Why did your car break?

So, the above video is a road in medium-bad condition (unfortunately a camera wasn’t rolling when we were on the really, really bad road).  Lots of potholes to navigate around.  Lots of jostling.  The road conditions in Central America were one of the many reasons to choose a durable vehicle like the Land Cruiser, but even durable machines have their moments.IMG_5392

This little gem is the field coil in our A/C compressor.  Or was, I guess I should say, for a brief period – between Coban (where it had been installed the day before) and Guatemala City, it overheated and deformed (the wires sticking out the top), causing a short and also causing the compressor itself to seize.

The problem with the Coban repair was that it treated the symptom (the previous coil had also melted and deformed), not the cause.  Which turned out to be the thing that our friend Rafael in Coban thought initially, a worn bearing.

The fine folks at the garage around the corner were recommended to us by a friend of our B&B host in Guatemala City – coincidentally and conveniently it is positioned in between the school and our flat.  They replaced the bearing, coil and head and recharged the system with R134.


We also had the front brake pads replaced there; since our brakes overheated on the road to Atitlan, we wanted a vote of confidence that there wasn’t something awry with the larger system.  (Mr. Ascoli at the garage gave it the all clear.)  We may have moved a bit early on that particular service, but not a lot – as you can see from the photo, the right (used) brake pad did not have a lot of life left in it.

One more piece of information: we had been driving around on regular unleaded gas the whole trip until today (actually, my whole life until today), but we may not be any longer. This is not due to any particular difference in gas quality.  For example, in Mexico, regular unleaded was consistently marked 85 octane (equivalent to 95 octane in Europe) thanks to the Pemex monopoly, but in Guatemala less than half of the gas stations tell you what the octane difference is between regular unleaded and premium – when they do it’s usually also 85.  Some folks suggest that this lack of information justifies buying premium unleaded all the time for safety, but I wasn’t convinced. Over the course of the trip, however, I was certainly convinced that the car, while not struggling on the mountain roads necessarily, didn’t have a lot of zip going uphill when it was at high elevation.

Part of that is normal – as the car has a 6-cylinder engine and is quite large and heavy, it’s never going to be passing everything going up.  But when you’re hanging out between 2500-3000 meters (yes, the so-called Alaska pass between here and Guatemala City does reach 3000), you need all the combustion advantages you can get.  So yesterday, I filled up with the 95 octane (I guess this equals European 105 octane?) and on today’s drive up to San Francisco El Alto (with two extra passengers, even), the engine seemed downright responsive.  (Might be psychological, not sure.)

Other than a carwash yesterday, that’s pretty much all the car news!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s