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Dislodging Pradeep's Phone

Poor Pradeep. His cell phone is buried deep in the ductwork under the driver's seat of his BMW. How can he get it out -- other than hanging the car by its front bumper and shaking it, that is?

(Want to hear the call? Listen right here.)

He's tried the coat hanger. He bought the special grabbing tool. He's even executed a few rather high-speed driving maneuevers. Still, no phone.

Tom and Ray's suggestions? Try a panic stop, hitting the brakes hard. If that doesn't send the phone flying, head to the dealer, look at the duct work and figure out where to drill.

And if his phone is still hiding? It's time to take the seat out!

Meanwhile, one deeply lodged cell phone is gnawing away at Pradeep's waking moments. Can you help? Share your solutions here!

How about turning on the AC to push on the back side of the phone and a shop vac to pull on the front side?

Turn the heater on at the highest fan speed (in a mode that sends the greatest air flow thru the duct in question). Then, insert a small length of tubing that’s attached to a vacuum source (the strongest shop vac you can find). When the sucking end of the tubing contacts the phone, hopefully the combination of push and pull (air flow and suction) will enable you to pull the phone out.

Well it’s quite simple! He goes to the bait store and buys the longest fish hook pliers. The raps the tip of each side with electric tape to avoid scratching the phone and to give it better grip. Then he digs around till he finds the phone and retrieves it.

A piece of duct tape (sticky side out) wrapped around a piece of foam on the end of the coat hanger might work. It would have to be wrapped with masking tape in such a way that only the distal end is sticky - or it may join the phone"s entombment.

On the other hand if Pradeep is an engineer (of any type), it may be time that he reduced theory to practice and got his hands dirty by removing the seat himself.

If the above does not work, drive over to my house. As I live in Costa Rica, I can guarantee a dislodgment before he gets here.


You need a borescope (also called boroscope), which is a fiberoptic viewer that can be threaded into inaccessible spots like this duct. You can rent one (or even buy one) cheaper than the labor charges to take everything apart. (Google boroscope). Then using that plus your grabber tool you might be able to latch onto the phone and pull it out.

Get a stick and wrap Gorilla tape around it so the sticky side is out and stick it in.

Duct tape all the other heating/AC vents closed leaving the one w/ the cell phone open thereby increasing the air pressure on the phone. Drive to the top of the steepest, bumpiest and longest, rarely traveled street. Turn on heater or AC to “High”. Drive backward down the street intermittently applying brakes hard and turning from left to right to jiggle the phone back out. Good luck.

Switch to a basic cell phone plan, drive outside your coverage area and the phone will start to roam…


~ de Vie

Open the hood and locate the heater air inlet.

Turn the heater on at low temperature and low fan speed.

Place a lighted candle near the opening of the duct in which the phone is lodged.

Fully open the valve on a portable MAPP torch, DO NOT LIGHT IT.

Bleed MAPP GAS from the torch into the heater air inlet until you hear a boom.

Remove the phone from whatever it impaled.

For more spectacular results close all the windows, place the lighted candle in the lower left corner of the dash board. Use evaporate gasolene into the heating inlet in stead of the MAPP gas.

From a real engineer;-)

I agree with cat73transam. I would just tweek it a tad by maybe using one of those long thin attachments on the vacuum nozzle to get it farther into the duct if needed. I hope this helps Pradeep.

I have two ideas.Get a yard stick & turn duct tape sticky side out & tape it to the yard stick so it doesn’t come off.Fish it around under the seat.Hopefully it will stick to the phone. Idea #2 -If you could find a vacuum cleaner attachment that has that flat skinny suction end that’s fairly long or rig something to it then you could suck it out of there.I know that’s a stretch but something long & flat with suction is what I was thinking.Best of Luck !

Cat73transam, BruceH, doveguy and IrishRedHeather are on the right track, using air pressure, but I would also attach a leaf blower to the air inlet and close off the other air outlets. Then apply vacuum to the duct where the phone went in. If you’re using one of those industrial-sized vacuums, you might need a screen in its hose to prevent it from being sucked into the fan.

high presure air!! go to your local truck stop/w a tire shop. they have a 20gal, portable air tank to blast air into a truck tire to seal it to the rim. prepare your vehicle beforehand with duct tape over the vents that you are not using as an intake or outflow. blow the air in a vent, with as much tape, rags or foam as you deem enough, to seal most of the air into the vent. if nothing else, you will have cleaned out all the dust and detritis, that has been collecting in there since the duct work was installed.

Block the non-phoned floor vents with something spongy like a stress ball. Make sure to tie a string around them for extraction purposes. Then turn on the fans full blast on the floor setting. Add Vacuum on the end if that doesn’t work.

First off I am sad to hear you guys aren’t going to stay on air until you finally get a stump the chumps right HAHAHA but as for the phone the simplest way to retrieve the phone is to get a 3 year old child and let them sit in the car. Tell them there is a phone under the seat somewhere and not to look for it, then leave them unattended for about 4.63 minutes and they will be playing with it when you get back. Be sure to have something sticky and sweet to bribe them for the phone.
Love your show and hope there is always that one I never got to hear on every week.


I just thought of an alternative way, just have him park the car for about 10 minutes down by his local railroad track with the doors unlocked and I guarantee the phone will be gone when he comes back.

Been there… tried them all…
Listening to Car Talk this morning brought back memories, in fact we laughed all the way through the segment! My wife dropped her phone into the back seat on the driver side of my 2000 BMW 328i and it promptly slid right into the vent. We could just see the phone and carefully tried to retrieve it with a coat hangar, magnet, grabber, sticky wand… only to push it in farther. The duct bends as it goes under the footwell, and the phone was not coming back out the way it went in.

After removing the seat and pulling up the carpet, I saw that the duct work went up along the center console and all along the dash, and I would be unable to remove the duct work. I determined that the most effective solution was to cut away part of the top of the duct. I cut a rectangle about 3x5 inches in the footwell area, and retrieved the phone. I repaired the duct work by gluing on a piece of sheet metal to cover up the hole. That was several years ago, and there haven’t been any problems with the repaired vent.

The answer is to keep your phone in your hand!

Cut off a short piece of garden hose and tape one end of it to the business end of a vacuum cleaner hose. Feed the other end into the duct Go Fish until it comes out with a phone stuck on the end. QED.