Running on scraps

Rama Ariadi / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Enterprising Cambodians have set up shop all across Phnom Penh, where scrapped engines from vehicles that have been written off are pilfered for re-usable parts. KT/Jean-Francois Perigois

For logistic drivers, nothing spoils a day quite like an unexpected breakdown. If such an incident were to happen elsewhere in the world – where emergency responses are easily accessible and the availability of spare parts is rarely an issue – breakdowns would not be too much of an issue as roadside assistance service would probably arrive within the hour, thus minimising the extra costs incurred by the breakdown. The story is quite different in Cambodia, as spare parts often have to be ordered in – and when the required parts do arrive, the cost of repairs could even exceed the value of the loads that they carry, due to obvious logistical reasons.

But a business doesn’t stop when a truck breaks down, and in cognisant of this need to keep the cycle going, enterprising Cambodians have set up shop all across Phnom Penh, where scrapped engines from vehicles that have been written off for numerous reasons are pilfered for re-usable parts that are to be used to as a stop-gap solution for an emergency breakdowns. From massive truck cylinders, valve gaskets, leaf-springs from a by-gone era, axel rods and used tyres that have been galvanised to their extreme limits — anything that could be salvaged gets refurbished, if not transformed entirely to keep Cambodia’s ageing logistic fleets up and running in no time.

Older tires are melted down to create seals for leaky cylinder valves, even makeshift brake pads, while those with still-visible – albeit, barely there – are sold to replace burst tires at a fraction of the price of a new set of tires.

That said, due caution must be paid as there is a valid reason behind all vehicle manufacturers insistence on using brand-new, original space parts as replacements – as there is no guarantee that a scrapped spare part could hold up to the strain posed by the heavy loads that these vehicles often carry. As appealing as these garages may be for many, one must remember that these quick-fixes are meant to be temporary – and over-reliance on these makeshift fixes can cause further, more expensive damages to the vehicle, which could contribute to the ever-increasing road fatalities across Cambodian roads and highways.

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