Monday, January 09, 2006

I Heart Carburetor

I also heart our new mechanic.

As I'd mentioned, I took the car to a guy before Alex came and when he brought it back he had a long list of things he wanted to work on, including the carburetor, brakes, suspension and transmission. He said, straight up, "you're going to have to invest some money in this car."

When I asked him if there was anything that did work the way it should, he paused for quite a while and then allowed as how the oil changes were up to date.

We have taken this vehicle to a couple of different mechanics - this guy was the third (Alex had gone to him when he was here last September) - and I wasn't feeling too good about bouncing it around like that. None of them had a chance to get a feel for the history of the vehicle or to try more than one or two things in our continuing effort to fix a nagging brake problem.

We didn't have problems with any of them - all came recommended by friends or family and all did what they said they'd do and charged reasonable prices. But none of them were able to get the car to brake the way it should. It wasn't bad enough to keep us off the road, but I never felt certain that, in an emergency situation, I would be able to stop the car quite as quickly as you should be able to. And it was starting to get worse, especially after the last guy tried a couple of things.

I intended to take the car back (to the same guy) after Alex's visit, but while he was here he got two new recommendations for two new (to us) mechanics and he couldn't resist. He went with his friend to talk to one of the mechanics and came home all enamored.

So we went to him and I must say, I approve. For one thing, it's within walking distance to Yolanda's house, which will make things easier when we have work done in the future. Also:

  • They actually checked us in, filling out a written description of the work to be done and providing a receipt for the car.
  • The place has at least six bays for working on cars, three different kinds of industrial-sized jacks, an office and reception area and a whole inner garage area that I didn't even see very far into.
  • There was always a line of cars waiting, which made us feel good in the same way that you might pick a restaurant based on the fact that there are always people eating there.
  • Both the owner/master mechanic and the guy who I think did most of the work on the car took me (not just Alex) seriously when we described our experiences with the car. They were perfectly happy to show us what they had found, what they wanted to fix and why.
  • They also explained why a particular part did not need to be replaced when Alex offered his pet explanation of the problem.
  • They even put a little shower cap thingy on the steering wheel so the mechanics wouldn't get grease on it from their hands when they took it out for test drives. (God in the details and all that)
The place is a bit more expensive than, say, our second mechanic, who worked alone in a rented garage space that turned out to be too expensive and now works on the street in front of his house. And doesn't have a phone.

But I seem to remember, in North Carolina, spending the better part of a thousand dollars (seven hundred something) to replace a boot & axle on our Honda at one point, and yeah, yeah it's important and has to be done, yadda yadda yadda, but it hurt to spend that much when all I was experiencing was a clicking sound when I turned. (I may be mixing that up with some other repair, or we may have had more work done at the same time so if that's outrageously expensive don't worry that we got ripped was a reputable place.)

This car, on the other hand, hasn't braked satisfactorily for over a year and was getting so sluggish that trucks were passing me on the way up the hill to my house.

So I was willing to go with "a bit more expensive" (especially in the Costa Rican economy) when it meant they fixed my car.

So. We now have a new (not repaired) carburetor, fuel filter, master cylinder, front brake pads (we changed the rear ones in September), four brake booster hoses and sixteen assorted rubber washers and gaskets (which solved the suspension problem).

We paid a total of $360 for parts and $210 for labor. I have no idea how that compares to US prices, but I suspect it's favorable.


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