Monday, November 13, 2017

WHAT WE DO WHEN OUR GOLF CART QUITS WHILE LIVING IN MEXICO

Ride Bikes, Walk More, and Find a Golf Cart Repairman!

Our Poor, Sad-looking Golf Cart Had Problems
     When our golf cart quits running, we have some serious problems to solve. If you recall, we don’t own a car. In small towns in this part of México, a golf cart is sometimes called a carrito, and functions for many, such as Jon and me, as a little battery-operated car. We depend on our golf cart to get us to the mini-supermarket, produce stand, and meat market to shop once or twice a week. It hauls three loads of laundry in the three blue Rubbermaid totes strapped to the back when we drive it to the lavandería once or twice a week. We load our paddleboard onto the custom top rack and our beach gear on the back when we head to the beach for some Stand Up Paddleboarding. This inexpensive vehicle does a lot of work for us.
Three Rubbermaid Totes & a Cargo Net Hauls a Lot of Stuff
Battery Failure
       A week before we were planning to leave for our annual motorhome trip to the United States, our carrito gave up. The batteries failed on our last run to the recycle center. We were half-way up Calle Libertad, a fairly steep dirt road out of Sayulita, when our pickup-style golf cart, loaded with empty wine bottles and miscellaneous plastic items, began slowing down until it refused to climb the last steep slope. The batteries had just enough juice to coast back down the hill and get us back home. 
     What could be wrong? Jon was faithful about filling the six battery water reservoirs with distilled water. He always charged the batteries after every trip to town. When we got home that day, he tested the batteries with his volt meter and found one of the six well-used batteries was no longer holding a charge. We didn’t have it in our budget to buy six new 6-volt deep-cell batteries at the time. So, Jon asked around at a couple of golf cart rental places in town to see if he could buy one used battery to get us by. There were none to be found. We decided we would pick up a used battery while we were in the U.S. and hope that would fix our power issue. 
We Were Back to Riding Bikes to Town Again
     For the time being, we were back to riding bikes to take our dirty laundry to the lavandería and return the next day to pick it up, clean and folded. Cruising down cobblestone roads on bikes loaded with groceries, dog food, a bottle of tequila, and margarita mix is a bumpy and treacherous trip, but we had to stock up on supplies for our drive to Oregon. Hauling that heavy load required us to walk our two bikes the last steep stretch up the hill to our home. No more Stand Up Paddle boarding for the rest of this season. At least we could walk the short distance to the beach with our boogieboards for a few more rides on the mellow waves of June, a good way to cool off on a hot, humid afternoon.
     We really missed our carrito! But, there was nothing more we could do for it until we returned from our travels to Oregon. We unplugged it from the battery charger, covered it with a tarp to protect it during the rainy season in Nayarit, and called a taxi to take us to our motorhome. We knew when we returned in the fall, golf cart repairs would be a high priority.
Time to Find a Golf Cart Repairman
     When we returned from Oregon, Jon had a “new” used battery and wasted no time installing it and attaching the charger to the carrito. But, the six batteries would not come to full charge. It was time to find a golf cart repairman. I had remembered one of my Facebook friends, Gabe, had recently posted a photo and information about a golf cart expert who works at two golf courses in the Riviera Nayarit. So, I did some digging on Facebook (what a wealth of information that social media provides!) and found his name and phone number.
     Jon called him immediately and, we were lucky, Ari was available. It seems golfing season hadn’t take off in early November so he wasn’t too busy yet. He drove to our house, analyzed the issues, charged the golf cart with his own battery charger for a while, and then took it for a test drive. He determined that the batteries were fine. Our charger was now the culprit for the insufficient charge. But, he had the parts to fix it! A short time later, our charger and batteries were fully functional again! We were so relieved. We happily paid his reasonable fee.
Ari and His Wife Checking the Batteries
