Equator Gringos

April 13, 2009

How much of your car did they steal?

Filed under: Ecuador — lstollin @ 7:15 am

One Thursday night in late February the guard didn’t show up to keep watch outside “La Cueva,” the little climbing gym I go to once a week.  When I left the gym, our 1997 Chevy Vitara (Suzuki Sidekick) had been broken into, though it seemed like only my hat and jacket had been taken.  But it wouldn’t start. Under the hood quite a few things were missing:  spark plugs, distributor, air filter.  Oddly, the battery was still there, and they hadn’t taken the stereo.  The next day I found out the most expensive piece was actually taken from under the dash: “el cerebro,”  the brain – the car’s computer.  Thus began a Engine with missing things markedbig headache.

We had the car towed to the school (where there was a guard to watch it all night) and again towed the next day to the mechanic the insurance company authorized.  This was February 26th.  Now it’s April 13th and we still don’t have our car back.  It’s always something, real or invented, that gets in the way.  After a couple of weeks, my ever-upbeat contact at the mechanic, Santiago Alban, told me over the phone that they had all the parts but the wiring harness.  I went over that afternoon to see what they had, and not one single part had been delivered for my car.

They never could find even a used harness. Finally they were able to find just the little multi-wire plugs that go into the brain, which would then need to be soldered one wire at a time to the sixty or so severed harness trunk wires, all without making a single mistake.  So they’d been at that for a week or so.  Every time I called Santiago, he assured me we were just days away from getting our car back.  “This afternoon we are going to start it up.”  “Tomorrow it will be running.”  “This afternoon we are getting the diagnostic tool we need.”  Finally, “you will have your car for Holy Week.  I am sure of it.”

They couldn’t get it to start, so our Vitara was sent by tow truck to another mechanic.  Upon returning to Quito after spring break, I had an email from the Insurance broker that the car had been tested by the insurance representative last Tuesday and was going to be sent that afternoon back to the original mechanic.  So I got right on the phone and found out that it was still at the second mechanic’s shop, and they would not give it back to the first mechanic until the bill had been paid.  So that’s where it stands.  Who knows when we’ll get it back.

I can’t believe it never occurred to me that once the car was fixed there could be a whole new set of roadblocks before we actually got the car.  Is the car actually running?  Is it really fixed?  When will we get the car back?  Are the mechanic and insurance company people in cahoots to defraud the insurance company and us?  Are the used brain and harness plugs the very ones that were stolen from our car in February?   Will we have to keep taking the car back to the mechanic to fix ongoing problems?  Will we even get to use it before we have to sell it in June?   Will anyone buy it from us?     Stay tuned!



  1. Dios mio. Sorry pana, so I guess you still don’t have it huh? We’re off to the Galapagos tomorrow. Hablamos next week…

    Comment by Tim — April 13, 2009 @ 3:56 pm

  2. Guess you guys don’t really NEED a car – good thing public transportation is so cheap.
    Sorry for this exercise in character building you have had to face.

    Comment by Bettye Halperin — April 23, 2009 @ 5:49 pm

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