Bogus 'The Little Demon' puzzler answer

I figured that was the general answer, but how would they know which plug to pull?
The Little Demon | Car Talk

They wouldn’t know which plug to pull… the story is bogus.

I suppose maybe they could have pulled the dist cap off and seen to which cylinder the rotor was pointed?


That should work. Too bad they left it out of the solution!

pull 'em all! :slight_smile:

My first guess would have been that the kid had moved the shift lever just a bit so the neutral/park switch would not close…
And concerning the pumping of the gas pedal, could the continuous pumping of the gas petal really dump all the gas out of the carburetor bowl?

Sure, at least down to wherever the accelerator pump pickup was.

But would it be enough gas, and would that gas stick around the combustion chamber and not drain into the crankcase, and would it all go to one cylinder (split it up and it sure wouldn’t be enough gas)?

So theoretically possible, maybe, but I doubt it could happen.


You’d expect the fuel to pool in the intake manifold. If the car were on an incline, maybe the fuel would run into one or two cylinders, but intake manifolds usually have a low enough profile that I’d expect the fuel to mostly stay in the manifold. And yeah, completely agree that the accelerator pump reservoir would have to be pretty sizeable to hydro-lock the engine.

1 Like

Most carbs supply the accelerator pump directly from the float bowl. Lots of fuel in many float bowls.

And the low profile of the bottom of the manifold is still above the intake ports.

I still don’t think there is adequate volume to hydrolock an engine. The fuel would have to find an open intake valve. But the piston coming up to top dead center of the compression stroke to minimize the volume wouldn’t have either valve open. So more reasons for Bo-gus.

If the intake valve was open, and on a v8 engine one probably was, and the piston was on the downward stroke, could have been10-20 degrees ATDC, so when she went to crank the engine the piston continued the downward stroke causing a vacuum to suck in all the excess gas (A Thermoquad carburetor holds a lot of fuel) and then as the piston came up on the compression stroke the intake valve had closed not allowing the fuel to escape and hydro locking the engine causing the engine to stop right before the spark plugged was able to fire, maybe 40 degrees BTDC, so when the guy removed the distributor cap he could see where the rotor had stopped and new it was closest to firing next so he knew which spark plug to pull…

Given the right circumstances, I think it is totally plausible…

1 Like

Nah… I’m still leaning towards the column shifter being just out of lock… Now that I think more about this, I remember a long time ago that a friend when he started his car, as he turned the ignition key with his right hand, he reached over the steering wheel with his left and lifted the shift lever just a bit because it was just a bit out of adjustment… And the kid probably shifted the lever a few times while he’s “pretending that he was driving like a maniac sitting behind the wheel.” Remember, this was the '80s and there prebaby was no shift interlock on that GM station wagon with its “400 cubic inch V eight engine.”

There is a big difference in a starter not engaging due to not being in D or N and a starter clicking hard due to a locked up engine… So I would assume (and we all know what that stands for) that the mechanic helping the lady would know that also…

And yes I have many times on different vehicles had my left arm over the column pulling up on the lever trying to start the vehicle… lol

Well, they give us the ‘answer’, flooded/hydrolocked engine. I just consider it possible, but very unlikely.

1 Like

As for the “The Little Demon,” was this Puzzler submitted by Tom or Ray, or was it sent in to see if they or anyone could solve it?

First off, assuming it was not Tommy or Ray, how do we know the good samaritan was a “mechanic?”

The Puzzler said, “The car wouldn’t start. The engine wouldn’t even turn over.”

If someone wrote in and said this asking a question of the forum, we would quickly write back, what do you mean, it won’t start. What happens when you turned the key, was there a sound, what was the sound? Was it a click, a clack, how loud?

Perhaps the starter solenoid or the Bendix drive had failed… There was no mention of any sound in the Puzzler…

Finally, there were two hints…

First hint was, “The little kid is not a red herring but an essential piece of the puzzle” and the second hint was, “This good samaritan was able to solve the problem by removing something.”

Once again, I say it was the park level and the kid moved it and the good samaritan solved it by removing the kid from the front seat…

As for being hydrolocked, the intake valve would have to be open as the piston would be on an intake stroke and the engine would have tried to start, even for that brief moment until the piston started the compression stroke… The Puzzler said, “The car wouldn’t start. The engine wouldn’t even turn over.” Again, no mention that it even tried to turn over…

tenor (2)

I think the original puzzler-story remains plausible. However, since it was a V8 engine, I would have guessed at least one other intake valve would have also been open. so sort of surprised only one spark plug needed removal. .

