SNOW sweepers swished on the road outside as Gus Wilson shed his ulster in
the shop of the Model Garage on the first real winter morning (it the
cold-weather season. A heavy fall of the white stuff early the evening
before had been followed by the mercury taking a nose dive, and now at eight
o'clock of a sunny, windy morning the thermometer outside the office door
registered only ten above zero.
Gus's partner, Joe Clark, was grinning a good
morning from the office door. "You'll have a bad case of telephone ear by
nine o'clock." Gus told him. "All the customers who as usual didn't remember
to take the precautions we advised will be phoning us to get their frozen-up
busses started. It's always that way the first real cold morning of the
"Sure is," Joe agreed "It's hard on the cars, and
it makes you wonder why the Lord made so many people downright careless, but
it's good for our business.
Remember that morning when - "
He was interrupted by, the honking of a horn,
outside the shop doors. Then someone shouted "Hey, you, Gus Wilson open up!
It's colder'n heck out here".
"That's Ez Zacharias," Gus said as he unlocked the
double doors. I didn't expect he'd be the first one to holler for help.
Usually he's a pretty wise bird when it comes to keeping out of avoidable
Ez usually covers his R.F.D. route in a
smart-looking sedan, but this fall he invested in a light truck, three or four
years old but in A-1 condition, for use when the dirt roads back in the
country get bad or, around the holidays. when he has especially heavy
parcel-post deliveries to handle.
He drove this truck into the shop, leaned from the
seat, and scored a V on Gus's waste box with an active - service charge of
tobacco juice - By gum," be said, "the feller who sold me this darn truck
took me fer a sucker, and he didn't make no mistake. He climbed out, pushed
his postman's cap away back on his shaggy head. and shook a big and hairy
fist at the vehicle. First time I ever seed a automobile that'd run ahead
smooth as velvet, but wouldn't back tip without goin' dead. Took me a good
ten minutes to get backed out of my garage. By hookey!
Every danged time I put her into reverse she'd die
down, start up again, hit a few times. and then quit like a yaller dawg on
me! Take a look at her, will you, Gus?"
Gus got into the truck, stepped on the starter, and
shifted Into reverse, The truck ran smoothly over the shop floor, but the
moment Its rear wheels hit the snow-covered driveway outside, the engine
sputtered, and then went dead. When he stepped on the starter again and
shifted into low, the truck ran back into the shop without a miss.
"That's a new one on me," he said, - First time I've
ever known a car to act like that." Gus checked the points and condenser and
found them in excellent condition. When he restarted the engine it ran
smoothly. He again backed the car out of the shop. As soon as its rear
wheels were on the snow covered driveway he noticed that there was a lot of
vibration-so much that he could feel the engine moving back and forth on its
rubber mountings. As soon as he shifted into low speed the vibration ceased
and the truck ran smoothly back into the shop.
When he raised the hood his eyes still were so
badly dazzled by the glare of the bright sun on the newly fallen snow that
be could scarcely see the engine. That was why he noticed the faint flicker
of a spark where the wire entered the condenser.
When his sight returned to normal he saw that one
of the strands of the wire had frayed loose, and that its ragged one was
close to the condenser.
He examined the truck's rear end, and nodded when
he saw that Its spring suspension was like that used on some old model
passenger cars-a half conventional spring, with one of its ends connected to
the frame and the other to the rear axle. Without further checking he
replaced the frayed wire with a new one. "All ready to roll," he told Ez as
he lowered the hood.
"Yeah?" the postman said. "What the heck was the
matter with her?" "A strand of frayed wire was hitting against the condenser
and shorting your engine," Gus told him. "What? "That don't make sense." Ez
"The engine ran swell except when she was in
reverse," "That's what fooled me," Gus said. "The answer is that, with this
particular type of spring suspension, the wheels pulling backward in the
snow cause a sort of bouncing motion. That motion makes the engine rock on
its mountings, and that rocking brought the end of the frayed wire into
contact with the condenser and caused the short that killed your engine
whenever you went into reverse in the snow. Get it?"
"I guess I do," Ez said doubtfully, and bit off a
modest inch of coal-black plug. Well, I better be gettin' along an'- hey,
there's some guy who's in a real hurry!"
It certainly sounded that way. From outside came
repeated squawks of a raucous horn. "Let him in, Harry," Gus directed the
grease monkey. "If you don't, he'll knock our doors down."
Harry opened the doors. He had to step lively to
get out of the way of a sedan which shot into the shop and came to a jarring
stop. Out of it leaped old Silas Barnstable, looking even more like a bantam
rooster than usual in the ancient sealskin driving cap he was wearing. "Do
something quick!" the little retired farmer squealed. "My motor's red hot
and my radiator's b'iling over!"
Gus raised the hood and cautiously unscrewed the
radiator cap, releasing a cloud of steam. "All right-you can switch off your
engine," he told Barnstable. "You ran it close, all right! I'll bet there
isn't more than a cupful of water left in your cooling system."
"You fellers have cheated me!" old Silas yelped.
"That Joe Clark told me I ought to fill up my car with a lot of high-priced
antifreeze, an' I was fool enough to do it.
