Visit the dealer to double your trouble.


As you might remember, during the sea-transfer from Belgium to Malaysia, a hoodlum stole one of our international licence-plates.
The procedure to replace this is not complicated:  Go to the office where the car is registered and apply  for a new set of plates.  Return two weeks later to pick them up. A piece of cake. 
But…   We live in the North-East and the car was registered in Bangkok, 700 Km to the south.
So this would involve planes or trains or automobiles (yes, a wink to the movie “planes, trains and automobiles”based upon the book “journey around the world in 80 days”) and hotels and lots and lots of waiting-time.  Not our favorite time I might add.
But…   Wherever there is a system, there are two choices. A blue pill or a red pill as it were.  Let the system screw you, or screw the system.
So we made our plans:  First go through the annual (and easy) technical inspection. Then apply for a transfer of registration from Bangkok to the place we live. Then apply for new international plates.  No need for trains, planes or automobiles, nor two trips to the other side of the country.
However, as you all know (or should know): Even the best planned plan goes haywire after the first step has been set, and this one was no different.
We went to the DLT (Department of Land Transportation) and did the technical inspection. From it we learned three things:
– Our front left brake had 50% less power than the front right brake.
This is not good, but if we promised to have it fixed as soon as possible, it would not cause the car to fail the technical inspection (strange but nice).
– Our air-horn, mounted on the front of the roof, was illegal and should be removed.  Again, if we promised to take this in consideration, it would not cause the car to fail the technical inspection. (yes, strange but nice).
– Our two LED-bars above the front window were highly illegal for several reasons. They were not approved and cars are not allowed to have additional lights and additional lights are not allowed to be higher than 1.35 above the road and only trucks are allowed to have 4 additional lights on top of the roof and our truck is not a truck as it is a motorhome.
On top of that, the government is cracking down on illegal car lights as they are the cause of many complaints, so the DLT is enforcing these rules very very strictly.
But… if we promised not to shine in other people’s eyes, we would not have to remove them immediately… but maybe later… or maybe not at all.
after all, we are nice people.
So, technical inspection passed. We only needed to fix the brakes before the transfer as this would involve another technical inspection.
The next step of our devious plan was to apply for the transfer of registration.  Once you apply, the “old” department has to agree to the transfer within three days. If they do not agree, the deal is off… but that almost never happens… almost… never….
So, a little nervous, we called the DLT three days later and were told… that… our transfer… was…   …  approved. (When you read this you should pause three second on each set of three dots… to increase the tension and excitement of the story)
Our next step was to have the brakes fixed at the local dealer and then go straight to the inspection.  Great plan, yes?
At the local dealer we explained that the left front wheel had 50% less braking-power than the right one and that this was most likely caused by a leaking brake-piston.
So, quickly they went to work.
First they jacked up the front of the car.  Good plan, well executed.
Then they proceded to jack up the rear of the car.  I am not sure why, but more troublesome, they did so by placing a hydraulic-jack under the rear bumper.  Now, jacking up a 5 ton car by its bumper is generaly a pretty dumb idea.  Doing so when that bumper is made out of plastic (OK, technically it is polyester-fiber) is just plain incredibly-stupendously-hilariously-fabeltasticly-stupid.
Luckily I was there and when I heard creaking noises that I should not ever hear, I quickly walked to the scene of the crime and made them stop.
Now, at that time I was still in reasonable control of all (well, most of) my marbles… but that soon changed.
After having persuaded the mechanics that they did not need to jack up the rear of the car to work on the front wheel, they went to work.
The next step is to remove the wheel. This is simple. You remove the wheel-nuts and then remove the wheel.
This is how it is described in the workshop-manual.  But the workshop-manual assumes that the mechanic knows in which direction the wheel-nuts need to be turned to come loose.  Yes!  I am really telling you that this mechanic did not know that and was trying to remove the wheel-nuts by tightening them with his impact-wrench.
Now, give the man a break.  This is a truck, not a regular car. And yes, with trucks these things are a bit more complicated. It all has to do with weight and momentum. Stuff you learned in physics.
To put it simple, a (large enough) mass that moves in a specific direction wants to keep moving in that direction. The higher the mass, the larger this force. And truck wheel-nuts comply with the description “large mass”. This means that if you drive your truck 100 Km/h and suddenly slam on the brakes, and thus the wheels suddenly stop turning, those wheel-nuts keep going in the direction of the previous movement, causing them to unscrew magically, all by themselves.  And that is not cool!
So, a smart man decided that trucks have wheel-nuts that twist in two directions. Clockwise or “to the right” for the right wheel and counterclockwise or “left” for the left wheel.  And so, our mechanic was trying to unscrew the left wheel in the wrong direction.
I pointed this out to him and even pointed to the letter “L” that is engraved in each lugnut (to indicate that you tighten this nut to the left of counterclockwise), but he did not understand, thought I was crazy and was convinced his impact-wrench was simply not powerful enough. A thought he shared with my wife: “I can not fix your brakes cause I don’t have the proper tool to get the wheel off” was what he told her.
