A few days ago I found antifreeze fluid on the otherwise shiny tile floor of our cochera (garage). After a brief day of procrastination, we took the Windstar into the radiator shop of the Refacciones Santa Clara, located on the Libramiento (free bypass to the Pueblo Mágico, Pátzcuaro. The Libramiento is the gritty, working part of Pátzcuaro, not mentioned in tourist guides.)
The radiator shop is across the busy street, where heavy earthmoving equipment is chewing up the sidewalks and widening the avenue, to the incessant noises of vehicle backup warnings.
The dingy shop has an old sign, "El Chumina". I have no idea what that means or if it's relevant to the present day operation. Its next door neighbor is the municipal car pound, populated by wrecks and tow trucks.
Javier, the Chief (and only) Mechanic of the Radiator Shop, listened to our problem and presented us with various options. In the end, only one seemed to make sense: pull the radiator and check it and its peripheral connections for leaks.
Usually we don't linger to watch our car undergoing surgery, but as we were already there and there was no waiting, we hung around. At times it was scary. I'd never seen our car's engine eviscerated before, accompanied by various gases and liquids hissing and sizzling as lines were disconnected. It all ran out onto the pavement and into the gutter. As the collection of bolts, screws and bigger parts grew alongside the car, so did my queasiness. But in watching him work quickly and dextrously, I had confidence that all would be well.
Javier would examine the undercarriage by lying on a large sheet of cardboard box.
After an hour and a half of dismantling, he pulled the radiator and took it inside to test in El Tanque. This is a painted metal tank with an overhead beam, spanned by a couple of narrow wooden boards. The contents of the tank would probably give the Environmental Protection Agency fits. A rubber cup or two was fitted over the inlet/outlet of the radiator, then submerged while a hose blew in compressed air.
The radiator passed the leak test. Much tension was relieved when one of the rubber cups blew off with a loud pop and shot out of the tank. We all laughed.
Meanwhile, during the dismantling, he'd found a cut line. How the line came to be cut is a mystery, as it is difficult to access. Measures were taken to prevent cutting the other line.
Then the reassembly began. Somehow this went faster than the disassembly. We went to the nearby food stand and got refrescos for ourselves and for Javier.
In about an hour and twenty minutes, all was assembled again, in a state closely resembling its previous one, except without antifreeze and Freon and a small loss of transmission fluid.
One hundred pesos to Javier, and he wheeled off on a bicycle to a friend's supply place for the antifreeze.
Next. we turned on the engine, and ran it a while to dry out the radiator and for a final check for leaks.
Our minds were silently turning over how much the final bill might be..."four hours hard work...no estimate...gringos inocentes...et cetera..."
In the end, the labor bill was $280 pesos. Nothing for parts. One hundred pesos for the antifreeze (we took the remainder home with us). We gave him 300 and called it even. About $27.45 USD.