A Puzzler

Some fun for the Friday of a long weekend.  And a true story to boot!

I had a job to do last Tuesday night that required the purchase of a few tools. As I was driving home from the store I took a look at the pile of stuff in the seat beside me and was quite amused – it all made perfect sense to me, but I wondered if anyone glancing into my car would deduce that these were all for the same job:

  • a popsicle stick
  • a small tub of plumbers’ putty
  • a bucket
  • a box of Crayola pastels
  • a bicycle pump
  • a sheet of coarse sandpaper
  • a bottle of organic oil soap
  • one additional item

What was the additional item? What was my chore last night?

(I've submitted this to Car Talk, so expect it to be on the radio show in five or ten years.)

I hope all you readers in the United States and Canada have a good Canada Day and/or Independence Day! 

Comments (6)

  1. eriq says:

    It sounds like you’re looking for, and planning to patch, a leak.

    Patching bike tubes has a similar story:

    1. pressurize the tube, and immerse the tube in soapy water.

    2. look for the bubbles

    3. mark with, say, Crayola pastels

    4. dry it off

    5. rough it up with sandpaper, for better patch adhesion

    I’m guessing the bucket is for the water immersion, along with the soap. The bicycle pump is to get whatever it is you’re testing for leaks to have more pressure inside than outside. The pastels are to mark the leak. The sandpaper is to prepare the surroudning area for patching. The popsicle stick is to apply the plumbers putty as a patch.

    I’m assuming that you can get water at home. So the additional item might be the towel or rag to dry off the hose under repair.

    But, what can you patch in a car that can be safely patched with plumbers putty, and isn’t already filled with something that would squirt out, where you could see the hole without all this other stuff?

    I’m no good at these puzzles! 🙂

  2. EricJ says:


    You are going to patch a leak in a rubber raft, inflatable kayak or inflatable wading pool. I suspect the latter, as the bucket would be handy in carrying pool-filling water from the lake or stream you plan to camp next to over this weekend (no hoses are available). And of course, you will fill the pool AFTER completing your patch job.

    The pump will be used to inflate the pool, raft, or kayak and the bucket can actually be used for two purposes: you can put some water in it, place the patched section of the pool/raft/kayak into it, pump in some air, and look for the bubbles that would tell you that your patch job was ineffective. Of course you can also use this technique to locate the leaks in the first place, if you don’t already know where they are.

    The crayons will be used to mark the leak(s) before you patch them. Choosing an assortment of colors was a good idea, as those pools/rafts/kayaks with a mix of bright colors emblazoned on them could make any one color ineffective.

    You’ll use the sandpaper to rough up the surface of the rubber around the leak(s), then clean these areas with the organic oil soap. Good choice to use organic soap, as that won’t damage the grass/lake/environment at your camp site.

    Once it is clean and dry, you’ll use the popsicle stick is used as a tool to apply the plumbers’ putty. The additional item is a piece of patch material, probably rubber, but it could be some other impermeable material that will hold air. The best material would be one that is not only impermeable, but will allow solid binding with the plumber’s putty.

    Good luck, and please don’t do either of these things over the weekend:

    1) Drown in your patched wading pool.

    2) Sink your patched raft/kayak.

  3. Eric Lippert says:

    You are very close. However, plumbers’ putty is not sticky. It’s got the consistency of plasticene or modeling clay. It’s good for forming a seal between, say, a faucet and a sink, where the faucet is going to be screwed down, but it’s not a good adhesive.

  4. Homey the Clown says:

    You were working on a gas line. The additional item was a pressure gauge.

    Either that or somebody’s boob job sprung a leak… doh.

  5. Miles Archer says:

    Yeah, but what about the popcicle stick?

  6. pbkg says:

    popsicle stick is to mix and apply the putty. Saves have to clean up a trowel, and means you hands aren’t sticky…

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