One Clutch Away from Love.

Mar 26, 2007

RAY: The germ of this puzzler was sent in by a fellow named Mark Phillips. And I turned it into a full virus.

Back around 1990, I rebuilt the engine of my 1981 pickup and everything worked just fine and I was really proud of myself. Well, one very chilly fall day, I drove over to my girlfriend's house to visit. We ate lunch, went for a walk in the woods, watched the sunset, read poetry to one another, and when I tried to leave I discovered that my battery was dead. Stone dead. Why? I had accidentally left my lights on for 8 hours. Of course, I didn't have jumper cables and she didn't have jumper cables. But no problem, I thought. Her house it at the top of a hill and my truck has a manual transmission, so I'll just roll down the hill, pop the clutch and I'll be on my way.

Well, just as I was about to start pushing, my girlfriend yelled out, 'Stop!' I expected her to throw her arms around me and say, 'Don't leave, please, I love you!' Instead she says, 'It's not going to work, stupid.'

What did she know about my truck that I had forgotten? Now don't go looking for anything unusual. There's nothing wrong with the truck. The only thing that was wrong with it was that the battery went dead. But there was something different about my truck that would prevent me from starting it in the manner that you would think I would be able to start it... rolling it down the hill and popping the clutch.
Answer: 
RAY: Now before I give the answer, remember I gave the hint that it was nothing terribly unusual but there was something different about my truck that would prevent me from starting it by rolling it down the hill, and popping the clutch.

TOM: It was an automatic transmission.

RAY: That would have done it except that he did have the standard shift and he did have the clutch.

TOM: He did.

RAY: But it was a diesel.

TOM: Ohhh.

RAY: And when your battery is dead, you're not going to pop start, or jump start or push start a diesel because you need the glow plugs to work to heat up the incoming air.

TOM: And how do the glow plugs get fired up?

RAY: The battery. So if your battery's stone cold dead --

TOM: You're done for.

RAY: You're done for. You need a jump.

TOM: And his girl friend knew that. Wow.

RAY: Yeah. They have since gotten married. Do we have a winner?

TOM: Yah. The winner is Nancy Moore from Milo, Maine, and for having her answer selected at random from among all the correct answers that we got, Nancy's going to get a 26-dollar gift certificate to the Shameless Commerce Division at cartalk.com, with which she can get the famous, famous Car Talk Plaza baseball shirt worn by benchwarmers the world over.


Get the Car Talk Newsletter