Problem at the Plant

Jul 28, 2013

RAY: This was submitted by Ross Sukashima. Ross says, "A while ago, a friend of mine worked at a Ford assembly plant, and he told me the following story.

'A new model came out, and like anything, there were a few design bugs that needed to be worked out. Amongst these problems was one really strange one. One out of every six cars delivered to a dealership would have a dead battery. The engineers at Ford were perplexed. They tested for short circuits. None were found. They did extensive lot testing on incoming batteries to see if one out of every six was a problem right from the manufacturer.'"

Guess what?

TOM: No problems?

RAY: They were perfect. Ross continues, "The engineers hired specialists and consultants -- even crystal ball readers. Experts on batteries and chemicals to try to pinpoint the problem. They could find none. For three months, the problem existed, and for three months, the problem stayed exactly the same -- one out of every six cars had a dead battery upon arrival at the distributor."

Ross says, "My friend was a quality control engineer. He decided to take action and take things into his own hands. He walked the entire assembly plant, talking to the workers as he went. He started out in Components, went through Chassis and Electrical, and followed the line all the way to Final Test. Without fail, each car would start up at the end and be driven away.

RAY: He then explained to the tester the situation and asked him if he could think of a reason why one out of six batteries were always dead on this particular model. The guy stared off into the distance. He pondered. He scratched his butt. And then he smiled, and he said he knew EXACTLY what the problem was. (Hint: This was the old days, when cars were big.)

RAY: Here's the answer. This was the old days when cars were big. And the big trucks that carried the cars could carry six cars. One of the cars was always at such an angle that the mercury switch for the trunk light was turning the trunk light on the entire time the car was being was transported, and that was draining the battery.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter