Vanilla ice cream == car problems??

Vanilla ice cream == car problems??

For the engineers among us who understand that the obvious is not
always the solution, and that the facts, no matter how implausible,
are still the facts …

This is a weird but true story (with a moral) …

A complaint was received by the Pontiac Division of General Motors:

“This is the second time I have written you, and I don’t blame you
for not answering me, because I kind of sounded crazy, but it is a
fact that we have a tradition in our family of ice cream for dessert
after dinner each night. But the kind of ice cream varies so, every
night, after we’ve eaten, the whole family votes on which kind of ice
cream we should have and I drive down to the store to get it. It’s
also a fact that I recently purchased a new Pontiac and since then my
trips to the store have created a problem. You see, every time I buy
vanilla ice cream, when I start back from the store my car won’t
start. If I get any other kind of ice cream, the car starts just
fine. I want you to know I’m serious about this question, no matter
how silly it sounds: ‘What is there about a Pontiac that makes it not
start when I get vanilla ice cream, and easy to start whenever I get
any other kind?’”

The Pontiac President was understandably skeptical about the letter,
but sent an engineer to check it out anyway. The latter was surprised
to be greeted by a successful, obviously well educated man in a fine
neighborhood. He had arranged to meet the man just after dinner time,
so the two hopped into the car and drove to the ice cream store. It
was vanilla ice cream that night and, sure enough, after they came
back to the car, it wouldn’t start.

The engineer returned for three more nights. The first night, the
man got chocolate. The car started. The second night, he got
strawberry. The car started. The third night he ordered vanilla.
The car failed to start.

Now the engineer, being a logical man, refused to believe that this
man’s car was allergic to vanilla ice cream. He arranged, therefore,
to continue his visits for as long as it took to solve the
problem. And toward this end he began to take notes: he jotted down
all sorts of data, time of day, type of gas used, time to drive back
and forth, etc.

In a short time, he had a clue: the man took less time to buy
vanilla than any other flavor. Why? The answer was in the layout of
the store.

Vanilla, being the most popular flavor, was in a separate case at
the front of the store for quick pickup. All the other flavors were
kept in the back of the store at a different counter where it took
considerably longer to find the flavor and get checked out.

Now the question for the engineer was why the car wouldn’t start
when it took less time. Once time became the problem – not the
vanilla ice cream – the engineer quickly came up with the answer:
vapor lock. It was happening every night, but the extra time taken to
get the other flavors allowed the engine to cool down sufficiently to
start. When the man got vanilla, the engine was still too hot for the
vapor lock to dissipate.

Moral of the story: even insane looking problems are sometimes real.

(A better moral: chocolate ice cream cures vapor lock!)

I still have a very hard time believing that actually happened, but it is a great story, and it definitely makes you wonder. Thanks for the good read! :slight_smile:

I am still convinced its the ice cream.

And what is vapor lock?

It’s when the gas ceases to flow due to the fact it got so hot it begins to boil and possibly evaporate. Without a supply of gas the engine won’t continue running or won’t start if it’s off. Allowing it to cool down and stop boiling will allow the vehicle to run again.
Vapor lock can also happen when the gas tank can’t vent and the pump is unable to draw more gas due to the vacuum being created.

For vapor lock to happen there’s a problem or combination of problems to cause this. The engine has overheated or is running extremely hot, and hot weather just makes it worse. The vent hose on the fuel tank is clogged or has collapsed, or on some vehicles the fuel filler cap is no longer able to vent. The gas could also be bad.

EDIT: I should also mention that vapor lock isn’t as common today as it used to be back when all cars had carburators, gas wasn’t as refined, and most vehicles lacked fan shrouds. Although not as common today it’s still possible it could happen if somethings wrong and the right conditions are made.

I smell an episode of Mythbusters.

And now for the rest of the story…

“This is the third time I have written to you. The first time you ignored me because you thought I was crazy for thinking vanilla ice cream caused my car not to start. You answered my second plea and sent out an engineer to investigate. At least that’s what I thought, but now I’m not sure. I don’t blame you if you think that I’m paranoid, but I got to thinking how it was strange how my wife wanted me out of the house every night. Then it so happened that the only time the Pontiac started when I’d bought vanilla, the engineer was already there when I got home. I talked to the dealership mechanic who worked on the car; he said he’d seen the problem before and that the same engineer had diagnosed it. He asked whether I thought it was odd that Pontiac would approve that many engineer hours to diagnose such a trivial problem. What finally prompted me to ask whether you sent the engineer was when the mechanic and all of his buddies laughed out loud when he said; ‘They don’t call him Mr. Goodwrench for nothing!’”

Final moral of the story:
Whenever there’s an effect, it’s usually an engineer who caused it!!

That reminds me of the following story someone posted last month to a message board frequented by those working in tech support:

Eight years ago I was working as an escalation tech for a high end computer manufacturer that is no longer in business. They specialized in very expensive home rigs. One of my techs received a call from a user on the east coast complaining that their computer would reboot for no good reason every evening around the same time, give or take a couple hours. The tech checked all the obvious settings (BIOS, Power Management, etc.) but could find nothing that was telling the computer to reboot at any particular time. It was running <shudder> Win95, not NT so there were no OS timeouts available.

They then started working the hardware angle -> remove all add-ons and see if it still has the same problem. Disconnected the printer, scanner and joystick and ended the call. A couple hours later user calls back saying the computer had just rebooted on its own again. The new tech followed up with the first tech to see what else needed doing and they ended up escalating to the supervisor for an RMA of the power supply or mobo. Sup decided to RMA both because he could not prove which one was bad.

