Dr. Crankshaft & the Chirping DeSoto
It was a brisk day in December when the Doctor was taking his afternoon stroll past Dabney's house and garage complex. You got to understand, Dabney owns well over 200 classics and it takes a lot of garage space to store them all...plus have room to work on them. As Doc walked past one of the windows he looked in to see if Dabney was in the garage. Sure enough, Dabney was bent over the fender of an obviously unrestored car. The Doctor decided to pay him a visit, so he went in.
Dabney stood up. "How's it goin', Doc?" he said.
"Not bad, Dabney. This gonna be your next restoration project?"
The car was a 1949 DeSoto 4-door sedan. It was clearly unrestored, but in very good original condition.
"No. I want to keep it original. My dad used to own this car. In fact it's the one I learned to drive in. It's not much of a car, but I keep it for sentimental value. I don't drive it too much, though. Lately it's got this noise and it drives me crazy. I'm trying to figure out where it's coming from."
Dabney continued: "Hear that chirping noise coming from the front of the engine? It gets quieter after I it runs a little, but it never goes away. A while back, I took out the generator and checked the bearings. They were okay. This morning I rebuilt the water pump. I already had a rebuild kit, and it was easy enough to do. Lucky for me, the DeSoto's pump was designed to take apart and repair. But I'm afraid the sound is coming from inside the engine and I really don't want to have to rebuild this engine now."
Doc snickered to himself. "I thought you said you didn't want to restore this one," he said. "The way you're going you'll have the whole thing rebuilt just trying to find the chirp. Before your go tearing into that engine why don't you find out where the noise is really coming from?"
Doc paused a moment. "Why do you think they call me 'Doc'?" Doc asked.
What an odd question, Dabney thought. The Doctor never talked about himself, so why did he pick now to start.
"It's because of this." Doc said as he pulled a stethoscope out of his pocket.
"Hah ha ha!" Dabney cracked up as visions of the Doc in a white coat flashed in his head. "Why in the world do you have one of those?"
An impatient look appeared on the Doc's face. "Well, for one thing, you'd know where the noise was coming from!" Sufferin' synchronizers! Doesn't anybody remember how to locate noises anymore? Let me tell you a story..." said the Doctor.
Dabney was dreading another of Doc's long, drawn-out stories, but he was curious about the stethoscope.
"In the old days of steam engines, mechanics used to carry long metal rods. When a bearing or other moving part started making noise the mechanic would press one end of the rod against a likely area on the engine and the other end into his ear. He could clearly hear internal noises that way, and then he would move the rod's end until he found the exact spot from where the noise
came from," explained the Doctor. "Some mechanics started borrowing stethoscopes from their doctor friends, and by the early part of the 20th Century lots of mechanics started making their own stethoscopes out of rubber tubing and short pieces of metal rod. They didn't need the little diaphragms the physicians used because machinery puts out much more noise than a person's heart."
"That's pretty neat!" said Dabney, wishing he hadn't laughed at the Doctor."
"That's why I always carry my mechanic's stethoscope with me. You can buy them from tool catalogs for about five bucks."
Dabney watched as the Doc touched the end of his stethoscope to the DeSoto's engine, first to the ends of the generator and then to the body of the water pump. "Hmmmm," he heard from the Doctor. Then he watched as the stethoscope's probe was moved over the engine's head and cylinder walls, followed by another "Hmmmm." Dabney groaned a little as he watched the Doctor acting like a doctor.
"No noises here," said Doc. "Lemme try it," Dabney said reaching for the stethoscope. He re-traced the Doctor's steps and heard no noises coming into his ears, but marveled at how clearly he could hear the spinning shafts of the generator and water pump, and the lifters and valve train inside the engine. He could even hear faint exhaust pulses, but no chirping noises. He even found himself going "Hmmmm."
"Yeah, but where could the noise be coming from?" he asked the Doctor.
"Shut off the engine," replied Dr. Crankshaft. Once the engine was off, he grabbed the fan belt with his fingers and twisted it sideways, noticing a glazed area on its sides. "You got a squirt bottle with some water in it," he asked.
"Sure?" said Dabney. He went to the other side of the garage and got one from the bench. Doc was glad that Dabney found it so quickly. Usually it takes Dabney a bit of rummaging around to find stuff.
The Doctor told Dabney to start the engine again. Dabney watched as Doc squirted a little water on the running belt and the chirping noise instantly went away. A few seconds later it came back. Another squirt and it was gone again. And once more, it came back.
"There's your chirp, Dab," said the Doctor. "All that was ever wrong was the belt. Replace it and you're good to go."
"Great, Doc" Dabney said handing the stethoscope back to the Doctor. "Tell you what, Dab...you keep it." Doc said.
"Thanks, Doc." Dabney said as the Doctor was walking out the door.
The next day, the Doctor was on his daily walk, and once again he was going past Dabney's garage. He looked in the window and saw Dabney under the hood of another of his cars with the stethoscope in his ears. Doc thought he'd go in to see what Dabney was up to when Dabney shut off the car and walked over to the furnace and started probing it with the stethoscope. Then he started up his buffer and probed the motor with the tip of the stethoscope. Then he stuck the tip of the stethoscope into his armpit. "Nah, I don't even want to know," the Doc said to himself and continued on his walk.