Frank's Vacuum Cleaner Repair

Jan 29, 2001

RAY: One morning I was on my daily constitutional, and I noticed that my neighbor Frank is in the driveway working on his car. He's got his car jacked up, and I assume that he's changing the oil.

Of course, I always make myself scarce whenever Frank is working on his car--and I did this time, too. I hid behind the bushes. After a few minutes, Frank rolls out on his creeper, bends over and picks something up off the ground. He holds it up. It's about the size of a quarter.

He has a look of disappointment on his face.

Frank stands there puzzled for a minute.

He then enters the house, and comes back a few minutes later with his vacuum cleaner. I figured he was going to vacuum out the car. But he attaches the vacuum cleaner to something under the hood and starts the vacuum up.

He then gets under the car with this little part in his hand. He does something, emerges from underneath the car, and with a satisfied grin on his face, turns off the vacuum cleaner.

The question is: what the heck did he do?


RAY: There were a plethora of hints, I think. No? Maybe not...not enough.

TOM: I didn't hear a single one.

RAY: Ahhh. Well, I'm assuming he's changing the oil or some such thing, and, in fact, that's what he was doing. But in changing the oil, he left out the drain plug gasket. You know there's a little gasket...

TOM: Certainly.

RAY: That goes between the drain plug and the pan.

TOM: Um-hmm.

RAY: And when he finished the job, what he found on the ground...

TOM: Was the gasket.

RAY: Was the gasket, which he held up and looked at, with a disappointed look on his face.

TOM: Yeah, I considered that for a while.

RAY: Now, not having a clean vessel into which to drain the oil, he decided to use his wife's vacuum cleaner. So he goes into the house, hooks the vacuum cleaner hose up to the place where you pour the motor oil in, turns the vacuum cleaner on, and draws a vacuum on the entire crankcase.

TOM: Ohh, my God.

RAY: Don't try this at home; you can blow yourself up.

TOM: Are you crazy? So he takes off the drain plug...

RAY: He takes off the drain plug...

TOM: The oil is held in suspended animation...

RAY: By the vacuum cleaner.

TOM: Oh, bullfeathers. That's...oh.

RAY: Deftly throws the gasket on there, puts the plug in. He may have lost a little bit of oil, but certainly...certainly not the five quarts that he would have lost had he just taken the drain plug out and had it run...

TOM: Oh, stop it.

RAY: Hey.

TOM: What do I know?

RAY: Well, I suppose theoretically, this is possible. But it would require, of course, that the vacuum cleaner connection fit perfectly into the -

TOM: Oh, I didn't say that -- tape it up with duct tape -- but he stuck it into the...

RAY: He stuck it in there and...

TOM: Yeah, it just so happened that he didn't. It happened to fit right into the thing.

RAY: It happened to fit right in perfectly. He turns the thing on, and within a couple of seconds it [MAKES SOUND "PFZZZZZ"]. That vacuum is trying to suck the life out of his engine. And when he was satisfied that he had pulled enough vacuum, he slid under there, took that drain plug off, slapped the gasket in, threw the drain plug back in, and emerged with a grin on his face...

TOM: Well--

RAY: Before the house blew up.

TOM: All I can say is, I'm not disappointed that I didn't get that.

RAY: Oh, come on. I thought it was wonderful. Oh, God...

TOM: It is wonderful.

RAY: What does it take? I mean, it's a little far-fetched, and I'm going to try this, in your car, as soon as I get out of here.

TOM: All right. And I will admonish people not to try this, because this...

RAY: No, this is a very dangerous...

TOM: As you suck vapors out of the crankcase, gasoline vapors, you could blow up the vacuum cleaner, and yourself.

RAY: And yourself.

TOM: And your Lincoln.

RAY: And your Lincoln, and the house next door.

TOM: And your neighbor across the street who's hiding in the bushes. That would have been poetic justice.

RAY: That never occurred to Frank and, had I known what he was doing, I would have run over and stopped him. But I felt I was far enough away so that any explosion would not reach me.

TOM: Well, Frank didn't really do this. You made this up, right? Yeah, you did. OK. We have a winner, actually, and the winner is Gerald Runyan from Atchison, Kansas.

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