A visit to A&E

The lost engine fiasco had certainly added time to our stay, but now looking back it’s probably time that we needed as we had discovered several other problems. 

Naturally, with the failure of the component in the bell housing, I wanted to know what had happened as we didn’t want it to happen again. After messaging the ever obliging Richard, and after looking at the other components it seemed that the reason for this failure was the bushing that we had got made back in Mexico (after Gerry broke the spigot bearing in the flywheel) was too loose and had fallen out of the flywheel. This had caused the input shaft to spin around with no location point in the flywheel and trash the seals and oil seal scroll component in the back. After some pointers from Richard, we also found out that the guide tube on which the release bearing sits was not supposed to be loose and ours most definitely was. This was not going to be such a simple fix. We needed to get the bell housing machined again, as the spinning tube had turned the hole oval. We then needed to have a custom larger diameter tube made in England, and sent to us. All of which would be rather time consuming. With Richard making our custom part back home and the second engine still sitting in the port we had plenty of time for other repairs. 

Mechanical components weren’t the only thing that needed repairing. For the first time in our whole trip, we ended up in A&E. This was back in the first week or so. We had bought a kitchen knife as the ones in the hostel were so blunt it was near impossible to use them. When Lee brought the shopping bag into the kitchen, the door knocked the bag, causing the knife to stick out and slice a tidy line across his calf. Safe to say the new knife was very sharp. It was pretty clear that it needed stitches and so after being pointed in the right direction and called a cab by one of the hostel volunteers we ended up in the public hospital. Fortunately, it wasn’t too busy, despite being a Saturday evening and Lee was back out again, all stitched up in two hours. The total cost – $2. 

Now it was my turn. The hostel coati, which had been a lovely friendly thing, showed its more unpredictable side by sinking all its teeth into my arm. This time it was more of a rabies concern, so we headed to a local clinic to check whether I needed rabies shots. The coati looked fine, but then again you don’t mess with rabies. They said it wasn’t a risk, luckily, so I was just left with a sore arm and a new wariness for the coati. Despite trying to keep my distance, it appeared to be rather attached to me and it was only a week later when it enthusiastically bit my foot making it very painful to walk for the next week. Lee had thought that maybe it just didn’t like me, until a few days later it got him. Now, needless to say, we steer well clear, despite it still being cute.

Top of our list was the radiator fans and the inlet manifold. As we had removed the engine I had already spotted several damaged wires and I wanted to strip and check the entire loom. We also had a broken air hose, that would have been causing a large vacuum leak. This wasn’t the only one though. The hose had also fallen off the fuel pressure regulator meaning that we not only had another air leak but that under load the engine would be struggling for fuel. All of these things would probably account for that ‘down on power’ feeling we had been complaining about. In actual fact, I’m surprised she ran at all in that state, let alone dragging us up the highest road on the Pan America. 

While I gave the inlet manifold some TLC, Lee attacked the radiator. It appeared that something had got inside the scoop and damaged a large number of the cooling fins on the cores. That would definitely not have been helping the efficiency of the radiator. Not only that but one of our fans had completely burnt out while the other was starting to seize. As we had been driving along with ambient temperatures of around 35 Celsius, I was again surprised we had got anywhere at all. 

We did some research into buying the new parts we needed in Panama, but it was pretty expensive. Despite the shipping costs, it was still a lot cheaper to buy things in the US and get them shipped here. It certainly wasn’t quicker, but that didn’t really matter. We had a long list of things we needed. Another high priority was the battery charger. That had annoyingly also given up in Costa Rica. So we turned to Amazon and spent an inordinate amount of money replacing our fans, charger, tyre pump, torches and many other essential items that had all broken. 

As we weren’t spending enough money already, we also ordered a custom sump. At $500 a pop these are not cheap. However, while I don’t think our engine failure was the fault of my chop n’ weld sump, it may have shortened its life. Also, despite having it re-welded three times, it still leaked. This leak and the gearbox leak, coupled with driving on dirt road, meant that the entire underside of the van was coated in a thick layer of oily dirt. It’s not pleasant to go under there and do maintenance. We had also managed to somehow hit our sump, and so it would need welding again regardless. The bottom is only 1mm thick metal plate and is not particularly strong. It seemed highly likely we would be in this situation again if we didn’t do the sensible thing and pay for a proper one. 

With the opportunity to shop in America for the first time in a long time, we also found ourselves a replacement for Steve, our drone, on Facebook. Electronics are so much cheaper in America. We had been scouring Facebook for months, but there wasn’t much choice and it was pretty expensive. We had really missed being able to film with him and had been in so many amazing places that would have been perfect. With the renewed enthusiasm for the YouTube channel and the thought of the editing places to come, we decided a drone is a must. We managed to find the same model in America, for around half the price that it is here. This also means we now have a load of spares too, even better, as knowing us; we’re gonna break it. 

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