Campeche; the gearbox repairs continue

We spent an entire day, cleaning the exterior and the interior parts that were accessible, ready to refit the next day. That evening, Gerry invited us out for a meal with his girlfriend, which was a nice break to the garage setting.

While Monica did Zumba on the malecon, he took us for a tour of Campeche. Showing us the ancient wall of the city and some of the churches too. 

We drove out to the south of the town to look at an old fort, perched up the hillside over looking the town and the sea. 

The we headed back to the malecon to collect Monica. While we waited for the class to finish, we walked to the large statues on either side of us that tower over the seafront. The sun began to set, giving some scenic views out over the harbour. 

Then, it was time for us all to head off and get food. Gerry picked a restaurant in the town centre somewhere and we sat in a small, quiet square and enjoyed some more of the local dishes. In a good mood with out replacement box, we offered to pay for the meal. Gerry had been pretty good to us so far, you couldn’t fault him too much for his endless optimism and we felt sure we would be ready to leave soon. 

To round of the evening, we headed the street we had walked passed earlier, that it just filled with bars. After a disappointed round in the first bar, lee had quickly zoned in on the craft beer place two blocks away and so we finished off our evening in Xtabay, enjoying some nice, if rather pricey beers. 

After a night off, it was time to fit the box. After much arguing and jiggling and some rather unpleasant noises. It became clear that something was not right, so we pulled the box out again, and with it the remains of the spigot bearing. The input shafts size on the new box was a millimetre or so bigger and therefore didn’t fit. 

“Don’t worry!!” Gerry told us, “There is a shop here just for bearings, no problem!” 

We now took this statements with a pinch of salt. Our misgivings turned out to be justified when we spent a long time around the city with no bearing. The next step was to get a bushing custom made instead. And so another day passed. With the size different in the input shaft, it seemed highly likely that they might also not be the same length. Not wishing to destroy the end of the crankshaft, or not have a functioning clutch, I decided to swap them out. This turned out to be the right decision, as the new one was much longer than the old and would have caused a whole load more problems had it not been changed. 

Now armed with a new bushing and feeling pretty confident it would go back together now, we refitted the box again and then everything else. We tried the gears with the engine off, and everything seemed ok. We the ran everything to temperature to allow the oil to circulate, but due to the time, left test driving for the morning. Feeling pretty confident we went for a nice meal at El Longostino. On the way we had to pass by the house just opposite from the garage that had kittens they were about to give away, it was somewhat of a daily struggle to not take one but we couldn’t quite justify it as they didn’t seem like they really needed rescuing. Continuing down the street, we found a stray kitten under a step, it bolted when it saw us. I thought maybe if it it’s there on the way back I’ll try harder… and we continued on to the local restaurant to try some local dishes; Pan de Cazón and Filete Relleno de Mariscos. The former is a local dish recommend by Gerry and contains, as the name suggests, Cazon. A type of small shark. The other is a fish fillet stuff with seafood and in a rather good white sauce, despite the fact I’m not a big seafood fan I was happy to share.  

The restaurant air conditioning was turned up to the max and it was enjoyable to have a few moments of the day where we weren’t sweating. We enjoyed our food, with a couple of ice cold beers before walking back. The kitten now hidden behind a gate with some others as we passed, clearly it’s got an owner we thought, and left it alone. Just back to the one cat tonight. 

We had planned to get the underneath cleaned and treated before we left, so the following morning Lee hopped in to reverse the van over the pit and couldn’t get any gears at all. Gerry declared the linkage at fault, but when we tried to select gear directly on the box it wasn’t possible. It seemed the replacement box had problem, possible the selector had snapped in the nosecone. Whatever it was, it required removal again, and so for the third time in a week, we found ourselves covered in dirt, spending the day rolling around on the floor, taking out the box yet again.

Motivation was running at a low by this point and a week had passed since we had located the new box. Once removed, it was clear that nothing had actually broken, which I suppose is a good thing. It seemed that the synchros had seized because it had been sitting so long. I guess we should have freed them up before we put it in the first time. They took a lot of encouraging with some gentle persuasion from a hammer before they began to free up. We decided that it would be a good idea to fill the box with diesel and let it sit overnight. 

