Tuesday 10 February 2015

Me vs Import Van Repairs

Get a neat little import van they said. It’ll be great they said. They neglected to mention that the magic would fade if we moved out of the major metropolitan area we bought it in….

Driving off road like a boss
The Delica seemed like a good idea at the time.  A van that is unique enough not to be a mini van, and has 4 wheel drive capabilities that would make a jeep blush.  It’s roomy, out of the ordinary, surprisingly capable, and has more cargo room than I would have expected. 

I don’t even mind the right hand drive. And for those of you who want to know, it isn’t that hard driving on the opposite side of the car. Takes about an hour to really get used to, and after a day or so, you don’t really notice. 

The only real difficulty is that the wipers and turn indicator are reversed, and I do still occasionally turn on the windshield wipers when trying to use my turn signal.

My wipers mean I’m turning left. Now you know.

The one major thing we may have forgotten to consider when we moved to a small town was that out here mechanics are good at fixing Fords, Toyotas, Chevys, etc.  They do not, for the most part, tackle the intricacies of my Mitsubishi Delica with its wheel on the “wrong side” of the van, or its Japanese instruction manual.  Seriously, there are buttons in there that we’re sure do something, but we may never know what, as my katakana translations are a bit rusty.

Within 2 months of buying the van and moving here, we needed new brakes. The whole thing still bothers me because when the van was imported, that should have been done. Moreover, we were told it was.

Apparently that was not the case. Either that, or somehow over a 2 month period, I developed NASCAR-like driving habits that required significant brake work shortly after taking possession of the vehicle.  Anything is possible, but this vehicle possesses the speed of a dying whale, so I think that’s unlikely.

In any case, 2 months in we were looking for a brake overhaul. Amazingly, the brake place in town was willing to have a go at it, but of course they didn’t have the parts. It took them a few days, but they were eventually able to track them down, but it would take a few days to have them couriered up. Oh yeah, and for those wondering, couriers cost a lot.

The worst part of this, at least up to this point of the story, was that I was now without a vehicle, in a foreign land (more or less), with no way to get anywhere or get anything done. The only solution to this was to get up extraordinarily early, rip sleeping kids out of bed, shove them in the back seat, and drive Husband to work. Grumpily.

Why not just put up with a few days of car-less-ness you ask? Well, I live near nothing. I am within walking distance to nothing (except cougars, I’m sure if I went walking I’d find cougars). It was either drive him to work or go stir crazy with 2 small children running feral around the house.

Plus, it wasn’t just a few days of tolerating captivity……

Why? Because rockslides are assholes. The only driving route to bring the parts necessary to grant me my freedom was blocked for 2 weeks by a rockslide. Yeah. Fixing this car is a bitch.

Then we had a reasonably quiet year. No major breakdowns or other catastrophic problems with the Deli.  This was the van’s way of lulling us into a false sense of security so we could make it to the holiday season feeling reasonable good about our choice in import vehicle.  

Until December.

Now, I realize that our road is hardly what you would call gentle on cars. It’s gravel, it has dips and bumps, and now it has ice. It’s not beyond comprehension to think that would be hard on a car.  You would hope, then, that your weird little off-road van would be somewhat prepared for the rigors of difficult roads, being that it is touted as an off-road capable vehicle. It’s not. 

This past December I was chugging down our driveway, as only an old diesel can, when I heard something clang and clunk up front. I hopped out but saw nothing on the road, and guessed/hoped that a rock had hit the skid plate under the van. Nothing on the road, van kept chugging, no obvious pressing issues…..keep driving.

A few weeks later, Husband took the skid plate off and a piece of van fell out. As the van had been running well to this point, we decided that 1994 Delicas have an ostensibly extraneous part in the engine. Seems legit.

The part was put on a shelf and about 4 days ago (when he finally cleaned the garage) Husband found it and put a picture of the part on a Delica forum to see if anyone could identify it.
Let's play a really high stakes game of Name That Part

Online panic ensued.

Apparently the nice little bit of metal holds all the engine belts in place, and we should get it fixed as soon as possible. Don’t drive it. It’s totally undrivable. How have you not simply just fallen off the road???

Well Delica forum experts, apparently I was the exception to the rule. I’d been driving it for the last 2000 kms without said critical piece and it hadn’t stranded me yet. But of course now that I knew this, I pretty much assumed it wouldn’t make the next trip into town without blowing up.

Luckily it appeared that we were just missing a bolt and Husband was able to order it from the city (couriers again, dammit) and blindly screw the part back in. So far so good, nothing has fallen off and the van hasn’t lost power,  steering capabilities, or erupted into a ball of fire.  

The advantage to not having a mechanic in town who specializes in foreign vehicles is that Husband has become fairly good at basic car repair and maintenance. This is good because the Deli does seem to possess some….um….personality. It’s incredibly picky about its oil, has a FOB that occasionally chooses to lock and unlock doors, and generally refuses to start in the cold if you don’t baby it a bit first.

I have BCAA for a reason.  

1 comment:

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