Today: A Man, a Plan, a Can of Sardines

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Aug 21, 2014

Dear Tom and Ray:

If a tin of sardines is attached to the exhaust manifold of a 1993 Ford F-150 with a pair of large radiator clamps, will the heat cause the salt water in the can to boil and the tin to explode? If so, how many miles of highway driving would be necessary? Would the resulting explosion be loud enough to be heard in the cab? Would the explosion cause any damage to the engine or engine compartment? Can the smell of hot sardines ever be washed away? Neither Siri nor Google seems to know the answers to these questions, but I thought a pair of MIT-trained auto mechanics might. Just curious.

-- K.J.

TOM: I smell a prank in the works, K.J. "Smell" being the operative word.

RAY: The answers to your questions are yes, five, yes, no and no.

TOM: I don't know that the tin would explode, but the exhaust manifold would heat the water enough to probably burst a seam in the can.

RAY: And since the exhaust manifold gets up to about 600 degrees F, it wouldn't take very long. You even could heat up the sardines that come packed in extra-virgin olive oil if you wanted to get fancy.

TOM: No mechanical damage would be caused. We've never done a "sardine job" on a car, that I'm aware of. But it would spray that smell all over the engine. And for a long time thereafter, every time the engine heated up and the ventilation system was in use, sardine odor would waft into the passenger compartment.

RAY: It might not last forever -- maybe just 15 or 20 years.

TOM: This is a dastardly thing to do, K.J. It's really long-lasting and unpleasant. I think I'm going to try it on my brother's car.

RAY: Well, I'd think carefully about the revenge you're going to invite before moving forward with Operation Sardine Can, K.J. But if we get a letter in a few weeks asking how to get sardine odor out of an engine compartment, we'll know what you decided.

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