By Martin Bunn
From the May, 1969 issue of
This story was donated by
Gus Chalks One Up for the Model Garage
Eddie Bauer was boiling when Stan accused him of selling a bent drive shaft. It was up to Gus to straighten it out
"Hey, buddy! Are the drive-shaft expert?" The gruff, angry voice boomed through the Model Garage.
Gus Wilson spun around to face a tall, heavy-set man wearing a grim expression.
"Your name Hicks?" the man barked. "Stan Hicks?"
Gus deliberately took his time. "My name is Wilson," he finally said. "Stan is my assistant. What can we do for you?"
"Your assistant has a big mouth," the stranger growled. "I want to tell him to keep it shut. Where is he?"
Gus fought to control his temper. "I think youd better explain just . . ."
"Ive got nothing to explain!" the man cut Gus off. "But Hicks sure does. Like why he tells my customers that I sell bad parts?" Almost as an afterthought, he said, "Im Eddie Bauerof Eddies Auto Parts."
"And Im Stan Hicks," said Stan, as he peered cautiously around the office doorway. "I heard you, but I dont understand . . ."
Bauers left arm shot out and propelled his index finger to within an inch of Stans nose. "All my parts are top quality," he roared. "Ive never sold a bent drive shaft in my life."
Stan just gawked at Bauer.
Bauer kept his finger wagging at Stan. "You told Chip Sherman that the replacement drive shaft I sold him for his 61 Chevy was bent. Thats an outright lie."
Stans bewildered look melted into a sheepish grin. "I . . . uh . . . I told him the shaft was probably bent, but . . ."
"That shaft is straight as an arrow!" interrupted Bauer.
"No, sir!" said Stan emphatically. "At highway speeds the car shakes like a cement mixer. I traced the vibration to the drive train, and then pinpointed the drive shaft. A slight bend could make . . ."
"Impossible!" blurted Bauer.
"Stop itstop itboth of you," said Gus. "Stan is a good mechanic," he said to Bauer, "and if he says the drive shaft is causing the vibration, I believe him. However"Gus paused to choose his words carefully"his diagnosis of a bent shaft may be . . . uh . . . premature."
"A fine way to run a business," Bauer growled, "making guesses that ruin other peoples reputations."
Gus nodded gravely. "I see your point, Mr. Bauer, but I also accept Stans appraisal of the trouble."
Stan and Bauer glowered at each other while Gus continued talking. "Under the circumstances, I think the Model Garage should take another look at the drive shaft. Agreed?"
The 61 Chevy hardtop rolled to a stop on oversize "mag" wheels, its twin straight-through exhausts rumbling mightily.
"Zero to 60 in about six seconds?" asked Gus.
"Closer to five seconds flat," said Chip Sherman with a triumphant smile. "Theres 480 horses up front, and a 4.4:1 ratio out back."
Eddie Bauer arrived in his panel truck a few moments later, greeted Chip warmly and threw a sharp nod and a grunt toward Gus and Stan.
"I suggest," said Gus to Stan, "that you briefly run through the tests that you made earlier."
"Okay," said Stan grudgingly, "well start with the road testspecifically, coasting with the engine idling. That will show that the vibration is either in the drive train or the running gear."
"Great," said Bauer. "Start proving."
The other three were inside the Chevy, and Gus was hanging a "back in 30 minutes" sign on the garage door, when a strange convoy pulled up in front of the service bay; Trooper Jerry Corcorans state police cruiser followed by a 69 Lincoln Continental sedan. A tall, distinguished-looking man stepped out of the Lincoln and followed Jerry over to Gus.
"Gus, meet Judge Whitmore," said Jerry. "The Judge has a problemor, rather, his car seems to have a problem."
"Perhaps I should explain," interrupted Whitmore. "My car insists on being a fugitive from justice and not even the police garage mechanics have been able to correct its evil behavior. Would you please examine it? I had planned to drive to a law seminar at the State University this evening, but thats impossible now."
Gus chomped down hard on his pipe stem, thought for a moment, and then nodded. "Certainly, Your Honor," he said. He walked over to Stan, in the drivers seat of Shermans Chevy. "Youre on your own," he said. "I have to reform a criminally inclined carwhatever that means. You get going, Stan."
"Light bulbs," the Judge said. "Thats the problem."
"Light bulbs?" asked Gus.
"Yes," said the Judge. "They repeatedly burn out at unpredictableand inopportunetimes. This week Ive been stopped by three different police officers at night. Once for driving without tail lights; once for driving without a license plate light; and once for driving with only a single headlight."