As it appeared that the rear crank seal was leaking slightly we decided to change it. We could order it online, or traipse around Campeche trying to find it. In the interest of time we tried the latter, but having acquired nothing more than sunburn we returned empty handed and rather reluctantly and possibly stupidly, asked for help. Naturally Gerry was adamant that he could find it, in the end we left it with a car parts shop and they said they would find one. In the morning they had found something, it looked, for all intents and purposes to be the same, just a little thinner. It was stupidly expensive for what it was, but we just wanted to get out of there and so I gave up and bought it so we could get the gearbox back in. Another 24 hours passed and we were back at where we should have been after much disagreements with Gerry about how to refit the box. He made a big deal out of the fact that I had disconnected things that, in my opinion, didn’t need disconnecting and kept telling me to remove the whole engine to fit the box. By the end of the day though, we had everything reassembled and were refilling the box with yet another batch of oil while really hoping that it didn’t seize again.

The next day, Gerry washed underneath and sprayed it with oil as we had managed to drive onto the pit this time.

Our luck continued and we got as far as test driving it. We decided it was time to cook curry, and headed to the supermarket to pick up the relevant groceries. In the car park we met another couple travelling in their kombi, not as common as you might think here. While there are an abundance of kombis, they are rarely used as campers. It turned out they had a problem with their engine and so they also said they would come around to the garage. Gerry wanted to pick up Monica before, so we headed off. The test drive was going ok so far, some gear adjustment needed but it was working. Then we heard a rather suspicious rattling noise from the back and stopped. It turned out that the wheel was falling off, the side where he had swapped the driveshaft and clearly hadn’t done a very good job of it. Fortunately I had picked up the toolkits before we left so it wasn’t a big problem. As continued on, while Gerry cheerfully said, “With that noise, I thought the driveshaft had broke on the side you did!” Things did not improved once we picked up Monica and something else now rattled. The engine overheated, and then the gear linkage bushing broke. Monica gave up being our passenger and walked, while we changed the bushing roadside. Something was still not right however, and we limped back in 2nd, the gear linkage constantly falling out of the locating plate at the front. Then the alternator light came on. 

Back at the garage, rather later than planned, the other couple were waiting. It was now getting late and we didn’t feel like it was right to celebrate with curry when there were clearly still several issues. Ana kindly cooked a vegetable stew for everyone, and we got to know our new garage neighbours a little while it chucked it down outside.

The next day it was time to iron out the last of the problems. Gerry worked on the other kombi, while I set about locating the problems on ours. I decided to make sure we never ran out of gear bushings again after another one broke and we had to do a parts shop run.

After some online advice, we followed a rather good idea from our good friend Mike and decided to cut our old gear selector and weld the part on to a new one. This extends the selector by around a centimetre and means that it cannot fall out of the locating plate as it continued to do. In between waiting for the welding, both Lee and I spent hours picking gravel out of the oil cooler which was no longer a cooler but a solid stone lump, gravel embedded well into the fins and cores. The new selector worked rather well and the oil cooler was fitted back on. We hoped that we had now fixed the suspicious rattling and gear shifting problems and sure enough we located all the gears. The remaining issue was the alternator light. It transpired that the cable had got crushed against the chassis when the engine was moved and had shorted out. We removed the starter to free the cables and repaired them. Fortunately a fuse had blown and protected the regulator. With that changed out we were good to go, the light finally turned out. It was curry time. 

We cooked it all in the garage as Gerry had just moved house and wasn’t really set up for cooking. Then we loaded it all into pans in the back of My Little Pony, and set off to his house to eat at an actual table. His niece joined us, very keen to practice her English and Monica was there too. It must have been a success when the leftovers from our 6 dish meal fitted into one small bowl. We returned to the camper very full and happy that in the morning we could finally leave. 

The time had come. 

We said goodbye to the Mexican couple and exchanged details and then asked Gerry how much he wanted to be paid. We were a little taken aback when he asked us for £300, considering we had done a lot of the work ourselves. We had thought we were more friends now as we had celebrated his birthday together and spent quite a lot of time in each others company. While we felt it was a bit steep, we paid and left feeling more like tourists with money signs on us than anything else. Anything to leave. 

We made it around 5 minutes before it was clear the rattling had not been fixed. A quick check from Lee found that the rear shock mount had snapped its welds. We were both not keen on the idea of retuning to the garage, especially as we knew his welder wasn’t there. In the end, we took the shock off and continued on towards Merida. 3rd gear clearly had a worn synchro and made some rather nasty crunchy noises, but with a little careful driving we should be fine. And for now, we were back on the road at long last.  

1 Comment

  1. Holly Mole.. .glad you listened 😂 and are still in Mexico rather than 140$/hour mechanics Alaska
    I loose my Mojo if I cant find a fuel filter for 3 days, 4 days is max I can endure in a w/shop …keep rolling, 12 countrys left till the bottom 😳

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