Wow, that's frightening. I can't believe there was enough vapor to keep the engine running with all the air currents under the hood and not ignite from another source.
I was coming home from a gig one night and the car could only just stay at highway speed when I held the pedal to the floor. I pulled over and saw that the mechanical fuel pump (remember those?) was belching fuel from its relief hole. It was late at night, and I still had to get my date home, so I simply continued driving, pulling over for gas every 20 miles or so. Of course, gas was about .50/gal back then. These days it would be cheaper to tow the car.
I had another mechanical-fuel-pump problem in my 1978 Chevette. I drove home one night with no problems, and the next day the car would not start. I finally figured out that the rubber hose that connected the steel line from the gas tank to the input of the fuel pump had about a 1/2-inch long longitudinal split. My theory was that it split while I was driving home, and the suction from the fuel pump kept it closed, but when I turned off the car it opened up, and the pump couldn't get any suction when I tried to start it again. (I guess it is also possible that it just decided to split during the night, but it seemed more likely that it would split while it was getting jostled around by the road bumps.)
This has got to be the scariest MbM I've read to date. Regarding tow fees, I'm not so sure about how cheap they'd be. The last time I got towed, about 8 years ago, I paid $100 for 10 miles. That was a shocker. Now I pay AAA less than that per year to give me free tows when traveling up to 100 miles away from my home.
I've actually had the "car-b-que" experience (standing by the side of the road, watching my car burn - everybody got out safely). It's a lot less violent than you see in the movies - no explosions, just a very hot, very large fire.
My design you are absolutely correct these engine feul issues are very risky one and we shouldnt take it easily as once i was on holidays and i rented a car initially i didnt noticed but the car had feul leakage issue . It was by the grace of god that i stepped out of the car to buy something , someone smoking passed nearby and the car unfortunately caught fire . The situation was to scary and one cant imagine what i went through .
Lynn, I feel your pain. My first vehicles were Austin Healeys, MGs and Triumph motorcycles. It was crazy. One car had a fuel pump problem. The fuel pump was behind the seats under the shelf. I found that if I hit it with something it would restart. So, going along I would put in the clutch and hit the fuel pump (really the bolt holding it) and it would start up again and I would just let the clutch go. This was done at speed. Quite a thrill. I had lots of other crazy things happen with those cars. It was good that they were so cheap and easy to work on. Lot's of fun to drive, though.
I own a Triumph motorcycle, made by the "new" Triumph, not the legacy brand. It's been as reliable as any Japanese bike I've owned...the few problems I've had in 10 years/ 50k miles have been with Japanese components on the bike!
The article reminds me of when I helped a friend repair his grandparents' older Rolls-Royce. My friend was a good mechanic but didn't understand electrons. The fuel pump wasn't working. Power wasn't getting through a relay, so we cleaned up the contacts and got it to work. Gasoline suddenly started to pour out of a tail light! A fuel line was leaking (probably overpressure since the fuel pump was feeding a "dead head"). The leaking fuel flowed into the tail light housing!
Lynn, I had faced a similar issue with my bike last month. One the way the fuel line got cut and petrol start leaking through the filter directly to the hot engine. I felt the petrol smell and later found that smoke is coming from engine, where the petrol leaked. I go a mechanic and repaired.
I once had a 1972 Fiat 128, which I bought because it was inexpensive and had front wheel drive (a novelty in those days). The only serious problem I ever had with the car was the fuel pump, which was electric and mounted to the underside of the body by the fuel tank. The pump was a small - the word "cute" comes to mind - rotary vane pump with the pump driven by a motor through a magnetic coupling (thus isolating the gasoline from the motor's brushes - this was pre-brushless DC motors). The pump was really an elegant design, and very well manufactured...except for one problem: the graphite vanes tended to chip and break and jam the pump. After paying for a couple of new pumps (plus labor), I asked the guys in the service department if they had any old junk fuel pumps they would give me. I left with a double handful of "dead" fuel pumps. From that point on, when the pump died, I would get out and under, remove the failed pump (plugging the hose from the fuel tank with a spare socket wrench extension bar) and set up shop on the car's hood to rebuild the pump using spare parts from the "junk" pumps. I did this a number of times before the car was junked, once at 1 AM under a street light ("Just rebuilding my fuel pump, officer."). Needless to say, this whole operation was done with gasoline-soaked hands... More recent cars may have had their problems, but at least the fuel pumps have been reliable.
