A brisk wind whistled an
icy tune as Frank Gordon closed the radiator shutters on his car and started
on his morning drive to his office.
"Must be below freezing,"
he thought as he pulled his overcoat higher around his neck.
"It's a lucky thing I put some alcohol in the radiator last night."
As his car hummed along
the road, Gordon chuckled with self-satisfaction each time he passed stalled
cars with steaming radiators. For once in his life he had outwitted
the cold weather and put his alcohol in ahead of time.
Suddenly, as he neared
the center of town, there was a blinding flash and a loud report. For
an instant, the front of Gordon's car was a mass of flames. Dazed and
frightened, he shut off the ignition and brought the car to a squealing
Advice came from all
quarters. Passing traffic hastened to get out of his way and shoppers
excitedly tried to move their parked cars to safety.
Grabbing the fire
extinguisher mounted under the seat, Gordon jumped to the ground and
cautiously lifted the blackened hood. To his surprise, not a trace of
the flames could be seen. Instead, water trickled from a long gash in
the top radiator connection. The tongues of blue flame that had
enveloped the hood but a moment before had died out as mysteriously as they
Gordon chanced driving the car the short distance to the Model Garage where
he related his uncanny experience to Gus Wilson and his partner, Joe Clark.
"And you say for an
instant the front of the car was a mass of blue flames?" inquired Gus when
Gordon had told as best he could just what had happened. "What've you
been using in the radiator - dynamite?"
"Nope," Gordon replied,
"just the old stand-by mixture of alcohol and water. But what's that
got to do with it?"
"Plenty," barked Gus,
"From the looks of this hose connection, pressure built up in your radiator.
Something had to bust, and this was it," he declared.
Scratching his head,
Gordon watched Gus pour water into the radiator. "But how can pressure
build up in a radiator when there's an overflow pipe to let steam escape?"
he asked, pointing to the tube in the radiator.
Gus said nothing, but
continued to fill the radiator. He grinned when the water reached the
top and spilled over the edges. Beckoning to Gordon to look down into
the radiator he said, "The water's way above the top of that overflow
now but it doesn't run off. In some way, that pipe's got clogged.
Your motor heated up because you forgot to open the shutters and the alcohol
boiled off and couldn't escape. After a while, the pressure got strong
enough to blow right through the rubber hose and your hot motor - all
soaked, too, with gas and oil - was sprayed with hot alcohol vapor.
You're just plain lucky you didn't burn your car up."
"But how did the pipe get
clogged in the first place?" inquired Gordon, "Dirt would have to be jammed
in there pretty tight to stand more pressure than a rubber hose."
"It was ice that caused
your trouble," Gus pointed out. "Some dirt probably got caught in
there - rust or sediment from your cooling system. Then, when you
filled your radiator, water collected over the dirt and froze solid.
Have you ever tried to pry ice loose from metal by pushing it when it's
With a long piece of
stiff wire Gus prodded the overflow pipe. "You see," he said, "now
that the ice has melted it's easy to push through the dirt. Speaking
of dirt," Gus added, "judging from the stuff that's come from your radiator
I'd say it's pretty dirty. Ever clean it out?"
Gordon shook his head.
"Never thought I had to," he replied.
"That's why your motor
overheats," said Gus. "Dirt and rust form a scale on the inside of the
radiator and the heat in the water can't get through to be absorbed by the
air. You ought to clean it out at least twice a year. Especially
before you dope your cooling system for the winter.
"It's easy. All you
have to do is buy a prepared radiator cleaner, dissolve it in the right
amount of water, put it in the radiator, and then drive the car for about
two hundred miles. When you drain it out all the dirt and sludge come
"By the way, Gus," Gordon
said, lifting the hood and pointing to the water pump, "My pump uses an
awful lot of grease. Where does it all go?"
"Right into your
radiator," was the reply. "And it's the best little scale former there
is. Half the dirt in your cooling system probably has come from the
grease you've forced by the bearings on that pump. The answer is to
use a waterproof grease and use it sparingly.
"But getting back to
anti-freeze mixtures, why use alcohol?" Gus asked. "That went out of
date with kerosene lamps."
"What's the matter with
alcohol?" asked Gordon. "It does the job and it's cheaper than
"It's not so cheap when
you stop to consider it," Gus insisted. "Alcohol boils at about one
hundred and seventy degrees, so if you run your motor at the right
temperature you have to keep strengthening the mixture.
With a solution of
glycerin or ethylene glycol there's nothing to worry about as far as boiling
is concerned. They may cost more for the first filling, but unless
you've got a leaky radiator, the same solution is good for several years."
"Yes, and if your cooling
system happens to have a small leak that you don't know about, you sprinkle
the road with dollar bills," Gordon objected.
"Well, that shouldn't be any
drawback," grunted Gus. "It's no job at all to find leaks and fix 'em.
One thing lots of people don't realize, though, is that solutions expand
when they're heated. If you use an expensive anti-freeze, don't fill
the radiator right up to the top of the overflow pipe but leave a little
room for expanding.
"The advantage of
glycerin or ethylene glycol," continued Gus, "is that you can run your motor
just as hot in winter as you do in summer without fear of having your
"How would I make up a
glycerin solution?" Gordon asked, "Do I have to buy a special hydrometer as
I did for the alcohol?"
Glycerin makes the water heavier so you can see your battery hydrometer.
To make a solution that'll be safe down in zero, add enough glycerin to
water to make the hydrometer first level with the eleven hundred mark," said
Gus, indicating the mark on a hydrometer he picked up from the repair bench.
"That'll be almost a forty percent solution. A thirty percent solution
will be safe down to about ten degrees, and the hydrometer reading for that
proportion in one thousand and eighty."
"That sounds easy,"
Gordon commented. "Then if I want to test it at any time, all I've got
to do is use the hydrometer."
"Right, But you want to
make sure the solution is somewhere near room temperature," Gus reminded
him. "Those readings only hold at sixty degrees."
"You win, Gus," Gordon
finally agreed. "Fill her up with a solution of glycerin. I'll
leave the car here for the rest of the day so you can clean out the cooling
system and patch up any leaks you may find."