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How to stop a Jeep with a Ping Pong Ball …

• CATEGORIES: Features, News, Reader Stories

This was first published July 2, 2010.

A reader named Sam called me today.  He told me he had a great story to share.  Hopefully, I’ve remembered most of it correctly.

For a little background, Sam is retired after a lifetime of building hotrods, drag racing and owning a shop in Sacramento, but now operates a small flattie-oriented shop in Arvada, Colorado, where he fixes, modifies and maintains Willys (and probably a few other vehicles) for fun.  I’ll be explaining more about Sam (and some of his great suggestions) in a future post, but for now you have enough information to understand why a Jeep owner, in some distress, had his Jeep towed to Sam’s shop to investigate a problem.

And now to Sam’s story … The owner of this willys had tried to drive his jeep to work, but the jeep stopped working while driving down the road.  So, the owner pulled to the side of the road, waited a moment, and started it up again.  Sure enough, it fired up and the owner drove onwards.

Another few miles down the road the jeep shutoff again.  So, the owner repeated the process:  pull over, restart, and continue onwards.

At some point, this re-occuring process became too much for the owner to bare, so he called a towing company and had his jeep towed to Sam’s.

So, Sam looks the jeep over.  He starts it up and, sure enough, after a little while it shuts down.  He knows it has an electric fuel pump and suspects that could be causing a problem, so he unhooks the hose from the carb and points it into a gas can.  Then, he turns on the fuel pump.  Sure enough, after a little while, the fuel dribbles to a stop, yet he can hear pump still pumping ….. hmmmm, Sam thinks to himself.

He decides to try an experiment.  He knows the owner only fills the tank to half full, because if the tank gets too full gas leaches out of somewhere (I can’t remember where Sam said  it leaked).

Sam decides to fill up the tank all the way, because he suspects there might be something in the tank.  Sure enough, he fills up the tank and out pops not one, not two, but three ping pong balls.

As Sam explains it,  the sucking power of the fuel pump was pulling the ping pong balls to the outlet area of the tank(where the fuel line connects), stopping the fuel from exiting the tank, which shut down the jeep.

How’d the ping pong balls get there?  Well, that still remains a mystery ….

So, the moral of this story is that even the mightiest jeep can be humbled by an even mightier ping pong ball.  And, a side moral, is that buying a locking gas cap is a pretty good idea.

3 Comments on “How to stop a Jeep with a Ping Pong Ball …

  1. Kerry

    a buddy of mine had the same problem when some one stuck a match book cover in his gas tank. With the new gas type of gas inlets on tanks might be hard to get a ping pong ball inside. So if you got some you don’t like maybe match book cover ?????

  2. Joe Friday

    Sounds like an episode of mythbusters. I send along a picture of why this could only happen with a repro tank.

  3. Sebastian

    Funny to read, not that much fun to experience it. Something similar happened to me using a repro tank. The problem went for about 10 months, occurring probably once a week. After changing all kind of parts on the fuel line, we found a piece of metal in the gas tank, the size of a coin.

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