Inflate This?

Feb 12, 2007

RAY: I have had this thing in my briefcase for so long it started to grow hair. A guy named Andy Jurak from Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, sent me this cute story which I turned into a puzzler.

Some years ago I was driving my old truck in Baja California, on one of the loneliest and most godforsaken roads imaginable when, you guessed it, my tire blows out. I look under the truck for my spare to find that it's missing. Just when things look the worst, I look down that deserted road and I see a tire shop manned by what look like two 14-year-old boys.

Their shop consists of some pretty sorry looking tools -- sockets, wrenches, and a few salvaged lug wrenches that had been flattened into tire irons. And they have some big hammers and rocks, but no obvious tire machine.

After a totally amazing show of leverage, they actually remove the flat tire from that 16-inch rim and then they fashion a patch from a cut up inner tube and glue it to the inside of my tire to cover the puncture. Then they wrestle the tire back onto the rim with those primitive tire irons.

One of the boys pours about a half a cup of gasoline onto the inside of the tire and rolls it around and around a few times and then, to my utter amazement, he flings a lit match in the direction of the tire and in an instant the explosive force of that mixture of vaporized gasoline has seated the tires bead firmly against the rim. Ka-boom! Usually this is done with a tire machine.

Oh boy, I think, I'll be back on the road in no time. All we need to do now is fill the tire up with air.

But an uneasy feeling begins to creep over me as I realize I haven't heard the familiar 'ticka ticka ticka' of an air compressor the whole time I'm there. Of course, I ask about a compressor and the boys then tell me it ran out of oil a few months ago and some American had come by and swapped them a couple of cartons of cigarettes for the thing, so they gave the whole thing away, and the only thing they had retained was the hose.

'Great,' I think, 'they fixed the puncture, risked all of our lives seeding the bead with that gasoline trick. But, now, no air!'

'No problemo, senor. Let me have your keys,' one of them asks.

Minutes later, and a just a few pesos poorer, I was back on the road. How did they manage to inflate my tire? And, by the way, it took 60 psi to inflate that baby and they did it. And the question is, how?

RAY: Here's the answer. Because they had the hose and they had the truck engine, they took out one of the spark plugs and screwed the hose into one of the cylinders and started the engine.

TOM: Um hm.

RAY: And don't forget, your truck engine or your car engine makes about 125 or more psi. So they inflated the tire with a mixture of air and gasoline, unfortunately, but at least they got the tire on the road.

TOM: That's excellent.

RAY: Yeah, so he drove along until he had another blow out. Do we have a winner?

TOM: The winner this week is Don Buffalo from Simi Valley, California, and for having his answer selected at random from among all the correct answers that we got, Don is going to get a 26-dollar gift certificate to Shameless Commerce Division at with which he can get our solid brass, more or less, old-fashioned tire gauge with a real classic old-style, round pressure dial and a sturdy separate hose, perfect for when you have a blow out on a remote, desert road.

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