In Search Of Tire Repair During A Pandemic
The last thing you need when living in a foreign country is a mechanical problem with your vehicle. My first experience with this happened recently and lucky for me, came in the form of a flat tire rather than a serious roadside emergency. Or rather, it was a very slow leak on a tire which eventually would become a flat. Either way, I needed to find a tire guy.
When my tire sensors first noted the leak I was at Sam’s Club and immediately sought out their tire shop. Due to the shutdown of non-essential businesses caused by the pandemic, it was closed up tight. Personally, I think tire repair is essential, but what do I know? My next stop was the mechanic at City Club. They kindly explained to me that they sell and replace tires, but do not repair them. Hmmmm … I didn’t know why, but wasn’t in a position to question. The leak was slow and it was getting late, so I got it pumped up at a nearby gas station and headed back south toward Akumal. If something happened on the drive back home, I would call roadside emergency help which I read about in a blog by “Two Expats Mexico” (you can read their full article here: https://qroo.us/2019/02/23/car-trouble-while-youre-visiting-mexico-call-the-green-angels/). This emergency roadside assistance is called The Green Angels or Los Ángeles Verdes in Spanish. I have seen their truck on the highway helping others and recorded 078 in my contacts to get the dispatch centre. Thankfully, I got home safely and didn’t need their service, but it is always advisable to have this information in your cell phone contacts should you need it!
My next attempt was to google search tire places in Playa del Carmen, and what I found was a lot of stores selling tires, but none of them actually repairing tires. At least I found a store that sells my brand of tire, so if it cannot be repaired, I can always buy a new tire at a fairly decent price and have it replaced at the store.
Now, here is where the true essence of the Akumal area comes into play. It’s the small, amazing community of people that makes this place special. While visiting my veterinarian, I began chatting with a lady who had a deaf dog. She has lived here for many years and it turns out our hometowns are only 300 km apart in Canada, so our conversation eventually veered away from pets to more personal matters, such as my leaking tire. She recommended this “little place on the side of the road north of Akumal that you’ll miss if you’re not looking carefully”. I immediately headed off in search of this hidden gem.
Indeed, it is just two minutes north of Akumal Pueblo, directly across from the Dolphin Discovery on the north end of the Sirenis Hotel development, on the west side of the highway. “These guys will fix your tire in no time and won’t charge much.” I double-checked this recommendation with someone I knew from my condo and as a local, he gave them two thumbs up for trustworthiness.
This place could easily be missed if it weren’t for the pile of giant tires heaped up like a Maya ruin on the side of the highway. Manuel and Jimmy, pronounced “Himmey”, handed me a lawn chair to sit on while they jacked up my car, and proceeded to have my tire off in a matter of minutes. No line-up, no waiting, and I was the only one there except for the requisite dog. Seconds later they found the problem: a nail securely nestled in the groove of my tire.
“Un pequeño problema,” Jimmy said and then in English “We fix!” Within 10 minutes my newly repaired tire was back on my car and it cost me a whole $200 pesos. That’s $11.78 CAD or $8.35 USD for the Americans reading this. At one of the chain tire shops in Canada it probably would have (1) cost two to four times this amount, (2) required a phone call to make an appointment and the appointment would be for a couple days later due to the backlog, and (3) taken up most of my day sitting in greasy chairs in an adjacent small, dirty waiting room full of other people, bored out of their minds in their Covid-19 prevention masks. Not a fun day!
By the way, this little Mexican tire repair place, or vulcanizadora in Spanish, also offers roadside tire repair service. My much more expensive, and slow Canadian tire repair shop does not. Take note of the phone number for Vulcanizadora Lopma which can be see in the photo, and put it into your phone contacts. It is the only tire repair place near Akumal.
This little off-the-highway business is one more thing to love about Mexico, and in particular the Akumal area. Thanks Himmey and Manuel, you made my day!