In Africa it does not make sense to bring the newest things. Cars, buses and other things are getting spoiled quickly. A new car has a scratch from a passing Boda soon or due to poor service and uneducated people machinery is suffering.
If it is the case that a part, e.g. on the bus, breaks, you have three possibilities: Fixing it, replacing it or make a modification. In a good case you just need to fix it. Let say a bold is loose. Tight it and the job is done.
Sometimes a part, like an oil seal, is broken completely, there is no chance beside replacing it. In Kampala pretty all spare parts are somehow available. New or used. If you look for it, you will find it.
However, sometimes it happens that a spare part is not (yet) available or you are too far to wait for delivery. In this case you have to make modification. Modification is the most risky part of the business. The people here do not have the possibility to make an apprenticeship or join any education. So especially mechanic do a lifelong training on the job. If it comes to modification, they have to improvise. My article about the replacement of the front screen of a bus is good example.
Modification of the front screen: Using the edges of the broken glass and replace the broken middle part
I am often astonished when the mechanics fixed my knocked engine in middle of Congo with more or less nothing. I don’t know why but probably due to sabotage or missing knowledge two buses knocked the engine in Congo last year at the same time. In this case my mechanic ordered the spares (main and piece bearings, piston rings etc) in Kampala and dissembled the whole engine. Something which mechanics in Switzerland probably dream about it.
I am always astonished how they fixed it (and I also think I am not alone…).
Open engine (driver hit the oil tank, broke the oil tube and thus metal parts got into the engine)
Some of the parts. For me it always looks like a puzzle and get worried, when bolts and parts left after fixing everything and the mechanic tells me this bolt were not necessary at all…
One-by-one: Part by part of the engine rebuilt.
And then, when the engine runs smoothly with smooth sound – everyone is fascinated.