Auto Service World
Feature   July 1, 2001   by Rick Cogbill a.k.a. Slim Shambles

Low rider blues

"You low-down, good for nothing, rust-eaten, smoke-belching..." Tooner was just getting warmed up, so I figured I'd better intervene before any dents appeared in the fender of Doc Bailey's Olds Tornad...


“You low-down, good for nothing, rust-eaten, smoke-belching…” Tooner was just getting warmed up, so I figured I’d better intervene before any dents appeared in the fender of Doc Bailey’s Olds Tornado.

“Easy there, Toon. Having a little diagnostic trouble?” I said. “And I thought you’d quit smoking?”

“I did,” he mumbled, lighting up a cancer stick with shaking fingers. “And if I don’t get a breakthrough soon, I might forget I’m on the bandwagon as well.”

Basil, our resident Guru, wandered over. “I couldn’t help hearing the commotion,” he said soothingly. “May I be of assistance?”

Tooner waved a cloud of smoke towards the car. “Be my guest. If you can figure out why the battery keeps draining on this thing, I’ll buy donuts for a week.” Tooner’s no dummy; he knows which of Basil’s buttons to push.

Basil’s eyes lit up. The mere mention of anything with a high calorie count is enough to start his mouth watering. “Run through the symptoms, if you please.”

Tooner sighed. “Doc’s ride, here, seems to drain the battery every few days, yet I can’t find any draws on the battery. The charging system works great, and the battery tests out fine.”

At that moment, Doc Bailey rushed in. “Sorry to bother you, Slim, but I need a few things from the trunk.” He took out a spare set of keys and opened the trunk lid. Tooner whistled. “Have you got enough to eat there, Doc?”

The trunk was filled to the brim with groceries. Doc chuckled. “We’ve got a family reunion this weekend, and I had to pick up a few items.” We helped him transfer the goods, though it hurt Basil to see so much food pass through his fingers without some of it entering his mouth.

Tooner wandered back to the front of the car. “Hey, look at this!” he hollered. “Now my meter shows a draw on the battery!”

Basil paced back and forth, deep in thought. We waited expectantly. Rarely has he been stumped once he puts his mind onto a problem.

He stopped. “What about the automatic ride leveling system? These are bad for the rear pump running all the time if there’s an air leak.”

Tooner stubbed out his cigarette. “Do you hear any pump running? I’ve laid on a creeper back there for 20 minutes and never heard a peep.”

I left the boys to their task and went to send Beanie for donuts. I didn’t know who was paying yet, but it wouldn’t hurt to be prepared.

When I came back, Basil was walking around the whole car. Something was bothering him, but he didn’t know what until Beanie walked in the door with the donuts. “Hey, that Tornado sure is low in the front end,” he remarked. “Is it a low rider?”

Basil froze. “That’s it!” he hollered, uncharacteristically. He scrambled underneath the back of the car, fiddled with something for a moment, and then reappeared triumphantly.

“Just as I suspected,” he announced. “It is the air leveling system that’s draining the battery. But it’s not the pump; the air release solenoid is staying on.”

“So Doc needs a new pump assembly?” questioned Tooner.

“Not at all,” replied Basil smugly. “He needs new front coil springs!”

Tooner’s jaw dropped. “What! How do you figure that?”

Basil gestured towards the car. “Look at the ride height. As Beanie noted, the front end is too low. Being an early front wheel drive, the front springs have sagged from all the weight, leaving the back end too high. The air leveling system is trying to lower it, but can’t.” He beamed at his own brilliance.

“So as long as the trunk was full,” I added, “the car would be level. That’s why there was no drain when Tooner first checked it.”

Tooner groaned and closed his eyes. He mumbled something, but fortunately we couldn’t hear what it was. He started to reach for another cigarette, but I popped a jelly donut into his hand instead.

“Here, have one of these; it’ll make you feel better.”

Basil reached for the bag. “And if you’ll excuse me, gentlemen, I believe I hear the coffee pot calling me…” Good old Basil; never one to stay around and gloat. At least not when there’s food nearby.

Thanks to John Cornett-Ching of Summerland Auto-Tech.

About The Writer

Rick Cogbill is a freelance writer living in the Okanagan valley of Southern British Columbia. A licensed technician with over 25 years in the automotive repair industry, including ten years as a shop owner, Cogbill creates his comic scenarios with Slim, Basil, Tooner, and The Bean out of actual case histories. “What you have just read is true,” drawls Slim Shambles. “Only the names have been changed to protect my hide!”


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