But… while he was telling her this, I picked up the impact-wrench, flipped the switch from left to right (If you tighten it to the left, logic dictates that you loosen it to the right) and easily unscrewed the wheel-nuts, to the amazement of the several on-looking “other personnel” (when a farang tries to explain something to a Thai, many people come and stand around. Some to see the farang fail, some to see the Thai fail, all to have some fun).
I told the mechanic that he was no longer needed. After all, you can not trust a mechanic to work on your brakes if he can’t even take off the wheel.
The next in line was, as far as I could tell, an apprentice. He was young, but did have a skill-set and was not too arrogant to listen to what the old farang was saying. I liked him.
Now things were speeding up. Quickly the wheel came off, then the wheel-bearing and the brake-drum.  OK, not as quick and easy as I describe here. After all, the wheel weighs well over 50 Kg and the brake-drum weighs about the same, but with the help of his friends, the work got done.
And of course, this is where it all went awol (absence without leave) and the shit hit the fan. They (the dealer) did not have the replacement part and we had planned to go to the DLT in the afternoon.
So, we decided to go to another garage. One “on the side of the road” Why?  Because our truck is the most sold truck of South-East Asia and every road-side truck-mechanic has those parts in his refrigerator. (Yes, we really visited a mechanic that had his spare-parts in an old refrigerator a while ago.)
So, half an hour later the wheel was back on and we were about to leave to find a garage that did have the part we needed, but then a snag appeared… of course.
We were presented with a bill for “checking the brakes”.  Now, I am not one for evading bills you owe, but this one hit a soft spot.
I came in and explained exactly what was wrong. I even made a sketch of it, including dripping fluid. I then had to explain how to get the wheel off, actually do it myself, and wasted the entire morning while all they had to do before they started the job was to check if they had the part.
So I had a brain-melt-down and three minutes later the boss was at the scene.
OK, I must explain that the boss and I know each other. He is a good guy. He helped us enormously when we were stuck in Montenegro with a broken clutch-cylinder by sending the parts we needed.
So there were no heated debates, no shouting, no gunshots or knife-fights or ninja-attacks.  We simply discussed what could be done to solve the problem and he came up with a good plan.
Normally the dealer is only allowed to use original parts. Well, this part is not here… but there is a very well stocked auto-supply-store in town, who was sure to have a (non-original) replacement part. So, the boss sent his staff out to go and buy the needed part and took us out for lunch.
I told you, he is a good guy.
To make a long story a little but shorter (and keep you from jumping off the roof out of boredom) the part was indeed in stock, a quarter of the price of the original part and, according to the apprentice-mechanic, of less good quality.  Now, since this is just a hunk of metal with a rubber seal in it, I don’t see the importance of “less good quality” nor do I see the possibility to conclude this without an X-ray machine and a degree in metallurgy, so who cares.  I did find it a bit “a waste” to replace the entire caliper (fancy word for brake thingy) when you can also simply change the rubber seal in it, but I did not want to rain on their sunshine… at least, not yet.
Anyway, car fixed, bill paid and agreed that we should hang out together in the near future.   Onto the next part of our plan.
Technical inspection for transfer of registration.
A bit nervous we drove the car into the inspection building, but we did not have to stop at the CO measering, nor at the sound measuring, nor at the smoke/sooth measuring and… … not at the brake-test-machine.
Instead we went straight to the scales were they checked the chassis-number, tried to check the engine-number (many have tried, none have succeeded as it is extremely well hidden under and behind hundreds of wires, cables, pipes, conduits and other engine-parts that are all blazing hot because we just drove over there) and did a quick count of available seats (we have 9 but the paper says 11 and no one really cares).
Inspection passed despite the airhorn that is still proudly standing on top of the roof and the double LED-bar that is capable of giving you second-degree burns at a distance of twenty meters.  After all, we are also quite friendly with the boss of the DLT because we are the only motorhome in the province and he loves it and our videos.
So, apart from being too late to complete the transfer this day (we have to pick up the new papers and plates tomorrow), our plan was a brilliant success, despite the many pitfalls along the way.
But I was curious if our brakes were finally fixed now, so I asked if I could put it on the test-machine, which of course I could.
The result was rather surprising:
The front brakes were now even worse. The difference went from 50% to 56%…  but that was not all.
The rear brakes, which originally had a difference of 8%, now had a difference of 51%..   And all they did was bleed them…
So we went from bad to worse and paid quite a bit of money for it.

2 Replies to “Visit the dealer to double your trouble.”

  1. Scot

    The brake fluid leaked onto the brake shoes and destroyed them. That is why the repair didn’t do anything to the brake test results. You need new shoes. They can not be cleaned. As far as the rear brakes go, they might have gotten fluid on the shoes when they bled the brakes. Or maybe a leak developed by itself. Also possible the test machine was not working right.

    • Maarten

      Hi Scot.
      Nope. The brake-shoes are fine. I can now see the leaking fluid on my tire and I am pretty sure the test machine from the vehicle inspection is working properly as they test hundreds of cars and trucks each day.
      It was simply the dealer that did a horrible job. Sadly they replaced the wrong slave-cylinder.
      As for the (new) rear-wheel brake-problem, the (tried to) bleed it, but did it wrong.


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