The Brakes

Like so many countries, I will have many memories of Brazil based on the places I’ve been under the bus. Literally.

This time, it was beachfront near Mangaratiba.

These brakes are killing me.  After a week or so of behaving properly, they started to lock-up again. Not as bad as last time, but I could feel it coming.

We pulled over to do a quick bleed, and… snap.  The back left bleeder valve broke right off.

Fortunately, we’re in Brazil.

At the next big town, Angra Dos Reis, I pulled over at the first auto parts store I saw. They had two slave cylinders, so I picked them up for 10 bucks each. No rear hoses, so I went next door. Bingo!  5 bucks. I figure the parts are so affordable, we may as well just overhaul everything that’s reasonable. Now we have all new hoses and a new slave (and a spare spare).

While replacing the cylinder, I had something happen that has never happened before: the bus fell off the jack.  It’s a crappy jack, for sure, but I was being careless. Fortunately, I wasn’t under it.  The whole thing happened in slow motion – maybe two seconds. Just enough time to realize that I couldn’t do anything but say ‘Oh, shit!” as it fell down.

The jack fell out of the way, so I could get it back up. Even better, two lifeguards were watching and came over to help. They had a jack… and I assume were relieved to find that my legs weren’t sticking out from under the vehicle.

The lifeguards here are the most well-organized I’ve seen anywhere. The entire Brazilian coast is completely covered by these guys – every beach. And, they’re actually firemen. The bombeiros are in charge of protecting the coast, and do a spectacular job.

Anyway, crisis averted. Fireman jack installed, and I finished up. Only the normal distractions and conversations. People come up and stare at the license plate a while, then ask…

De onde você é?”

Estados Unidos.


Não, Americano.

First, disbelief.  Then, relief that I’m not Argentinean*. I’ve been asked 100 times. At least.

DSC_7169 DSC_7170

* there’s clearly not much love between these two. And, I don’t think it has to do with Brazilians traveling in Argentina.

9 thoughts on “The Brakes

  • January 24, 2013 at 1:47 PM

    While you are around good parts…might I sugggest a minor upgrade, that I did, that makes a huge difference in comfort, and safety.
    Install some retractable seatbelts!
    I got some from a Vanagon, though 90’s Jetta ones work too. Just needed to have an ‘L’ bracket made, to attach them to the floor, and Viola, no seatbelts flopping out the door when you open it, and much more comfortable when driving, too! check out this thread for install info

  • January 24, 2013 at 3:11 PM

    Jim – we did this before we left on the trip (I used an old Jetta from a junkyard) But, the retractor doesn’t seem to be working any more… needs some attention. another thing for the list!

  • January 25, 2013 at 8:30 AM

    hey jason why not get a small floor type jack, mush safer and you can even remove the engine with it if need be, I never trusted those scissor type jacks

  • January 26, 2013 at 8:35 AM

    You were lucky. Cars falling from jacks is a serious accident.

    Always put the tire/wheel you removed laying next to the jack, in case it falls the rim would hold at least enough clearance to save your legs if that is the case.

    I would buy a one stand and keep it, certainly you will use it a couple times during the trip.

  • February 6, 2013 at 1:20 PM

    Hey Jason,
    I’ve been meaning to ask if blocking off the lower “hacked” in scoops is keeping your engine bay cleaner and possibly cooler?

  • February 7, 2013 at 2:44 AM

    James – hard to tell. The engine is cleaner, but we’ve also mostly been on pavement since the change. No major difference in cooling, but I suspect I was running a little cooler before…

  • February 7, 2013 at 10:51 AM

    Kombi is still manufactured in Brazil, is the oldest car manufactured here. You can find many parts and upgrades as retractable belts or other things.
    Enjoy the journey!

  • February 9, 2013 at 2:48 PM

    That’s such a lovely journey!

    Just be careful when buying parts in Brazil. The parts for old/cheap cars in Brazil, if too cheap, are usually bad reproductions. Always ask for the best quality ones.

    Let me know if you come to the south of Brazil!

  • February 9, 2013 at 3:00 PM

    Pedro – thanks for the tip. In the US, the imported Brazilian VW parts are typically known to be of the lowest quality… I will try to shop around!

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