I own a Yamaha motorcycle as well as a Yamaha Axis scooter. Part of owning and using a vehicle is the constant need for maintenance. Living in an area like the DR increases that need. Due to the humidity and in many locations near the ocean, salt in the air, things oxidize quickly causing electrical and mechanical damage. In addition to that the poor roads in the Dominican Republic can really take a toll on the vehicle whether it is a motorcycle or a car.
These poor conditions mean constant maintenance and more frequent repairs that you would normally need in the US or other countries. When it comes to repairs and maintenance living here is both a good and a bad thing. Good in that many parts are considerably cheaper than you would buy in the States, bad in that most of the parts are of lower quality and trying to get people that actually have training to work on your vehicle is pretty hard.
Dominican Republic Motorcycle Parts
Most of the parts you find in the DR are aftermarket parts it is pretty rare to find OEM parts (I’ve yet to see any). This may or may not mean lower quality. Reading this article on OEM vs Aftermarket auto parts will give you a bit of an idea on the debate about that. One advantage is aftermarket usually means it will be cheaper to buy and therefor very popular here.
For Example: A turn signal got broke off my motorcycle. It was pretty much just hanging by the wire. I went into a parts place and they had a replacement in stock for about 70 pesos. Awesome, that is about $2.00. I just checked eBay and the closest part I could find was between $13.00 and $15.00. In this case the quality of the part seems good enough. Now to get it installed.
DR Motorcycle Repairs
I planed on installing the part myself. Which required buying a socket wrench and a socket. No 3/8 drive socket wrenches available, only 1/2. Not a real problem, the quality seemed fair and the larger size makes it a little stronger anyway. Cost for the wrench and the size socket I needed another $10.00.
Once I got the part a kid about 17-18 comes out of the parts store to try and help me install the part. This is how a lot of people make money. They wait at the shop and try to help people install the parts and work out a payment to do it. I wasn’t that interested but I let him do it anyhow with me watching.
First he gets some scissors and cuts the wire. His intention is to splice the wire in the wheel well and call it good. I knew better. I could guess there must have been a better location for the connection under the seat. Took a minute or two to convince him I was not going to accept the splice and where I guessed he would find the connectors to do it right.
Taking the seat off. After I showed him how to remove the two side panels on the bike to get to the seat bolts he went to get something to remove the bolts, coming back with a set of pliers. At this point I pulled out the socket wrench I had just bought and showed him how to use it.
Once the seat was off I pointed to where I figured the connection would be, and then reached in and took it out myself. I pointed at the connectors on the end of the new turn signal and the connectors on the bike and he got the idea (unfortunately my grasp of Spanish doesn’t include many mechanical terms).
We threaded the wire though the wheel well together and I showed him how to get the bike put back together.
Point being is if I wasn’t there he would have just cut the wire and spliced it in the wheel well with a little tape and after a little while of getting hit with mud and water from the tire I would have started to have problems.
Today I had a similar experience with changing the battery on my wife’s Passola or Scooter. This requires using a small bolt and nut on each terminal. His first choice (different “mechanic” this time) were just a standard hex nut with a slightly larger bolt. The battery requires a special square nut that gets locked into position on the battery. While I’m sure he would have found a way to get it to work, it would not have fit tightly and after a couple months of corrosion I would have started to have battery problems again. He eventually went back and found the new nuts and bolts that originally came with the battery and started to hook it up.
Also it seemed to be a foreign concept to clean the corrosion off the cable ends before installing them onto the battery. I had to stop him, request some sand paper and clean them myself.
I could go on with this (I’ve actually had to do several repairs, all were about the same story) but the point is, while people are very willing to help, and usually at a very low price, it is very difficult to trust most of the work done here. From watching over the last couple years it is pretty evident that very few of the mechanics at the small shops have any training (I don’t really have any experience with the large mechanic shops in the cities, only the campo towns). They’ve watch someone else with very little experience and pretty much go by the motto of if it runs when it leaves it is good enough.
Even if you are going to have someone else do the work, you should always watch how it is done, and firmly not allow shortcuts to be taken. Better yet, try to find a repair manual on your bike of vehicle and do it yourself. If that isn’t possible ask try to get recommendations from your friends on where to go. While that doesn’t guarantee the work to be done right at least you have a bit better chance.