The week in which we discover ‘Big Blue’ Jeep isn’t going to make it.
Our good Puerto friends Willy and Susan asked us before we left to drive through Central America ‘So do you know much about cars?’ We both laughed a loud ‘NOTHING’ and commented there is always a mechanic to help out if needed. We had driven the Jeep for 3 months, road tested it on the journey to Oaxaca and back, so we felt comfortable setting off for our trip.
Little did we know on leaving Puerto how quickly we would need assistance with the ‘Big Blue’ Jeep.
Minatitlan on day 2 is as far as we got before the Jeep decided it didn’t fancy the trip much. We had driven into Pemex to get fuel, which was right next door to the hotel, pulled away about 100 metres then only to hear a very loud bang and Mr E telling me the car had lost power. Now you might remember I had said my prayers to the Virgin of Guadalupe to watch over us and I’m pretty sure she helped out there as the car behind us heard the bang, stopped to help and two Mexican car mechanics got out! He tested the fuses and found one had no power – this was the fuse for the transmission. He gave all the fuses a rub down with something like sandpaper, (see no idea what I’m talking about) checked all the connections, adjusted the fan belt and amazingly the car started again. With a $200 pesos thank you we headed off wondering what the hell had happened as my Spanish translation of the mechanics explanation wasn’t 100%.
In Campeche on day 3 we had the same issue. Car lost power pulling out of the hotel onto a very narrow one way cobbled street. We caused a major tooting traffic jam. But based on what the mechanic did the day before – we took out the same fuse gave it a rub on the back of Mr E’s shorts put it back and hey presto drove away slightly shakily due to Mexicans shouting at us to ‘get a move on’ or something similar…We stopped at a Jeep dealer that we just happened to drive by and bought a replacement fuse for $10 pesos. (My Spanish vocabulary now has a new words added; fusible, poder and las electricas)
Day 4; the car alarm went off all night in Merida resulting in Mr E leaving it unlocked. Something was clearly wrong with the electrics but we didn’t know what. But the car didn’t lose power on the morning of day 5 cautiously we drove it round & round the car park before venturing out on the roads.
On day 6; Cancun to Isla Mujeres, we lost power again and by now Mr E was not a happy camper. I have a total potty mouth pretty much all the time, Mr E never swears but the F word came out plenty on this occasion. By now we were getting panicky every time we switched on the engine – would it conk out and more worryingly where would it conk out? We half expected it to break down getting on the car ferry causing chaos but it made it. At this stage we knew it was more than a faulty fuse so decided to cut short our trip on Isla and take it in for a check up at the Jeep Dealer we had seen in Cancun. I had my Spanish phrases with explanation of the problem all written down but thankfully when I asked if there was anyone at the dealership that spoke English we were given the gift of the very helpful ‘Gerard’ parts manager whose English was exceptional. Through him we were able to translate to the workshop mechanic what the problem was. They kept the car overnight and then gave us the diagnostics bad news.
The Jeep needs a new Engine Control Module (ECM) and a new crankshaft sensor. Simply put the engine computer needs replacing and by taking the transmission fuse out and putting it back when we lost power it was rebooting the computer so to speak. But by doing this every time, it could cause further damage. Jeep Cancun could fix it for $28,000 pesos but it would take a month or maybe more to order the genuine Jeep part from America. Not an option!
So we’ve made the decision to head the 1000 miles to Puerto to order a part online, FedEx it down and aim to get a local electrician to repair it. By being back in Puerto we aren’t paying for hotels, have an address to get the part to, we also have the luxury of time to get the part and fingers crossed can get it fixed.
However the rest of our journey all the way down to Panama City over the next few months is going to be put on hold for now. We really don’t want to go further south, not knowing if the car will break down completely and it’s like Russian fuse roulette every morning anticipating when the car will lose power – not fun for happy travelling!
We were horribly disappointed after planning a great route but on the plus side we have travelled to the other side of Mexico and are really lucky we have the option we can go back to Puerto.
So this week we have parked the car in Belize City, took a water taxi to Caye Caulker where we are staying in a cute Caribbean cottage. Next week we’ll start the drive back to Puerto Escondido – keep everything crossed for us please!!