VW Beetle Tire Blowout

Mar 08, 2003

RAY: This puzzle was sent in by Stephen Ceylon. Here it is:

Jerry had worked lots of summers and he had finally accumulated enough money to buy himself a brand-new 1968 Volkswagen Beetle.

It's 1968 and it was a dark and stormy September night that Jerry and his college roommate pulled the brand-new Beetle out of the dealership parking lot in Chicago on their way to college at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison. Now, since the thing was brand new and hadn't been broken in they decided to drive the shiny new bug on the back roads of Wisconsin, so as not to exceed the break in speed.

TOM: Sure.

RAY: Well, anyway, the roads they chose were muddy and rutted, and it was really quite an adventure. I mean they ran out of gas, and you know they, on these roads they were bouncing from one pothole to another and eventually they had a blowout as you might expect.

TOM: Ah, gee, a brand-new car.

RAY: Well, searching for the spare they found it under the hood where the engine should have been. And you know without even reading the instruction manual they carefully replaced the bad tire with the spare and then put the blown tire where the spare had been, and they continued on their muddy route looking for a service station where they could get the flat tire repaired. Well, a few miles down the road, low and behold, they come across, are you ready for this, Helmut's German Car Repair.

An oasis of European automotive expertise in rural Wisconsin. I mean, what are the chances of that?

No sooner had they pulled up the driveway carefully navigating through the mud splattered windshield, then out popped Helmut who immediately said to the driver, "You're here to get ze tire fixed? Eh?"

TOM: Oh.

RAY: And Jerry said -- We are. How did you know?

RAY: And the question is, how did Helmut, who had never seen them before, know?


RAY: And that's the question, how did Helmut know?

TOM: And don't forget, in those days there was no such thing as this undersized little spare tire that many cars have today. All the tires were exactly the same.

RAY: Yeah, in fact the spare was exactly the same make and size and everything, and Helmut had never seen them before. And he probably would admit he was taking a guess.

TOM: That's what makes it interesting.

RAY: And he made the guess based on the fact that the windshield washer in the Volkswagen of that era operated on the tire pressure of the spare tire.

If the tire pressure dropped down enough, then the washer would stop working, and saving enough air in the spare so you could use it as such. But if you had a flat and you had no air whatsoever --

TOM: Then you would have no windshield washer.

RAY: And thus a mud splattered windshield.

TOM: Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho --

RAY: So who's our winner?

TOM: Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho. The winner is Antonio Otero from the Bronx, New York.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter