Full post with photos: http://www.wideanglewandering.com/20...f-passage.html
My First Broken Birfield by WideAngleWandering, on Flickr
For some roadtrippers, the foreign breakdown is sort of a rite of passage - albeit one I really didn't think I would experience. I chose my vehicle carefully and pre-emptively tackled all the maintenance that might have reared it's head in the next 30,000 miles. I planned to stick to roads and occasional trails - nothing too technical.
Still, the birfield joint, mechanical marvel that it is, is a weak point in the Toyota solid axle setup, especially if you abuse it (uhm, yeah, we'll just leave it at that). The trailside birfield replacement is also a rite of passage for Toyota solid axle owners, or so I'm told. I didn't carry a spare birf in my box o' parts so it doesn't matter for me - instead I limped out, spent the night on a chicken farm and drove to the nearest town in 2wd the next morning.
With the support of the good folks on www.bajanomad.com, I made contact with a trusted mechanic who pulled the axle apart and all looked fixable. I settled in for a few days of fish tacos and Tijuana draft beer while waiting for Betsy to come back good as new.
Unfortunately nothing goes according to plan in Latin America. The plan is more like a rough outline of what might happen. Since I didn't know how to say "birfield" in Spanish and the mechanic didn't know how to translate the Spanish equivalent into English, I was confused when he called to tell me I had a broken housing. A broken axle housing? "Bad luck my friend, he said, this part is not available in México. Can you get one from the states?"
When it comes to international parts shipping and diagnosis, I am developing a less-than-stellar reputation. One wrong part was ordered and another almost ordered before my mechanic in the states insisted I get him a photograph of the damaged part. The local mechanic dropped it off for me and I was surprised to see a simple cracked birfield. I suppose it does house some bearings - that's where the language confusion kicked in.
The next decision was where to find the replacement. My local mechanic was right in that a 60-series Landcruiser outer axle / birfield would be an unusual part in México, but he didn't know that '81-85 Toyota pickups use the same outer axle. Using that information he located a part but I'd already come up with a better plan. I would order a couple of upgraded outer axles. Any time something breaks I become a neophile - why use the same old boring Toyota axle when I could get a shiny new upgrade?
Finally, I had to figure out how to get it to me. I could either have it shipped to San Diego where I could pick it u after a two-hour bus ride and a two-hour walk across the border or have it shipped directly to me in México while I indulged in the aforementioned tacos and draft Tijuana Morena beer.
I chose the latter and one week after limping into Ensenada I thought I had it all figured out.
I didn't realize the package would be coming via US Mail, however. That would mean no tracking after the hand-off to the Mexican postal service. I wonder how long that will take ...
Full post with photos: http://www.wideanglewandering.com/20...-ensenada.html
Ensenada Marina and Sky by WideAngleWandering, on Flickr
My days in Ensenada have settled into an easy routine with few disruptions. This doesn't sound like vacation because really, it's not. It is charmed, privileged living and while pleasant, I am ready for some sort of challenge. Something to struggle with. Some kind of tension.
I've settled on the best place for machaca (dried shredded beef or fish with peppers, onions, beans and hash browns at Cazuelitas). The best place for fish tacos (the first stand on the left as you walk down Miramar past the 7-11 and towards the fish market). The best place for seafood coctail (raw octopus, clams, oysters, scallops, fish with onions, peppers and avocado in a spicy tomato lime broth at the stand on Lazaro Cardenás and Avadero). I'm still undecided on Tijuana draft beer at La Taberna or Negra Modelo on tap at Louie's Tequila Bar. I have yet to find a decent coffee but at least it's not all nescafe like I remember from previous trips.
Pleasant, easy, sometimes dull. Fácil.
In the afternoons I walk the town. Outside of the tourist district I haven't found much in the way of distinct neighborhoods or enclaves. Ensenada strikes me as a town that may have grown up quickly, fueled by fishing and tourism. From the marina, it seems to have sprawled in a homogeneous fashion as far as the land would permit. Away from the bars and restaurants near the malecón, I found houses interspersed with hair salons, tire shops, schools, taco stands and used junk stores in every direction. One one walk I passed a woman carefully sweeping and grooming the dirt in front of her house. On another, a bride posing for photos in front of the graffiti along the dried out estuary (avante garde?). Most people are simply going about their daily business - shopping, paying the bills, shepherding the kids.
