Broken Distributor Cap

The Puzzler

RAY: A customer came in the the shop with a car that didn't run and he said, "I went out to start my car the other morning. I turned the key and it cranked but it wouldn't start." I said, "Did you open the hood," and he said, "Of course not. I just called the tow truck and the car should be pulling up here any minute."

Sure enough, the tow truck arrives and we turn the key and the car cranks and it sounds good. It sounds like there's compression in the cylinders and we can smell gasoline even. And we open the hood and see that the distributor cap is broken in a million pieces. Smashed to smithereens. So here's the distributor cap with pieces stuck to the wires. The spark plug wires are still attached to it for the most part, but it is broken beyond recognition you might say. I said, "Well, maybe there was a crack in the cap and it finally let go, maybe the rotor hit it, maybe there's something wrong with the rotor and it spun around and hit it."

TOM: Gee, those are all very unlikely things, but possible.

RAY: In any event, we put a new cap and rotor on this thing.

TOM: Let me guess. It blew up.

RAY: It starts right up and runs great. We park the car outside. We make sure everything's okay, drive it around. At the end of the day, the customer comes by to pick up his car, he pays the bill...after a lot of complaining about the $400 we charged him... and he goes out to get his car and comes back 5 minutes later and says," What is this, some kind of joke?" And I go out and look under the hood and notice the new cap is broken in a similar fashion. What was happening here? I'll give you a hint. It would happen to a car of yesteryear much more readily than it would happen to cars of now-a-days, and there are some cars today that it couldn't happen to at all because they don't have distributor caps or rotors.

TOM: Would you care to say what kind of car it was?

RAY: There are a lot of different cars it could be, but I think this one was a Honda -- an older Honda, 80's vintage.

Think you know? Drop Ray a note!

[ Car Talk Puzzler ]

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