I live in Granada province 10km up a rambla, a dry riverbed. From time to time during the winter, it becomes a real riverbed. Although my 82 year old neighbour normally comes up to his cortijo once or twice a week in his ancient ex-Telefonica Renault 4, during the rainy season a 4X4 is really necessary.
Our poor old Tata Safari which was “as new” three years ago with only 35,000 on the clock now has 90,000 and has had a tough life. Any journey starts and ends with a 10km bump down the hill (or up on the way back) and takes between 20 minutes in the summer and an hour in the winter when we are crawling over boulders washed down from the mountains in 4WD and low ratio.
It has had a few parts replaced in its long life but there gets to be a time when suddenly the bills start mounting and with every greater “investment” in your car you become more reluctant to ditch it completely. I had just had the fan mounting assembly replaced and, while the engine cover was off, replaced the timing belt as well.
Essentially, this is a Peugeot diesel engine and should be good for 250,000 miles, even hauling two tonnes of Tata around, so a few running repairs, even if a little hard on the wallet, should be good value.
Type of pieces necessary to repair my gearbox
But not this time. Having spent €600 on the timing belt and fan belt, they hit me with the big one. The gearbox needs substantial work. Yes, it doesn’t go into fourth but first, second, third and fifth are OK. How bad can it be?
Well, when we first moved to Spain, a friendly mechanic helped me with another gearbox, this time a Subaru automatic box. I explained that the car was only worth €1,500 so I didn’t want to pay more than €1,000 whatever happened. When he rang me, a year later, full of joy, to say that he had fixed the problem, I was also really happy. Until he said that the bill was €3,000. I had signed the form, I had no come-back. His verbal assurance was worth nothing.
I had to pay the bill, double what the car was worth, or leave Spain for good.
So, this time, I’m hardly likely to make the same mistake. No forms signed, strict limit on what the taller could charge. I get the telephone call “You’d better come and have a look”. The gearbox is in bits and the pieces that “no sirven” are laid out. How much for these parts? How long is a piece of string?
The basic parts cost some €600 plus IVA and then they had to be fitted. Maybe €1,500? Quickly, the awful spectre of paying more for a gearbox than the car was worth flashed in front of me again. STOP, I shouted, ¡Para! Give me an hour to think and I´ll come back to you.
The first port of call, as always, was the internet. Here in Spain (or at least Andalucía) cars and parts are worth money but labour is inexpensive. In the UK, the reverse is true. No one is going to be scrapping their Tata in Spain as it plainly has 10 years life left in it so there are no second hand parts. In the UK, as soon as it needs a new set of tyres (or an MOT) it´s off to the breakers´yard.
So, what to do? Well, you fill out forms on all the UK parts brokers web sites and wait for someone to get intouch. Of all the ones I filled in, and I filled in at least five different forms, only http://www.1stchoice.co.uk/ replied with good news. There were two offers of complete gearboxes: One misguided firm quoted £950 + VAT + shipping. Thanks for wasting everyone’s time.
But Dave at B & T Salvage came through with a serious quote of £250 and, because I was exporting, knocked off the VAT, and, because this is our business, allowed me to get TNT to collect the next day. He sold me a new rear light for £20 which was also needed and not available in Spain (because the reversing lamp is on the other side). http://www.bandtmotorsalvage.com/cms/content/view/12/39/. These guys know about customer service and they understand how to fix your problem.
115kg of metal brought down to Spain by Citibox
TNT arrived direct at the taller garage in Spain where poor Tata was languishing with no gearbox. The door-to-door service took only five days. My gearbox was fitted on the day of arrival (no mucking around trying to force gear wheels onto a drive shaft, simply bolt the whole thing in place). I have taken away a large gearbox part which will replace the 4WD mechanism should it ever be necessary and was included with B & T’s gearbox replacement for free. I have saved £45 over the cost of a new back light from Tata UK.
So, what have I learned from this? Well, I have saved €300 on spare parts and €250 on fitting them. That’s enough to make it reasonable to repair my car rather than to condemn it. The whole gearbox change, including IVA and shipping and purchase and fitting came to less than €600. It would have been well over €1,200 if done the Spanish way. It’s so easy to shop for parts over the internet but you need them to be delivered. Yes, it’s my business so I got them delivered for me but it’s also my business to get them delivered for you, too.
Just another example of how living in Spain is made incomparably easier by being able to import everything from magazines (Woman and home for the wife) to potatoes (Ratte, wonderful taste), from the cheapest and best source, be it China or the UK. In today’s “crisis” every penny or centimo counts, it makes sense to use the internet to locate whatever you want at the best price and then get it delivered at the best value. That’s where we can help, delivery at better value than anyone else.
Best wishes to you all. Edmund.