My fuel system problem adventure happened to me in 1990, on my old 1967 Ford Falcon originally purchased and owned by my father. On one trip to a town about 140 miles from home, I felt the engine (302 V8) failing slightly, but fortunately I was just comming to the highway toll booth, and an small parts store was on its side. Seeing that the carburator was dry, I quickly thought the mechanical gasoline pump had failed, as the high oxygenated compounds (MTBE) enriched gas was very aggresive to most elastomers used those days.
Soon I had a new pump and changing it was a breeze, being two bolts and two fuel hose clamps, I finished in less than 5 minutes and resumed my trip. Next day I was slowly driving on cobblestone street and noticed my car was hesitating very slightly, but assumed it was me pushing down irregularly on the accelerator pedal, because of the rough road surface. On the trip back to my city, all was OK for the first 140 miles (almost the same exact distance before the symptoms had appeared!)... Trying to clear a badly plugged carburetor with only clean gasoline and two or three gas additives was useless and solved nothing; the engine was only able to run (barely) at half throttle, it was getting very late on sunday evening, so I resorted to adventure, having to press hard on the throttle (about 7/8 of full travel) and driving perilously just over the speed limit!... the slightest amount that I lifted the throttle, instantly resulted in the engine coughing and loosing the already low power. The hardest task was pushing up the car at my home ramp, as I was unable to restart it after I reached home. Next day it took three full rinse attempts of the carburetor in a powerful solvent and compressed air blowing to unclog the carburetor. As it happened, the last fuel fill was at a badly maintained gas station that pumped a lot of mud and sludge into my tank. The first thing to be affected was the mechanical fuel pump, whose check valves were wedged open by the dirt. Replacing the pump only enabled the dirt to pass to the filter and carburetor. It took a hundred miles at highway speeds to overcome the inexpensive filter cartridge to become full or crap and start letting the fine particles to pass directly to the carburetor, slowly plugging the small passages until the engine was left with only four of its eight cylinders working, that was the reason for having to press so hard on the throttle to keep the engine running! A quick inspection of the sparkplugs revealed that the right bank of cylinders were running too lean, and the left side ones overly rich, as the two-plane intake manifold directed the mixture of the corresponding barrel to the opposite side of the engine. After the episode, I followed advice from an old mechanic, who told me to install a heavy duty DIESEL fuel filter with replaceable filter elements with low micron pore sizes and a nice underside plug to drain any collected water. I never had another experience like that with the new filter in place, and the Falcon probably has now close to million miles and is now on its fifth engine. ( and some people believe the Falcon was a "lemon" !!!). Amclaussen.
I had a similar experience with a 1986 Chevy pick-up. The engine started running poorly and the only way to keep it going was to keep the throttle about half open. This was an interesting stopping arraingment as the brakes had to hold the truck while holding the pedal down. I inspected the plugs and immediately realized that the carb was running very lean (starving the engine of fuel). I did the usual filter change and no difference. Replaced the fuel pump (even though it appeared to have adequate pressure, no difference. I dropped the gas tank suspecting the pick-up filter 'sock' was plugged or collapased onto the fuel tube. Tank was spotless. This truck had less than 50k on it and the engine and carb were spotless so I had a hardtime believing I had a carb issue. But I relented and pulled off the carb and opened the air horn (top of the carb). The fuel bowl was filled with black substance. Where in the world did this stuff come from? The fuel passages were clogged and the metering jets were being partially blocked. I emptied this substance out onto a clean rag and inspected it carefully. It was charcoal from the charcoal canister! The vacuum line connected to the charcoal canister is attached to the fuel bowl and is supposed to draw the fuel vapor out of the canister. This canister is supposed to have a filter in the top that keeps the charcoal in. I pulled this canister off and discovered that the filter was missing. The carb eventually pulled in the charcoal and plugged up the fuel bowl! Incredible, who would of thought? No amount of fuel filtration would have prevented this!
Speaking of using brushed-DC motors for fuel pumps, I used to have a 1997 Chevy pickup that became hard to start when cold. The problem was marginally low fuel pressure and was fixed with a new in-tank electric fuel pump. A post-mortem analysis of the old fuel pump revealed the problem -- The feed wire had separated from one of the brushes and had been arcing against the back of the brush. Fuel flows through the pump motor to lubricate and cool it, so I guess brushes are safe as long as there is not significant oxygen in there too. I imagine that most modern fuel injected cars use brushed-DC fuel pump motors.
MY 2010 toyota Venza, with about 1700 miles on it, was totaled by fire. I drove it about 20 miles, parked it, and walked away. Smoke (smelling like burnt rubber) and flame emerged from the grill, and very soon every thing flammable, the headlights, grill, bumper, a tire, engine parts, battery, were consumed by fire, which then spread through the "firewall" into the passenger compartment. The radiator melted. When the fire department put out the fire, there was still fuel flowing from the stub of a fuel line. Fuel flowed even with the ignition off and no source of electricity. An insurance investigator ruled that, overnight, a "rodent" (nocturnal squirrel?) had built a nest of dry leaves on the engine. The leaves "somehow" ignited when I parked the car, igniting plastic in the engine compartment.
