Auto Service World
Feature   September 1, 2003   by Rick Cogbill a.k.a. Slim Shambles

Now, That’s Pushing it

It was a hot summer day, and we should have been soaking up rays down at the beach. Instead we were soaking up exhaust fumes and the other assorted carcinogenics that vehicles produce.Right then blond...

It was a hot summer day, and we should have been soaking up rays down at the beach. Instead we were soaking up exhaust fumes and the other assorted carcinogenics that vehicles produce.

Right then blond-haired, blue-eyed Karl strolled through the front door, his bulging muscles rippling through his T-shirt. Karl was our local lifeguard. “You’re looking good these days,” I said grudgingly. “Been pumping lots of iron?”

Karl flexed his triceps. “Ja, I go to the gym four or five times a week. I don’t mind pumping iron, but lately I’ve had to start pushing it.”

His 1985 Escort wagon was parked out front. “Having a little trouble with the car, are we?”

“Ja,” he said again, tossing his keys on the counter. “It runs fine first thing in the morning, but if I shut it off for a little while, I have problems.” According to Karl, if he started the car up warm and went up a hill, it would stall. “And I’m not talking about mountains like we have back in Austria. These are just little hills!” It would only start if Karl poured some gasoline down the carburetor. He held up his water bottle. “Now I always carry some with me.”

The odd part was that once he got it running, he could drive up and down hills all day and never miss a beat. “Leave it with me, Karl,” I said. “We’ll give it a good workout.”

After letting it sit for a while, Tooner took the car out for a run up the road behind the shop, which had a fairly steep incline. Within five minutes he came rolling silently back down and coasted to a stop in front of the bay doors. It had stalled, and nothing he could do would make it start.

I removed the air cleaner from the 1.9 litre engine and shone my flashlight down the carb while Tooner worked the throttle. “Nope,” I called, “not a drop of fuel in here.”

Tooner came around the car. “Got half-way up the hill,” he said, ” — about as far as you’d get on a float bowl-full of gas — and then she pooped out.”

“Let’s try Karl’s trick,” I said, pouring some fuel down the primary venturi. The car sputtered to life and after a few stops and starts, began to purr nicely. Tooner went back up the road again, but this time returned under full power.

“I’m gonna drop the tank and check for any cracks in the rubber fuel line,” he said, pulling onto the hoist. “Maybe the fuel pump is sucking air and needs gravity to start pumping.” But there was nothing to be found. He changed the line anyway, and tested the fuel pump for pressure. “It’s within specs,” he said, coming into the office later. “Right on 5.5 psi.” He swirled some coffee into a mug, and stood at the office door looking at the little wagon. Tooner headed off to the shop computer. He’s never quite gotten into the computer age, but after showing him how to turn on the monitor, I left him to it. Pretty soon he came back holding a printout, a look of amazement plastered on his face.

“Well, I’ll be,” he said. “I actually found something. ‘Symptom: Loss of power or fuel starvation may be due to a worn or short fuel pump push rod. This causes low fuel pressure and low fuel flow to the carburetor.’ ” He frowned. “I’ve got good pressure, but let’s order up a new push rod anyway.”

When we compared the old push rod to the new one, there was only about 1/16″ difference in length. Tooner held the old part up to the light. “The end that runs off the camshaft is dished out, like the bottom of a worn lifter. Could this small amount of wear be enough to affect the pump?”

It was. When Karl came back that night, he didn’t look surprised. “Ja, it only makes sense. Just like pushups; you must go all the way down and all the way up, otherwise you don’t get the full benefit.”

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!”

Print this page


Have your say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *