismantle the front and back storage compartments against the ceiling and dismantle all insulation panels. In order to do that:
  • We had to dismantle the storage benches. In order to do that:
  • We needed to empty them. In order to do that:
  • We needed storage space.

Lifting the roof.
Nasty cracks

All this to get two cracks welded of a bodywork that had been renovated only two years earlier. The horrors of the Bolivia overhaul project resurfaced in full force.

A Temporary Home on Factory Grounds

Boy, do we feel fortunate to be in Brazil. Again, like the previous weeks in the Amazon, hands reached out to help and Antônio and Sonia offered us a quarter on the factory grounds. We now had space to store all belongings, a bed (and aircon) to sleep, a bathroom and washbasins.

Welding the aluminum edge
Coen glues new rubber strips
Lots of sikaflex available
Sikaflexing a bit more (love that stuff!)

While Coen tinkered with the Land Cruiser, I sorted and cleaned all our belongings. Despite the overhaul in Bolivia, which fixed all holes and cracks, the Land Cruiser was far from dust-free (read about it here) and in retrospect it wasn’t such a bad idea to get everything out for a thorough cleaning session.

Not just because of dust. We were literally bugged: for weeks we had two plagues that we couldn’t get rid of: ants and – for the first time in our journey – cockroaches. Yuk! Hopefully they are all gone now.

Roof goes back on the Land Cruiser
Fitting the roof back on

Welding Aluminum – Getting the Job Done

We thought that dismantling the Land Cruiser would be a major job. It wasn’t, and this was largely due to the fact that in Bolivia we had replaced the majority of rotten, rusted, broken bolds, nuts and screws with stainless steel versions. In one afternoon we emptied the Land Cruiser and got all woodwork and insulation out.

Coen was worried about the job. The welder sensed it, but – bless the guy – didn’t take it personally. We’ve really come to appreciate Carlos, what a great guy. He understood Coen’s preoccupation and at each step discussed with him what he wanted to weld, and how. Coen was a happy man. Not only the cracks were welded, but additional pieces were welded onto the edge to enforce the aluminum.

Work was delayed for a number of reasons, such as the three-day Círio de Nazaré festival during which all work stopped. Besides, we figured that since the roof was off and all woodwork was out, we might as well get a lot of welding done of the regular bodywork.

The fluvial procession
Two million visitors in one weekend

Nineteen days after we arrived in Belém was the big day. With care Carlos made sure the roof was attached with heavy ropes to the forklift truck and properly balanced before it was lifted and slowly brought above the bikini-top Land Cruiser.

The roof fit! A huge relief.

For more on Brazil, check out these articles:

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Thank you for your support — Karin-Marijke & Coen

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