Drive a Little and Save a Lot on Car Repairs at Lake Chapala Ajijic Mexico: Here’s How !

April 25, 2009

Drive a Little and Save a Lot on Car Repairs at Lake Chapala Ajijic Mexico:  Here’s How to do It !

If you read my recent article on Why I have Four Ford Explorers you will understand why it’s imperative for me to keep them all in good repair since part of my business life depends upon having dependable wheels under me.

Since I have four times the insurance and four times the licensing expense I have four times the incentive to save on car repairs.

I mentioned in the prior article that I love cars and had as many as eleven at one time. But it may surprise you to learn that I’ve only bought five brand new cars in my lifetime.
Now, I love Mexico and Lake Chapala in particular, but even I must admit that even with the perfect weather here our area is hard on cars primarily due to cobblestone streets, blowing dust and sunny weather all year long.

Sid's Jag 038

Another factor is that the streets in some of our villages were designed for horse and buggy width vehicles and the occasional scrape or scratch is fairly common.

The nice part is that body work here by North American Standards is extremely inexpensive. This is primarily due to the lower cost of labor (even skilled labor like body shop mechanics and painters).

I once had what was estimated to be almost a $2,000 USD body shop repair on a Toyota Pickup I owned which had a disagreement with a post.

They explained at the Dallas body  shop that the whole car would have to be painted and the door replaced for starters.

I decided to settle for cash and repair the car myself (They don’t like it, but if you press, you can get cash out of most of the insurance companies to repair the damage yourself).

I made sure I had a copy of the accident report which showed the damage being done in the USA before I drove it to Chapala Mexico.

Why did I feel the need to carry a report of the accident with me. Simple: The Mexican police are on the alert for freshly damaged vehicles thinking that perhaps you’ve fled the scene of an accident in Mexico which is I believe  much more common here due to the fact that without good insurance the guilty party may go to jail until he can make arrangements to have the other guy’s car fixed.

Note: Always be sure and get Bail Bond Coverage just in case when you buy your Mexican car insurance.

I got all the work done at JR’s Shop in Riberas del Pilar on the Carretera (highway) just West of Chapala and East of San Antonio Tlayacapan for an amazing cost  of $200 USD.

Why so low, even given the lower labor costs. The Mexican people as I mentioned before on my article on Shoe Repair here are into fixing things rather than replacing them.

So, JR’s shop fixed the bashed in door without even removing it from the hinges. Lots of  hammer taps from larger hammers to very small ones soon had the door looking near perfect and a little bondo putty and sanding made it it as slick and smooth as a new one.

But what about matching the good, but faded red paint of the rest of the car. They would still have to paint the entire car right, to get the paint to all match?

As Johnny Carson, might have said to Ed McMahan “Wrong, paint thinner breath !”

They took the original Red DuPont paint and then drop by drop added black paint and mixed and mixed after each drop and painted samples until they had exactly matched the slightly faded red paint color of my truck.

Like a lot of things which in the USA and Canada would be quite expensive you will find body work to be a super bargain here.

But, what about General Auto Mechanic work. Well if you don’t want to pay USA prices you will have to shop around. There are new modern car care centers here where you will be greeted in English and at these places everything will be clean and orderly and look just like in the USA.

CAr Repair

The problem is that you will pay almost the same prices as you would in the USA too.

These shops tend to be owned by Mexicans who worked in the USA for years or who were born there and became mechanics.

They then set up shop here and give you what you are used to. Nice pretty clean attractive places with rough estimates that they live up to and everyone is happy. These guys earn their money and give good service for the most part.

But, if you’re like me and can communicate in basic Spanish or are fortunate to have a bilingual friend or spouse to help, you can save a bundle!

Yes, you guessed it… You just drive a little to get out of the heavy gringo populated areas to a shop that doesn’t look like it will win any awards for orderliness, where there is not a printed invoice of the work that’s done with labor and parts all neatly spelled out.

HPIM0610
Most of the cars in the shop that are being worked on will be older ones with some being very old.

You’ll probably also be afraid to touch anything for fear of getting grease or grime on your hands.

Trust me however, since you will be saving a bundle because now your paying what the average working class Mexican can afford to pay to keep his older car going on down the road.

HPIM0612

Some of these shops will even have the modern computer diagnostic equipment available.

Now, I’m going to let you in on a closely guarded secret of mine. I’m going to share the contact information for a Master Mechanic who has a steady stream of cars in his small shop at all times.

But even though he may not get you in and out in the same day he’s well worth the wait.  Why? He does it right at rock bottom prices, that’s why.

I’m talking about my friend and ace mechanic, Enrique Ramirez, who has now been my special secret master mechanic for about 6 years.

His son is coming along too and he speaks a little English and is into building racing cars.

I recently had a problem with being able to change gears on my 97 Explorer. I knew Enrique would be busy so I checked at a shop that was sort of half way between a USA looking place and Enrique’s shop.

