17 September 2010

Where the rubber meets the road.

The other day I was just leaving the house and going out to my car when suddenly I got that sinking feeling. You know the one. It's that feeling you get when you discover that you have a flat tire. It is a feeling halfway between frustration and anger...frustration because you didn't see it coming and anger because...well just because! Oooooo it makes me so mad! Then, what do you do about it? You don't have many options. You can squat down and change the flat to a spare but if you only have one of those skinny emergency spares then what good does that do? You can try to fill the tire with one of those aerosol cans of sealant but unless the leak is very tiny all that they do is make a mess. I have found that the best thing to do is try and fill the tire with enough air to get you to a "vulcanizadora" or "tire repair shop" and let a "talachero" or "tire repair guy" repair it for you. For this reason I always carry one of those little "buzz box" air compressors in my trunk, the kind that plugs into your dashboard. I just hook it up and let it buzz away for about twenty minutes and if the leak isn't too bad I will have enough air in the tire to drive it a mile or two.

I thought it would be good to pass on some tire repair terminology to my fellow students of Mexican Spanish. The word for tire is "llanta" (YAHN-tah) although you may also hear a tire referred to as a "neumático " (new-MAHT-ee-koh). A flat tire on the car is most often called a "ponchadura" (POHN-chah-doo-rah) but sometimes you may also hear "pinchazo" (peen-CHAH-zou). Once off the car the flat may be called "una llanta ponchada". There are several ways to say "I had a flat tire":

Se ponchó la llanta.

Se me ponchó la llanta.

Se me ponchó mi llanta.

I like to use the first one because it sounds more like it was the tire's fault. In English we say "I had a flat" and it sounds like we are the guilty party but not in Mexico. Here you say "the tire got flat" as if the tire was the guilty party.

I already mentioned that a tire repair shop is called a "vulcanizadora" and technically the tire repair person is a "vulcanizador" but most often they will be called a "talachero" (tah-lah-CHER-oh). The word "talachero" means handy man or repairman having something to do with automobiles but below the level of a full fledged mechanic. Generally it is tires. The "jack" to raise the car is called a "gato" (GAH-toh) which is the same word used for a cat as in "kitty-cat". There are three types of jack. A bumper jack is called a "gato de patín" (pah-TEEN), a scissors jack is called a "gato de tijeras" (tee-HERR-ahs), and a hydraulic jack is called a "gato hidráulico" (ee-DRAU-lee-koh). The wheel rim is called a "rin" (reen) and the plural of "rin" is "rines" (REE-ness). A wheel complete with tire and rim is called a "rueda" (roo-whey-dah). The part of the wheel that fits over the axle or "eje" (EH-hey) that we call a "hub" in English is a "maza" (MAH-zah) in Spanish. The studs that hold the wheel in place are called "birlos" (BEER-lohs) and the nuts are called "tuercas" (TWEHR-kahz). The holes in the wheel that fit over the "birlos" are called "barrenos" (bahr-REY-nos). A hub cap is called a "POHL-vehr-ah" meaning "dust cover".

Are you still with me? We have a ways to go yet. A lug wrench in the form of a cross is called a "llave de cruz" (YAH-vey dey krooz) or also a "cruzeta" (kroo-zeh-tah). A regular lug wrench in the form of an "L" is called a "llave con cola" which means "wrench with a tail". Note that the word "llave" can mean a key, a wrench, or a faucet. You have to get the meaning out of the context. An air operated impact wrench is called a "pistola neumática". The nuts are tightened to a sufficient torque or "torsión" (tohr-SEEOHN) that can be measured with a "torquimétro" (tohr-kee-MEHT-roh) or in English, a "torqometer".

Now…what if your tire has an inner tube? An inner tube is called a "cámara" (CAH-mah-rah) which is short for "cámara de aire" (KAH-mah-ah dey EYE-rey) which means "air chamber". An air hose is called a "manguera de aire" (mahn-GEHR-ah dey EYE-rey) and the fitting on the end of the air hose that lets you put "aire" into a tire is called a "sargento" (sahr-HEHN-toh) which is the same word used for army sergeant. You attach the "manguera" with the "sargento" to the "válvula" (VAHL-voo-lah) or "valve". Technically the gauge that you use to measure the air pressure is called a "manómetro de aire" (mahn-OH-meh-tro dey EYE-rey) but most people refer to it as a "pesador de aire" (pess-ah-DOOR dey EYE-rey) or "weigher of air" since the air pressure is in "libras" (LEE-brahs) meaning "pounds". Sometimes you will also hear people refer to it as a "calibrador de aire" (kah-lee-brah-DOOR dey EYE-rey). An air leak is called a "fuga de aire" (FOO-gah dey EYE-rey) or just plain "fuga". An air compressor is called a "compresor de aire" (cohm-preh-SOHR de EYE-rey). A spare tire is a "llanta de refacción" (YAHN-tah dey ree-fahk-SEEOHN).

