Oil Spots and the Speed of Light: A Formula for Fixing Your Car

There must be a formula to determine the ratio of oil spot size to the need for fixation. Fixation, that is, meaning fixing the leak. This, as opposed to the more normal fixation, which implies staring at an invisible object in the bottom of a beer bottle. Experienced bench racers know that a lot can be accomplished while staring down a bottle.

Hey, I can just imagine fixing that leak, and then going on to a spectacular SCCA National Championship win in my bog stock TR250—all within a few minutes of quality daydream time. However, we’re not here to daydream. There’s oil on the floor and something’s got to be done.

This all got started when my friend Jan asked if I was going to drive my TR250 to a British Car Day. I wanted to go, but the car had developed a troubling oil leak from the back of the cylinder head. Not that I blame her for my problems; you understand, Jan has forgotten more than I’ll ever know about TR250s. I was looking for a quick fix, but she told me sooner or later I’d wind up removing the head.

Jan is quite practical about such things. When she needed an air filter she didn’t just call up and buy one, she went down to the factory, took a tour, and applied for a job. No mistakes that way. The filter on her car would be carefully researched and correct for the car. As I mentioned, I’m more inclined to go for the quick fix. It sure would be a lot easier to retorque the head and hope. She laughed knowingly. Upon further procrastination, I did nothing and wound up driving the Moss Motors TR3 to the show. Problem solved temporarily!

I drove the TR3 to a second event (still not having fixed the 250) and it too developed an oil leak! An old injury to the sump, welded back to good health, had suffered a relapse. What shall I do? Remove and repair a sump, or a cylinder head? Which job holds the greatest promise of future benefit with the least investment of effort? Let’s investigate that formula idea. There must be some way to quantify the problem with a mathematical formula.

Our formula requires hard data, such as oil spot diameter. Now we add the number of unreachable bolts. Then, multiply by a variable. We’ll call our variable the Skinned Knuckle Factor. This is arrived at by multiplying the number of rusted solid nuts times .75, then adding the number of unreachable bolts. Finally, we’ll divide by a constant. There has to be a constant in there somewhere. The speed of light works for me. If the resulting number is greater than 1, I’ll fix the car.

All right, let’s contemplate our results. Oil spot diameter is 3 inches, plus 2 unreachable bolts equals 5. 4 frozen nuts times .75 is 3, plus these 2 unreachable bolts, divided by Albert Einstein…this is getting me nowhere. Of course I can always do nothing and be the butt of all jokes if I show up at the next meet without a car. To fix the leak or not?

Upon further review, I believe there’s another bottle in the fridge. Somewhere down near the bottom, it contains a terrific daydream—an incredible “come-from-behind” win at Indianapolis (in a unique new car of my own design, natch). Perhaps I’ll contemplate that instead. There’s still plenty of time to think up excuses.

—Klem Kadidlehoffer

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