Friday, May 11, 2012
Motorhome mechanical woes continue
After over two years and more than 30,000 miles (50,000 kms), much of that on rough, potholed roads, the transmission went out on us. Yes, after getting what has amounted to become an almost useless service in Punta Arenas and being assured that there was no problem with it, the transmission spewed oil and smoke on highway 3, on the way to San Julian. At the time, we were about 130 miles from Rio Gallegos and perhaps 120 miles from the village of Piedra Buena. In other words, the middle of nowhere. After driving the motorhome onto the shoulder, it shuddered to a stop. Fortunately this is a well travelled highway and almost immediately two trucks pulled over and volunteered their help. It was decided that Tom would ride with one of them to Piedra Buena and I would stay with the motorhome and Winston. It was already 3pm and I knew given the distances that he would be gone at least four hours which would be dusk or nearly dark. Sure enough at around 7:30, a car pulled up and Tom jumped out. We were going to take it to Rio Gallegos and a tow truck was on its way. It was almost 2am before we arrived there and we were drained. We had passed through the town on our way to Ushuaia and it is actually only 40 miles or so from the Straits of Magellan. In the morning, the trucking office telephoned mechanics in town to try to get someone who could help us and in the afternoon, we were towed to a mechanic’s shop. They put fluid into the transmission and eventually decided that it was some seal ring that needed replacing. They also discovered that the radiator was leaking, again. This will be our 4th attempt at fixing that problem, the first time in Punta Arenas and then twice in Puerto Natales. After two days of work, the motorhome was running and everything seemed to be in order, so we left once again for San Julian. This time we did make it to Piedra Buena and as we were filling up with gas, Tom noticed – a leak. From the transmission. Same place. I could have cried. Our only option is to turn around and go back to Rio Gallegos. Piedra Buena is really nothing more than a hamlet and had no mechanic that could deal with the problem. We were also told that San Julian was much the same. Tom bought a large container of transmission fluid, filled up the truck and said we might be able to get back without a tow. Well, almost. About 35 miles from Rio Gallegos, the motorhome was spewing fluid as fast as Tom was filling it. This time a couple in a pickup stopped and they said they would tow us the rest of the way. Once in town, we again telephoned the mechanic shop and Jose; the owner sent one of his workers to get us back to the garage. This is more serious. After checking it out again, they tell us that our only option is to pull the transmission and send it to Buenos Aires to be rebuilt. Buenos Aires is 1,500 miles (2,500 kms) to the north. We tried everything. We contacted Ford Motor Company in the US and went to the local Ford dealership and service center in town. No-one could help us. We started making arrangements to send the transmission to the capital and Jose showed us a small studio apartment that he owns around the corner from the shop. There is cooking facilities, heat, hot water, television and Wi-Fi. There is no refrigerator but we can use our own in the RV. They think it will be at least two weeks for the shipment, repair and return of the transmission. I look around the small studio which will be “home” for the next couple of weeks and sigh. Oh, the joys of travel. At least the three of us are warm, safe and relatively comfortable.