I had been in contact with a few folks in Bogota over the past few days because I wasn’t sure about getting my clutch tube cleared. Now that I had a potentially bigger problem, it was time to take them up on their offers to help.
Carlos is in one of the local VW clubs and promised to come over with the best VW mechanic in town. The next afternoon, he showed up with Mario and his brother. They took a quick look at the bus and got to work.
Mario pulled off the calipers and immediately determined that my leak wasn’t from the caliper seals, but from behind the pistons… and that the entire thing was caused by my excessively worn pads. A slightly embarrassing mistake on my part – I should have taken a closer look myself. However, I’d like to place some blame on the 1971 VW engineers – this seems like a bit of a design flaw if the pistons pop out and start leaking fluid when the pads get too low. I’m assuming they’ve figured this out by now.
Mario gave both calipers a thorough inspection to make sure there was no other damage and everything looked good. He was amazed at the thickness of my discs – practically new in his opinion. This brings us to the next problem. I actually had some spare pads in the car I’ve been carrying around since Puerto Vallarta (note: don’t drive from PV to Bogota without changing your brake pads*.) I recall the guy at the PV shop promising me he was giving me the ‘better’ pads. What he must of meant was that he was giving me the over-sized pads that don’t actually fit a standard disc. By my guess, the disc would have to be worn down to just a few millimeters thick for these pads to actually fit.
*before we left on our trip, a professional VW mechanic told me I wouldn’t have to change my pads the entire trip. I’m on my third set. Mario says change ‘em around every 10,000 km.
Mario’s quick solution was to go find a shop and grind them down to the right thickness. An hour goes by and no luck – we’re not in the part of town with ANY mechanical type shops. Businesses here are organized by barrio. He’s sure he has the correct pads and he sends his brother back to his shop to get them… when he returns they go in fine and there’s no leaks.
Time for a test drive around Bogota.
We all hop in and head towards the parts area of 07 de Octubre to pick up some spares and we end up right back at Volkswagen Colombiana – where I was the previous day. No standard sized pads and no shock absorbers here either. Mario says he’s got some of these too, but with the holiday weekend (?) he can’t get them to me until the following Tuesday (?) The near-term solution is to start drinking.
Mario has a few building around here. A few he rents out to other mechanics and one for himself. We drive to the first shop and see one of his finished products – a cherry vocho that has been perfectly restored. Next, we head to his other shop where some club members and friends are waiting and clearly started the evening without us.
The shop is crammed full of classic VW’s in various stages of restoration. They do everything here by hand – it’s impressive. No power tools. Entire cars stripped and sanded by hand. There are still a few guys still working hard hammering out dents and chipping away at rust spots on a few projects.
As Mario hands me a beer, he tells me he’s promised two customers to finish building their engines by tomorrow. It’s clearly not going to happen – maybe because he came to help me and certainly now because there’s a party in the shop and the booze is flowing. To their credit, many of the mechanics keep working into the night (Añejo in hand.) My limited Spanish seems to improve as the night progresses. At some point we discuss starting an import/export business for restored classic VW’s – so crazy it could work.
Everyone was great and I can’t thank Mario and Carlos enough for coming across town to help me out. It was great to meet so many other nice folks like Victor, Martin, John and others who were so generous and practically rolled out the red carpet for us in Bogota.
Once again, faith in humanity confirmed.