They estimated well over $100 USD and said that they would have to take the steering column apart and replace the bushings so that I could get the gear shift lever to go into park,  and so that all the gears could be more easily engaged. Oh yes,…and they were too busy to get to me for several days.

No doubt they would have replaced the bushings and adjusted the linkage and I would have been happy with the work.

But, I needed the car done sooner than they could get to me so we called Enrique on his cell phone (There’s no shop land line) and surprise surprise he wasn’t that busy and could take a look at the car right away.

The Good Mechanic Fairy had smiled on me once again and I immediately drove directly over the mountains just South of Chapala to Ixtlauacan without passing by “Go”.

When we arrived ( my other half followed me in her Explorer) we found Enrique just finishing up his work on a local Police Department Patrol Pick up truck (Most of the police vehicles here are pick up trucks).

HPIM0613

I demonstrated the problem I was having shifting gears, Enrique slid under the car, slid back out and got a set of wrenches and slid the front seat back and wiggled his tall slender frame under the dashboard and within five minutes he slid back out climbed into the drivers seat and checked the gears. They all worked perfectly after the adjustments he made.

Unlike the computer repair tech guy who listened to the problem that the firm was having with their early, nearly room sized computer, which had stopped working … and who deftly opened  the outer case, reached in and pulled out a diode and replaced it with a new one.

When asked how much his fee was he said with a straight face, “One thousand dollars!”

Flabbergasted with the very high fee charged for little work the CEO of the firm demanded a written invoice of the work done.

The repair tech said, “Sure thing.” And proceeded to write out a detailed invoice of his work.

“Parts : One small diode #123xyz ………………………..$100

Labor – One minute billed at $60.00 an hour……..$1.00

Knowledge:Knowing which Diode to change of the 1,000 diodes in the computer ……………………………………………….. $998.00″

HPIM0616

Fortunately for me,  Enrique had never heard this story and so I was only charged 200 pesos or about $15 USD. How’s that for saving a lot of money on a car repair.

Now. please don’t tell everyone you know about my secret master mechanic  or Enrique may want to charge us all a lot more.

He’s true master mechanic, and happy as a clam doing what he loves. It’s easy to spot this type of mechanic.

They delight in telling and showing you just how they figured out what was wrong and how they fixed it.  So, just smile and listen!

It’s just good business.


  • Carolyn ANN Elder

    HOLA SID
    Am at ‘home’ in NW Montana…enjoyed my short visit to
    Lake Chapala area..and our lunch at Nueva Posada. Thanks
    for sharing!

    May I have the contact information for this wunderkind mechanic/genius..
    and phone numbers..
    Enrique sounds like many an ol boy here in Montana
    who “KNOW” their business..
    and practice it!

    ALSO..directions for the drive from Joco..would be appreciated.
    You may recall that I live in Las Fuentes when in the area.

    JUST reading about the SWINE FLU outbreak in Mexico.
    ANY cases in our LAKESIDE area?

    STAY safe..

    Sincerely, ANN ELDER

  • http://www.chapalaclub.com Sid Grosvenor

    Hi Ann, Good to hear from you. I’ll send you the Enrique’s cell phone number later.

    Here’s how to find his shop. Take the road to Guad. from Chapala and after you corss over the mountains and you come down the long slop to the bottom you will see Ixtlauacan pn the left side. Move to the left hand lane and make a U turn and take an immediate right turn onto the main road that goes to the downtown section and then take the first place you can make a U turn which will put you heading back to the Chapala – Guad. highway. About a half a block after your last U turn you will see Enrique’s shop on the right hand side.

    No one speaks English there so if your Spanish is weak be sure and take someone to translate for you.

    I told him I was going to put him on my website so if you go by be sure and tell him you saw him on my website.

    He’s saved me a bunch of money over the years and the least I can do is recommend him to people who want to do the same thing.

    All for now. Siempre tu amigo, Sid

  • Jan

    Hi Sid:

    I had read this article with interest and when in Ixtlauacan tired unsuccessfully to find Enrique’s shop…you can no longer do the U turn into Ixtlauacan on the Chapala/Guad hwy….so took the lateral route, then through the big blue “arch”. I assume that is the main road you refer to…from there, the U turn…could not find Enrique…any help would be appreciated.

    Thanks, and thanks for the interesting and informative news letters….Jan

  • http://www.chapalaclub.com Sid Grosvenor

    Hi ?. Your message was truncated so I did not get your name. Sorry, you could not find Enrique’s shop.

    Turn into the town by the Pem and go to the first U turn place and make the u turn and his shop will be on your right hand side.It’s easy to pass by it. There is just the driveway so you have to be watching carefully.

    Immediately to the right hand side of his place is a paint store that fronts in the road. His shop sits back a bit on the driveway next to the paint store.

    Hope this helps you find him. Siempre tu amigo, Sid

Email for more information:
Sid@ChapalaClub.com

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