Virginia is for Vapor Lock

April 18:

Shake-down trip to Virgina

Vapor lock is not a romantic term. Perhaps it could be, but in this case it isn’t. It’s what can happen to an antique car when present day fuels vaporize in the components that are too close to a hot engine. the carburetor needs liquid gasoline, the engine won’t run on vapors. It won’t even start. It’s most likely to happen when you stop the car so there is no air flow. then the starter cranks and cranks but nothing else happens.

This begins as most good stories do, with a mental lapse. I forgot that crossing the Gobi desert last summer, I opened the engine compartment when we stopped, to let air in. So we took an afternoon break and now we were stranded in Nowhereville staring at a sign that said, Welcome to North Carolina.

Spark or fuel problem?

The plan was to drive 300 miles to Amherst, Virgina to have lunch with our daughter Lilla and Chad then return. It was a shake-down run before the Trans-American rally. It was hot, but when the car didn’t start, vapor lock didn’t immediately occur to me so I pulled out my tools and checked the spark. That was fine. Pumped and pumped the accelerator, poured our drinking water on the fuel carrying components, and cranked, cranked, cranked. God, that is one good battery!

So why not put the choke on? That would make the carburetor suck harder. The choke on Stewball is automatic, so I have to be at the engine compartment while Jan runs the starter.(Hope she doesn’t forget to push the clutch in like she did earlier. That could be a more serious lapse!)

That did it. Started immediately, drawing liquid gasoline through the lines. No further problem, but if we had been rallying our score for the day would have been dismal.

So, is winter grade gasoline more prone to vaporizing than summer stuff? I’ll look that up today.


About ejhowle23

Authors and adventurers, participated in the World Race 2011, an automobile rally from New York to Paris, crossing three continents and 14,000 land miles. Following much the same route as the setting for our debut novel, The Long Road to Paris. This blog describes our own adventures and challenges. And now you can follow our Bahamas sailing adventure that provides the setting for our second novel, Night Watch. Our rally, the African Safari Challenge, crossed five countries in South Africa in May 2014 and in 2015 we participated in the second Trans-American rally this time from Nova Scotia to San Francisco. Spring of 2016 we travelled 28 days around Australia with friends from previous rallies and in the fall participated in our most exhausting rally through Argentina, Chili and Peru- the Rally of the Incas. We were awarded the Against All Odds award. We're still not sure if this was for us or our car. Stewball never broke down and we hardly did. We will soon take on Iceland as a self-drive tour and in the fall of 2017 we will participate in the Odyssey Italia and then back to Africa for a do-over (almost) of the Africa Safari Challenge.
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