Gus Wilson was hard at work on the second
morning of the winter's first real cold spell when Doc Marvin came into the
Model Garage shop with a worried frown on his normally cheerful face.
"Hello, Doc," Gus greeted him. "Back
from the State medical meeting, I see. Have a good time?"
"Yes and no," Doc told him. "Mostly no.
I had trouble with my car, and although I handed quite a chunk of coin
over to those hijacking garage men up there trying to get it fixed, it's as
bad now as it was before they went to work on it. Take a look at it as
quickly as you can, will you, Gus? I've got several cases scattered all
over the county to attend to this afternoon, and to save my own life I can't
get over 30 miles an hour out of the old bus."
"O.K., Doc," Gus agreed. He waved a hand
toward the cars crowding the shop floor to capacity. "You can see for
yourself what I'm up against today - but I guess no one needs a car as badly
as a doctor does, so I'll slip your job into the No. 1 spot. It isn't
often you have car trouble you can't take care of if you have to.
What's the matter with your car, anyway?"
"From some of the symptoms it's
displaying," Doc said, "I'd guess that it's this cold weather. But from
some of the other symptoms, I'd say I don't know what it is. One of the
ways I keep my patients and myself out of most serious trouble is by calling
in a specialist for consultation whenever symptoms don't add up to make
sense to me. This time you're the specialist."
Gus grinned. "Then go ahead with the
consultation," he advised. "I'm listening."
"They've been having even colder weather
upstate," Doc told him.
"Night before last it got down close to
zero. That didn't bother me - I knew you had put plenty of antifreeze in my
radiator and, anyhow, I had my car safe in the hotel's heated garage.
"The bus was all right until I parked
near the hall where the meetings were held. When I came out, it was all
wrong - the engine acted as if it was starved for fuel.
It was sluggish, had no power, and I
couldn't get up over 30 in high gear, no matter what I did.
"I figured that probably moisture in the
fuel bowl had frozen and was choking the carburetor - remember how you had
to tow me home one bitter-cold night a few winters ago because of that? So
at the first garage I came to, I stopped and asked the mechanic to check my
fuel bowl. He did. There wasn't any ice in it. Then he checked the entire
fuel line - even the fuel tank. Still no ice.
"About then the boss came over. He
scratched his head for a while, and then came up with the opinion that the
cold had hardened the lubricant around the spark-advance governor in the
distributor so it wouldn't work property. That sounded plausible - until a
check showed that the lubricant hadn't hardened appreciably and that the
governor was working normally.
"That made the boss scratch his head some
more, and he went into a huddle with the mechanic. They came out of it
with another opinion - that I'd better take my trouble to a carburetor
expert down the street. I did, and he said that he knew exactly what it was
- that a richer mixture was needed to give the engine normal power in such
cold weather. So he put in larger jets. I paid him for the job - and
before I'd driven a block the trouble had returned.
"Back in the hotel garage, I asked the
foreman if he had any idea what could be causing the trouble. He said it
might be the fuel pump, and he checked it while I was packing my bags and
saying good-by to some of the fellows in the lobby. It was a couple of
hours before I was ready to start for home. The foreman was just finishing
and said everything was O.K. He was right - the car ran fine all the way
home. It did this morning, too, until after I'd let it stand outside the
hospital for three hours. Since then it's been acting up again."
"I'll have a look," Gus said. "Drive her
in, Doc. NO, never mind - the floor's too crowded. I'll check it
outside." And he started for the door.
"Hold on," Doc called sternly. "You put
a coat on. Think I want to have to try to keep you in bed for a week?"
Gus meekly did as ordered.
"There's no doubt about the engine not
getting enough fuel," Gus said after he had listened to it for a minute.
"The job is to find out why it isn't getting enough."
He got out, raised the hood, removed the
cover of the float chamber of the carburetor, saw that the chamber was only
half full, and then checked the fuel pump.
"It looks as if your friend at the hotel
garage had been on the right track, but he doesn't seem to have followed it
far enough," Gus said. "There's something wrong with the fuel pump, all
right. Its pressure is just about half what it should be. Stan!" he
called, and Stan Hicks, the Model Garage grease monkey and budding young
mechanic, came out into the cold air.
"Here's a simple little problem in
applied automotive mechanics for you to solve," Gus told him. As directed,
Stan took the fuel pump out. "It's up to you," Gus said.
Doc went off in a taxi, and Gus and Stan
went back into the shop, taking the fuel pump with them. Stan put it on
the bench, but had to take out the wrecker to haul in a frozen car before he
could get to work on the pump.
An hour or so later, he took the pump
apart, examined and cleaned each part, put it together again, and tested it
on the bench.
"Hey, boss," he called. "I've fixed it.
The pressure is all right now."
"Good," Gus said, coming over to the
bench. "What was the matter?"
Stan looked blank. "I never thought of
that. There wasn't anything wrong, I guess. Each part looked O.K. as I was
cleaning it. There was one funny thing, though," he recalled. "The
diaphragm was wet."
"Wet, was it?" Gus was thoughtful. Then
he grinned. "Did you dry it off?"
"Oh, yes," Stan assured him. "But what
goes on here, boss? Why was the pump bad when you checked it and all right
after all I did was to take it apart and put it together again? It doesn't
"Yes, it does - if you throw in the fact
that you took the wrecker out between the time you brought the pump in from
Doc's car and the time you took it apart," Gus told him. "Results are what
they pay off on, kid, and you got 'em - no matter how. It could be that
you're a genius without knowing it." He gave Stan a friendly shove.
"Put Doc's pump back in, and then apply
your talents to one of these other jobs."
Doc Marvin hustled into the shop on the
stroke of two. "I'm in a rush!" he called from the doorway. "Emergency
call. Did you get the pump fixed, Gus?"
"Stan did," Gus told him. "He's
good, Doc. In just an hour he'd diagnosed and cured a car ailment that is one
of the toughest of any to spot. I just played second fiddle. But I'll
tell you about it when you have more time. Your bus is outside, ready to
"Good for you, Stan," Doc said hurriedly.
He sped away to answer the emergency
Stan scowled at his employer. "I don't
mind being kidded when we're alone," he said, "but I don't think it's right
in front of the customers."
"That wasn't kidding, Stan," Gus smiled.
"Far from it. You did a real job. Of
course, you don't know how you did it, but that happens to the best
mechanics, and I'm not going to tell Doc that part of the story. What I was
doing was building you up with the customer."
"Maybe I need building up with some of
our customers," Stan grinned. "What was the matter with the pump, anyway?"
"You really should know," Gus said.
"Remember that you went out with the wrecker after you'd brought the pump
into the shop and didn't disassemble the pump until you got back about an
hour later? That hour's wait in the warm shop was the cure, along with your
wiping the wet diaphragm dry.
"If you had started on the pump as soon
as you had it in the shop, you would have found ice on the diaphragm -
enough to restrict its action. It's lucky the ice didn't puncture it - that
"Accumulated condensation inside the fuel
pump was the underlying cause of the trouble, and when this cold weather
came, the condensation froze. Of course, after the car had stood in a
heated garage for a while, the ice melted, and the pump checked all right -
the way it did in Doc's hotel garage - and there was nothing to show what
had been causing the trouble.
"If you hadn't been smart enough to
notice that the diaphragm was wet, we'd probably be trouble-shooting the job
yet. Nice work, Stan - and I'm not kidding."