Now look what happens, the first cold day we have!
My radiator all froze up-busted, likely!"
"No, your radiator isn't frozen, and it isn't
busted," Gus reassured him. "But your hose is leaking so badly that your
cooling system is darned, near dry."
Ez Zacharias began to laugh-and when big Ez laughs
the walls shake. "Tell the whole story, Mr. Barnstable!" he scoffed. "I was
in here when Joe Clark argued you into buying that antifreeze, and I heard
him warn you that your hose was so rotten that you'd probably lose most of
it. That's my idea of cock-eyed economy-wasting pretty near five dollars'
worth of antifreeze to save a quarter for a new hose!"
Old Silas glared at Ez and turned to Gus. "I'm
depending on you to do the square thing about this," he wheedled. "I ain't
had any use out of that antifreeze, so it would be only fair for you to
replace it without charging me anything. But I ain't asking you to do that -
make it half price for the new antifreeze, and fill her up."
Gus laughed. "No smoke, Mr. Barnstable," he said
good-naturedly but very firmly. "Joe warned you that your hose was rotten.
You didn't take his advice to put in new ones, so you'll have to stand the
loss. I'll install new hoses and put in a fresh filling of antifreeze if you
want me to, but you'll find both items charged on your bill at our regular
"You're the hardest man to do business with I've
ever run up against in all my born days," Silas growled. "No give-and-take
spirit at all, All right-have it your way. I'll be back for my car this
"Serves the old skinflint right," Ez observed after
Silas had left. "He's so mean he-
He can't help being a penny-pincher. He was born
that way," Gus said. "And, after all, the grief he gets into by being so
tight is pretty much the same as the grief that a lot of other car owners
bring down on themselves through plain carelessness.
He's not the only man in this town who makes his
winter driving hard instead of easy."
Ez settled himself comfortably on the end of Gus's
workbench. "How come?" he wanted to know.
"The first thing you've got to know-- that makes
winter driving easy." Gus explained, "is a cooling system that is tight as a
drum. Antifreeze, no matter what brand of it you use, costs money, and
there's no sense in pouring it into your radiator and then allowing it to
leak out. That's bone-headed waste. And besides that it is mighty likely to
result in serious damage to your engine. Before cold weather starts you
should have your cooling system checked to make certain that your radiator
doesn't leak. That your hoses are good and their connections tight, that the
cylinder-head gasket is tight, and that your pump shaft is tightly packed.”
"After you have made sure that your cooling system is tight, you should make
just as sure that your radiator is clean-that it isn't clogged or half
clogged with rust, sludge, scale, or sediment, You can do that by flushing
it out with a ten-cent can of the same sort of prepared non-caustic powder
that's sold for keeping bathroom drains clear-you can buy it in any grocery
store and in most garages. Run your engine until the water in the system is
warm. Then pour the powder into the radiator, and run your engine for
another fifteen minutes Then drain the radiator and flush it out once with
warm water. Less than a half-hour's job-and when you have done it you know
that your radiator is clean."
"I've heard a lot of arguments about anti- freeze
mixtures," Ez observed. "What's the best one, Gus?"
"So far as I know there isn't any best one," Gus
said. "That's why we sell several of 'em. The more expensive ones are made
of about ninety-seven percent ethylene glycol, with added ingredients which
protect the cooling system against rust and corrosion. They don't evaporate
or boil away, and you can drain them out of your radiator in the spring,
allow the dirt to settle out of them during the summer, and then use them
again the next winter. "If your cooling system is tight, and you use the
proportion of antifreeze to water recommended by the manufacturer, it will
give your car absolute protection. Only the water in the radiator will
evaporate, and if all your winter driving is short trips, so little of the
water will evaporate that it won't need to be added to until spring. It's a
good idea to get a trunk tag and write on it and then tie it on your filler
cup so that gas-station attendants won't add unneeded water. If you do any
long-distance driving during the winter you should have your radiator level
checked about once a month."
"I know those $2.65-a-gallon antifreezes are good."
Ez said. "But how about the cheaper ones? A feller was tellin' me the other
day that he only pays a buck a gallon, an' that the stuff does the work."
"Antifreezes are like most other things -you get
just about what you pay for." Gus replied. "The base of most of the
dollar-a-gallon mixtures is high-test methanol, wood alcohol, with something
in it to prevent rust and corrosion. But methanol evaporates-which means
that you have to keep watching your mixture, and keep adding to it."
"How about plain alcohol?" Ez wanted to know. We
always used to use it, and it did the trick."
"It will keep water from freezing, all right," Gus
said. "But engines run hotter now than they did only a few years ago, so
plain alcohol is likely to boil away. The only advantage it has over the
antifreeze mixtures is that its first cost is lower, but you have to add to
it so often in the course of the winter that in the end, it costs you as
much as the made-up mixtures and you have a lot more bother with it"
Joe Clark's voice came from the office, "Hey, Gus.
Send Harry over to the golf club with the wrecker. And Mrs. Miller says-darn
Gus grinned. "Time to go to work!" he said, Ez looked
at his watch. "Holy cats!" he yelled. "An' me with my mail not made up!"