Dealing With an Unexpected Auto Failure in Mexico
To my fellow travellers of the great roads: if you’re at it long enough it’s bound to happen to the best of us. Our beloved carriage of modern machinery, in which we place our confidence to deliver us safely through unfamiliar and often seemingly hostile lands and civilizations, is bound to fail us at an unexpected time and/or place.
As I have advised in previous articles, while on the highways of Mexico you can rely on the good Samaritanship of the Green Angels, or Los Angeles Verdes, which is a sort of free “AAA” program provided by the Mexican federal government. They can be accessed by dialing 078 and will offer simple on-the-spot help, or they will transfer you to a mechanic shop of your choosing, or of their recommendation.
If your car breaks down in a city, it’s a different situation. You’re a sitting duck, without your mobile skin of steel on four wheels. I’ve had auto-failure more times than I can count on one hand, but that was usually when I was a poor student with an equally poor hoopty getting me to school and back home. For that I would just ask a friend or family member to bring their car and a strong rope or chain to pull me to safety.
If you’re out of your element you’re going to need to call a professional. Here’s a scenario: you’re at a traffic light in a dense city and suddenly your car shuts off and won’t turn back over. Put her in neutral and turn on your hazard lights. People will come out of the woodwork and give you a push to a legal parking spot: Mexicans are usually kind like that.
Once you’re un-well automobile is out of harm’s way, you need to take her to see the doc. Ask someone for the number of a grua, or tow truck. If you’re paying out of pocket you’ll need a minimum of around 20 bucks to get picked up and dropped off at a local mechanic. If it’s a big city there are often auto-mechanic districts, where spare parts are centralized for the businesses’ efficiency, and the consolidation of different shops makes for good old fashioned competition that passes savings onto the consumer.
If Ma’ and Pa’ mechanic shops are known for cutting corners and taking advantage of gullible customers in the US, you can bet that’s true here in old Mexico, especially for tourists. Avoid this by getting quotes from different places. If you want to avoid the whole “greasy mechanic-shop with who knows where they got those parts from” experience, and you want a guaranteed fix with a warranty, you best go to a dealership.
The larger more modern cities in Mexico more than likely will have a dealership or Agencia for your car’s make. You’re going to pay more for the certified technicians and factory-direct parts, but you can’t beat that warranty.
I never went to a dealership in the US for mechanic work, but the prices are much more reasonable in Mexico. To make things more secure and financially comforting, it’s best to get specialized Mexican auto insurance before crossing down south.
Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.