Gus Wilson was considerably
surprised, early one morning, when Hank and Nancy Stoneman drove into his Model
Garage in their Jeep, only an hour after they had started out on their uranium-hunting
expedition. Nancy Stoneman was practically in tears.
"Weve planned this trip for so long, Gus," she wailed, "and
weve only got a weeks vacationwe cant waste a minute of it."
"Trouble?" Gus asked, not knowing what else to say.
"You said it, Gus," Hank Stoneman said. He heaved his lanky frame from the Jeep
disgustedly. "This crate has been running like a watch ever since I got it a month
backuphill, downhill, empty and loaded. But now, when we start our trip, it throws a
rod on the first hill."
"Is that all?" Gus spoke lightly, hoping to dispel their gloom.
"Youll soon be on your waywont take long to put in a rod
"I wouldnt have planned this trip if the fellow I bought the car from
hadnt told me it was in fine condition," Stoneman said bitterly. "It
seemed to be, toodidnt even have to add any oil during the time I drove
Silas Barnstable, who had idled over with Pete Vancourt, looked at the
Stonemans and sniffed audibly.
"Maybe," he said sourly, "the automobile aint one to put up with
wild-goose chases all over creation."
"Wild-goose chase!" Stoneman exclaimed." We might get rich. The Government
pays big for locating uranium. Besides this is a sort of delayed honey-moon for uswe
didnt take one when we were married."
"Honeymoon!" Silas snorted. "Rubbishchasing around with a tent and
skillet like painted Indians."
"Why, you dried up old coot," Pete Vancourt retorted, "Gus and me and Elmer
Stoddard plan to live in a tent on our vacation. Come on, Silas, lets get out of
here and let Gus fix the Jeep."
"I dont care what he says." Naancy Stonemans chin came up.
"Its going to be fun. We planned to camp at Meeker Springs tonight. But
its getting late."
"Your can still make it, Nancy," Gus said, lifting the hood. "Well
have you on the road in no time."
That was what Gus thought at the moment. But when he cocked his ear to
the motor, a puzzled expression came to his face.
"Rod out, you say?" he asked. "This motor sounds just fine, if you ask
"Dont let it fool you, Gus," Stoneman said. ""You should hear it
on a hill."
"Id like to," Gus said, "Jump in and well see."
The motor sounded sweet until they hit the first steep hill out of town. Then it developed
a knock that did sound considerably like a rod bearing. Gus drove back to the garage
silently, his mind searching the possibilities. One bun guess , he thought, and these kids
lose a day of their vacation. To them thats a year out of their lives.
Back at the garage, Gus wiggled the throttle from idle to quick pickup, held it at medium
cruising a moment. Very queer, he thought. A rod comes in sharpest from idle to pickup, a
piston at sustained, unloaded revolutions. But there was no knock there. Could it b a main
But with the pan off, he could find nothing wrong with the mains. He didnt take any
chances on the rods. He pulled the caps, inspected each one for snug fit. One of the
center rods had a small piece broken out of the very center of the shell.
"Ah!" Gus grunted, as he pushed himself out to get a new bearing shell.
With this installed, Gus continued to probe for trouble, turning the
shaft, watching the rods turn on their journals, looking for side play that would spell
misalignment and a possible knock. Then he put the pan back on and poured in the drained
oil, which appeared new.
"Just put in new oil, didnt you?" he remarked.
"Yeah," Hank Stoneman said. "Scott changed it last night."
"Fine," Gus said. "Hop in, and well try her out."
It seemed to Gus that hed never heard a smoother-running Willys engineuntil
they hit the first steep hill out of town. Then the knock came back, as strongly as
before. Gus said nothing as he turned back to the Model Garage, but his face was drawn and
thoughtful. Nancy Stoneman was eagerly awaiting their return, all smiles.
Gus ran his hands nervously through his grizzled hear, his mind racing.
Nothing wrong underneathit had to be somewhere on top. He found himself taking a
compression check, hoping that a sticking valve might be striking a tappet push rod. He
checked valve setting, timing, ignition wiringfiddling around. He looked at the
clocktwo hours gone.
