Friday, June 10, 2011

I'm A Tool

Is a hammer self-aware? Well, I am.

I normally wait until my gas tank is at about 25 pounds before filling up, but this morning I was going to get gas anyhow, with a good 50 pounds on board. This is highly irregular.

I normally don't take pictures of my car for a few reasons, and I never enter photo contests. I always leave my camera at work. Today I found out at lunch time that there is a photo contest for pictures of cars at gas stations. I grabbed my backup camera "on a whim" as I left work. This is very highly irregular.

Normally I like to spend maximum-possible time at home and leave right at closing time. Today I spent a few extra minutes shooting the breeze/talking business after work and thought it good to call my Darling Wife and let her know I'd be late getting home. This is irregular.

At the filling station, I made a few photos of my car and took longer than usual, which lead to . . .

The car wouldn't start. At ALL. I missed the first ignition and flooded it, and usually I can give it gas pedal and crank for a few seconds and it will fire up. This time it was cranking for like a minute, with a break in the middle to go poke under the hood and see nothing obviously wrong. This is highly irregular - my car has maybe ten times EVER not started properly in twelve years.

I figured I would be at the gas station for a while, so I went to push the car away from the pump. I didn't want to tie up their moneymaking machine until the Hot Rod was fixed. I had parked a little forward of the pump so looking out of the door meant looking at the pump. The Hot Rod sits low, and I could see under the control panel of the fuel dispenser. Someone in a higher car or truck/van, or someone with a car with the seating position a few inches higher would have missed what I found.

Under the control panel on this type of gasoline dispenser is a metal cover with a lock to control access to the guts of the machine. In that lock was a key. The key to the gas pump was IN the gas pump. This is a Very Bad Thing for a lot of reasons.

I pushed the Hot Rod back into a parking spot. I was glad of a little pushing buddy assist from Random Strangerman who stopped his truck beside the car and left the little lady in the passenger seat while he pushed for a moment. I walked back to the dispenser and took the key and went into the store.

VFD: (holding out hand with open palm toward clerk, showing her the key)
Clerk: What is that, for you or for somebody here or ???
VFD: I don't know, but I don't think it should have been left in [pump] #10.
Clerk: (Surprised look)
VFD: Just a guess.
Clerk (happily receives key and has suspicious look around at her co-workers)

I walked outside and phoned my Darling Wife and told her I'd be even later than I thought. I speculated to her that maybe the reason the car wouldn't start was so I would find that key. I told her I'd be there for a while until the car cooled down, thinking it wouldn't start because something in the engine was too hot to work quite right. Then I thought maybe the car would start since the key was found. I said a quick prayer and turned the key - and the car started normally without any hesitation.


An evolutionist will try to tell you this is all random chance. I say God used me to get that key into the Clerk's hand this evening. What say you?


KurtP said...

In that 25 pounds are you talking about 3 1/4 gallons or a quarter full?

Just wondering because I was talking to a mechanic about fuel pumps and how to not change it in the Montero-if possible.
He said that running the fuel low (or out) is bad for the pump because it has to work harder to raise the fuel from a low tank.
Given that even my S-10's fuel pump is in the $500 range- I thought I'd pass that along.

Vote For David said...

It holds about 75 pounds full, so that's about 1/3 tank. It won't suck out the last gallon or so, so really 25# is more like 18# and that only gets me all the way across the entire metro area once (passing 352 gas stations) which is too low for comfort so I'll fill up then.

For an in-tank pump, running the fuel low is very hard on the pump, because the gasoline sloshing around is what cools the pump during normal operation. There is probably some theoretical hydraulic efficiency advantage to a full tank . . . but I never heard of anyone worrying their pump was straining too hard because it had 6" less liquid pushing down on the fuel in the tank. Running the fuel totally OUT is probably a Strong Bad thing to do.

Anecdotal evidence: a guy called Click & Clack and said BOTH his trucks' fuel pumps had died at relatively low miles within weeks of each other. They correctly guessed he would always run one tank dry, switch to the other tank and refill the first.

I have a spare fuel pump in the garage. It came with a parts car I bought for $800 and I think I more-than broke even on that deal. Plus I can use a common Mitsubishi part anyway if I recall correctly. I'm more worried about running out of gas than about the fuel pump quitting.

For $500 I might consider either a generic replacement or converting to an external pump, but that's just me. Check these out (quick hits from Jegs)