The Dogs of Guanajuato
On the drive from Guadalajara to Guanajuato, Nacho developed a high frequency vibration, most likely in one of the wheels, which also manifested itself as a vibration under braking. Being that we didn’t know what was wrong, we were a little on edge about the performance of our brakes. Following the directions to the campground in Guanajuato, we climbed higher and higher into the ravines above town. Within a few hundred meters of our destination, the tiny cobbled road pitched straight down at a gradient of at least 30%. We crept along at a walking pace, hoping that our brakes would hold up. In my mind I picked a few power poles that would work as emergency stops to keep us from barreling into one of the ramshackle huts that clung to the mountainside. Of course I didn’t mention this to Sheena, who was already starting to freak out. Our road ended in a tee, and we turned left. The only thing that stood between us and the campground was a tight, one lane, serpentine path that wove through a close collection of buildings at a gradient of at least 35%. I slowly turned the tight corner and then floored it. Nacho groaned, climbed, and slowly came to a stop. The engine died as Sheena hyperventilated on the edge of consciousness.
Several more close calls and tricky maneuvers saw us arrive safely at our campground via an alternate route that involved driving the wrong way on a tight one-way street. When we stopped Sheena punched me, I pumped my fists in the air and growled, Sheena swore “never again”, and I strutted around in circles with my chest poked out. Take that, road.
When we pulled into the campground we introduced ourselves to the only other people camping there, an elderly German couple in a 2005 Land Cruiser with a camper body. They had been on the road since 2007, having shipped their rig from Hamburg to Buenos Aires, and were slowly making their way to Alaska.
“Ve tolt our son zat zere voult be no money left! Ve vill spent it all!”
That’s the spirit. I know who I want to be when I grow up.
By day Guanajuato was vibrant. Service providers walked or drove the streets advertising their services by yelling or playing jingles over loudspeakers. When they heard the propane truck’s jingle, residents would wave him down and refill their bottles. Every provider had his own call; the newspaper salesman, the trash man, the knife sharpener. By night, the service calls were replaced by the dogs of Guanajuato. We had noticed that each house had a chicken and a rooster in the yard, and a dog or two on the roof. At night, the dogs owned the airwaves. My lack of patience has prohibited me from actually counting, but I imagine there were over 200 barks per minute audible from our campsite all night long. In the morning the barks were joined by hundreds of roosters bringing in the new day. I recorded the following sound clip at our camp one evening:[audio:http://www.drivenachodrive.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Dogs-of-Guanahuato.mp3|titles=Dogs of Guanahuato]
The food scene continues to keep us happy and looking forward to our next meal. Over the last month in Mexico we’ve learned a few things about food;
1. The street cart is king. For a couple of dollars we can eat the best tasting food on the planet, prepared from scratch before our very eyes. And despite what you may have heard, they won’t make you sick.
2. If Lonely Planet recommends it, it’s best avoided. We’ve been disappointed 100% of the time. Whoever wrote the Mexico guide was not a foodie.
3. By shopping at open air markets, it’s possible to get the freshest ingredients for home cooking. We’ve made some damn good meals so far, and a meal never costs more than $5 to put together.
4. The torta ahogada is a must-eat. A thick bread roll stuffed with onions and juicy cubes of carnitas, drowned in a sauce of chiles de arbol. Once served, it is dowsed in more tongue searing chile sauce and drizzled with fresh lime juice. When eaten, the spicy concoction coats the hands and face like a toddler after an ice cream cone, the lips burn, and the mouth waters at the thought of another one.
5. If you can’t find a street cart, find a hole in the wall instead. Locals don’t go to actual restaurants, so they’re touristy, less authentic, and overpriced. For some reason, I’ve only had upset stomach after eating in restaurants; never from street carts.
After four days of hiking, eating, and exploring, we packed up and bid farewell to the town, the roosters, the food, and the dogs of Guanajuato. I spent the last day working on Nacho, trying to fix the brakes and the vibrations. As we hit the road we had our fingers crossed. Once we escaped the winding streets and made our way back onto the mountain roads, the vibration returned, and the brakes continued to shake. Yep, sounds about right. Something to do in San Miguel de Allende.
