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Old Cars Q&A: 2021 no. 11

Kit Foster answers all of your old car questions. This time around he touches on coiled lines on a Fossmobile and dealing with pesky rodents who love wiring.
Answer Man

Q. I am curious as to the purpose of a series of loops in a gravity-fed fuel delivery system, as seen here. The photo is from a 1901 Crestmobile, which is very similar to the original Fossmobile, a project of mine. I will have a valve at the base of the gas tank and another on the far side of the mixing valve, which I am using versus a carburetor. — Ron Foss, Burlington, Ontario, Canada


A. Ron is re-creating the Fossmobile, recognized as the first successful gasoline automobile in Canada, built by his grandfather, George Foote Foss, in 1896-’97. The project is explained on his website

Coiled fuel lines were fairly common on early cars. My explanation is that they accommodate some movement between engine and fuel tank, preventing metal fatigue and weakening of the connections to the “carbureting device” and particularly the fuel tank. This was relatively important with single-cylinder engines that are inclined to vibrate, although you often see them in other applications.

Q. I own a 2017 Chevy Malibu. I drive it about two or three times a week. It only has 9,800 miles on it. This past as Saturday, I went to drive my car out of my driveway, the engine warning light came on, stating that the fuel management system and braking stability system were inoperable. I had OnStar do a diagnostic. On Monday, I had the car towed to a Chevrolet dealer near my house. The dealer called yesterday and said that the wiring harness was damaged as a result of rodents chewing on them. The price to get it fixed is going to be $460 — not a good thing. The dealer also has to wait days for the part. 

Do you know of any remedies to keep rodents from getting under a parked car? I heard that peppermint spray is effective. The Chevy dealer said dryer sheets work. However, putting dryer sheets in the engine area sounds like a fire hazard to me. If you know of any remedies to keep rodents from getting under the car, I’d greatly appreciate it. I would imagine that people with antique cars have this problem, especially in cold weather regions. Any information you can provide me will be greatly appreciated. — Kevin Murphy, Abington, Mass.

A. Editor Angelo Van Bogart has some experience with this, and he replies as follows: 

“I also use dryer sheets to keep rodents out of our cars and they do seem effective. All but one of our cars are parked inside. I do put dryer sheets under the hood of the car kept outside. It’s a 1994 Cadillac, so it has a lot of wiring and I fear what rodent damage could do to it. On this car, I put dryer sheets under the hood as I have seen evidence of mice on the engine. Before I start it, I remove the dryer sheets. I realize this is a hassle, but I think it’s worth it.

“My father-in-law also likes to sprinkle mouse repellant around his shed to keep out mice and I have begun doing this around the tires of the Fleetwood in order to keep them from climbing into the car from the ground.”

My only experience was been with a 2005 Subaru my wife owned. The problem manifested itself with a fault light in the ABS system. I suspected a bad sensor, similar to problems I had fixed in Chevy Suburbans. However, I never figured out how to read the codes, so she took the car to the dealer. It’s just as well I didn’t try replacing sensors, as the fault was traced to the wiring harness, which the varmints had chewed. The repair cost was vastly in excess of the price quoted to fix your Chevy. The dealer replaced the entire harness, twice, because the first one they received proved to be faulty. Fortunately, they held to the quoted repair price and provided a free courtesy vehicle that she kept for a month. 

This experience causes me to doubt the wisdom that cars indoors don’t need rodent protection. The Subaru was driven daily, then housed overnight in an unheated detached garage that was admittedly not mouse-proof. I imagine placing the warm car into a cold and somewhat “porous” space invited the pests. Conversely, we have had no harness problems with cars stored outside, although I do find nut shells in the engine compartment of my Suburban if I don’t drive it often.

Readers, your successful experiences (and horror stories) are invited.

To submit questions to this column: E-mail or mail to: Q&A, Old Cars,
5225 Joerns Drive, Suite 2, Stevens Point, WI 54481.

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