Hasta Alaska – Mexican VW Nightmare – S03E01

For over a year we have been anticipating our arrival in Mexico, partly for the awesome food, but mainly for the availability of VW parts and expertise…Now we are finally here, but our 7 day plan to install a new engine turns into a 5 MONTH nightmare.

Watch us try and keep it all together in a desperate effort to keep the Hasta Alaska dream alive



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Why didn’t you go to another place to do the work?

We were originally sent to Tapachula by our mechanic in Xela, Guatemala (Ep14) who told us that there was a factory there that sold VW engines. He had lived there for 12 years and visited on a regular basis. Unfortunately availability of VW parts wasn’t exceptional in Tapachula, no new engines were available. We spent a couple of days speaking with countless mechanics to ask if we could ‘rent some work space’ — everyone said no! Options were limited.

Our engine was becoming very bad and we didn’t think that we could make it to elsewhere to carry out the work.

Why couldn’t you find a brand new engine?

Volkswagen said that they could obtain 75% of a new engine for us — the cost was $3,500 — more than it costs in the USA. Although we managed to raise money when we were stuck in Costa Rica to buy a new engine, by the time we arrived in Mexico (with all the problems in-between) we didn’t have enough to buy a new engine. Also see below…

Why did you do a full restoration / paint the Kombi, was it necessary?

Did we bite off more than we could chew? For sure! For a long time we had been stopping the rain coming in through the rusty windows by using surf wax, however the day that we woke up with our laptops in a puddle we decided that we had to do something. We planned to only repair the rust and repaint the windows and replace the wood that had become rotten from the leak; however our careless mechanic ruined the wood and spray painted over everything inside with very bad quality paint of the wrong colour.

Since leaving Chile we have been hit by a bus, a couple of other cars and so we decided, whilst we were fixing the engine and all the other problems with steering, suspension, brakes etc then we might as well fix the holes and paint the bus all the same color.

Why did it take 5 months?

Because the work was carried out to a very bad standard, many things needed to be done 2, 3, 4 times over and because the people we were paying to work on our Bus never said no to other customers (who always took priority.) After all, we lived there, we weren’t going anywhere right?!

Why were you still having problems with the breaks?

Because the system we had installed in Colombia was a miss-match from different cars and it was impossible to find compatible parts. In the end we had to replace the entire breaking system. Which, one was expensive, and two, was difficult because the Mexican Kombi’s don’t have the same breaking system (no booster) as our bus.