Car Repairs in Thailand – Motor Maintenance
Because our Mk1 Escort is 40 years old, it naturally came with some problems that needed addressing. In the UK I always maintained my own vehicles and only visited mechanics when the job required tools and expertise that I couldn’t manage. Out here in Thailand it is very difficult to maintain your own vehicle as a foreigner, due to the lack of English speaking large auto-parts shops that you would find in the UK, U.S.A and Australia.
There are no ‘Halfords’ or ‘Super Cheap Autos’ chains that sell a broad range of DIY tools for auto maintenance. Plus Online shopping in Thailand has not been fully embraced as of yet due to the Thai mentality of wanting to inspect products in person before purchase. So Ebay, Amazon or general E-commerce is pretty much an afterthought. Meaning that if you want those rare car parts for your old vehicle that you could find so easily in the West, you’d have to visit your local Thai mechanic and hope that they know a guy that knows a guy that can engineer one from molten steel.
Also the quality of the cheaper tools I have bought out here are very, very poor. My £18 Spark Plug socket and ratchet literally burst into pieces after I’d only removed 3 plugs. Spraying tiny springs and cogs in all directions. Which didn’t fill me with joy. If you want them to last buy the expensive tools from HomePro.
Although cars in Thailand are expensive we have found that maintenance on our vehicle is comparatively cheaper than the west once you’ve found an English speaking Mechanic you can trust which wasn’t as easy as it sounds. (Or learn to speak Thai)
In one particular experience when searching for a trustworthy Thai mechanic our car had developed a ferocious vibration when driving over 60 kph. So we visited a guy that we found on www.farangfriendly.com which is a directory listing of Thai businesses that usually have at least one English speaking staff member.
It was called J&N Auto Service and was run by a Thai man called Jimmy that spoke fluent English. I explained the vibration and without looking at the car he told me he knew exactly what was wrong with it and it was going to be an expensive repair. I asked him to explain to me what he thought the problem was and he started trying to sell me another car for 100,000 baht.
I immediately didn’t trust the guy but let the situation play out to see how far he would push it. When I refused to buy another car he said that Mk1 Escorts were made with really bad components and he would have to weld in new parts from another car to fix the problem. Plus it would 15,000 Baht, take over a week and i’d have to leave the car with him because he was too busy. I politely told him I’d think about it and left.
We later drove to another mechanic called Save Way Auto Service which is at 243/3 Mahidol Road not far from the Central airport Plaza. When we arrived we were met by a really friendly English Speaking receptionist called Yuht. He asked me to explain the problem and he told me that he would try and keep the costs down to an absolute minimum. We sat in an Air conditioned Lounge for some time before Yuht came to explain that the repair may take a while. He gave us free water and even offered to give us a lift home until the repair was completed when he would then pick us up. We decided to stay and after several hours the job was completed.
It turned out to be worn rubber bushes, a warped alloy wheel, damaged inner tie rod and a wheel bearing that needed adjusting. The total cost for all the repairs came to 2750 Baht. (Just under £58 or $88 USD) The best part about Save Way mechanics was the way they explained and showed me all the parts that needed attention. It wasn’t a case of them saying “your wheel is warped so we repaired it and here is the bill,” they brought me out into the work shop so I could visually see the distorted shape. This was the kind of service I was looking for and I found it there. For me, once i’ve found a trustworthy mechanic I will always stick to them.
*Note- Since writing this post I have also come across a great source of information and services for owners of classic cars in North Thailand. The business is called‘Auto Nostalgia’ – http://www.autonostalgia.info/ and is based near to Doi Saket in Chiang Mai. It is run by an extremely helpful guy called David Hardcastle who will go out of his way to help owners of classic vehicles to find trustworthy mechanics and body repair services. He has helped me to get in touch with various auto maintenance establishments in Chiang Mai and even offers to visit the mechanics with you for a personal introduction. His website also offers a listing of classic vehicles of all types for sale in North Thailand.
You can contact David at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone him in English at 081 992 4819 or Thai at 086 911 6869.
To summarise this post I am going to list a few useful things i’ve discovered regarding car maintenance in Thailand:
1- If you want to maintain your own car, you can buy a 2 tonne trolley jack in the Big C Supercentre that is on the south side of Hang Dong town heading downward on Hwy 108 in Chiang Mai. It is the only place in Thailand I have found so far that sells them.
2- If you want to buy spark plugs, oil, headlamp bulbs and other various small auto parts Online. There is a shop in Bangkok that takes online orders and mails you the items very quickly. It is called http://www.jpattanapart.com/shop/. The owner is very trustworthy and the new spark plugs I bought from him were very cheap at 50 Baht Each.
3- If you live in Chiang Mai I highly recommend Save Way Auto Service. Call Yuth (pronounced Yut) at 086-4616219 to book an appointment. The full address is 243/3 Mahidol Road. T.Changklan A.Muang Chiang Mai. 50100 Workshop number (053) 200 628.
4- Converting an old car to run with Air Conditioning cost us 15,000 Baht including parts and labour. (£312)
5- Petrol in Thailand comes in a variety of forms. The main two being Gasohol & Benzene types. Gasohol or (Gasenol as it’s sometimes pronounced) is made from a mixture of 90% Gasoline and 10% Ethanol, sometimes it’s referred to as E10, E20 is 20% Ethanol and I’ve seen some stations selling E85!!!. Benzene is 100% Gasoline.
6- Petrol Pumps signify the different types of fuel by the colours listed below.
Benzene 95 (yellow) – (Now red or Yellow)
Benzene 91 (red) – (No Longer Available, replaced by 95)
Gasohol 95 (orange)
Gasohol 91 (green)
Benzene 91 has now been phased out and replaced by Benzene 95.
7- Generally newer cars will run fine on Gasohol Fuels. I would seriously recommend against using Gasohol in cars manufactured before 1995. Especially if your vehicle has a carburettor rather than fuel injection. The Ethanol can burn through the rubbers inside the carburettor and ruin its components. Make sure you ask for Benzene at the pump if you drive an old car like we do. If the pump assistant doesn’t understand you, try saying “Gasenol Mai Ow” which means “Gasenol Not Want” and works a treat.
8- Gasohol is cheaper than Benzene. At the time of writing Gasahol 91 is 38 Baht per litre and Benzene 91 is 43 Baht per litre.
9- The 91 & 95 specify the Petrols Octane Rating. Higher Octane fuels need to be used with high performance, high compression engines. If you use 91 fuels in cars that need 95 Octane it can lead to engine knocking (which isn’t good) so make sure you know what the pump assistant is putting in your car.
10- Older cars in Thailand seem to benefit from running on 20-50W Oils. Due to the hot climate it’s generally ok to use such a thick viscosity lubricant and it’s less likely to seep through any imperfections in your old engine casings. This is just a recommendation though, please check your car manufacturers specifications.
I am no car expert but I do enjoy the satisfaction I get when I have managed my own vehicle maintenance. If anyone knows of any other trustworthy mechanics in and around Thailand, or great places where people can buy auto parts please comment on this post to help others find their feet.
Jmayel El-haj – 8 Miles from home