My dad let me take his second car, a 1963 MGB convertible, to college. During a particularly nasty winter storm, when snow was drifting more than a foot across the highway, my car stopped dead. It was -4°F out, late at night with no traffic. I lifted the hood, and tried to start it after 10 minutes. To my surprise, the engine turned over.
A few minutes later, it died again with no warning. There seemed to be no spark. I opened the hood and saw a faint corona around the distributor. Aha, so there was a crack. My intuition told me it was ice melting that caused the failure. When I opened the hood, it would freeze quickly, sealing the crack, thus allowing me to start the car. Of course, once I got the car going, it would melt again and kill the engine.
This was before the days of cellphones. I had no AAA to help me out, so the only solution was to fix it right there, walk a mile or so in the blizzard, or freeze in the car.
Ohm's Law on H2O says insulation is better when frozen, so I sprayed some WD40 to displace the water with this magical mix of fish oil used to prevent rust in military parts. The improvised seal worked and I was good to go home, non-stop, without any moisture causing flashover on the carbon-impregnated distributor crack. Carbon and grease removal gave the MGB another year of life, but it was the WD40 that saved my life.
This entry was submitted by Anthony Stewart and edited by Rob Spiegel.
Anthony Stewart started as an EE design engineer in 1975 with telemetry design, aerospace design, nuclear robotic inspection design, and other instruments. In the early 80s, he designed T1 test equipment, and managed debug on an ISDN BB WAN. He moved on to test disk drives, then worked with automated meter reading on the ISM cell network. Stewart is now retired.
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