Sunday, July 25, 2010

Car Repairs

After so many political commentaries I am turning to a rather mundane subject; but to people living here this may be of some interest.

Since I go off-road quite a bit I drive a Toyota 4-runner, one of the best off-road 4WD vehicles around (eschewing the more ostentatious full-size SUVs for simple economic reasons). Whenever there was a problem, and I must say there were very few, I took it to one of the many free repair shops that abound along the roads in Phnom Penh. I favored the one across the Rattanak hospital in Tuol Kork. One time they really didn’t know how to adjust the brakes – they went by the trial and error method - so I took it to the Toyota dealership on Russian Boulevard. In the end the slightly higher prices would make up for them being able to fix things the first time around, so I thought.

They promptly located the problem, fixed it, and I was good to go. Some time later I needed the wishbone joints replaced (part of the suspension). Unfortunately, they didn’t have the spare parts in stock. Ordering meant a wait time of 21 – 45 days by air, or up to 90 days by ground. Luckily, I didn’t need the truck for some time as I was out of country for some time. So when I go back everything was fixed nicely again.

Now just recently I had this problem with the water getting too hot and actually overheating. I had to put in about 2.5 ltrs. every day. I went to Toyota and found that the radiator lid was defective, so we replaced it. They didn’t find a leak in the radiator itself and said if the problem persists we would need to replace cylinder head gasket. There is probably a tiny leak in there making me lose all that water – sounded credible to me, although the engine oil checked out all right, but who am I to doubt a specialist’s word?

Ok, the problem didn’t go away, so I took it back for the gasket replacement. Lo and behold, they didn’t have the gasket in stock, wait-time 21-45 days. No way could I go on driving this vehicle without proper cooling for 3 – 6 weeks.

I decided to use my old shop again. They quickly found the leak in the radiator, replaced it, and $200 and 3 hours later I was all set - no problem with the gasket. Come to think of it, a simple compression check would have proved that. Lesson learned: I won’t use the Toyota shop again. They are no better than the rest, though one might expect more. First they didn’t diagnose the problem and I would have had to pay for an unnecessary repair and second, how can a qualified repair shop work without a sufficient stock of spare parts? It’s not that this is an exotic make around here, and the 3.4 ltr. engine is used in many other Toyota models too. So if you think of going there for a repair be prepared.

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