Locating a Toyota Birfield in Mexico

A year ago I decided to drive my HJ60 Land Cruiser to México and start my great Latin Roadtrip.  I spent the last year working out my plans, upgrading and modifying the vehicle and doing maintenance.

I considered upgrading the axles but decided against it.  It just didn't seem necessary for my style of driving.  In hindsight, after experiencing my first broken birfield, I realize that was a mistake.

Birfields


This is my story and my advice.  Don't do what I did, unless you really like fish tacos and beer.

Don't Ship the Parts


The first piece of advice I can offer is - upgrade before you leave. It's pretty easy to break a stock Toyota birfield joint, especially if reversing in 4WD with the wheels turned and obstacles in your way.  Unless you're the sort of person who enjoys breaking things on the trail for the challenge of fixing them, upgrade before you leave. 

If you are the sort of person who enjoys breaking and fixing things in remote locations, then you already have a spare birf in your kit and you've swapped out birfs at trail-side a few times before.

I neglected to upgrade and didn't carry a spare so I had two choices at thas point - find one locally or order one from the states.  Finding the part locally is entirely possible but I had trouble locating one searching by make & model.  The 60 series was never sold in México so there are very few of them around.  My initial search turned up one wrecked 60 in a yonke (salvage yard) but they would only sell the complete front-end.

At this point I decided to order parts from the states.  That led me to my next decision - ship to México or make a border run?  I chose the former.  That was a poor decision.

While waiting for shipping, I talked to some knowledgeable Land Cruiser folks in the states and learned that the outer axle on a 60 series is the same as you find on '81-85 Toyota mini trucks (before they moved to independent front suspension in '86).  This vehicle was sold in México and parts are plentiful.  I gave this information to my local mechanic, along with the part number (43405-60015), and he quickly located a new unit which he could get within a day.  Since the parts from the states were already on their way, I called this Plan B.

Importing Parts from the States


If you've opted to get your parts from abroad and you can get yourself to the border, the best thing to do is to import them yourself and not rely on the post office or private shipping.  In my case, I could have gone from Ensenada to Tijuana, walked across the border, picked up the parts from a friend willing to hold them for me and returned to Ensenada in a day.  Walking across the border you're unlikely to have your belongings inspected by customs and even if you are, it's unlikely that any duty would be imposed.

In Baja, there are many people traveling back and forth from San Diego.  I turned down several offers from people willing to bring the parts down here to me, which would have saved me from even having to take the bus trip. 

My parts were shipped via USPS Priority Mail with delivery confirmation.  When I first heard this I figured I would never see that package.  I talked to many folks in Baja, both locals and expats, and no one had any confidence that the package would arrive, or if it would, when it would be here.  The consensus is that USPS Priority is hit or miss, Express is more reliable and DHL/UPS is the best way to go.

On the 2nd business day, the package was in San Francisco.  On the 3rd, the confirmation number showed the package had been handed over to México.  I assumed it was in Tijuana and had only to make the short trip to Ensenada.  The 4th, 5th and 6th days showed the package in Mexico to clear customs.  I didn't realize it at the time but the package was sent first to Mexico City.  The status didn't update again until the end of the 8th business day.  Earlier that day I had given up and ordered the local part. The final update showed that delivery had already been attempted on the 7th business day.
Priority Mail International Parcels Attempted Delivery Abroad MEXICO
No further updates appeared on the USPS site and there was no sign of the package at the hotel where it was destined.  I took this as validation of my decision to order the local part.  On the 11th business day, on a whim, I tried plugging the USPS confirmation number into the SepoMex web site.
AP Ensenada, B.C. Puesta en ventanilla
While I speak conversational Spanish, I also rely on pitiful looks and wild gestures to get my point across.  That wasn't working on the phone so I turned to the hotel receptionist for help.  After several phone calls she gave me directions to the Mex Correo office on Adolfo López Mateos (i.e. 1st Street) and Florestra, only a few blocks away.

It seems I had been lounging around Ensenada waiting for a box that was in fact waiting for me just down the road.

Outside the office an old man sat on a chair with a typewriter, taking dictation from people who wanted to send letters but couldn't write themselves.  Inside, they located my package and after showing an ID, signing a bunch of forms, and handing over 800 pesos in import duties, I finally had the box - two weeks after I'd ordered it, one week after it arrived in Ensenada and the day after I'd already installed the local part.

The package made it to Ensenada remarkably quickly.  I can't say whether or not the expected $60 USD in import duties helped it along but I don't imagine it hurt.

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