Gus was smiling. "Fastfailing light bulbs," he said, "are a classic symptom of a voltage regulator trouble. The relatively high voltage output of an unregulated alternatorabout 18 voltssizzles the filaments in a very short time."
"No good, Gus," said Jerry. "Our boys checked out the regulator and the alternator. Both are fine. But youre half rightthe problem is high voltage, but we dont have an inkling why."
A few moments later, Gus was stooped below the raised, massive hood, clipping the test leads of a voltmeter across the alternator output terminals. He turned the carburetor idle adjustment to produce an engine speed of about 1,500 r.p.m., and watched as the voltmeter reading climbed to a steady 18 volts.
"No regulation at all," Gus muttered.
He unbolted the connector that joined the cable from the alternators field winding to the regulator. The voltage reading didnt waver at all.
"The field winding is disconnected," he said, "yet theres obviously field current flowing to produce the output voltage."
His practiced eye scanned the wiring assembly connected to the alternator, and stopped at the molded-rubber connector that joined the assembly to the alternator terminals.
On a hunch, he jiggled the connector. Instantly, the voltage output dropped to zero. Gus squeezed the connector slightly, and the voltage soared back up.
He smiled. "That connector," he said, "is actually bypassing the voltage regulator. An internal short circuit is connecting the field winding directly to the positive battery terminal, making the alternator run at full tilt all the time."
"And my drive tonight?" asked the Judge.
"No problem," said Gus. "Ill cut away some of the connectors insulation, spread the shorting contacts apart, and tape the works together. Its a temporary fix, but itll hold together until you can replace the wiring assembly."
Chip Shermans Chevy was back, and Stan was wheeling a portable jack under the rear bumper.
"Theres vibration all right," Bauer admitted to Gus, "but you and your assistant still have a lot of convincing to do."
"Fine," said Gus, "and while were convincing you, well also eliminate that vibration."
Bauers eyes narrowed. "Eliminate it?" He added sarcastically, "Is your assistant going to hammer out the bend?"
"Nope," said Gus. "My assistant, in fact, owes you an apology."
"Thats more like it," said Bauer.
"And you," said Gus, "owe him one. Now Stan is going to prop the car up on blocks and remove the rear wheels and brake drums."
"What for?" snapped Bauer.
"So when he runs the engine and transmission at highway speeds," Gus answered, "we can be sure that the drive shaft is the source of the vibration. I believe you when you say the drive shaft isnt bentbut Ill bet its slightly unbalanced at the rear end."
"Unbalanced?" asked Chip.
"Uh-huh," said Gus. "One side of the shaft is slightly heavy. A machinist would say that the runout is excessive. As a result the shaft wobbles as it turns. And the cars high rear-end ratio makes the shaft spin faster than in most cars, which accentuates the vibration."
Bauer softened a little. "Youre still saying that I sold a faulty drive shaft," he said, "and I dont like it."
"Lets not say faulty," soothed Gus. "Rather that the shaft is slightly out of specification."
"How are you going to eliminate the shake?"
"By installing home-brew balance weights," replied Gus. "Its like balancing a wheel."
With the Chevy solidly propped off the ground, Stan started the engine.
"How fast, Gus?" he asked.
"Hit a speedometer reading of 50 m.p.h."
Gus looked underneath the quivering car. "The drive shaft is wobbling like a go-go dancer." He reached for a piece of chalk. "Now for the fix."
Gus carefully edged the chalk up against the rear of the spinning shaft, until he felt it barely touch. "Im marking the heavy side," he said. "It picks up the chalk mark, since it sticks out a bit farther than the rest of the shaft . . . Okay, Stan, kill the engine."
Gus rummaged through a parts shelf and came up with a pair of screw-type hose clamps. "Here are our balance weights," he said. He installed the clamps around the drive shaft, spaced about an inch apart, and positioned so that their screwheads were on the opposite side of the shaft from the chalk mark.
"The weight of the heads," he said, "should counterbalance the excess shaft weight on the other side. Lets see how it works."
Stan restarted the engine. The shaft began to wobblebut not as severely.
"No good, huh?" asked Bauer.
"Now the clamp heads are overbalancing the shaft runout," said Gus, "but we can fix that in a jiffy."
He loosened the clamps, and rotated the heads away from each other through an angle of about 30 degrees.
"This dodge should do it. Im changing the effective weight distribution," he said, as he tightened the screws. "Start her up, Stan."
The speedometer reading soared past 70, and the shaft spun true as a lathe spindle.
After Bauer and Chip had driven awayboth satisfiedStan turned to Gus: "Whew, Im glad thats over. I hate sticky situations."
"Nothing really sticky," said Gus. "Just a
case of a man and a machine both throwing too much weight around."