The tourist district changes character towards the end of the week. The shopkeepers that are snoozing in chairs on the street on Tuesday are determined to get your business on Friday. The streets that were quiet, with occasional Mexican and expat families in the cafes and restaurants, start to fill with tourists by the weekend. The hotel prices double. The conversations around me become more staccato, more insistent. Pudgy kids wear their giant, gaudy sombreros with red uppercase print "MEXICO" as they walk back to the cruise ship.
In the evenings I walk the malécon until twilight fades to dark. This is my favorite time for photography and for people watching, as the sun, and it's reflection from the white pavement, is far too bright during the day. It also gives me a chance to walk by my favorite fish taco stand, where they call me amigo and make small talk. "Do you live in Ensenada?" No, I'm visiting while I have my car repaired. "Do you like it?" The people are friendly, and the weather is nice. "Where are you from?" California. "Aren't the people friendly there? I think it must be different, people don't really live together in the states." Sometimes that's true.
I often spend a couple hours in one of the bars nearby. There is some good beer to be drunk and my most interesting conversations have started here. On my favorite topic, what is there to do in Ensenada, the conversation follows one of two themes: boredom or enthusiasm. Boredom if you're not easily entertained by nightclubs and enthusiasm if you are. Extra enthusiasm for whoring.
At all my favorite spots they ask, "Hola amigo/joven, are your parts here yet?" My answer is always the same - not yet, but maybe tomorrow. "God willing, but I hope you like Ensenada!"
I have now added your blog to my bookmarks of great trip reports to return to time & again.
Your positive attitude flows through your writing and I commend you on the sense of adventure you are maintaining.
Also your plan for dealing with the police is perfect
Please Please keep posting here for those who might not have seen your report yet.
cigar smoking, wilderness first responding, ham talking night nurse who is overland certified and a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.....
now everyone say "so what where have you been lately?"
Well hot damn, that's the most complimentary thing anybody's said about my journal or my attitude in well, ever. Cheers.
Full Post with Photos: http://disassemblyrequired.wideangle...in-mexico.html
A year ago I decided to drive my HJ60 Land Cruiser to México and start my great Latin Roadtrip. I spent the last year working out my plans, upgrading and modifying the vehicle and doing maintenance.
I considered upgrading the axles but decided against it. It just didn't seem necessary for my style of driving. In hindsight, after experiencing my first broken birfield, I realize that was a mistake.
Birfields by WideAngleWandering, on Flickr
This is my story and my advice. Don't do what I did, unless you really like fish tacos and beer.
The first piece of advice I can offer is - upgrade before you leave. It's pretty easy to break a stock Toyota birfield joint, especially if reversing in 4WD with the wheels turned and obstacles in your way. Unless you're the sort of person who enjoys breaking things on the trail for the challenge of fixing them, upgrade before you leave.
If you are the sort of person who enjoys breaking and fixing things in remote locations, then you already have a spare birf in your kit and you've swapped out birfs at trail-side a few times before.
I neglected to upgrade and didn't carry a spare so I had two choices at thas point - find one locally or order one from the states. Finding the part locally is entirely possible but I had trouble locating one searching by make & model. The 60 series was never sold in México so there are very few of them around. My initial search turned up one wrecked 60 in a yonke (salvage yard) but they would only sell the complete front-end.
At this point I decided to order parts from the states. That led me to my next decision - ship to México or make a border run? I chose the former. That was a poor decision.
While waiting for shipping, I talked to some knowledgeable Land Cruiser folks in the states and learned that the outer axle on a 60 series is the same as you find on '81-85 Toyota mini trucks (before they moved to independent front suspension in '86). This vehicle was sold in México and parts are plentiful. I gave this information to my local mechanic, along with the part number (43405-60015), and he quickly located a new unit which he could get within a day. Since the parts from the states were already on their way, I called this Plan B.
If you've opted to get your parts from abroad and you can get yourself to the border, the best thing to do is to import them yourself and not rely on the post office or private shipping. In my case, I could have gone from Ensenada to Tijuana, walked across the border, picked up the parts from a friend willing to hold them for me and returned to Ensenada in a day. Walking across the border you're unlikely to have your belongings inspected by customs and even if you are, it's unlikely that any duty would be imposed.
