How to get parts when it breaks

Shipping Parts, personal effects etc. in to a foreign country

by Jerome Bullard, edited and supplemented by Grant Johnson

Sooner or later something will probably go wrong with your bike and you'll need to decide what to do. What follows is based on my experiences (and a few mistakes) and was written whilst waiting for new parts to arrive in Chachapoyas, Peru. Jerome.

I assume you are already somewhere with a phone and internet connection and the problem is not terminal.


1 What's Gone Wrong?
2 Getting Help
3 Getting Parts
3.1 Use The Existing Parts
3.2 Get Replacement Parts
3.2.1 List Possible Suppliers and Call Them All
3.2.2 Are All The Parts in Stock?
3.2.3 Where Is The Supplier? Shipping From The Same Country Shipping From Abroad
3.2.4 Planning Ahead
3.2.5 Decide and Order
4 Contingency Plan

What's Gone Wrong?

There are two options:


'Houston, We Have a Problem'

"I know it's making a funny noise, but I'm sure if I ignore it, it will go away."

That's exactly what a friend thought as he drove to pick up his sister late one night from Heathrow Airport.

Five minutes later, he felt a 'clonk' and saw one of his wheels disappear off into the darkness.

"Hi Jerome, it's Dave."

"Er, do you have a torch? One of my wheels has fallen off and gone down a bank but it's too dark to see it."

You have no idea what the problem is.

So, either go into denial, or get some local help.

You know what the problem is and how to fix it.

Even so, it's a good idea to get local help – see below.

2 Getting Help

A few hours spent thinking of who may be able to help can end up saving you days waiting. First stop is the HU Communities pages - is there anyone nearby that can help?


From Home


A local dealer or fellow motorcyclist is the way to go.

Can you phone a friend?

Is there a HUBB Community contact nearby?

3 Getting Parts

There are two choices: either reuse and repair the old or get replacement ones:

I assume you have identified what parts you need.

Are there any other parts that will be damaged or need replacing when you fix your bike? Take the time to make sure. Gaskets, oil seals etc?

Having waited for three weeks for your parts to arrive this is not the time to find out another key part has to be destroyed disassembling your bike.

3.1 Use The Existing Parts

Bodge It Yourself

Get Someone Else to Bodge It

Just use the force, lots of gaffer tape and liquid metal.

Get some one to weld/braze/ a permanent / temporary / instant solution.

I got split link welded on my chain when the circlip fell off.

3.2 Get Replacement Parts

This is when the fun starts.

Whatever method you use call up and chase at least once if not twice a day. Establish personal contact as soon as possible.

3.2.1 List Possible Suppliers and Call Them All

The first thing to do is list out all the different sources that you are going to contact to find out who has them in stock.

My Peruvian choices are in grey.






Depending on the parts should be the best and quickest source..

Finding a dealer who has all the parts in stock may take a while.

New - Warranty claim


The cheapest.

Possibly the slowest. Everything depends on the efficiency of the manufacturers warranty system.

Not so quick for KTM's. I'll sort it out later.

Second hand/ breakers etc

Commercial, Private

Possibly the cheapest and quickest.

Could take a while to find a seller.

3.2.2 Are All The Parts in Stock?



The perfect answer.

Go to the next section, 3.2.3

How many days to get them?

Sommer's did not have them in stock but they get deliveries from the factory everyday.

My parts were ordered on Wednesday and shipped to me on Thursday.

Days =
US$ =

Days = 1
EUR = 200

3.2.3 Where Is The Supplier?

Same Country

Different Country

The best as there are no duties.

Go to the next section,

There may well be Customs challenges and delays.

Go to Shipping From The Same Country

How much and how many days?



This is where most of the time will go.

It is a basic choice between speed/reliability and the resulting Customs charges.

Fly and pick them up yourself

The fastest and most reliable.

Most expensive.

Courier - DHL/Fed Ex etc

Fast and expensive.

Parcel post

Less problems with customs but slow.