There is a nature of liquids that once a wet trail is crated, the rest seems to follow. The means once the gas has built up enough through surface adhesion and ultimately starts to spread, it is often like a snake and when it finally finds a path to a lower location it continues to flow in that direction through or capillary action.

So, whose to say the gas all leaked in the direction where the one cylinder that had its intake valve open, why couldn’t it all have leaked in the direction of the cylinder that just fired and is just beginning to open its exhaust valve and then the engine would have cranked over two times before seizing up from being hydrolocked?

The Puzzler also said:

This kid was pumping the gas pedal like crazy.

And what did I remove? One of the spark plugs. The hint here was it was the 1980s.

The hint was the 80’s, meaning the engine most likely had a distributor so the guy with no arms that was blind and confined to a wheelchair due to a tragic Shark attack where he also lost a leg, (well you said he was not a mechanic soo…) but was still ale to remove one of the spark plugs cause he knew were the rotor button had stopped after feeling for it with his nose… lol

Besides, since the good samaritan was smart enough to know how find the correct spark plug to remove, and remove it, to allow the engine to rotate as well as figure out what the problem was, then the same good samaritan should have been smart enough to check to make sure the vehicle was in park all the way…

Remember that the answer was the the good samaritan removed the spark plug (And what did I remove? One of the spark plugs), nowhere did it say he removed the kid… The kid pumped the fuel…
We are all trying to explain how the events could have happened and if it was plausible or not, I said it was plausible and explained how and why… I never said it happened… lol

I just do not agree with the answer, I do not believe that this really happened anywhere other than in the writer’s imagination and that is what the writer gave for an answer, it does not mean it is the best answer, it is merely a possible answer…

One of my favorite science fiction books is “The Martian” by Andy Weir. The Movie by the same name stared Matt Damon. Being trapped on Mars, Damon’s character “Mark Watney” had to use all the resources to survive even with what the fellow crew members had all brought along as personal item(s), Maritnez (his friend and pilot) brought a wooden cross, Lewis (the commander) brought a thumb drive loaded with Disco music, Johanssen (the tech specialist) brought his laptop, Beck (the chemist) brought trade journals, and Vogel (the doctor) brought medical journals in German… But Mark brought nothing…

When Andy Weir was asked about when Mark bought nothing, he said he never gave it a though as to why once he got the idea to drive Mark crazy with the other’s possessions… Weir said that after he got the Disco Music idea and how to incorporate it into the story, he never looked back.

So, like the disco music theme, once the puzzler got the idea to flood the engine, he too never looked back…

Let’s be realistic, how many folk run around with a tool box in their car in 1980. By then, most cars were dependable enough that you did not need to “adjust your carburetor if it was raining…”

Then again, maybe the blind guy with no arms “MacGyvered it” and disassembled his wheel chair and used it to open the distributor and remove the spark plug…

1 Like

A 400 in3 SBC had an intake duration of ~195 degrees @ .050" which is ~270 degrees of total duration. So, at any given point in the 4-stroke cycle, two intake valves, and possibly three are open enough to fill a cylinder with fuel. If the rotor is pointed at cylinder #1 (TDC compression, intake closed), then #8 is 90 deg BTDC (compression, intake closed), #4 is at BDC (between intake and compression - intake open), #3 is 90 deg ATDC (intake stroke, intake open), #6 is at TDC (overlap between exhaust and intake - intake open). If I had to vote, I would say that would hydrolock the engine. But, removing one spark plug would still leave the other cylinder full of fuel (and possibly a third) so, yeah, I’m going with bogus FWIW. A fun Puzzler nonetheless.

I’m still wondering how the Samaritan was able to remove a spark plug? I mean, who carries a spark plug removal tool with them? I usually carry a few tools, but not that one. This reminds me of a scene in the 8th version of the Fast and Furious movie franchise. Dom (the lead character) needs to do something sneaky and he knows he’s being watched. So he stops his car in a NYC alley, pretends it is misfiring . He gets out, , goes to front of car & raises the hood, so he cant be seen (long story). When he’s done he holds up a spark plug, proving (to whoever is watching him) he stopped only to fix a car problem, presumably by replacing one spark plug. But he has no apparent tools. So how was he able to remove the spark plug? Movie magic? Really strong fingers? … lol .

1 Like