Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Oopsy daisy

I haven't blogged in a long time. Lots of things have been going on around here, but I will post more about that later at some point later, later on. For now, here is a story.

Some while ago we went to Disneyland (*sigh*). Since we were driving, we stocked the car up on her necessary fluids, including a can of gas for just in case. It was a great trip and the car behaved perfectly well, as she is prone to do. We came home and went on our merry way in life.

A few weeks ago we went over to the gym, and when we came out to the car there was a post it note on the windshield. This time it was not an ad from the nearby Paul Mitchell school, but was instead from a fellow exercise enthusiast. They had parked behind us and noticed a lot of liquid under the back of the car, and wrote that they suspected we had a gas leak. We looked under the back and sure enough there was a load of liquid blackness on the pavement, freshly dripped. I flailed a few times and then we got in the car, which now had a distinct eau de gas. As we drove home I went through different scenarios of the car suddenly exploding and pondered our chances of survival.

Once home we investigated the car and found the obvious hole where gas was leaking out. Mr. Graham, ever resourceful, stuck some packing tape over it until it could go to the shop. We were out of duct tape.

So the next day, Mr. Graham dropped me off at work and then took the car off to see the mechanic. (Isn't Mr. Graham so nice? He always takes care of my car for me.) The car, Leeloo, was hoisted up so they could check her underpinnings. But instead of immediately seeing the hole on her underside, Mr. Mechanic didn't see a thing and had Mr. Graham come and point it out to him.

No, there was no gas leak. Did you know that trunks have a drainage hole? It turns out if you have a gas can in the trunk, it can tip over. And sometimes it can tip over and land directly on its spout. And sometimes gas cans inexplicably have no cap on the spout. And then the gas leaks out and down through the trunk's drainage hole, prompting concerned gym goer's to leave notes.

No, the mechanic didn't charge us a thing.


  1. While I am rather embarrassed at my relative lack of basic car knowledge, this is a very amusing story so I'm glad you shared it. I still don't know how the gas can actually STAYED tipped over on its nose like that, but oh well. Good thing there was a drain.

  2. Last week, I have a share of experience with car leaks. After I pulled out my car in the parking space, I noticed that my car is leaking clear liquid. I tried stepping on the brake pedal- it felt spongy and soft. I am hesitant to move the car so I called a towing service company. They took my car to a nearbycar repair (Indianapolis, IN based) shop. Thankfully, the mechanics were able to found out that it was a brake fluid leak. Thanks to the auto repair in Indianapolis, I can safely drive my car again.

    All I can say is that I am one satisfied customer. Well, good news for us, we both have helpful mechanics around!

  3. Ha! That is a really, really great story. Be glad it was the drainage hole, and not a ragged, gaping hole in your transfer case resulting in the literal explosion of said transfer case!

  4. Anonymous10:08 PM

    You're not supposed to travel with a full gas can in the car. It's basically a bomb.

  5. No, the danger really is inahling the fumes. Fortunately you can smell them before they overcome you, unlike carbon monoxide. That's more likely to cause you trouble than the chance they will explode, though that is possible (remote). If you keep it in the bed of a truck, or strapped to the top of your car (makes you look super redneck, haha), that's pretty much safe.

  6. Yep, time for a gas can with the proper lidding.

    And, we are very glad you aren't dead.

  7. anonymous:

    Um, if that were true, wouldn't your gas tank also be "basically a bomb"? Sorry, but a gas can is not a bomb. It's gas in a plastic tub.

  8. From (fun website where physicists review movies based on their bad science - The Core is a must read):

    "Ever notice how cars in movies always burst into flames the instant they collide with anything? Our favorite is when a car falling from a high place explodes the instant before it hits the ground. It's as though its gas tank gets panicky and detonates at the mere thought of striking Earth.
    Fortunately, the physics are not so cooperative. It takes a whole series of conditions all of which must be exactly right for a gas tank to explode.

    Even when a wrecked car catches on fire it rarely explodes. A gas tank can explode if it contains an explosive mixture and there's an opening for the flames to enter. More likely, fire would have to impinge on the outside of the gas tank, vaporizing the gasoline in the tank causing it to overpressure and eventually explode. However, if the vapors escaped fast enough the tank would not rupture.

    Most fires start in the engine compartment and will not spread backwards to the gas tank area unless the tank is leaking fuel on the ground. Again a whole series of events has to be just right for an explosion to occur.

    Although it's actually quite rare, exploding cars are a common excuse for not wearing seat belts. Onlookers at crash sites are often so concerned about explosions that they unnecessarily jeopardize a person with a spinal injury by pulling them out of a wrecked car. The common Hollywood depiction fuels these harmful misconceptions."

    That aside, on my mission, I witnessed the aftermath of a very bad car wreck where a man had been speeding and flipped his car (we arrived no more than two minutes after it happened). His gas tank was leaking and had sparked a flame, and eventually from the pressure became a flame-thrower, not a bomb, illustrating the point of these guys. Fortunately and amazingly, no one was hurt.

    Again, the real reason you typically don't want to carry a gas can is the fumes. They're not healthy to breathe.