Wow! All that nonsense and we still haven't got to the patch yet! Well, here we go. You will basically hear two different names for a "parche de llanta" (PAHR-chey de YAHN-tah) or "tire patch". One is "parche vulcanizado" (PAHR-chey vuhl-kahn-ee-ZAH-doh) which is a hot patch and the other is a "parche tip top" (PAHR-chey teep tohp) which is a cold patch. The name "Tip Top" is a brand name for tire patching equipment and materials made by the REMA Tip Top company of Germany and it is a world-wide product that is the standard for chemically bonded tire patches. For this reason the Term "tip top" in Mexico is synonymous with chemically bonded patches no matter who makes them. Actually, the REMA TipTop system is the best way to patch a tire in my opinion as long as it is done right. The thing is to find a talachero who really knows his stuff. Many of the vulcanizadora shops that you see are rather dirty, grungy places with a bunch of oddball looking characters hanging around. Finding a good place to take your tire is like looking for a good barber or a good dentist. In the U.S. you would probably take your flat tire to a tire dealer but here in Mexico the tire dealer will more often than not send you to a vulcanizadora or a talachero.

The REMA TipTop system for modern passenger and light truck cross-ply, belted, and radial tires comes in two versions. Both are a combination tire plug and tire patch. One version comes in two pieces and the other version is one piece. Both versions require that you remove the tire from the rim. If you watch the two videos below you will see how the job is supposed to be done. This will give you a basis for comparison. If your talachero isn't repairing your tire in a similar fashion to the videos then you may have a reason to worry. If you have followed me all the way down to this point and still think that the whole subject is just too boring to deal with I suggest that you print this out and tuck it in your glove box. Some one of these days you just may be glad that you did.

Happy Motoring!

Two Piece Repair

Minicombi Repair


Calypso said...

Bob you green/white/red tongued diablo!
I usually just point to the tire and say:
necesitan reparación

or more often - Nes-i-si-tow repairO por favor.

This works but damn man I wish I knew what you do!

Don Cuevas said...

Muy fascinante, Roberto. Gracias.

Don Cuevas

ElleCancun said...

Wow, I was with you for most of it!! I may need to read, re-read, and re-read again!!! I am not a quick study...shame :(

Rosas Clan in Tulum said...

That was pretty funny. I was formulating my comment in my head right before I got the last line. My comment was going to be how I need to print this out and keep it in my car! jajaja

Thank for the info once again.

Anonymous said...

Wow. So much to learn. I am jealous of your command of Spanish. I would say, "no funciona la llanta".

This was a great lesson.

Unknown said...

Good lesson for Mexicans. Bad lesson for Hondurans which almost speak an entirely different dialect than Mexico. We use llantera for tire repair shops or tire purchase shops. Yesterday took long trip out of town, and purposely noted all llanteras. I saw ONE that said in small letters below llanters, that it was a vulcanizadora. However jacks are cats here too. Asi es la vida!

Bob Mrotek said...

Thanks everyone for all the nice comments.

If it was a bad lesson for Hondurans then it is up to you to give us a good lesson for Hondurans. You have already made a start. Please keep going. I, for one, am very interested to know what all the similarities and differences are :)

infomar said...

You can use the following to ask to eat too.

Web us come ham on
(Huevos con jamón)

Web us come toss see no
(Huevos con tocino)

Web us tea be us
(Huevos tibios)

Web us come shore is so
(Huevos con chorizo)

Web be toes come free hall lit toes
(Huevitos con frijolitos)

Does stack kit toes door add it toes the Paul Joe
(Dos taquitos doraditos de pollo)

Does stack kit toes the car neat as
(Dos taquitos de carnitas)

Come chill leap toes hall up pen Joe's
(Con chilitos jalapeños)

Come chill lack kill less
(Con chilaquiles)

E free hall lit toes
(Y frijolitos)

Train us on six the shell as
(Traenos un six de chelas)

Kiss sea ram most does tea kill as
(Quisieramos dos tequilas)

See Gary toes

Much as grass see as
(Muchas gracias)

Saludos and good luck with your YAHN-tahs.

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.