Another Car-related Costa Rican Adventure!

Well things have gone fairly smoothly the past week or so... so that meant (apparentlly!) that it was time for another Costa Rican Adventure!

It started out normal enough.  I got up to take care of internet business, banking and so on. Had problems with bank security due to logging in from another location and so on, to the point where it took me 2 hours to do what would normally take about 15 minutes.

Had some breakfast and Gerardo called to say he wanted to meet us at the glass place to talk about window options. So we did that and then we went to a ceramic place to look at tile. We then went to a 2nd ceramic place to order the bathroom tile Joanie and I had already chosen but they were closed so Gerardo went somewhere else and we agreed to meet back there at 1:30 when they re-opened after their lunch hour.

So Joanie and I headed downtown to look at refrigerators and washing machines, and we were rolling up to the stop light in town when...


What was that?! Sounded like an explosion very close by!

Then people began to point at our front tire.

We had a blowout right there downtown.

"This classifies as a Costa Rican adventure?" you ask?  Well normally it would not, but... Read on...

I pulled across the street and parked on the corner even though it was yellow and got out to change the tire.

The tire is mounted on the back of the car with a tire cover. I opened up the trunk where - when I bought the car - I checked to see that there were tools.

I got out the jack and lug wrench and began take the spare tire off the car. Guess what? The wrench doesn't fit in the hole that the lug nut is recessed within! I realized that the lug wrench they gave us with the car is not the right one for this car because it doesn't fit inside the hole and so I can't get the lug wrench in there.

Luckily though, I was parked in front of a hardware store so I ran across the street to get a lug wrench. $16.

I ran back with my lug wrench and hey! it works! So I got the spare tire off and began to jack up the jack. Guess what? No tool to raise the jack!

I looked for one and found something but guess what? It doesn't have the piece needed to raise the jack up.

Meanwhile a guy came over to help me. Right away my remembrance of Costa Rica forums came to mind where they warned of Ticos wanting to help change a tire - in many cases they caused the tire to bust in the first place - and they distract you while they steal stuff from the car.

I locked the car and told Joanie to keep an eye on him. He insisted on helping to jack up the car but soon realized as I did that we needed the crank to do it more efficiently.

I left him there and told Joanie to keep an eye on him, and I ran back to the hardware store to get a crank.

A guy there who had helped me before ran over to me and I explained that my tire just blew up and I needed the crank for the jack (in my far-from-perfect Spanish since I didnt' know the words for these things). He understood and went downstairs, to the basement with me following behind. He found a piece of iron and began to fashion a jack crank out of a piece of iron and some pipes. Took about 10 minutes but he did the job and charged me $3.

I ran back out but by that time the guy was done because someone else had helped supply a working jack. So the tire was changed, however it also had a bad bolt that the lug nut goes on to so it could only be fastened with 4 of the 5 lug nuts.

I gave the guy $5-6 which made him happy (I had no evidence that he caused the flat tire so I chose to assume he did not).

Meanwhile Gerardo called wondering where we were and I told him what happened and that we would meet him over by the ceramic place at the garage/gas station.

He met us there and we determined it was possible to put in a new lug bolt, and also decided to buy 2 new tires and while they were doing  that they also found bad brake pads that were nearly useless so I agreed to fix those as well.

We were there for about an hour while they did all this and Gerardo stayed with us.

Joanie asked Gerardo if he had stuff to do because he didn't have to stay with us if he needed to go somewhere but he gave us his philosophy which went something like "There is no hurry to do anything. Just relax and enjoy being here now." That is my interpretation but that's the basic lesson he gave us that matches what my teachers like Eckhart Tolle and Ken Keyes and the Buddha have taught.

Finally they finished fixing the brakes and the tires and we headed over to order the tile, which took a lot longer than I'd have thought and we were all getting very hungry by then.

Finally we headed back down the bumpy dirt road, following Gerardo there and he stopped along the road to warn us to check our brakes well before heading down the hill because they could have air in the line or need fluid or something.

I checked them and they seemed okay so we headed down.

A minute later he stopped and asked us to pull up next to him and when I did he told me to look up on the hill and said "Have you seen your house from here?" and I said no and he pointed it out to me and sure enough there it was up there on the hill in the distance! Wow! I'd have never noticed it had he not pointed it out to me. Well I might have, some day but... I'll have to come back with my binoculars and camera to verify that it is our house and then take some video and still shots!

About 5 minutes into our descent into the valley I began to realize my brakes were NOT working well and even when I pushed hard on them all they did was slow me up, not stop me. I proceeded in first gear and carefully and made it to the farm without incident but decided I'd have to bring the car back to the mechanic tomorrow a.m. to have the lines flushed and the brakes checked well.

So that was it. Another Costa Rican adventure!

p.s. In hind-sight, I feel rather strongly that the guy who came by with an auto part in hand to explain he was helping us because a much worse thing happened to him today and he needs money to fix his car, was indeed the guy who CAUSED our tire to burst and he ruined my tire simply to get a few bucks for helping me fix it. OR he hoped to steal from us but we were too careful and kept the doors locked. It just is too coincidental that my tire burst not when I was driving on a dirt/rock bumpy road or on the highway but moving at about 10 miles per hour downtown where he happened to be...

It is a known Costa Rican scam that guys will put a nail or something in a rent a car tire so it will go flat soon and then follow them and offer to help, only to steal stuff from them while they are "helping" [themselves to your valuables".

I feel that the fact he had a broken auto part in his hand makes it highly likely that he was the one who busted our tire.

As soon as he offered to help me my warning lights went on in my head and I locked all the doors and told Joanie to watch him carefully when I went to the hardware store to buy a lug wrench etc...

Please weigh in on what YOU THINK. Was he a scammer or Good Samaritan? Or am I just way too cynical and shouldn't even think such a thing?

1 Comment

  1. Graham on January 6, 2016 at 6:54 am

    Always bleed the brakes before setting off – mechanic should have (of course, but now he earns twice from you).

    In emergency – handbrake and pump the brake pedal.

    They will keep trying it on, sadly. Your tico name is ATMike.

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