The Day the Wheels Came Off

Editor's note: This was written last week Sunday, read the epilogue at the end for the ongoing update.

Cracks!

Leaving the best beach we camped on was already a sad event. But had we known the day was going to get worse we’d probably have just stayed put.

When we originally scouted out this beach camping area we found a spot on the road to get there that we were nervous about Gracie coming down. Coming down to the beach with Gracie was an uneventful experience however. Yet the same can not be said about going up over this spot. This morning we had to drive up it. It’s steep, it's dirt, and it has a couple of major potholes/ruts going across the road.

Becky was driving the van with the trailer and Alia, (she took the awesome photographs below) and I had the boys and dogs in Gracie.

Prior to the rut/potholes

Prior to the rut/potholes

Unfortunately going up, I hit the bumps just wrong and the whole front end came down hard on the left side. I heard a big crash/crack and Kody who was sleeping on the dash in front of me freaked out.

The after shot... yes she's gonna make it!

The after shot... yes she's gonna make it!

I rather quickly figured out what had happened. We were still able to drive and so I took it to the top of the hill before taking stock.

CRACK!

CRACK!

We put a huge fracture/spider crack in our windshield. Fortunately it’s not broken through (waiting for rain to determine if it leaks!).

The outside view

The outside view

What we didn’t know until a half hour later (after switching the trailer and loading the van, getting through town and getting up to highway speed) we had also shifted the passenger side windshield so there’s now a quarter inch gap on the right side. It makes an incredible whistle while driving!

I know that one leaks! No need to wait for the rain on that one.

Internet

We had been having trouble getting internet at the beach, but we kinda figured that would be that way. However when we got out on the road we just couldn’t get cell phone coverage (aka internet for us) at all. We both thought we were just in bad cell reception area but as it turns out Tmobile (our cell phone carrier) started having trouble with their connection with TelCel (largest Mexican cell network) and no Tmobile customers had service in all of Mexico.

So far, for those of you keeping score at home that’s two strikes, the windshield and the lack of cell phone service.

Wheel

The third strike came with a puff of smoke, a terrible smell and a loud noise.

I pulled over assuming that we had blown a tire.

Funny thing about “pulling over” on a Mexican highway is that you just stop in your lane and put your hazard lights on. In towns there are typically dirt frontage roads where you can pull over to, but between towns there are rarely shoulders, most often where guardrails should be large rocks and bushes are. So you have no room to pull over a 57’ rig.

I checked the tires out to discover that the tread of the inside tire of one of our dualies had separated from the tire. So I walked the half a mile back to the tread laying on the road and picked it up. Not sure what I was thinking but I threw it on the trailer (like we could keep it to glue it back on or something!!)

Road alligator (tread remains) on the trailer.

Road alligator (tread remains) on the trailer.

Anyways the walk gave me time to think and the only solution I could some up with was to drive on. There are Llanteras (shade tree tire repair shops) all over the place in Baja and I figured we could stop at one. Or just get it repaired in Los Barriles where we were headed.

The concern was what happens if it blows out? We’ve heard some horror stories about tire blowouts taking out major damage on RVs. (though mostly I’ve seen pictures of that on trailers and fifth wheels). So we didn’t want that to happen. But I had some hope that since it was on the dual wheel axle and since the tread was off hopefully the tire wouldn’t blow.

A couple miles later a loud pop of air and some funny noise told me we may have a real tire blow out. We pulled over and this section of road had a place for us to actually get off the road!

There's a hole in my wheel dear Liza dear Liza...

There's a hole in my wheel, dear Liza dear Liza...

I took a look and there was a cut across the radials on the tire. Now we were sure to have a blow out! To avoid a tire blow out I decided to try to cut the tire off of the rim. Using my pocket knife and an IKEA kitchen knife. We figured the two knives would be cheaper to replace than the damage a blow out would cost to repair. (the gray water tank is right near this wheel!).

Sidewalls are relatively EASY to cut through, Radials are too.

Sidewalls are relatively EASY to cut through, Radials are too.

Thanks to Becky reminding me that we had built in jacks (so I could raise Gracie and get under the vehicle) I had made good progress.

What I didn’t know is that the part of the rubber tire that meets the rim is insanely tough to cut through. I had everything but that part cut through and couldn’t get the remainder when a couple of locals who spoke no English stopped to help. Through my awkward Spanish and charades we communicated that they work at a Llantera about 10 miles behind us.

What ensued was pretty entertaining as they realized that I had no spare tire and my sockets didn’t fit the lugs (I have no idea why I didn’t check that sooner!) The only option was to cut the rubber off.

Using knifes, hammers, screw drivers, wire cutters, and a crowbar we worked and worked until we finally gave up and cut the sidewalls of the rubber so the radials came off.

Wow that was a ton easier, and had I thought of that I would have been almost done before the guys had gotten there.

Anyhow we then drove back to their llantera where they had to figure out how to get the hubcap cover off (not something I knew how at the time, I had made an assumption, but I was wrong).

