Well, hell.

I’m typing this post from my iPhone. The reason I’m typing this from my iPhone as opposed to my computer is I’m sitting in my car. The reason I’m sitting in my car as opposed to my office is my car is not working. The reason my car is not working is unknown at the present time.

I’m hoping it’s bad gas. That may seem a strange thing to hope for (“gee, I sure hope I have a tankful of bad fuel in my car right now!”), but it beats the alternatives that present themselves to the mind of this humble scribe.

See, this car, whose legendary reliability I’ve remarked upon before, was low on gas this afternoon. So I pulled into a gas station, whereupon I proceeded to put 9.3 gallons of gas into a 10-gallon tank. At the completion of this relatively trivial exercise, the car refused to start.

Oh, it turned over just fine. And made enthusiastic “I’m going to start now” noises, but starting conspicuously failed to happen. So, in the spirit of post hoc, ergo propter hoc reasoning, I am thinking, or perhaps hoping, that the gas I put in the car was more like water, or breast milk from a bevy of Italian supermodels, or something.

And now the tow truck is here and I must be off.

40 thoughts on “Well, hell.

    • I think this is prevented by nozzle designs.

      But if not, then yeah, that would suck.

      I THINK if he had loaded diesel, the engine would have turned over and started using the gasoline in the lines, and he might have gotten maybe half a block before the diesel hit the engine.

      • I think the pipes are different too, but sometimes you can encounter a car that doesn’t restrict them.

        Maybe his distributor cap chose just this moment to die…

          • I’m not a car guy, really. Sparkplugs? Starter? It’s not the solenoid, or it would have just gone “clicky clicky clicky”.

          • Based on my experience — which is old — a lot depends on what happens when you turn the key:

            Nothing: low level problem, possibly battery disconnected

            Ticking: battery’s hooked up but might be low, voltage regulator might have crapped out, starter might have crapped out, alternator might have crapped out and done one of those insta-drains on the battery (if you’re driving normally and your car suddenly dims and stops, then usually, it’s your alternator (or a fan belt running it)).

            A clean sort of spinny sound (starter running, but not engaging with engine): possibly starter solenoid, could also be a little low voltage (enough juice to spin the starter, but not enough juice to kick it into the engine)

            Engine turns over, but no start: Possibly something to do with the plug wires, perhaps one or more has come loose. Could also be the central line to the distributor cap come loose (happened to me, and probably what you were thinking of). Assuming your car HAS a distributor cap. Might not.

            Engine tries to start, but dies: ignition system is probably fine. Fuel line might be clogged, or instead of gas, you might have received Liquid Brazilian Ear Wax Supplemental Growth Hormone.

            Again, this is old data based on fixing cars that are not usually on the road anymore.

            Because it’s a newer car, it could be “Oh dude, your computer’s fried and we had to replace it. $450.” and there’s not much you can do about that.

    • Interestingly, that was the very first thought that occurred to me, and I checked the pump to make sure it didn’t have a diesel setting. (That pump didn’t.) I even smelled the end of the gas nozzle, on the idea that it was possible for a fuel delivery driver to have accidentally filled the wrong underground tank with diesel.

  1. Oh man.

    Here’s hoping it’s somthing as simple as an electrical connection come loose.

    I once rebuilt practicaly the entire electrical system of an old Dart and as healthy as it wanted to start, it simply wuoldn’t turn over. I went crazy all weekend (this was before the Internet) troubleshooting everything I had done and trying to learn more about the system, until finally I found the one wire I had inadvertently knocked free while working. One freakin’ wire.

    (so, now, I check before and after for random wires and cables, and I try very hard to not touch anything except the system I’m actually working on)

    So, I’m hoping it’s something simple like that.

    On the plus side, failures that are sudden and catastrophic like that usually ARE simple things.

    Did the engine actually turn over? How much do you know about ignition systems?

  2. Oh man.

    Here’s hoping it’s somthing as simple as an electrical connection come loose.

    I once rebuilt practicaly the entire electrical system of an old Dart and as healthy as it wanted to start, it simply wuoldn’t turn over. I went crazy all weekend (this was before the Internet) troubleshooting everything I had done and trying to learn more about the system, until finally I found the one wire I had inadvertently knocked free while working. One freakin’ wire.

    (so, now, I check before and after for random wires and cables, and I try very hard to not touch anything except the system I’m actually working on)

    So, I’m hoping it’s something simple like that.

    On the plus side, failures that are sudden and catastrophic like that usually ARE simple things.

    Did the engine actually turn over? How much do you know about ignition systems?

  3. I think this is prevented by nozzle designs.

    But if not, then yeah, that would suck.

    I THINK if he had loaded diesel, the engine would have turned over and started using the gasoline in the lines, and he might have gotten maybe half a block before the diesel hit the engine.

  4. Oof. Let’s hope the universal comet of suckage passes quickly leaving nothing behind bug fairly innocuous gas, as opposed to, you know, the more poisonous type.

    πŸ™

    ::smacks the universe for you::

  5. Oof. Let’s hope the universal comet of suckage passes quickly leaving nothing behind bug fairly innocuous gas, as opposed to, you know, the more poisonous type.

    πŸ™

    ::smacks the universe for you::

  6. I think the pipes are different too, but sometimes you can encounter a car that doesn’t restrict them.

    Maybe his distributor cap chose just this moment to die…

  7. Based on my experience — which is old — a lot depends on what happens when you turn the key:

    Nothing: low level problem, possibly battery disconnected

    Ticking: battery’s hooked up but might be low, voltage regulator might have crapped out, starter might have crapped out, alternator might have crapped out and done one of those insta-drains on the battery (if you’re driving normally and your car suddenly dims and stops, then usually, it’s your alternator (or a fan belt running it)).

    A clean sort of spinny sound (starter running, but not engaging with engine): possibly starter solenoid, could also be a little low voltage (enough juice to spin the starter, but not enough juice to kick it into the engine)

    Engine turns over, but no start: Possibly something to do with the plug wires, perhaps one or more has come loose. Could also be the central line to the distributor cap come loose (happened to me, and probably what you were thinking of). Assuming your car HAS a distributor cap. Might not.

    Engine tries to start, but dies: ignition system is probably fine. Fuel line might be clogged, or instead of gas, you might have received Liquid Brazilian Ear Wax Supplemental Growth Hormone.

    Again, this is old data based on fixing cars that are not usually on the road anymore.

    Because it’s a newer car, it could be “Oh dude, your computer’s fried and we had to replace it. $450.” and there’s not much you can do about that.

  8. If your ‘bad gas’ theory is correct, then a bottle of fuel additive might fix it. My car has had this problem from time to time, and the additive trick seems to work pretty well.

  9. If your ‘bad gas’ theory is correct, then a bottle of fuel additive might fix it. My car has had this problem from time to time, and the additive trick seems to work pretty well.

  10. Interestingly, that was the very first thought that occurred to me, and I checked the pump to make sure it didn’t have a diesel setting. (That pump didn’t.) I even smelled the end of the gas nozzle, on the idea that it was possible for a fuel delivery driver to have accidentally filled the wrong underground tank with diesel.

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