     Ari then mentioned that the ball joints and brakes were badly worn, the steering was loose and mushy, the brakes barely functioning. He said that he could fix those, too. Jon said he knew they were in pretty poor condition and asked for a price to have them rebuilt. Ari gave him a fair price to do the work and came the next day as promised. He arranged his supply of parts and his tools and set to tearing the front end off of our golf cart. The poor, dirty thing looked pretty sad without its front tires and other key parts disassembled. When I looked at the disabled carrito propped up, sitting on its tires that were lying on their sides in the gravel, I thought, “That’s one way to jack up a vehicle. I guess that’s how they do it here in México.”
Ari Working on the Golf Cart's Ball Joints & Brakes
     Ari’s wife spent the day helping him and keeping him company, handing him tools when he needed them, digging for bolts and nuts when he asked. He sat in the gravel surrounded by greasy parts and miscellaneous hardware, studiously working over the old ball joints, replacing some parts from his stash and others that Jon had brought from the U.S., including some new steering box parts. When Ari was thirsty, his wife would hold the water bottle and tip it to his mouth, his hands too greasy and busy to stop for a drink. Their quiet and loving ways with each other were wonderful to see.
     Since moving here, we’ve learned that the working man in México rarely throws anything away. They save almost everything in case they might need it in the future. The piles of screws, bolts, washers, and various parts that Ari used to rebuild our golf cart were mostly scrap that he had salvaged, with only a few new parts he had purchased. This was a perfect example of reusing and recycling. I admit, while I watched him searching through his collection of stuff on the ground for just the right screw or part, I wondered if our golf cart would ever be back together again. Not only was it reassembled that day, it steered, braked, and ran better than ever. In addition, he installed a battery charge gauge on the dash, one that Jon had purchased from Amazon. Now, we will know when the batteries’ charge is getting low before we get stranded somewhere. We were able to make a run to the lavandería and shop for groceries the next day—using the carrito, not our bikes!
Jon Straps the Paddleboard Onto the Carrito for a Trip to the Beach
Flat Tire on Our Way to the Nursery
     Our pickup-style carrito may be one of the ugly ducklings among golf carts in Sayulita, but we love it. It’s a work horse, a real asset when I decide to take a trip to the nursery for plants and a bag of heavy soil. On one such trip, I didn’t think we would make it to our destination when I looked down at the tires and one was completely flat. Jon pulled the golf cart to the side of the road, parked, and told me to stay with it while he ran home for our bike pump. A half-hour later, here he came, riding his bike and carrying the pump. He threw his bike on the carrito’s roof, strapped it down, and proceeded to pump up the flat tire. He hopped in the carrito and off we drove, determined to get to the nursery. A hundred yards along, the tire was flat again. Jon pumped it up again and said we had to get to the tire repair shop on the highway, about a half-mile away. That was a very long half-mile for Jon—pump up the tire, drive a hundred yards, and repeat.
     Now for the bad news. The auto repair shop does not repair golf cart tires. Jon insisted that there had to be a way to fix it because we couldn’t get home otherwise. The young man thought about this for a few minutes, shook his head, and then wandered off, leaving Jon and me wondering what we were going to do next.
     A while later, he sauntered back to Jon with a full-sized automobile inner tube in his hand, deflated and old. He said, in Spanish, that he had an idea. We watched in amazement as he proceeded to pull the golf cart tire off, stuff the wad of tube into the tire, and reinstall it on the carrito. He then attached his air compressor to the tube stem and began adding air to the inner tube until it inflated just enough to fill the golf cart’s tire. Fixed! The amazing thing is that in the year since that ingenious repair job, the tire has never gone flat.
     Our carrito’s tires may be old and bald, but we don’t have to climb extremely steep hills. The tread is about gone and the batteries don’t have the power Jon would need to “peel out” anyway, so why change the tires yet. The Mexican way is to use things until they stop working, and then fix them so they will work a while longer. Living in México, we have learned some great lessons on how to live frugally!
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2 comments:

  1. I Live In A Small Pueblo "Tapalpa Jalisco" And That Is The Way A Lot Of People Are and Live Here... Amazing What They Can Do With So Little...

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    Replies
    1. Nice comment, Charles. It is amazing. Thanks for reading my blog.
      Best wishes,
      Terry

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