How many guys does it take to change a tire?

How many guys does it take to change a tire?

Finally! the cover was off and the lugnuts are exposed!

Finally! the cover was off and the lugnuts are exposed!

Once they figured it out they took the outside wheel off, then the inside wheel and removed the rubber sidewalls from the rim.

Prying the remaining rubber off of the rim.

Prying the remaining rubber off of the rim. You might be able to see the chunk I cut out of the sidewall to get at the part that connects to the rim. I had no chance!

They tried to sell me a tire (with amazing tread) that was the wrong size (I drive 85R16 and they tried to sell me a 75R16) They seem to think I was crazy for not buying it, and if I could say in spanish “I’ve only lived in Mexico for a month, I haven’t yet assimilated that much.” I would have… but alas my spanish fails to communicate sarcasm.

All told with roadside assistance, and about 2 hours of labor the total cost was $18. They felt like they were ripping me off (since I hadn't bought a tire) and I felt like I was getting a steal of a deal. Seems that we were all happy!

On the road again

So after a three hour slow down we got some lunch and fuel and set out again for Los Barriles.

Because of the lack of internet/cell phone service we had some difficulties finding the RV park we were aiming for (el Jardin de Buenos Aires). So we went to the second option.

Finally Internet!

The next day (Sunday) we finally got internet access through the RV park. That's when we found out what the cell phone situation was and at the same time discovered that the name of the RV park changed from El Jardin to Playa Norte. We were actually staying at the place we were trying to get to.

Irony is finding out that your first and second choices for RV parks are actually the same place. Evidently we really liked the description of this park both before it’s current name and after the name change!

While we’ve fixed a lot of things that were on our todo list we now have the following things broken:

  • Windshield (we have insurance for this, but not sure if they’ll cover repair in Mexico!)
  • Missing tire (hopefully I can find the right size here in Los Barriles! — and the right socket size!)
  • Broken brakes on the trailer (we just discovered this, and we’ve been driving on it this way for over a week)
  • Water heater logic board died (makes showers really uncomfortable) — not sure if we can get one of these in Mexico but perhaps we can have it shipped to us in La Paz!

So tomorrow begins my next work day after a week plus of vacation, but as far as we know unless Tmobile/Telcel get things working soon I’ll be using the RV park internet which isn’t the greatest and only available in the washroom building.

 

Epilogue:

  • Tmobile got their connection with TelCel fixed Early Monday morning (about 6am) in plenty of time for my 8am phone calls.
  • Internet has been great and I'm able to get my work done!
  • Insurance says that since it was a pothole it falls under "collision" ($2,500 deductible) and not under "comprehensive" (no deductible) -- cost to get the windshield replaced in Indiana is $2,200. We're going to see how far we can get with it like it is.
  • We bought two new tires (so we'd have a spare) and drove an hour to our next camp site... the tires were REALLY low when we arrived and we discovered that they had removed the valve cores and hadn't replaced them, so they were leaking the whole hour. -- will follow up with these guys soon!
  • Evidently Baja doesn't carry electric brakes for trailers... so we're completely without brakes on one side of the car hauler
  • The logic board is being shipped to us
  • The passenger windshield cracked while we were parked (I assume it's really weak now) -- and we marked the ends of the cracks before driving 20 minutes on washboard dirt roads. so far only the drivers side cracks grew and only a tiny bit. The passenger side hasn't increased.

Not everything we post about here is about Gracie breaking down, and we knew it was going to happen on this trip. But I'm really disappointed with insurance especially since I paid extra for a windshield rider (what I didn't know is it only covers objects hitting the windshield or vandalism, not incidents involving driving).

Pictures made for your Pinterest! Tap the pinterest Icon that shows up to pin this to a board.

Paul Kortman

Dad of 4, husband, blogger, digital marketer, follower of Jesus. I podcast at nomadtogether.com and own connexdigitalmarketing.com We're on this crazy journey to travel the world as a lifestyle. Looking for help in how to live as a digital nomad family? Join this Facebook Group!

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3 Comments

  1. jan

    a.mazing. Glad you’re fine and connected. Sorry Gracie is having hard days. Hope it doesn’t rain any time soon. Journey mercies, y’all!

    Reply
  2. Kelly and Robyn Thomas

    Good Morning,
    This is Kelly and Robyn. We own Amaron Trailers and you bought your car hauler from us. We subscribed to your Home Along The Way and we’ve been following your adventures. We just read that the brakes on the car hauler are broken and Baja doesn’t carry electric brakes for trailers. We’d like to help…if we can. Perhaps we can offer some guidance or mail something to you. Please contact us: 619-818-5066. Hope to hear from you soon

    Reply
  3. Nick

    I own a car hauling company and seeing the pictures on this article is is a good thing everyone is ok. That tire blowout looks insane. YIKES! I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have internet and/or cell reception. I would probably freak out. Glad everyone is safe. Hope you have a great vacation otherwise!

    Reply

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