White Knight Explanation?

Regarding the couple whose car quit on a mountain road in Utah:

I had a similar experience some years ago with my 2000 Dodge Caravan. One hot summer day, we were driving up to the Windy Ridge Viewpoint at Mt. St. Helens National Monument. A few miles from the top, at an altitude of about 4000 ft., the car began to run roughly, then buck and kick, then it conked out completely. We tried in vain to restart it several times. Not knowing what else to do, we got out and had a picnic by the side of the road. After about 2 hours, with no other cars going by, we decided to turn the key one more time, just for the heck of it. It started right up, and we had no trouble the rest of the day.

Later discussions with our more car-savvy friends revealed that we had probably experienced vapor lock. The hot weather, thin air, and heavy load going up a mountain all contributed. And of course, the problem going away after an hour of cooling off was a dead giveaway. The car did it again in the summer of 2009 on the hottest day in Seattle history (temps over 100 degrees!) on my way home from work. This time we recognized the symptoms so we just pulled over and parked. We abandoned the car and retrieved it later in the cool of the evening. Again, it started right up.

So back to the couple in Utah. When I heard the story my first reaction was, “It’s obviously vapor lock.” But then she said that when they tried to start it the starter motor didn’t even run. That was not my experience with vapor lock.

I’m inclined to agree with Ray then that it was an electrical fault due to heat that got better when the car had cooled.

I wonder if these people were near the top of Farnsworth or some other Peak near Salt Lake where there are several high powered TV transmitter/ antenna facilities. I was recently on an IEEE (Electrical Engineering Society)tour of the Mount Wilson Observatory near Los Angeles, which happens to have a cluster of TV and FM radio antennas nearby. The tour guide mentioned that there have been “many” cases over the years of car starting problems in the vicinity of the antennas. He claimed that the high electromagnetic radiation intensity can have an effect on the electronic ignitions. In fact he said that some cars had to be towed away from the area before they would start. This sounded like a shaggy dog story to me , but it might be possible that the emi from the the antennas could interfere with the signals in the electronics if the shielding is not adequate.

After all, the Air Force is concerned enough to radiation harden there electronic packages to prevent failure from the emi pulse which could come from the explosion of a nuclear weapon. The so-called “near field” radiation from an antenna may be strong enough in some circumstances to cause this problem.

This would be a good senior project for a EE major.


from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Directed-energy_weapon

Engine-stopping rays, urban legend made real
Engine-stopping rays are a variant that occurs in fiction and myth. Such stories were circulating in Britain around 1938. The tales varied but in general terms told of tourists whose car engine suddenly died and were then approached by a German soldier who told them that they had to wait. The soldier returned a short time later to say that the engine would now work and the tourists drove off. A possible origin of some of these stories arises from the testing of the television transmitter in Feldberg, Germany. Because electrical noise from car engines would interfere with field strength measurements, sentries would stop all traffic in the vicinity for the twenty minutes or so needed for a test. A distorted retelling of the events might give rise to the idea that a transmission killed the engine [15]
A shoulder-mounted engine-stopping weapon was a central plot element in episode 303 of BBC espionage drama serial Spooks, in which it was referred to as an “engine killer”.
See electromagnetic pulse (EMP), which is known for its engine-stopping effect, but is an undirected energy weapon.