When I was in college, I carpooled with a fellow who had an almost-new 1959 Volvo 544. One day it began misfiring and losing power while accelerating or climbing hills. Lifting off on the gas or reaching level ground would make it run properly again. The shifting problem made absolutely no sense.
We worked on the problem for several days. While we were examining the engine for flaws, I noticed the dipstick was protruding way too far out of its sleeve. Without even thinking this could have caused all of the problems, I cleaned it and replaced it properly. Out of absolute desperation, we tried the car again on the tiny chance the dipstick had actually affected the car's performance. Surprisingly, the car's problems vanished completely.
In those days, when you bought gas, an attendant would actually pump it for you. He would also check your oil. It seems an attendant hadn't plugged the dipstick firmly back in the tube, so it was free to swivel. Being curved, every time the car accelerated or climbed a hill, the dipstick would swing back and short out the input terminal on the side of the distributor. Decelerating or being on level ground would cause it to swing forward, away from the distributor.
Plugging it in properly solved the problem.
This entry was submitted by Bill Fane and edited by Rob Spiegel.
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