I suspect had my car been an airplane, all Venzas would have been grounded until fixed.
I replaced my Venza with another, just like the first, but my wife thinks I shouldn't drive something which could cremate me so easily.
If I was not fixing the gril friends Midget I was pushing it cause I would forget the head lights. What a bonding. I rebult the engine and had problems with the bolts strattling the intake and exhaust manifolds. As a result they leaked air. The very best it ever ran.
There was pan under the carb. Perhaps as a heat shield but aslo as a drip pan for gas which leaked from a plug on the botton of the bowl. Peratex fixed that. Then later when the pan broke it did matter.
The wife change oil and add oil based on the oil pressure. I had to explane the real purpose of the oil pressure gauage. Put it on reguar maintenance.
Wow, that sounds like one of the most potentially dangerous design mishaps I've ever heard about! A person with less knowledge about cars might not have been so lucky. Good thing car designs have come a long way since then.
Haha, GTOLover, I think you are referring to my comment about the improvement in designs? Yes, I meant the car...although I think wife (or women) designs are always improving, too. Not that we need much improvement! ;)
I do not believe that modern automotive brake systems are so reliable that no mechanical back-up brake system is necessary. Removing such safety systems from car designs is not technological advancement!
Many years ago, I was driving an F-150, and after I stopped at a stop sign, I realized that the service brakes had failed. The brake pedal went all the way to the floor, and there was no braking at all. Fortunately, I was stopped when the brakes failed, but at least the truck was equiped with a hand brake that I could have used to stop in an emergency.
The truck was made before dual master cylinders were implemented. It had a single master cylinder, and a steel brake line had rusted through, preventing significant hydraulic pressure and draining the fluid.
Dual master cylinders are a vast improvement in reliability (when they work properly) over single master cylinders. I still wouldn't feel safe without a backup non-electronic brake system.
I agree with you, Critic, I think doing away with the hand brake is a bad idea. No system is completely foolproof and electronic systems in cars malfunction or fail all the time. (Think about how the electric window system in cars is sometimes the first to go on the fritz as the car ages.) But sounds like this change is, unfortunately, inevitable.
Getting off the leaking gas subject, I find it amazing how many people don't use the parking brake when they park their cars/trucks. Here in California, it's required by law to use the parking brake when parked.
Many years ago, I was requested move my late in-law grandparent's car during a family gathering (park in a different location). Of course I used the parking brake when I parked the car. Later that day I was in "big trouble", since my in-law grandfather drove home with the parking brake on, burning-out the rear drum brakes. He said I shouldn't have used the parking brake...never mind that a "BRAKE" light was lit on the car instrument panel while he was driving.
Perhaps automatic parking brakes on newer cars will actually improve safety since so many drivers don't use parking brakes when they park their vehicles. I myself prefer the manual parking brake.
I am still a big fan of the parking brake, especially in places where there are a lot of hills. I used to live in SF (where it's mandatory, as RICKZ28 points out) and you were doomed if you didn't have a parking brake as a back-up on some of those steep hills, where parking was always an adventure. And here in Portugal it's the same--especially with manual-shift cars, which everyone has in Europe, you couldn't get up a steep hill without one.
I agree with you Elizabeth about preferring manual parking brakes on cars, and I prefer the hand operated over the foot operated. Maybe the automatic parking brakes on new cars are only on automatic transmission cars...to be sold in the USA (land of mostly automatic transmissions). I can't imagine an automatic parking brake on a manual transmission car...especially for steep uphill starts and parallel parking on steep hill city streets.
I learned to use the manual parking brake on manual transmission cars at age 16 when I learned to drive, although the practice was not taught in my Driver's Education (classroom) or Driver's Training (behind the wheel). With my motorcycles (back in the day), I used the front wheel brake (right hand) while working the clutch (left hand) when starting on a steep uphill.
Now if the auto manufacturers would just come-up with "smart blinkers" (automatic turn signals) ...since so many drivers do not use their blinkers when changing lanes or turning.
Elizabeth and Critic. I didn't realize that they were doing away with the parking brake. I did see a show the other day and they were complaining that the brake was electronic. That doesn't make sense to me. I thought the whole point for it was that it was manual and fool-proof. I can't believe that they would do away with it, or even make it electronic. If your battery fails do you roll down the hill?