I owned an 80′ Westy. The ‘modern chassis and body, but with the air cooled 2 liter. That was a great and tragically slow experience in general, that I loved it until I crashed it. Prior to the wreck, as I glanced over the owners manual, I read the helpful driving tips where it was suggested that if you cannot make it up a hill in first gear, go back down, turn around, and drive up in reverse.
Comment by Gnome on February 8, 2012 at 8:45 pm
Did you loose a balancing weight off of the wheel? That could cause vibrations at certain speeds and could get worse as you drive faster….I had snow on one side of my wheel once and it was enough to throw it out of balance. Best of luck, Jeff
Comment by Jeff Mihalek on February 8, 2012 at 9:09 pm
Love the photo’s!
Comment by Tony Stahl on February 8, 2012 at 9:33 pm
I suppose you’ve already considered badly warped rotors. Once had a Civic where they warped so badly it translated into a vibration even when not braking. Another possibility is slipped belts in one or several tires. Steel-belted radials are esp. prone to this if driven long distances on hot pavement. The problem isn’t visible, but shows up when you try to balance the tires. It feels very much like driving on a flat tire. Don’t think it would impact braking, though.
Comment by Cindy & Harper Johnson on February 8, 2012 at 10:36 pm
If the problem only occurs once the brakes are applied, you can be sure the problem is in the rotors. I am sure that since the van weighs so much now, the brakes are under rated for the load. This leads to a very serious problem by over heating the rotors. The best fix for this given the conditions, is cross-drilled or slotted rotors. This helps keep the rotors cool, thus preventing overheating and warpage. See what you can come up with.
Comment by kurt on February 9, 2012 at 12:15 am
Troubleshooters: Here’s what I came up with for my troubleshooting. Not sure it’s a warped disc due to some of the points below. Let me know if any of this tips off an answer in your minds. We will fix this before we leave San Miguel. Here’s my troubleshooting results:
The vibration is high frequency, giving a sound like very heavy tire tread on smooth pavement. You can feel the vibrations in your seat, and the sound reverberates throughout the van, which makes it sound like an airplane motor (but not as loud).
The vibration becomes noticeable at about 20mph, is the worst at 45mph, and gets less severe over 55mph.
The vibration sound began at the same time as the vibration felt in the brake pedal, indicating that they’re probably coming from the same place.
Braking causes the sound to increase in volume.
The vibration does not vary with engine speed, so it’s not coming from the engine.
At high speed (40mph+), sharp turns to the right (unweighting right wheels) makes the sound stop completely. Turning left does not change the sound.
When I pull the e-brake while driving, the vibration does not transmit to the e-brake handle. This indicated that the vibration is coming from the front wheels. Given the above point about cornering at speed, I deduce that the vibration is likely coming from the right front wheel.
I had the front wheels off while in Guanajuato to feel the bearings. Spinning the wheel didn’t seem to make a grinding noise or anything. The front disc pads lightly touch the rotors at all times (is that bad?) and seemed smooth all the way around. No pulsing (also ran a finger over disc surface and felt no gross warpage). Pulling from side to side on the right front induced some play, which I could see was coming from the steering gear (where tie rod connects). The left wheel didn’t have as much play. However, the fact that turning the wheel doesn’t affect the sound, and that it stops only when turning to the right, makes me think that the vibration likely is NOT coming from the steering rack.
Comment by Brad on February 9, 2012 at 12:23 am
Sounds like a tire with a tread separation, check them for roundness…
Comment by KEN on February 9, 2012 at 12:54 am
I’m oozing with jeliosity! I hope you gave Guanajuato a kiss for me. Give San Miguel two kisses and make sure to go to the cantina La Cucaracha, it lives up to it’s name. Actually, it’s pretty gross, you may want to skip it. Tambien, tienen que comer una hamburgesa en el jardin. They only make them at night and you should get them with EVERYTHING they make them with. They are seriously delicious. Stop by En Agua too, it is a very cool little bar. I hope these places still exist, I haven’t been there since 2005. Have fun!! Enjoy the sights and sounds and roosters!!!