A friendly tourist


It may be the fastest option.

Days =
US$ =

Days =
US$ =

Estimate = 2
Actual = 7!
EUR = 46

Days =
US$ =?

Days =
US$ =

Days = < 7
US$ = Shipping From Abroad

Choose one option in each major category.

How many days shipping and in Customs?

Major Category



How Shipped?

This is where most of the time will go.

It is a basic choice between speed/reliability and the resulting Customs charges.

Diplomatic bag

The best if you have the contacts.

Fly out and get them yourself

The fastest, most reliable but the most expensive.

Courier - DHL/Fed Ex etc

Fast and can use Web tracking but expensive.

Parcel post

Less problems with customs but slow.

A friendly tourist

Cheap and good for customs.

Days =
US$ =

Days =
US$ =

Estimate = 3

Actual = 3
EUR = 390

Days =
US$ =

Days =
US$ =

Invoice Details

Find out what the rules are for your country.

What Language?

Local language

The best option.

This will probably be the most efficient but maybe the most difficult to arrange with your shipper.


I have just shipped parts from Germany to Peru. German was not an option as Peruvian Customs couldn't understand a word. The only two options were Spanish and English.

This can have a dramatic effect on the speed of Customs clearance.

What Consignee?


i.e. 'a foreigner'. This may mean more cost and more delays.

A national e.g. local dealer

The preferred option.

The owner of the local bike shop. If they regularly get shipments from the same source and shipper it may be a good bet.

I made a big mistake this time in Peru. What Items? Ship only motorcycle parts, no personal items. I got two pairs of contact lenses added to my parcel which led to major delays as Customs thought my dealer was trying to 'smuggle' them in. $120 in duty.

To reduce duty payable.

What Values?

Some suppliers will only ship at the price paid. In this case I suggest the parts are shipped to a friend in the same country who can re-invoice at a fairer value.

Ask your supplier to reduce the invoice values to reduce duty payable.


Find out what the duty and tax rates are for your parts and what the value limits are before Customs want to have a look inside.

You then have two choices:

Through Customs

Courier - DHL/Fed Ex etc

Standard procedures may mean more duty.

Local Customs Agent

Most reliable?


Do It Yourself



Days =
US$ =

Estimate = 2

Actual = 5

Days =
US$ =

Days =
US$ =

Avoiding Customs

The Diplomatic bag
The winner every time.

Fly out and get them yourself

The fastest and most expensive.

I heard of a guy who flew from Chile to Miami to get his parts. Now I know why.

Go to Customs armed with your carnet.

Not an option in Peru. Find out what the local rules are.

In Nairobi I avoided all import duties and taxes.

Days =
US$ =

Days =
US$ =

Days =
US$ =

Days =
US$ =

3.2.4 Planning Ahead

Perfect planning prevents piss-poor performance.

How and where are you going to fit your parts?

With a Workshop Manual?

With What Tools?


Is one required for this job?

If it is and you don't have one maybe it's time to order one.

Do you, the local shop or dealer have the tools needed?

There's no point in getting your lovely new parts only to discover you need special tools to fit them.

Splitting the crankcases in the desert isn't an ideal environment.

Is there a friendly house or garage nearby you can work in?

3.2.5 Decide and Order

Add up the days, costs and relative risk of each option and decide which one to go for.

Check and double check the make/model year/model/description and part numbers again as waiting three weeks for the wrong parts could ruin your whole day.

Order them in writing.

Move to a hotel with pool, satellite tv, golf course etc (if you're not there already) or go on a long trek.

4 Contingency Plan

Whilst waiting and despite your perfect planning it's quite likely things may not happen as you wished. It is therefore a good idea to have a contingency plan.

If your parts have been 'stuck' in Customs and neither you nor anyone else can help you get them out maybe it's time to cut your losses and get new parts sent in a different way.

All Content is Copyright © 2002 - 2004 Jerome Bullard and Fowb Limited


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