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Down The Hatch - Gas tanks are for gas right? Somebody forgot to tell these folks.


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Down the Hatch

The crazy stuff I’ve found in a gas tank.

         Never fails, boyfriend dumps girlfriend, girlfriend pours sugar in boyfriend’s gas tank. Girlfriend dumps boyfriend, time for more sugar in the boyfriend’s fuel tank. The actual “who” that does the pouring is up for grabs.  Sometimes it’s the boyfriend, sometimes it’s the girlfriend, sometimes it’s that crazy co-worker you worked with, or some wacky protester who just hates gasoline for some reason. Ya just never know, but you can be sure of one thing, somebody, somewhere, is going to pour something into somebody’s fuel tank.

         Sugar is the ‘go to’ item in most cases. Can’t find the sugar, then find a good substitute. You’re not much on improvising while you’re stressed out about the latest fling who let you down? Not to worry, as long as it’s something that will fit down the filler neck … it’s fair game. Honestly, after all the crazy stuff I’ve found stuffed down the old petrol pipe, I feel like I’m a regular expert on the subject.

        On occasion, it’s plain dirt that finds its way to the bottom of the fuel tank, but chocolate bars, rice, and flour are all common substitutes when the sugar is running low in the cupboard. The last chocolate bar incident was rather unusual, though. They didn’t bother to take the wrappers off the bars. Nice try. Effective yes, and it did get the car sent to the repair shop, but the repair was minor compared to the sticky mess that it could have been. Maybe next time go for the small bars you get around Halloween, they’ll fit down the filler neck a bit better.  Chocolate is always a favorite, especially after Valentine’s Day. You get all those bite size pieces with their gooey centers slowly oozing their way into the fuel tank. Those cherry centers ones, eww… they’re extra messy.  

         Rice on the other hand, well that’s a bit more devious than the traditional sugar stuff-o-matic method.  The rice doesn’t really swell in gasoline, it tends to harden like little concrete torpedoes.  Flour tends to float, clumps up like badly shaped dough balls, and makes an even bigger mess if it gets into the fuel pump. But, let’s not dwell on just kitchen condiments and baking supplies as the only source for self-satisfaction after a bad relationship or a bit of self-retribution and redemption.  Shampoo, liquid soap, shaving cream, and other hygiene products from the bano have made their way to the fuel tank on a few occasions, too.

         Now, there was this one diesel truck I’d like to mention with a rather gravely problem.  It still ran and drove into the shop, but the fuel gauge wasn’t working. However, when the tank wouldn’t hold as much as it used to the owner began to wonder if something was a bit more seriously wrong.  There was something wrong all right, the tank was about half full of gravel! It weighed a ton!  Dropping the tank was a lesson in dealing with a ‘live’ load and how to balance a fuel tank that couldn’t be completely drained on a precarious tranny jack.  Imagine my surprise when I finally got a chance to look inside the tank and saw this guy’s driveway soaking in diesel fuel. The owner thinks it was his grandkids helping him out.  Nice try kids. Any other truck would have had a screen in the filler neck or some sort of check ball, but not this one.

         Now with these DEF systems there’s a whole new problem to deal with. Put the wrong fluid down the wrong filler neck and you could be in for a huge repair bill. Generally these types of problems aren’t from your old girlfriend or boyfriend, but they could be. Maybe, they’re just trying to be helpful.  Then, you find out they’re color blind, and they can’t tell the difference between the green and blue labels.  Uhm, my bad. (Yea, likely story) Now, if it’s on one of those newer Dodge trucks… there’s no colored coded fuel cap anyway. To make matters worse, the urea mix is acidic and isn’t all that friendly to the paint. How wonderful is that!?

         Sticks, plastic straws, wire, and the occasional siphon hose have all been a source of amusement at the repair shop when it comes to what you can find at the bottom of a fuel tank.  You’d think that little baffle and the check ball would stop most of these intrusions.  Actually, I think they just create a new spot for things to get stuck and plug up the entire works.  Occasionally these types of fuel tanks end up at the shop anyway, regardless of some foreign object being inserted in the filler neck, or not. They have a tendency of leaving their owners standing at the pump holding the fuel nozzle on the first click, because if they tried any faster the pump would just shut off.

         You’d think in this advanced electronic age, somebody would invent an anti-ex-boyfriend/girlfriend fuel tank early warning system because the locked gas cap just ain’t doing the trick.  Oh it will stop a few, but the true sabotage master will find a way to pry that door open or rip it off the hinges. Locking gas caps are only there to urge on the saboteur. Nothing will stop them when revenge is at the helm; they’ll do whatever it takes to get the dastardly dead done.

If nothing else, how about a sugar detector checker. Something that would verify the quality of the fuel before you take off for work in the morning.  Or how about some sort of electronic system that would sense any foreign material slipped into the fuel tank, and send whatever it is into a separate holding tank.  Then when you get home you could unload the unwanted intruder, identify it, maybe even determine who the culprit is, and take care of business without a trip to the repair shop. Wishful thinking I’m sure.

         Well, there is one alternative to all of this.  If you’re in a relationship with a seemingly psychotic person, you have a grumpy neighbor who’s been eyeballing the fuel door on your car, or you’re the type of person who generally pisses people off for no apparent reason and you live extremely close to a sugar factory … well then…by all means… do yourself a favor… buy an electric car instead.  


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      It always amazes me when I hear about a technician who quits one repair shop to go work at another shop for less money. I know you have heard of this too, and you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can this be true? And Why?” The answer rests within the culture of the company. More specifically, the boss, manager, or a toxic work environment literally pushed the technician out the door.
      While money and benefits tend to attract people to a company, it won’t keep them there. When a technician begins to look over the fence for greener grass, that is usually a sign that something is wrong within the workplace. It also means that his or her heart is probably already gone. If the issue is not resolved, no amount of money will keep that technician for the long term. The heart is always the first to leave. The last thing that leaves is the technician’s toolbox.
      Shop owners: Focus more on employee retention than acquisition. This is not to say that you should not be constantly recruiting. You should. What it does means is that once you hire someone, your job isn’t over, that’s when it begins. Get to know your technicians. Build strong relationships. Have frequent one-on-ones. Engage in meaningful conversation. Find what truly motivates your technicians. You may be surprised that while money is a motivator, it’s usually not the prime motivator.
      One last thing; the cost of technician turnover can be financially devastating. It also affects shop morale. Do all you can to create a workplace where technicians feel they are respected, recognized, and know that their work contributes to the overall success of the company. This will lead to improved morale and team spirit. Remember, when you see a technician’s toolbox rolling out of the bay on its way to another shop, the heart was most likely gone long before that.
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