|July 1925 - December 1970|
|Gus Wilson's Model Garage|
WHEN JACK FROST HITS YOUR CAR
by Martin Bunn
Gus and Joe Tell How to Keep the Works from Freezing -
Some Useful Hints for Easy Starting
"Hey, Gus! -- Joe! Open the door!" Mathews yelled at the top of his lungs as he pulled up in front of the Model Garage one bitterly cold morning. Billowing clouds of steam were rolling up from underneath his car and the driver was apparently in no mood to wait calmly.
"Righto! Just a second -- the door's stuck," came faintly to Mathews' ears, followed by a vigorous thumping that jarred the door loose.
Mathews drove in, shut off the ignition, climbed out, and began rubbing his ears vigorously.
"Dang it! Look at her steam!" he growled. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Gus, for fixing that pump so rotten the last time. It's busted already. Worked fine when I started out, but before I'd gone a mile she started to blow off like a durned old tin kettle."
"Humph!" grunted Gus non-committally. "So the pump has gone bad, has it? Well, then, how do you account for all those fancy looking icicles hanging on the radiator?"
"What icicles?" snapped Matthews.
"Can't you see it steaming? How could there be icicles -- "
"Well, I'll be durned!" he gasped amazedly as his eyes took in the long streamers of ice. "The radiator was all right when I left the garage; not a leak in it. I looked at it specially, because it is so cold this morning."
"Yes," said Gus, "and the reason it didn't leak then was because ice doesn't run like water. You probably had a radiator full of ice right then. In a few hours more, the water in the cylinder jackets would have frozen solid, too, and then you would have had to pay for something besides a leaky radiator, I can tell you!"
"When you got the motor started, the pump worked all right, but the ice in the bottom of the radiator kept the water in the cylinder jackets from circulating, and it just naturally had to boil. Then the steam started to thaw out the frozen part of the radiator and the water ran out of the burst seams, hit the cold outside air and formed icicles."
"Blamed if I can see how it could freeze, anyway," said Mathews. "I put a lot of alcohol in the radiator not over two or three weeks ago."
"Two or three weeks ago!" scoffed Gus. "Did you expect it to stay there all winter? After that warm spell last week, I'll bet there wasn't much more than a smell of alcohol left this morning. That's the trouble with alcohol. It evaporates so quick. No doubt about its being the best anti-freeze compound, but you have got to watch it careful."
"Joe, show Mathews one of those alcohol hydrometers we got in last week. That's the answer to the question of how much alcohol you've got in the radiator. "See," he directed as Joe handed him a glass tube with a little float inside.
"It works just like an ordinary battery hydrometer only the scale reads the other way. Alcohol makes the water lighter, and this shows just what temperature the solution will stand without freezing by floating higher or lower on the scale."
"Bet you that won't be the only freeze-up job we'll get today," said Joe, as Mathews, convinced at last that the freezing was his own fault, left the garage.
"What's the use of betting against a sure thing?" replied Gus. "There's the next one on the phone right now," he muttered, as he clamped the receiver to his ear.
"Model Garage -- Wilson speaking. What can I do for you?" said Gus.
"This is -- McKay -- Gus -- can't get the old -- boat -- going -- this morning -- come out and help me!"
Evidently the man at the other end of the line was all out of breath.
"Whats the matter -- battery gone down on you?" Gus ineuired.
"Sure," answered McKay, "But that's not all. I've been turning her over by hand till I'm all tuckered out, and I can't get a pop out of the motor! Be a good sport, Gus, and come out right away, won't you?"
"All right," said Gus. "I'll be up there in about 10 minutes."
McKay was a good customer of the Model Garage, and a good scout, in the estimation of the garage men. But what he didn't know about the interior mechanism of an automobile would fill a large book chock full.
By the time Gus got there, McKay had cranked the motor over and over until he was speechless. Gus found him leaning limply against the side of the garage and glaring ferociously at the car.
Gus walked around the car and carefully looked over the motor, poking it here and there like a doctor with a patient.
He tentatively pushed the self-starter pedal, and was rewarded by a faint humming sound. He snapped on the lights for a second and they glowed dimly. After that he unscrewed the radiator cap and squinted down the opening.
"You sure have got yourself into a pretty pickle this time!" he growled. "Everything is on the blink! Let's see -- you came out here and hopped in and stepped on the self-starter let out a clank or two, and after that nothing happened. Am I right?"
"As usual!" replied McKay dismally. "What happened?"
"Old Jack Frost has got you, that's all," said Gus. "The whole works is frozen up solid. Radiator full of ice -- cylinder jackets frozen and cracked starter motor shaft sheared off. That happened when you stepped on it the first time. You see the pump is frozen, too, and that and the cold-thickened oil wouldn't let the motor turn over at all.
