Auto Service World
Feature   June 1, 2002   by Rick Cogbill a.k.a. Slim Shambles

Where There’s Smoke…

Quigley poked his head into the coffee room. "Where's Tooner? I need to know what parts he used on that last job."I ignored him. Basil and I were embroiled in a heated game of cards, and I didn't want...

Quigley poked his head into the coffee room. “Where’s Tooner? I need to know what parts he used on that last job.”

I ignored him. Basil and I were embroiled in a heated game of cards, and I didn’t want to break my concentration. I took a nervous sip of my coffee. “Got any nines?”

Basil smiled wickedly. “Go Fish!”

Beanie jerked his thumb towards the staff parking area. “See all that smoke pouring out of Tooner’s truck? Follow the smoke and you’ll find your man.”

“What’s that all about?” Quigley asked.

“Smoke break.” I threw down my cards in defeat. “Ever since we declared the shop a smoke-free zone, Tooner’s had to find another place to light up.”

Basil reached for jelly donut. “I thought he was going to cut back.”

“He did,” said Beanie. “He smokes half as many cigarettes, but by doing it in his truck cab, he can maximize the effect.”

Basil chewed contentedly, gazing fondly at his food of choice. “Well, we all have our vices.”

A few minutes later, Tooner came into the shop hacking and coughing. “Feeling refreshed, are we?” I tossed him some keys. “Bring in this ’98 Ford Contour when your vision clears.”

“What’s the complaint?” Tooner wheezed, squinting at the work order I had given him. “EVAP Control System problem, MIL light keeps coming on.” He looked up. “Did you tell the owner to tighten the gas cap properly?”

“Why bother?” I said. “She’s been told that four times by other repair shops, including a dealership. She even bought a new gas cap at somebody’s recommendation, but Code P – 0042 keeps coming back, which is for a vacuum leak in the EVAP system.”

Tooner scratched his chin. “Well, it sounds like it’s time for Tooner to come to the rescue.”

“Right,” I replied. “Call Beanie if you need help.”

Tooner glared at me, but went to work on the car. Before long he was trying to trace vacuum lines between the fuel tank and the engine, looking for holes or cracks.

Beanie went over to watch. “Can’t find anything?”

Tooner scowled. “Have you ever tried to trace vacuum lines through body panels? There could be a small hole anywhere and you’d never know it.”

Beanie chewed on his thumbnail for a moment. “Why don’t you use that new smoke machine we got on demo the other day? It might make things easier.”

Tooner got up off his creeper, nursing a skinned knuckle. “You’ve got a point. Where is it?”

Beanie got the machine and after removing the gas cap, attached it to the fuel tank. It took about three minutes, but soon traces of smoke began appearing from two small holes in the vacuum lines near the base of the filler neck.

Tooner was impressed. He eyed the smoke machine thoughtfully before repairing the lines. Then he had Beanie check the system again. “Hey, we’ve got another leak up by the throttle body area,” said The Bean.

“Fix ‘er up, then go for a test drive,” grunted Tooner. “I need a smoke.”

A few minutes later, Beanie drove back into the parking lot. “Works like a charm, and no warning light,” he remarked coming through the door. “Where’s Tooner, out in his truck?”

“No,” chuckled Basil. “He’s found a way to light up without leaving the building.”

Beanie stared into the shop through the office window. “Yikes! He’s inhaling smoke from the smoke machine?! Is that healthy?”

“I doubt it,” I answered, “But then neither are cancer sticks.”

“Well, I like it,” interrupted Quigley. “At least I know where to find him.” He headed out into the shop with his clipboard. “Tooner! I need that parts list…”

I sighed. So much for having a smoke-free environment.

The smoke machine is a good idea, but it might be cheaper to buy Tooner more cigarettes. Then the next time we get an EVAP problem, I’ll just have him blow smoke rings into the fuel tank.

(Thanks to Mike Duguay of Duguay’s Auto Repair in Surrey, BC, for this month’s technical problem. If you’ve got a good story to tell, e-mail Rick at )

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!”