As Gus approached both Tarlins started talking at
once, with Agatha getting the best of it. All Gus could filter out of the
babble was that something was wrong with their car - he'd already guessed
that - and that this was the day they were to meet Agatha's mother in the
"Whoa," shouted Gus. "Let's take one thing at a
"But that's just it, Mr. Wilson," cut in Agatha,
"we haven't got the time. Mother is due on the noon train and it takes
fully an hour to get to the city. You've simply got to do something about
it in a hurry, Mr. Wilson, really."
Gus long ago had got used to people demanding
repair miracles in a matter of minutes, so he paid only smiling attention to
Agatha's last comment. Instead he turned to Paul. "Well, what's the
trouble, Paul?" he asked.
"It's all rather odd, Gus. We got into the car
this morning so Agatha could drive me over to the bank so I could do a
little work before we left for the city. First off, Agatha had trouble
getting the engine started. Then, when we'd driven about a quarter of a
mile toward town, the engine began to miss badly and Agatha complained that
it had no power. To make sure, I slid over into the driver's seat."
Gus too had difficulty getting the engine started but eventually it ticked
over and he swung the new sedan onto the highway. As he stepped on the
accelerator, however, the engine spat and coughed.
"Well," Paul continued, "it was just like this. The engine missed and
wouldn't take the gas and had no power. Then I happened to glance down at
the temperature gauge. It was almost up to 200."
"Did you check the radiator?" Gus queried.
"That's the very next thing I did. But the water level was up and the water
seemed to be circulating."
Coaxing Is Needed
By this time they were back at the Model Garage. Gus drove or rather
coaxed the car into the shop. Leaving the engine running, he got out,
opened the hood, and unscrewed the radiator cap. Evidently satisfied with
what he saw, he shut off the ignition and checked the wires leading to the
"Could be the timing," he muttered as he walked toward the far corner of the
shop and started to wheel his ignition analyzer toward the car from the
rear. About halfway to the car he stopped dead in his tracks, stood there
motionless for a moment and then wheeled the analyzer back.
"Let's get this car up on the greasing rack," Gus said. As the car reached
its top position Gus walked under and began probing around the right side of
the rear axle with his extension light.
"How do you park this car in your garage, Paul?" he called out, without
taking his eyes off the underside of the car.
"What do you mean, how do I park the car in my garage?"
"I mean do you drive it in head first, or do you back it in?"
"Oh, I back it in," Paul replied. "Backup a car in tight spots isn't one of
Agatha's best accomplishments. So to make it easier for her, I always do
it. Then there's less chance of her picking up wrinkled fenders. All she
has to do is drive straight out and she's in the clear. But what's that got
to do with it?"
Gus had a wry smile on his face as he ducked from under the greasing rack.
"Paul, about all that's ailing your car is a tight garage."
"A tight garage?" Paul repeated.
"Yup," Plus one of the fancy gimmicks the dealer sold you. I'll bet you a
dry fly against a bare hook that when you put the car away at night you have
to back it in until the rear bumper hits the rear wall of the garage.
"Right," Paul agreed. "I have to get the car all the way back. Otherwise,
I can't close the garage doors."
Is the Villain
"And right there is your trouble," said Gus, pointing to the end of the
exhaust pipe. "See how the lip of that pretty chrome exhaust deflector is
bent down? Originally, it extended beyond your bumper. Well, each time
you've backed into your garage you've bent it a little more when you hit the
back well. That helped to close off the end of your tailpipe.
"But that's not all. Each time you bumped the rear wall, the force of the
bump was transmitted through the deflector and along your exhaust pipe until
the pipe began to buckle at its weakest point - the point where it loops up
to clear your rear axle. Evidently, the bump you gave it last night was
just hard enough to finish the job and start the trouble. Come here, I'll
Gus led Paul under the car and pointed up at the exhaust pipe.
With an Assist from a Kink
"Why, that pipe's practically kinked closed," Paul exclaimed.
"That's right," said Gus. "And because it's almost kinked closed, it's been
acting as a stopper to build up enough back pressure to cut down your
engine's power, making it miss and buck when you gave it the gas."
"I guess I'm a little dumb on the mechanical sides," put in Paul, "but why?
"Ever try to blow your nose when you're pinching it closed? Ever try to
push down on the handle of a tire pump when you're holding a finger over
the end of the connecting tube?" Gus asked. Then, without waiting for an
answer he went on. "Well, it's the same way with an engine that tries to
compete with some obstruction in the exhaust line that keeps the engine
gases from escaping. The back pressure builds up a cushion against the
motion of the pistons.
What's more, the proper air and gasoline mixture isn't drawn into the
cylinders. The two combine to make the engine miss and lose power."
"But what caused the overheating?"
"The same thing - back pressure," Gus continued. "Since the hot gases
weren't being exhausted as fast as they should be, they produced more engine
heat than the cooling system was designed to carry away."
"Well, what do I do now?" Gus replied, "I'll take the kink out of that
tailpipe so you can pick up Agatha and meet your English mother-in-law.
When you have time, better get the dealer to install a new one. If you
still want one of those fancy gadgets on the end of your exhaust pipe,
fasten a four by four to the floor of that right-fitting garage of yours to
act as a block for the hind wheels. That'll stop you from smacking the
deflector against the wall when you back in. Or, you could teach Agatha to
Off to Meet Mater
It didn't take Gus long to open out the tailpipe again, so it wasn't much
past 9:45 when Paul pulled out of the shop and headed for home. He and
Agatha still had plenty of time to meet the 12 o'clock train.
"What was the tip-off, Gus?" Stan asked.
"I'll tell you a secret, Stan," Gus confessed. "That car had me more than a
little worried until I just happened to spot that bent-over deflector."
Case of the Homeless Wasp
"Cases like that aren't too common," Gus added as he began to thumb tobacco
into his pipe. "Happens once in a while when a rear-end bump bends an
exhaust, or when a country driver backs into a dirt bank along side a road
and plugs his exhaust with a slug of clay. About the strangest case of back
pressure I've ever run into was old Jim Hadden's car. He'd put it up for a
year during the war, and when he finally took it off the blocks it had all
the symptoms of Paul's car, only worse. I stopped by his place one day
and he asked me to look at it. It was parked in the barn. That time it was
a wasp that led me to the trouble."
"A wasp?" Stan repeated.
"That's right. I saw a wasp buzzing around the end of the exhaust pipe.
When we poked in the tailpipe, there, just a few inches from the end, was a
wasp's nest that all but closed up the opening. While Jim had had the car
up on blocks, a family of mud wasps had built their nest inside the pipe.
The little critter I saw evidently was out visiting when Jim tried to start
the car and was going back home."