The $20 Oil Cap

For those that don’t know, May 1st is not just the day before my brother’s birthday (happy birthday B-O-B), but it is also the Costa Rican Labor Day.  This means that all banks, professional services, and auto part stores are closed in observance of this well deserved holiday.  Which one of those doesn’t make sense on that list?…the one that made for some Labor Day fun and a pop quiz in spanish.

We had no idea today was a holiday, let alone what day of the week or month it is. Either way, today was the worst day to have any type of car trouble or even something as small as needing a silly little thing like an oil cap. Assuming that the car rental agency even provided one to begin with, it turns out that somewhere along the way of Mr. Toad’s wild adventure through dangerous windy roads and a 4 hr journey that was suppose to be 3 (as a true explorer and with possible lineage linked to Magellen, we got lost) our oil cap somehow unknowingly went missing. We arrived at the La Fortuna Suites with a generous helping of motor oil on our engine and  dripping from our grill.

Oil Fountain
Oil Fountain

We called the car rental company and my first concern should have been when they told me to buy a new cap and save the receipt so that they could reimburse me “…but wait…it’s May 1st.  Good luck.”  It didn’t make sense to me until I made the one block walk to the auto parts store to find it closed.  I say “the” auto parts store because it was…you guessed it…the only real auto parts store in town.  I was then told by some helpful locals hanging out that there was a gas station that had “some” auto parts a couple blocks away, so after adjusting Jennette’s seat to the lowest level, we hopped on beach cruisers and hit the road in search for a precious oil cap.

“Necessita una capo de oil por le auto” (I really need to get back to my Rosetta Stone, quick) – “no se”…uh oh.  After grabbing a bottle of oil and some pretty amazing recall to a time when I played sherades, the attendant and I were on the same page. Unfortunately, just knowing that the car was a Daihatsu was not enough for him to know what kind of oil cap we needed and he was trying to explain this to us.

To take a quick break, yes I said “Daihatsu” – the car that didn’t make it long in the states.  In fact, until now I thought that the brand was long gone until I saw it right there on the registration…and 2009 no less.  Who knew?  Damn you Daihatsu…

Anyway, the only way to move forward was to ride the cruisers back to the hotel and get the car…without an oil cap – and drive it back.  One of our hosts at the La Fortuna Suites (review of this great B&B and our hosts coming soon!), Robert, graciously helped by rigging some foil and a wire to offer some resistance to the oil “fountain of fun” taking place under the hood every time we hit the gas.  Once we got back to the gas station, we tried the only oil cap they had (which was not even close to the size used by Daihatsu), two gas caps, and even considered a rag and a clamp to get us by, but no go.  The attendant, being what we consider a typical Tico at this point, went well out of his way to help even further – calling a garage a couple KMs away who may have one.  He confirmed that a nearby garage probably has one, and gave us directions.  I must have really impressed the attended with my level of spanish because he would redirect the conversation to speak with Jennette even though she said, “un poquito” when he asked her if she spoke spanish. He would explain something to her in depth and she nodded her head and said, “Ah. Si, si.” Later she turned to me and said, “Did you get that? I hope you did because I didn’t.” Lucky for us, the town is only three streets wide so the lack of understanding of the directions was handicapped by the fact that all we really got and needed was “behind Policia”.

Here's one solution to a missing oil cap.
Here’s one solution to a missing oil cap.

Again, the Tico at the garage was very friendly, but no go.  He was a lot more efficient at telling us that he could not help us though.  One look at the opening on the top of our engine and down at the 3 oil caps in his hand and he just said, “no”.  Between him and the other generous fella there, we were able to piece together that there might be another place that could have a cap about another KM down the road.  Luckily the oil was holding up so we decided to push on.  Damn you Daihatsu…

The next stop was a giant lean-to attached to a super mercado.  I’m not quite sure what they did there but with the nicely appointed rims hanging on the walls like works of art, complimented by posters of half naked girls stretching or maybe doing yoga on expensive cars, it could have been a car detailing place, oil change facility, tire shop, or a garage where friends hung out and worked on their cars.  Either way, we were lucky that there was a local there who spoke English.  After figuring out that they do not have oil caps (no surprise), we were told that there was a guy who knew a guy that was up the road that may have this elusive cap.  We still can’t quite determine whether the guy in question owned an auto parts store or whether he had a junk yard.  It could just be that he had a lot of Daihatsu’s for all we know.  The deal was simple – for $4 this guy would drive to his house (not sure why) and then drive to this Daihatsu enthusiast he knew to see if he had an oil cap.  Regardless of whether he had the cap or not, we owed him $4 plus the price of the cap.  Fair enough – let’s roll!

Not sure what they do here, but they had car stuff.
Not sure what they do here, but they had car stuff.


We were told 5 minutes, which in Tico time is closer to 30, which held true.  After the 30 hot minutes, he finally came back with one cap in his hand. The one cap that fits a Diahatsu that no one else seemed to know existed.  “Quantos questo?” – “10,000 colones” (this is the point where we are supposed to negotiate or  at least do some rough math to figure out what that means in U.S. dollars) – “DONE!”.

No negotiating needed.

At least not everyone celebrates Labor Day…or at least the kind of places that knows a guy who might know a guy who might have a $20 oil cap!

Back on the road!
Back on the road!


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