Musings of An Old Man

by Brian K. Moore

Brian Pours 5 Gallons of Water in Gas Tank

A long about 1980, Glenn and Katy and Phyllis and I were traveling in Mexico, in Baja California. Baja was quite undeveloped then, with almost no paved roads and very little amenities and development. Glenn and Katy were traveling in their Ford pickup with a nice camper on it and Phyllis and I were in our, then new, 24 foot Motor home. We were off the beaten path. We liked to be off the beaten path.

One day in mid afternoon, we were traveling slowly because of the bad rough graded road (slowly was how you traveled in Baja then). Glenn and Katy were in the lead and out of our sight but we had contact with our CB radios. I noticed that we were getting a little low on gas. We were carrying five gallons of gas in a storage compartment. We were also carrying five gallons of water. Glenn and Katy were carrying a fifty five gallon drum of gas which was our main supply when we were beyond the range of gas stations. We refilled this drum whenever we could.

I thought that I should pour the five gallons in whenever we came to a place where we could get off the road. This road, as with many in Baja, was just wide enough for two vehicles to pass each other and was elevated above the surrounding terrain. We finally came to a place where there was a sloping shoulder, covered with deep grass that was wide enough to get off on. I pulled off the road onto this shoulder into the deep grass and the motor home tilted a little to the right. I opened the storage compartment and got the five gallon can and a funnel and poured the contents into the gas tank.

As I was walking back to the storage compartment I was thinking, “I don’t remember this gas can being this clean.” Well, the gas can wasn’t that clean! I had just poured our five gallons of drinking water into the gas tank!

I said a couple of bad words and then got down to the business of “So what am I going to do now? Better tell Glenn.” So I called Glenn on the CB and I said, “Glenn, I just poured five gallons of water into my gas tank.” Glenn said, “YOU WHAT!!?” I said, “Yes, I did.” He said, “Do you want me to come back?” I said, “No, there’s no place to park. Give me a couple of minutes. I’ll see what I can figure out.”
Phyllis had heard my conversation with Glenn and, of course, she asked me why I had done this. For lack of a better answer, I said, “I’m stupid.”

My thoughts said: “Well, what am I going to do now?”
Fortunately we always carried lots of tools and other stuff that we thought we might need. I had put in a roll of about twelve feet of 3/8 inch plastic tubing, and I thought “that ought to do it.”

Our motor home was built on a van chassis where about two thirds of the engine is in the passenger compartment under an engine cover and one third under the hood. I took the engine cover out and at that point I could see through past the engine to the ground.

I knew that the gas line came to the front on the right side of the vehicle and that there was a fuel filter right under the door. I crawled under through the tall wet grass with my tools and removed the fuel filter. Then I put the “dirty” five gallon can (the can that really did have the gasoline in it) in the passenger compartment, between where Phyllis and I would sit and stuck one end of the 3/8 inch plastic into the gas can. Then I went underneath again and stuck the other end of the plastic tube on the now open (with the fuel filter removed) end of the copper tubing that lead to the fuel pump and then to the carburetor. We now had a working fuel system.

We started the engine and drove to where Glenn and Katy were parked by a little store. I had told Glenn what we were doing and he had made arrangements with the store operator to let us work on our project on a flat clear area near the store.

We had a cup of coffee which Katy had made for us. Then we got to the job of: How are we going to get this water out of this gas tank? I’ll tell you it’s great to have friends like Glenn and Katy. Coffee and help at a time of need!

We checked the gas tank for a drain. There wasn’t any. We knew that the gas line came out of the top of the tank, but inside it extended to the bottom of the tank. We thought about running the electric fuel pump that I had installed back near the gas tank, and just pumping the water out.

A great idea, except that we knew that this would not get ALL of the water out, and just a little bit of water, when it hit the carburetor, would stop the engine. So we decided that the only way to get rid all of it was to take the gas tank out of the motor home and pour the water out where I had put it in.

So, Glenn and I got on it. It wasn’t easy what with the support straps and wires and tubing, and it was an awfully dirty job, sliding around on our backs in the dirt and working with the dirty greasy parts. But we got it out and we poured the water out of the fill pipe. Then to get the last bit of water out, we poured about two gallons of gas into it and shook it around and turned it upside down and shook it some more and then poured the mix of gasoline and water out.

Putting it back in was the reverse of taking it out, hard and dirty. But we got it done and it worked. Glenn and I got cleaned up as best we could and we got going because it was getting close to dark and we still had to find a place to camp, with a flat spot, off the road, big enough for our two rigs.

Now, about our two great gals, instead of spending the time moaning about “why am I here in this God forsaken wilderness with an idiot who pours water in the gas tank,” they were inside the motor home getting dinner started! They were troopers. Their attitude was: Don’t worry about it. Whatever happens, our men will know what to do and they will do it. We never let them down.

A little aside to this story: earlier in the day when we were stopped, a Mexican guy who was working on his car approached us with a peanut can with a dirty, greasy part in it. (Lots of roadside repair work goes on in Baja). He asked us if we would give him a little gasoline to wash his dirty part in. I said, “Sure” and poured him some fluid from our clean container into his peanut can. As he was walking away, he was stirring the fluid in his can with his finger. I suspect he later said, “Damn Gringo! What a warped sense of humor.”