Santiago, Chile 16 Jan 07
Odometer 37,875 m 60,954 km

Flying back to Santiago after a quick trip home for Christmas, I took a taxi to my new Chilean friend Christian’s apartment where El Viento was stored. There, in the bowels of the dark parking garage, I discovered I’d lost my bearings. Again.

Probably while being thrashed in the rugged off-road terrain of southern Bolivia, my sprocket carrier bearings went south. These were the same bearings that I replaced in Sucre and again in Uyuni. Perhaps the first pair was defective from the factory, as I originally suspected, since they failed within a mile of where they were installed. Or perhaps both pairs were simply victims of improper tools and insufficient time to install them correctly; I didn’t know.
Regardless, only 10 of 15 steel balls within the outer bearing remained. The other 5 literally melted from the frictional heat! The bearing’s outer case was brittle and deformed.

The heat then transferred to the axle, washer and lock nut and caused the powder coating on the swing arm to melt--the clue that gave it all away. The inner bearing, though showing signs of severe stress, had thankfully held it all together. Though I was disappointed to uncover the problem, I was glad to unearth it here and now. Catastrophic failure was right around the corner.
Off to a local shop in this city of 5 million people, I went in search of specialized tools and assistance. The axle was so welded in place, I could not extract it without lubricant and a large rubber mallet. Two new bearings then had to be located and installed.

The rear axle, which normally slips through two tight holes in the metal chain-adjuster plates, had enough play from the failed bearing to cause the holes to distort into oblong shapes. BMW Santiago, like all the other lame BMW dealerships, stocks virtually no parts, so I’m forced to fly new chain-adjuster plates in from the United States.

In the meantime, I’ve got to keep moving. So, to get me by until the new parts arrive, I stuffed some scrap metal into the elongated holes to minimize the axle’s movement. Perhaps in Buenos Aires, where I’ll have to stop to do some additional maintenance anyway, El Viento will finally get her bearings back.

Tomorrow I’ll cross over the high Andes for the final time as I head east to Mendoza, Argentina. New snow on the peaks and blue skies await my ascent.

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