Comment by Brett on February 9, 2012 at 5:06 am
Did you considere, that the problem might lay in your front brake pistons in the combination with the brake pads? Is Nacho driving straight if you let go of the steering wheel?
It may be, that one of the brake pistons siezed given the fact of rust, dust and heat considering the weight of the vehicle, thus the wear of the piston pads is not equally distributed. You probably have some sand or bigger dust particles between your pads and the discs.
I suggest that you remove your brake pads and try moving the piston by a screwdrive or something similar, that should give you some idea of movement of the piston. Replace your pads than try driving and you should see the difference.
Comment by Janez on February 9, 2012 at 8:49 am
Brad, I would start by first swapping your spare tire with your problem tire and see if it goes away. I had a similar pulsating noise this summer and the my tire belts were separating. It only made noise at 20 to 40 mph. Good Luck! -Blake
Comment by Blake Heinlein on February 9, 2012 at 1:49 pm
Been there, done that with the falling off a cliff gig. If you’re falling off a cliff in the rear right side, and Sheena says to stop, do let her out via the drivers side before trying more. Though it’s best to just not try and use your fancy self-winching contraption to tow yourself out.
The good news is, at least Vanagons are narrow! Can you imagine trying to not fall off those narrow roads lined with cliffsides if you were in a huge wide-bodied SUV?
Comment by Gwynne on February 9, 2012 at 3:50 pm
You know Gwynne, it actually crossed my mind that I could pull out the winching system to get up the hill. That would have been a great photo. After the traffic jam started, we could have gotten the other drivers to help pull the rope.
Comment by Brad on February 9, 2012 at 3:59 pm
I hope you get your problem fixed soon and I can sympathized with Sheena. You can only imagine the hyperventilation that would have been going on if I were in her shoes. My blood pressure medication certainly would NOT have helped me in that situation. Make sure you take care of it while you can, rather than when you are in the middle of NOWHERE! Loved your story and imagined myself there, hearing all of the dogs, etc… Wish they had good fresh food here for the same prices, especially seafood. Miss that most about Mexico, fresh and cheap food. Bonappetite!
Comment by Pat Van Orden on February 9, 2012 at 4:28 pm
We have 2 guys fixing the problem now. They’re replacing all of the front wheel bearings, replacing a tie rod, tightening up the steering gear, replacing all of the steering rack bushings, resurfacing our brake rotors, and changing the front brake pads. Best part is that they’re doing it in-place. We don’t even have to break our camp! They said the job will be done by tomorrow, and the cost is only a little over $100. Unbelievable. I hope it fixes the problem.
Comment by Brad on February 9, 2012 at 6:51 pm
hitting a pole would have done some serious damage even if it saved you from death. would have been expensive to fix. im eating chipotle as i read this – a poor imitation of what you guys are eating. im really jealous of the food you’re getting
Comment by Jamison on February 10, 2012 at 3:17 am
What kind of camera(s) are you using? Are any of these photos HDR?
Comment by Sherlene on February 10, 2012 at 1:10 pm
Sherlene, we have a Canon Rebel XT digital SLR. We have 3 lenses; one is a standard 18-55 with a UV filter, one is a wide angle with a circular polarizing filter, and one is a macro with a circular polarizing filter. We don’t have an HDR camera, but would sure love to.
Comment by Brad on February 10, 2012 at 3:03 pm
Thanks Brad! You’re pictures are fantastic and I am amazed some of them aren’t HDR. I have the same camera and you can do HDR with them. If you’d like, I can tell you how to set up for it. All you may need is the software to process the outcome. I use Photomatix Pro on my Mac.
Comment by Sherlene on February 10, 2012 at 3:37 pm
Sherlene, I would be forever grateful if you were to tell me how to shoot HDR on our camera. It’d be nice to experiment with it. My email is brad(at)drivenachodrive. Thanks!
Comment by Brad on February 10, 2012 at 4:29 pm
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