"First the pump shaft broke off and then the starter motor shaft let go under the strain. It's funny how easily steel cracks when it's cold. After that, you were able to crank it by hand because you primed it, and the gasoline thinned out the oil. The battery is almost exhausted. That will freeze up too if we don't watch out."
"But if you get it started right away, the generator will charge it up in short order," McKay said hopefully.
"You're certainly a hopeful fellow!" grinned Gus. "The only way this car goes out today is on the end of a rope, and there's a rope handy in my toolbox.
"Be careful, now, not to run into me, if I have to stop sudden," he warned, as he started to tow McKay's car toward the Model Garage.
At the garage, Gus inspected the car closely; when he turned to McKay with a more cheerful expression on his face. "It's not as bad as I thought," he said. "The crack doesn't go through into the cylinder wall, so I guess we can weld it up. Then, after we get the radiator soldered up, the pump shaft fixed and the starter motor working again, I guess you can take it home."
"How long will that take?"
"Two days at least," said Gus, "maybe more if we have to wait for a new shaft for the starter motor."
"All right, if that's the best you can do," McKay agreed. "But what I want to know is how to get the motor started after it has been standing in a cold garage all night. I've tried priming and that helps some, but usually the battery is nearly dead before she finally starts."
"Well," Gus began as he reached in the toolkit for another wrench. "There are a lot of little things you can do that will help a lot. Setting the spark plug points real close is one of them. That helps because when the motor is very cold, it takes a lot of juice out of the battery to turn it over. That means there isn't much left to work the spark coil, so if you have the points set too wide, the spark hasn't pep enough to jump the gap. Another way is to use a separate set of dry cells connected so that you can work the ignition from them while the starter motor is working. One set of dry cells will last all winter for this kind of service if you are careful to throw the switch over to the storage battery current just as soon as the motor starts to turn over under its own power."
"Seems to me," remarked McKay, "that there might to be some way to make the motor turn over easier so that the starter motor would not have so much to do. How about using light oil?"
"There is only one rule to follow on the oil equation," Gus stated emphatically, "Stick to the recommendations of the makers of the car. If you will glance over your instruction book again you will see that they tell you what brands to use in winter.
"With dry batteries rigged up and the radiator filled with the proper mixture of water and alcohol, you ought to have no trouble till the thermometer gets down below fifteen degrees. When it gets much colder than that -- say about zero -- even extra batteries and light oil won't get the motor going, simply because the gasoline we're getting these days doesn't form gas enough to give an explosion.
"A radiator cover will help some, but if you have the car sitting for hours at a time outdoors in zero weather, everything will get so cold that she won't start, no matter how long you keep the self-starter going.
"When you're up against that proposition, a good stunt is to pour a teaspoonful or so of ether into the air intake of the manifold. Ether evaporates nearly as well in cold weather as it does in hot, and the motor will start pronto. If you get a pail of boiling hot water and pour it over the intake manifold of the engine, that also will make it start right away.
"There's another new device out now that will start the motor, no matter how cold it is. Hey, Joe!" he called out. "Bring out one of those electric-heater primers the right size for McKay's car.
"See here," he continued, holding up what looked like a thick gasket. "This goes in between the manifold and the carburetor. When you press the button, the little spiral wire in the middle gets hot and that heats the gasoline as it comes up from the carburetor and turns it into gas. The electric current comes from the storage battery, of course. Shall I fit one when I bolt the carburetor on again?"
"Sure thing!" exclaimed McKay, "That ought to work out fine. It's a good thing I have a radiator cover, or you'd be trying to sell me one of those too!"
Gus smiled. "After you get the bill for this repair job," he said, "you won't have the price of any fancy accessories."
"One thing I nearly forgot to mention about that cold-weather-starting proposition! Always hold the clutch out when you step on the self-starter. That disconnects the transmission gears, and in cold weather, when the transmission oil is thick and gummy, it takes a lot of power just to turn the gears over.
"Of course you want to remember, too, that just getting the motor started is not the whole story in driving a car in cold weather. You can put a car on the bum mighty easy if you don't watch out. In real cold weather the grease in the transmission is likely to freeze solid, and when it is in that condition the gears just cut grooves through it and they run practically without lubrication until the friction heats up the grease and melts it. Hard grease is bad medicine in cold weather. The transmission should be filled with transmission oil instead of grease. The same applies to the rear end."
"Gosh!" McKay exclaimed. "That's a whole lot to try to remember all at one time. Guess I ought to write it down."
"You'd better learn your lesson this time," said Gus. "The next time you freeze this boat up I'll charge you double!"
L. Osborne 2019