Oh and Critic, I do think car designs have come a long way. I drive a 1999 VW Transporter mini-bus here where I live in Portugal. I used a rental car briefly when mine was getting serviced--a new VW Golf. I think that car was more intelligent than some of my ex-boyfriends! And it was surely more high-tech and sleek than my old van (even though I love my van). So hand-brake issues aside, car designs are really on the move, in my opinion.
Critic, it is indeed unfortunate that the emergency brake function is going away, and you can be certain that it is being removed as a cost reduction move. The sad fact is that modern brake systems are a great deal LESS reliable than 20 or 30 years back. But the mechanical system to apply a disk brak is much more complex than the mechanical system to apply a drum brake. In fact, Chrysler used to have a separate drum brake just for the emergency/parking brake function. And you know that was a painful expense for them. Of course, on every Chrysler vehicle that I have ever owned, after two years, the emergency brakes would still apply, but to release them required removing the brake drum and manually prying back the lever. So I never used those brakes except in a really serious emergency. I have not tried them on either of our current vehicles because of this past experience. But possibly by the time 15 or 20 people die because of total brake failure, possibly the attitude of the car companies may change. But then, the fedral safety people are the same idiots that allow vehicles to be sold with no manual means to switch off the engine. That has to be the most stupid thing that anybody in our government has ever done, bar nothing.
The in-tank fuel pump did not wait for brushless DC motors, but rather for gasoline resistant windings. We had the pumps full of gas right there in the tank, and no problems because of no air to support any combustion. Of course I did have one bad leaker, my 1985 Dodge van. The fuel lines rusted through and the engine mounted pump would suck air in and not run as a result. So cut the line through and poke the ends in a chunk of KV, (fuel proof rubber hose), and keep on driving. Brake lines rusting through was much more exciting. And much more work to replace. And their claims about the dual-brake system providing a safe stop??? Just plain LIES. Lose any brake line on that van and no brakes remained, none at all. The same on my 1987 Plymoth wagon.
I understand your dissatisfaction with the dual circuit brakes...
Its design was meant to allow a partial failure and still provide SOME braking. HA-HA...
Clearly, this reduced braking and no-brakes were almost the same!
The master cylinder needed to provide the pumping action, but when one of the two circuits had a leak, the other piston had to be pressed far enough to reach an stop inside the dual piston assembly, which meant that the vacuum booster had to push more that double the distance, and in real life, very very few systems had that extra travel, which meant that you had to STEP HARD (that means to raise your butt above the seat and pull hard on the steering wheel), having the brake pads at close to maximum (new) thickness, and all booster AND pedal adjustments on your side to really perform a BARELY DISCERNIBLE braking, hopefully!
And this is not only a Chrysler specialty, Fords have had puny brakes for many years. The worst brakes of all my cars, were the result of the "collaboration" between Chrysler designers and the ever dumb and dumber DAIMLER ones that replaced the perfectly OK disc brakes on the Spirit R/T (a higher than average version of car in their line) that had a TANDEM 8.75" master vac power booster, and ordered a change to a larger diameter SINGLE diaphragm booster in the Stratus, now with 47 more BHP and close to 270 more pounds in weight, but only about 65% area than before. So much for progress!
Later on I learned that, in order to FAVOR the german brake company "ATE" (Alfred Teves Continental), they replaced the brake supplier from the robust KELSEY-HAYES braking system from the Spirit ,to be replaced by the puny ATE brakes used on a much lighter car (VW Jetta), at least on the sizing.
And So much for automotive designers! (Monkeys of the highest rank). Amclaussen.
Amclaussen, the brakes failure was never a case of not being able to press hard enough. The condition was, each time, that the brake pedal would go all the way to the floor without a lot of effort. Repeated pumping of the pedal in a rapid manner would result in both reservoirs being emptied. So the situation was never a case of only having two wheels worth of brakes, it was each time a situation of having no brakes. The problem is that the two systems were not isolated from eachother at anything approaching the needed pressure. A poor execution of an inferior design done with inadequate materials.
Well, in that case, the symptoms points to a damaged or improperly assembled piston set inside the master cylinder. It is usually caused by using a similar (but not identical) piston set in the body, thus the compensation orifice meant to restore a proper balance of fluid between the two separate circuits is not aligned to the dual piston assembly, and this creates a by-pass that comunicates the two circuits that should be kept separated. Most probably, the supplier of the assembly mixed parts from different designs, creating the failure you describe. Take a look at diagram of the master cylinder at any book on brakes, and you can see how this possibly happened. What I was describing is a different case, where the vacuum booster pushrod tolerances make a full travel (necessary to stop the vehycle with one circuit leaking) is insufficient. In your case, if the pedal bottomed all the way, that confirms that the piston assembly had the travel, but the "compensation" orifice allowed the two circuits to communicate, leaking all the fluid, even from the unaffected circuit.
