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Tales from the New Hampshire Woods

The Puzzler


RAY: You don't need to know very much about cars to get the answer to this puzzler.

Monday morning, I showed up at the shop and the phone rang. It was an irate customer.

TOM: Again! Is there any other kind?

RAY: It's Chuck. He says, "My Volvo's out front. I had it towed back from New Hampshire. It conked out. It won't run."

I asked, "What happened?"

Chuck said, "My wife, our son and I and my mother-in-law were going up to New Hampshire to look at the foliage. Suddenly, the car began to sputter, especially on hills, and lose power. It was even sputtering and losing power on the level ground. I happened to notice that the gas gauge was on E, so I figured I might as well get gas.

"I pulled into a gas station and filled up the tank. I drove away and everything was fine for about five miles. Then the same thing started happening again.

"That's when we decided to give up. We left the car. We had it towed back to your shop."

Chuck added, "About a month or so ago, you guys put in a new fuel pump and I'm pretty sure that that's what's wrong. I don't know how it happened, but the gas gauge isn't working any more either, because when I filled it up, the needle didn't move."

So, I pushed Chuck's Volvo into the garage and verified that it didn't start, and that it was not getting gas. I turned the key and it got a spark, but I put the fuel pressure tester on the fuel rail -- and there was no fuel pressure.

Next, I inspected the fuel line, thinking there might have been a break. It was fine. While checking the fuel line, I noticed that there were little spurts of gasoline and mostly air coming out of the line. I concluded that the pump was bad.

But before we ordered a new one, I called Chuck. I asked him to tell me what had happened.

I asked him one question.

He answered, "Yes."

And I told him, "I know what's wrong with your car."

In 10 minutes or less, I had his car running and the gas gauge working.

What did I ask Chuck?

Think you know? Drop Ray a note!

[ Car Talk Puzzler ]

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