In Baja, there are many people traveling back and forth from San Diego. I turned down several offers from people willing to bring the parts down here to me, which would have saved me from even having to take the bus trip.
My parts were shipped via USPS Priority Mail with delivery confirmation. When I first heard this I figured I would never see that package. I talked to many folks in Baja, both locals and expats, and no one had any confidence that the package would arrive, or if it would, when it would be here. The consensus is that USPS Priority is hit or miss, Express is more reliable and DHL/UPS is the best way to go.
On the 2nd business day, the package was in San Francisco. On the 3rd, the confirmation number showed the package had been handed over to México. I assumed it was in Tijuana and had only to make the short trip to Ensenada. The 4th, 5th and 6th days showed the package in Mexico to clear customs. I didn't realize it at the time but the package was sent first to Mexico City. The status didn't update again until the end of the 8th business day. Earlier that day I had given up and ordered the local part. The final update showed that delivery had already been attempted on the 7th business day.
Priority Mail International Parcels Attempted Delivery Abroad MEXICO
No further updates appeared on the USPS site and there was no sign of the package at the hotel where it was destined. I took this as validation of my decision to order the local part. On the 11th business day, on a whim, I tried plugging the USPS confirmation number into the SepoMex web site.
AP Ensenada, B.C. Puesta en ventanilla
While I speak conversational Spanish, I also rely on pitiful looks and wild gestures to get my point across. That wasn't working on the phone so I turned to the hotel receptionist for help. After several phone calls she gave me directions to the Mex Correo office on Lazaro Mateos and Florestra, only a few blocks away.
It seems I had been lounging around Ensenada waiting for a box that was in fact waiting for me just down the road.
Outside the office an old man sat on a chair with a typewriter, taking dictation from people who wanted to send letters but couldn't write themselves. Inside, they located my package and after showing an ID, signing a bunch of forms, and handing over 800 pesos in import duties, I finally had the box - two weeks after I'd ordered it, one week after it arrived in Ensenada and the day after I'd already installed the local part.
The package made it to Ensenada remarkably quickly. I can't say whether or not the expected $60 USD in import duties helped it along but I don't imagine it hurt.
Good plan on how to deal with the cops, it will work for you 95% or more of the time and will take you through many stops.
I have dealt with the same kind of vehicle repairs while on the road down south. However, I opted to locate the parts in the USA and have them shipped to a Toyota dealership. I then installed them myself. That was in Mexico. In Belize I had to replace my throttle body, again shipped from the USA. This time however I went to the airport in Belize City and got the parts myself. This saved me a 50% import tax on a $1000 part! While in Mexico I had at least a 10 day delay and wait for the parts. In Belize, nearly the same story. But hey down time in nice places isn't such a bad thing.
From my experience, you can get anything drop shipped anywhere in the world. Picking it up can be a different story though!
Sweet Cruiser....keep on cruising!
I've been reading Drive Nacho Drive and wondering how to deal with a serious parts issue: http://www.drivenachodrive.com/2012/...fourth-option/
Belize, the port is the airport in the capital, ie Belize City, some countries may be the same, others not. This being for air freight.
In Mexico I simply went to a Toyota dealership and made the arrangements. No it wasn't a dealer to dealer transfer. I shipped the part to the dealerships address though. I had them do some small work too like change my oil so it wasn't like I was freeloading. Plus I didn't want the used oil to end up in the ditch!
All you need is a good address, UPS, DHL, Fed-Ex will drop it just about anywhere. Since I was out of the USA the Toyota dealership in Texas I got my throttle body from would not except my credit card, even though it is a USA card. They wanted direct deposit. So they gave me the info, I called my bank and it was a done deal. Less then 10 days later I had my part in Belize. I got it duty free because I explained to the customs officer in charge the truck was from the USA and leaving the country (Belize) in a day or two.
Oh and as soon as you hit Guatemala & south from there, you shouldn't have any trouble finding any parts for your truck locally.
Last edited by RMP&O; 09-13-2012 at 12:34 AM.