Amclaussen, that is possible, and the worst part is that the same symptoms were on my 1978 wagon and the 1985 van. I would have assumed that the problem would have been fixed in seven years. Evidently not. I also think that if the mixing of parts could cause such a problem, that it would be tested for at the end of the master cylinder production line. For many years I was the one designing large portions of those testing machines. That was an interesting job at three different companies.
I had a 1970 GTO with four wheel manual drum brakes. This is a dual circuit system (or so it appeared). No vac booster, just a pedal, master cylinder, and a good strong leg to stop this car! As I was driving vigorously one evening, I went to apply the brakes and felt the pressure 'pop' and the brakes went to the floor. I pushed and pushed but nothing! Thankfully, the light cleared and I went through undamaged. I limped the car home using the emergency brake to stop the car.
The rear brake line on the axle had rusted a pin hole in it and this let loose. However, there was nothing wrong with the front brakes. I am not sure why the front brakes did not function? Perhaps this was not a true dual circuit design, but it had all the same components: dual reservoir master cylinder, proportioning valve to equalize pressure front to rear, and the seperated brake lines for front to rear operation. I do not know and cannot check as the car was sold long ago. But I do not think the travel of the pedal and actuating rod was an issue. So my point is the issue was not fixed for over 25 years!
@GTOLover - The problem with making redundant systems is making sure that *everything* is redundant. I remember reading about an airline mishap (I don't remember if it resulted in a crash or not) caused by an electrical failure. The aircraft had completely redundant electrical systems, with duplicate radios on each bus. Unfortunately, they had done an upgrade where they added an amplifier for the cockpit audio. The audio from all the radios went through the amplifier, and it was hard-wired to the bus that went out. So they had working radios, but could not hear them.
@William K - The comment about the pump in the tank being safe because there is no air for combustion reminds me of what my dad told me about working at the Charleston, SC Navy yard during WWII. They would have divers welding on parts of the ship hulls that were fuel tanks. As long as they stayed at least six inches below the fuel level, they were OK. (BTW, I asked him how they lit their oxy-acetylene torches. He said they used a magnesium road flare, which apparently can be lit under water.) I wouldn't try this on a gas or diesel tank, though. As I recall, ships use bunker C oil (just like oil-fired steam locomotives did), which has the consistency of tar, and is probably rather difficult to ignite.
It is so refreshing to read a post about a British car problem that doesn't involve electrical malfunctions. British cars of that era were marvels of simplicity, fun to drive and provided a wonderful opportunity for drivers to learn mechanics. I had an MGB with dual carbs and had one of the carburators float stick filling the crankcase with gasoline. First big clue was loss of oil pressure followed by an explosion which blew the hood off the car and then the fire put itself out. After rebuilding the engine, replacing some wiring and rebuilding the carburators, I sold the car. My next British experiment was an E-Type which placed 2nd on my list of least reliable cars. Looking back, I sure wish I had kept that car. What a hoot!
Ah the old British cars. A lot of fun to drive, and a lot of "interesting" repair issues. :-)
I too have had my share of British sports car ownership. The first was a '65 TR4A. Actually a very reliable car, but only because of its total simplicity. Very low tech, and easy to maintain. Most trouble on that was the replacement of the soft tops, and flexible rear window that got hazy very fast.
My next car was a '69 E-Type coupe. Still have it today, but it is generally "retired" and resting in the garage. Yes, the usual electrical trouble, but as an EE, those were relatively easy to fix. Also had a fuel problem similar to the author. There is a plastic "tee" on the fuel line that feeds the carburettors (British spelling). That cracked and leaked. Luckily, just bad smell, no fire. The biggest problem was the plumbing. Jag ran the engine coolant from one side to the other through steel pipes in the passenger compartment in the area between the firewall and fascia (dashboard to us Yanks). Unfortunately these rust through after some years, and need replacement. VERY difficult to get at!
But, they are fun, and hallmarks of a bygone era.
As for the electronic parking brake, that is the case on my 2011 Subaru Outback. Totally unnecessary, and likely to fail design. A handbrake would be more functional and reliable.
Truchard will be presented the award at the 2014 Golden Mousetrap Awards ceremony during the co-located events Pacific Design & Manufacturing, MD&M West, WestPack, PLASTEC West, Electronics West, ATX West, and AeroCon.
In a bid to boost the viability of lithium-based electric car batteries, a team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has developed a chemistry that could possibly double an EV’s driving range while cutting its battery cost in half.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.