Customer got new parts, installed them himself and was up and running for the entire weekend. Monday rolls around and he calls back in the late evening (7 or 8PM) with the same problem. This call got escalated straight to the sup who decided we needed to RMA the entire tower and have the repair team take it apart. A week later customer gets his system back with all new components inside. The only thing that was not replaced was the case (serial number). They even replaced the front bezel of the case in case it was a malfunctioning reset switch.

That night he calls in again WITH THE SAME PROBLEM. At this point, my sup decides there is no way the problem exists within the confines of that computer case so he hands it to me to try and figure out (he didn’t like me very much). While I’m talking to the customer (about 50 minutes into the call) I hear a noise in the background. He immediately lets me know that the computer has just rebooted. The noise that I heard did not sound anything like what you would expect to hear from a computer that just came out of the box, so I asked him what was the noise that I had just heard. He informs me that his wife had just come home from work and was “finishing her business in the bathroom”.

I pondered this new bit of information for a while. I asked if she works a regular 8-5 type job and always comes home at the same time, every weeknight. His response was that sometimes she works late and then gets to come home early the next day, but that it never varies by a couple hours.

After the computer was back up in Windows I asked him to go flush the toilet and then come back and check the computer. He did and sure enough, it was in the process of restarting. I then asked him to check for any wires leading into the tank of the toilet. He informs me that there is no tank on his toilet. He “only buys the best” so instead of having a tank, he has a water pump that pumps water into the toilet from a water reservior in the basement that is kept at room temp (also supplies water for the bathroom sink and indoor watering system for all their potted plants - more money than he knows what to do with, obviously).

The water pump just happened to be on the same circuit as the outlet that his computer was plugged into. Despite the use of a surge protector, the water pump kicking on put enough of a drain on the circuit to cause the computer’s power supply to momentarily die (this was 8 years ago, before digital power supplies), but was not a surge so the surge protector never tripped. I had him move his computer desk to another wall in the same room and plug into one of it’s outlets instead. This moved him to a different circuit and solved the problem.

Total talk time: 6+ hours
Lesson learned: Sometimes it really isn’t the user’s fault

haha, thats the altime randomest story ive ever read yet! YAY 4 RANDOMNESS! very interestin, gosh, nw im gonna b thinkin bout it all day, argh!!!

There’s no reason for mythbusters - I’ll confirm that this could have happened.

This is not at all a problem with modern fuel injected engines, but with early fuel injection technology, this is a big problem. I’ve flown a lot of airplanes from the late 60’s and early 70’s with fuel injection systems. All of these engines have vapor lock problems. Thankfully, you have a lot more control over engine management in an airplane and there are tricks to getting the engine started again. However, if you don’t know the tricks, starting one of these engines when hot after a half hour shut-down can be frustrating to impossible.

A company that made robot floor cleaners installed a new machine in a 20 story office building. The machine worked correctly on the first 5 floors, cleaning the floors in all the hallways, so they turned it over to the janitor crew. All the crew had to do was take care of the water and soap tanks, take the robot to the next floor on the elevator, and hit the run button.

On the 14th floor the robot cleaned half the floors, then made a sharp right turn and went through a thin plasterboard wall into someones office.

The robot cleaner was taken back to the factory, thoroughly diagnosed, some boards were replaced, and it was sent back. The wall on the 14th floor was repaired.

The factory crew followed the robot carefully as it cleaned the first 10 floors, declared it was fixed, and turned it over to the janitor crew again.

On the 14th floor it turned sharply again and went right through the freshly painted repaired wall.

On site testing revealed that a telephone microwave repeater antenna on the roof of a nearby building was sending a side-lobe of microwave energy through the building, on the 14th floor, in that one spot. It was strong enough to scramble the sensors on the robot and make it jump out of its SW loop.

Whole new meaning to the slogan “reach out and touch someone”

or something! :^)

Another random story compliments of none other than FIRST enthusiasts…who else could find these stories

Do diesel engines have vapor lock? I used to ride in a Ford 15-passenger van with a diesel engine. Once in a while, if the driver shut off the engine and try to start the engine, it won’t start. If it was a gasoline engine, the driver would press down on the throttle pedal before trying to start it. Won’t it work on a diesel engine?

I don’t know of diesel engines having vapor lock problems.

On a gasoline engine with a carburator that becoms flooded you press the pedal to the floor and hold it there while you try to start the engine.
If you had to keep pumping the pedal while trying to start the engine means that the accelerator pump (part of the carb) is bad. This should get fixed right away as it’s a good way to get a flame going in the carb! :ahh: If this happens quit pumping the pedal and hold the ignition on so the starter keeps turning the engine over sucking the flame into the motor and hopefully puts it out. In some cases you can wind up with a carb or engine fire.

A diesel that is cold or has sat and cooled down won’t start right away. You have to turn the ignition to the “Run” position and wait for the glow plug light to go out. Then you can turn the ignition to the “Start” position to start it. If you don’t wait for the glow plugs the engine will turn over but won’t start. I used to drive an '85 Chevy pick-up with the 6.2 diesel in it. I had to wait for the amber glow plug light to go out before it would start. If it had just been running or if it was a hot day then the light wouldn’t come on and it would start right up.

Ok, so this is a public apology to everyone who felt that i was cussing and using “incorrect” english! Sorry everyone, I did’nt know that you guys would mind, those were my first posts! I hope there are no hard feelings! If you still feel hate towards me, go ahead and spill!

Ok, so this is a public apology to everyone who felt that my cussing and usage of “incorrect” english was very inappropriate! Sorry everyone, I did not know that you guys would mind! Those were my first posts, and honestly, I don’t normally use chat rooms and such! I hope there are no hard feelings! If you still feel hate towards me, please feel free to let me know.

great story! i enjoyed it very much. :smiley:

haha. mythbusters is awesome. and it would be funny if they did an episode on this. great story, funny but it makes sense. i should show this to my boyfriend.