Gus foots the bill as a new
mechanic bungles the job
It was a fine sunny morning, and Gus
Wilson should have been whistling as he went about his work in the Model
Garage shop. But he wasn't.
George Knowles noticed this the moment he
came in. "What's biting you this grand and glorious morning?" he wanted to
"First time I've ever seen you looking as
though the world was too much for you."
Gus looked at him glumly; then his face
broke into a crooked grin. "I guess I'll have to admit I'm not up to par,"
"Trying to run an auto repair shop these
days is a headache."
"Headache!" George said feelingly. "You
ought to try running my business in war-time! But what's your particular
"Getting spare parts and materials, for
one thing," Gus told him. "But my toughest problem is finding a mechanic
who won't do more harm than good. Wally, the grease monkey we've had for
the last year or so, was drafted last week. I'm not kicking about that -
the Army needs men - but it did leave us in a hole. Joe Clark put an ad in
a city paper, and snapped up the only fellow who answered. But the man
wants to do everything his own way. Well, that's enough about my troubles,
George. How about yours?"
"The one on my mind right now," Knowles
said, "is my car. It runs well enough at thirty on the level, but it misses
badly when I tramp on the accelerator to pick up at lower speeds and
whenever I go up a hill. I know you're busy, Gus, but I'd appreciate it if
you could get it fixed up by late afternoon. I've got to drive to an
air-raid wardens' pow-wow." A horn honked outside. "There's Peggy. See you
Knowles went out. Gus kept on working on
a job he'd promised for
. Presently Henry Knight, the
new mechanic, came in from the office, where he had been arguing with Joe
Clark. "Well, what do you want me to tackle next?" he growled at Gus.
"You might bring in that green sedan, and
check it." Gus told him mildly. "It belongs to one of our oldest
customers. He says the engine misses at low speeds and on upgrades. It
might be a burned valve."
"It might be a lot of things!" Knight
grumbled. He got the car and drove it into a corner as far away from Gus
as possible, and after some time Gus saw that he was removing the cylinder
head. That done, Knight drained the crankcase. Gus had told him to check
the car, not to do a job on it, but he said nothing. Knight then went into
the storeroom back of the office, and came out with a new cylinder-head
Gus finished his own job, then drove out
for a road test. When he got back the Knowles car was standing outside.
Knight was in the shop writing out a material slip.
"I finished that job," he growled.
"There was nothing the matter with the valves."
"No?" Gus said. "Well, I guessed wrong."
"When I took the head off to check the
valves," Knight continued, "I saw some drops of water in No. 3 cylinder. So
I drained the crankcase, and a lot of foamy oil and some water came out.
The block wasn't cracked, nor was the cylinder head, so it had to be the
gasket - I'd noticed it looked bad. I put in a new gasket, and filled her
up with oil. Here are the slips on the job, filled out the way you want 'em."
"O.K.," Gus said. "Take them in to Joe."
All the rest of the day Knight went on
doing things in his own way. Gus made no suggestions, but he was glad when,
sharp, the new
mechanic put on his coat and went home. When George Knowles came in a half
hour later he found Gus whistling cheerily.
"Got over your grouch, hey?" Knowles
grinned. "That new man must have turned out better than you expected."
"I thinkhe's a good
mechanic, but I know he's a pain in the neck," Gus said. "He worked
on your car - put in a new gasket, and filled the crankcase with fresh oil.
You shouldn't have any more trouble."
Knowles went out of his car. Gus heard
the engine start, and knew from its sound almost at once that it was
missing. He hurried to the door, but Knowles was already in the street and
didn't hear his shout above the noise of the motor.
Gus watched him drive off, shrugged, and
went inside. He had supper late, then returned to finish a job. It was
when he decided to quit.
Just as he was washing up, the telephone
rang. George Knowles' voice came over the wire. "I'm in trouble over at
the county courthouse. My motor missed all the way here and now it sounds
as if it might shake itself apart. I'm afraid to start home - I don't want
to get stuck. All the garages here are closed."
"Stay right where you are," Gus told
him. "I'll be there in half an hour."
When he got to the county seat, he found
Knowles apologetic for having brought him out so late. "Forget it,
George," Gus said. "You ought to be cussing me, not apologizing. I should
have checked your bus myself. Need it early tomorrow?"
"No, but I'd like to have it by six."
"I'll get at it first thing," Gus
He got down to the shop an hour early,
and tackled Knowles' car. When he stepped on the starter the engine took
off promptly. After letting it warm up, he switched off the ignition, took
out all the spark plugs, poured a spoonful of penetrating oil into each
cylinder, and turned the engine over with the starter to distribute it.
Then he got out the compression tester, pressed its rubber adapter into the
No. 1 spark plug hole, opened the throttle all the way, and punched the
The hand moved up to the 100-pound mark.
Cylinder No. 2 registered 102 pounds. But on No.3 the reading was only a
little over 50. The remaining cylinders tested 100 or more.
As Gus was pouring in a little heavy oil
on top of the No. 3 piston, being careful not to get any on the valves, Joe
Clark came in. "What's the matter?" he asked on seeing Knowles car.
"Knight took care of that job yesterday, didn't he?"
"So he said!" Gus answered. He pressed
the starter button again, and watched the dial. The tester showed 80
pounds. "Leaky rings," he said. "The oil seals 'em. If it were a leaky
valve, the second reading would be as low as the first."
He took off the head, dropped the
crankcase, and removed the piston and rod from the No. 3 cylinder. "I'll be
darned!" he said. "Look at this, Joe. About an inch of that middle ring
broke off, and as it happened didn't damage the cylinder wall, but stuck
fast in its groove directly under the gap of the top ring. The result was a
blow-by that killed compression and caused missing. Well, George will have
to pay for a ring job. By gum, Knight was right about the cause of the
trouble at that - a hundred to one it was water leaking past that bad gasket
that made the ring break."
Joe looked at the shop clock. "Where the
dickens is Knight?" he asked. "He's half an hour late. There's the phone."
He went into the office. A minute later
he came back. "Bad news, Gus," he told his partner. "Knight has quit. He
phoned to say he's taken a job in the city."
"I'll say it's bad news," Gus growled.
"I wanted to fire him! He knew he hadn't fixed Knowles' engine, but just
wouldn't admit it. When you make out George's bill, leave off what Knight
did. That'll have to be on the house."