"Cant you find the trouble, Gus?, Nancy Stoneman asked
anxiously. "We cane to you because we were sure
"Thanks," Gus grunted, angry with himself. Was he a mechanic or a backyard
Again he reviewed the facts. Sure hed found a cracked rod bearing, but the bearing
was snughe felt at the time that it wouldnt have caused that knock. .
His ear had told him, right at the start, that the knock was timed to
the revolutions of the main shaft.
The trouble was down therewhy was he wasting time up here? He crawled under again
and removed the pan.
Gus lay there, looking at the bottom of the motor, asking himself what he could have
missed herethe mains and rods were right, there was proper alignment and side
clearance. A drop of oil fell from the round, floating oil-suction assembly, with its
protecting screen. Gus wiped the oil from his weathered cheek impatiently, began to probe
the bottom of the motor with his shop light. The shop light was too bulky to be moved
about among the rods, so he fumbled out his pencil light, began to play its beam along the
The brilliant beam of the pencil light was reflected from a tiny bright spot on one of the
center crankshaft counterbalances. "Ah!" Gus breathed. "Now what caused
that? Maybe the counterbalance has been striking the oil stick."
Gus grunted as he turned the shaft over slowly. No, the counterbalance
hadnt been striking the oil stick. There was nothing near enough to strike the
counterbalance. And what if there was? It would strike all the time, not just on hills.
Gus was inclined to disregard the bright spot on the counterbalance. Maybe, he thought,
hed scraped the power-bar handle across it when he was taking down the rods.
Another drop of oil fell from the oil float. It just missed Guss left eye. He
snorted as he wrung a greasy knuckle in the eye socket. Then he relaxed and just lay
there, looking up at he offending oil-suction float, thinking of knocks that didnt
come in for a month, even on hills, and then suddenly came in, and only on hills. He
reached up to waggle the oil float up and down for the length of its travel on its movable
arm. He crawled out to call Scott Service.
"Scot," he said, "this is Gus Wilson. Youve been servicing Hank
Stonemans Jeep. How is she on oil?
"Fine," Scott replied. "That Jeep dont use hardly any oil. It was
down a quart when Stonmeman bought it, but seeing that he was soon to start on this
uranium-hunting expedition, we didnt add any. We changed the filter and filled her
to the mark with new oil last night.
"Thanks, Scott." Gus hung up.
He was like a hound on a hot trail now. He slid under the Jeep and began taking off the
oil-float assembly. As he had expected, there was a bright, dented spot on the top. He
took the assembly to the bench and worked on it a moment, washed it out, crawled under and
replaced it. He slapped up the pan, reached a brawny arm out to his tool kit for a speed
wrench. Something in his movements seemed to communicate a sense of success to the
Stonemans. Nancy came to squat down and peer under at Gus. Hank hastened to join
"Please hurry, Gus," Nancy pleaded. She added wryly, "Were late for
Gus smiled cheerfully. "Ill have you on your way in minutes." "What
in tunket was it?" Hank asked.
"The oil float," Gus said out of the corner of his mouth as he worked to buckle
up the pan. "It works on a moving arm, with a stop that lets it float only so high.
This stop has been bent so that the float bypassed it, going so high that one of the
crankshaft counterbalances struck it
that knock didnt quite like a rod to
Stoneman was puzzled. "But why did it strike only on
hillsand why didnt it strike until we started our trip?
"Thats what had me fooled, " Gus chuckled. "It didnt strike
before because you were a quart low on oil. It didnt strike even after Scott had
filled the pan with new oil to the high mark, until you hit a steep hill. Then the oil ran
to the back of the pan and raised the oil intake float high enough so that it did strike.
I simply bent the stop back again so it couldnt be bypassed."
Gus chuckled again. "I couldnt find it until it almost spit in my eye. Things
like this sure get me down."
"Stoneman laughed. "Dont kid us, Gus. You love it."
"Maybe," Gus said ruefully, "but I sure do get frazzled around the edges
sometimes. There, the pan is on. In with the oil and youre on your way. Meeker
Springs, here you come."