Smokin' Beemer

Sep 27, 1997

RAY: Some years ago -- this comes from Jim Warner from Barrington, Illinois. Some years ago I was putting my '71 BMW 2002 through its paces. Dougie should listen up because he has a BMW of this vintage. Now I must add...

TOM: He had the very last of its vintage you know.

RAY: Oh thank God it was the last.

TOM: Seventy six right?

RAY: Yes, yes.

TOM: Last year it was made.

RAY: Yes, indeed, yes, they threw a party after that. No -- I must add that there are many cars to which this could happen. This just happens to be the one in question, but the vast majority of cars could have this same condition applied. Are we ready?

TOM: Start again. I forgot what you said.

RAY: I was putting my '71 2002 through its paces. Translation -- driving it like a total idiot. I pulled a very hard left turn, and to my utter dismay saw a huge, billowing cloud of white smoke behind the car. After some time in the pre-cell phone era in a very rural location, I realized I had to get back to civilization somehow. So I gingerly started the car and, listening for erroneous noises, heard none. I began driving home and much to my amazement, the smoke cleared up. Are you listening?

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: The hits are all embedded.

TOM: We know that.

RAY: Deeply embedded. I lost my place. Keep laughing. I will find it. The smoke cleared up. The smoke cleared up.

TOM: The smoke cleared up.

RAY: Over time I was emboldened as the incident faded into oblivion -- that is until it happened again. The incident would repeat itself every so often until I finally discovered its cause. Other than a few routine maintenance items, such as tune-ups, adjusting the valves and the carburetor and tightening an ever-loosening fan belt and topping off the brake fluid and each oil change, I did nothing special to the car. The question is what was causing the smoke. The hints are there.

TOM: Whoo! I like it.

RAY: Pretty good, huh?

TOM: It is good.

RAY: It is pretty good.


RAY: Yes, and if you were listening carefully -- the fact that he drove like a moron, and was driving a BMW -- did help it. And, he was adding brake fluid --

TOM: At every oil change.

RAY: I may have mentioned.

TOM: You did mention that.

RAY: At every oil change. So there'd be no logical reason for you to add brake fluid at every oil change, unless you were what?

TOM: Losing brake fluid.

RAY: Yes, but he didn't see any brake fluid going any -- he noticed no spots on the ground. He didn't really notice much degradation in the pedal. Otherwise it would have been in his story.

TOM: Of course.

RAY: He was losing brake fluid out the back seal of the master cylinder, and where was that brake fluid going? Into the vacuum --

TOM: Into the intake manifold.

RAY: Eventually.

TOM: Ultimately.

RAY: Ultimately, but into the power brake booster. And, it was a big puddle of fluid in there. And, when he drove like a nut, the fluid would slosh around. Some of it would get sucked into the intake manifold.

TOM: Yes!

RAY: And, get combusted, making the white cloud of smoke.

TOM: It's sort of oil.

RAY: And, of course, it wouldn't happen for a while because why? There'd be no puddle of --

TOM: He was out of brake fluid.

RAY: Brake fluid in there. And, over time, again it would leak and he'd continue to replenish it. And, the puddle would build up and then he'd go out and drive like a nutcase again and again.

TOM: Gee. That's good. I like it.

RAY: I thought you would. Do we have a winner?

TOM: YES! The winner is Jan Wolinsky from Madison, New Jersey.

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