Dabney's Dripping T-Bird
The Doctor was making coffee one Saturday morning when the phone rang. "Hey, Doc, what do you know about finding the source of water leaks in old cars?" asked a frustrated-sounding Dabney on the other end of the phone line.
What's to know?" replied the Doctor, "You just look for where the water is coming out and trace its flow."
"That's the problem, Doc, I can't seem to find the source of the leak. Every time I run the hose over the windshield nothing comes out. Then I drive the car and water appears on the dashboard."
"Let me finish my coffee and I'll be right over," the Doctor offered.
About a half-hour later the Doctor arrived at Dabney's garage. There was a large wet area on the floor of the structure and in the middle of the ever-growing puddle was Dabney, bending over his fully-restored 1955 Thunderbird. He was getting more irritated by the minute as he was shooting a strong stream of water on the windshield and some of it was spashing over into the open interior.
"Easy, boy!" said the Doctor, "That's nice upholstery....don't ruin it. Let's take the car for a spin and see what we see."
Doc and Dabney dried off the seat and drove into the street. "Watch this, Doc, when we get up to about 40 mph water will start coming out of the bottom of the windshield, just in front of the driver," whined Dabney.
"Okay, take 'er up to 40 and let's see this thing leak," replied the Doctor.
As if on cue, the T-Bird reached 40 mph and water started flowing out of the left bottom area of the windshield an on to the padded vinyl dash.
"Drippin' drats!" said Dr. Crankshaft, "we've got an air-induced water problem. This could be hard to find, but let's go back into the garage and see what we can do."
Once back in the garage the Doctor wiped off the water that had accumulated on the dash and started thinking...
Meanwhile, Dabney got out the hose and pointed it at the windshield, ready to wet things down again. "Stop! Don't do that, Dabney, it won't do any good," said the Doctor. "It didn't show up before and it won't now."
"So how are we going to find the leak, Doc?" asked Dabney, "I don't want to take this windshield off and risk scratching this perfect paint job."
"Maybe you won't have to, if we get clever enough," said the Doctor. "I've got an idea that might work if we get lucky, but first we need to go to the grocery store."
"The grocery store?" exclaimed Dabney, ""what on earth do we want to get there?"
"Why, food coloring, young man, just some food coloring," the Doctor said in a mocking tone.
"I got some in the house. Hold on, I'll get it."
"If you got an old syringe, bring that, too," said Doc.
Back in the shop area the Doctor filled the syringe with some red coloring and injected it under the trim piece at the top of the windshield. He filled the syringe with successively-different colors and injected some at various points around the windshield, top to bottom and left to right, making notes on which colors went where.
Next, he hosed the windshield with water until he was sure that some had worked its way under the trim pieces, then shut off the hose.
"Get in, Dabney, it's time to go 40 mph again," said the Doctor.
They drove off, got the T-Bird up to 40 and watched the dash for telltale water.
"Aha! Do you see that, Dabney?" Sure enough, within a minute some blue-tinged water trickled onto the dash in the same spot as before. "Since your dash is lightly colored, you can see the coloring in the water easily. If your dash was dark, you'd lightly touch the water with a white paper towel and that'd make the color easier to see. Take 'er back to the garage and don't spare the horses!" shouted the Doctor.
It was a simple matter to consult the notes and located where the blue food coloring had been injected, in this case the top right corner of the windshield.
"Well, Dabney old salt, you've got two choices to make. Either remove the corner trim and find the area around the rubber gasket that's leaking, or pump some silicon caulk up under the trim in hopes of stopping the leak. It's your call," said the Doctor.
"Well, considering how much I paid for the plating and buffing of all that trim and the possibility of scratching it, let's try the caulk method for now and hope it works," said Dabney.
They caulked the area carefully, making sure it wouldn't show around the trim, then cleaned everything up. After an hour's drying time they wet things down again and drove the T-Bird. No water appeared.
Back at the garage Dabney said to the Doctor, "I owe you one, I don't know how I would have tracked that one down."
"No problem, my boy. It's great when simple fixes actually work, isn't it?"
"Yeah, where'd you learn this one?"
Doc paused for a moment. "Let's see. I think I first used this technique in the late '50s, about when your T-Bird would've been about 3 years old....Yes, that was it. Well, Dabney, I got to get back to the house to finish up on some projects."
"Thanks again, Doc," Dabney said.
As Doctor Crankshaft walked away, he thought to himself... "Oh, well, that was only just a little white lie" ...given that in reality the Doctor had never used the food coloring trick before, and that he was just making it up as he went along. Whew!