Tommy Makes an Ingenious Repair

Sep 19, 2005

RAY: This is a little story involving my brother. The inspiration for this puzzler was sent in by a fellow named Howard Apps -- though I changed everything he wrote.

This story demonstrates my brother's mechanical acumen. I think you'll be amazed when you hear this. Or, at least, not disgusted.

It was a bright and sunny day and Tommy was driving his dad's '51 Dodge, when he notices steam coming out from under the hood. He pulls over and notices a slit in one of the two heater hoses. It's about two inches long.

He carefully removes the radiator cap to relieve the pressure, and he's relieved to find out that he's lost very little coolant. He opens the trunk, confident that he's going to find tools, and maybe even a spare piece of hose there.

To his utter surprise, the trunk is completely empty. Nada. Zilch. Uncle Nunzio had borrowed the car and he needed an empty trunk, if you know what I mean.

"Oh drat," he says. But ever the optimist, he begins walking and finds a convenience store. He thrusts his hand into his pocket, and pulls out the only money he has -- a one-dollar bill. He knows exactly what he needs to fix the leak, and asks the woman behind the counter for a roll of duct tape.

Tragically, duct tape had yet to be invented.

Undaunted, he buys a five-cent candy bar - that's what candy bars cost when we were kids. He begins the long walk back to the car, confident that he has now in his possession something that's going to allow him to fix the car well enough so he can drive it home. He whistled while he walked back to the car, clicking his heels, saying, "I'm not going to get a beating when I get home!"

How did he fix the car?
Answer: 
RAY: If you guessed that he patched up the hole with the candy bar, that would be clever - but you'd be wrong

TOM: And it wouldn't have worked. But how about the wrapper?

RAY: The wrapper wouldn't have worked either. What did work was the change that he got. When he took that crisp dollar bill and got his candy bar, he got three quarters and two dimes as change. He used one of the dimes as a screwdriver, with which he was able to remove three hose clamps: the two from the broken hose, and the one from the heater core end of the good hose. He ran that good hose back to the return on the engine block, thereby removing the heater entirely from the car, so water no longer circulated through it. Instead, it circulated just through one piece of hose that went out from the engine and then right back in, and he used the dime to loosen and then retighten the hose clamp.

So who's our winner?

TOM: The winner this week is Odessa Sisson from Hagerstown, Maryland, and for having her answer selected at random from the thousands of correct answers that we got, Odessa will get a 26 dollar gift certificate to the Shameless Commerce Division at cartalk.com where she can get a lovely ash gray T-shirt with a Dewey, Cheatham and Howe window on it. I hear it's the rage on college campuses.

RAY: Yeah. I'm sure it is. You used to mop up beers with those.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter