Motor Vehicle Musings

As a kid, unlike all of you, I had no opinion of the DMV. It was something Grandpa took care of, because Grandma always said that cars were “his department.” As a professional chemist and perpetual schemer, Grandpa had opinions regarding how to pass the emissions inspections, and I guarantee his methods were unique and would probably be frowned upon by every inspector.

One day, before Dad’s annual visit to the local motor vehicle station, Grandpa pulled him aside and insisted he come out to the backyard for a demonstration on a guaranteed method on how to pass the test.

He removed the lids from two garbage cans and turned both upside down. Grandpa then proceeded to fill one with gasoline, the other with alcohol, and then tossed a lighted match into each one. He then instructed Dad to observe the resulting smoke from the two sources.  The alcohol fire produced no smoke. Finally, he repeated the experiment, this time using a mixture of gasoline and alcohol. Again, like the fire using pure alcohol, there was no smoke, so Grandpa concluded that the addition of alcohol would greatly reduce or eliminate any smoke. That was our scientist father! I recommend that you DO NOT do this.

Grandpa’s lesson and advice to Dad was to wait until the gasoline tank of his car was almost empty, and then add about a gallon of alcohol to the tank immediately before heading to the inspection station. After passing the inspection, Grandpa told Dad to proceed directly to a gas station to fill up his tank. This would dilute the alcohol and prevent damage to the engine. According to Grandpa, this would insure that, regardless of how much pollution an automobile would emit, his method would insure a pass. I think Grandpa missed the point of auto emission tests.

I never heard that story, or maybe I just forgot it. In any case, each year, as an adult, I would go on my annual pilgrimages to the DMV. I always worried I would fail (proof that Dad never taught me Grandpa’s proven method), and I always chose the worst time to go. The lines were consistently long, so I was convinced there was never a good time to have my car inspected.

Therefore, when I would go with the three of you, in preparation, we would stop at Toys R Us first. Each of you was permitted to choose one toy to entertain yourself. Still, it was torturous, so after that first visit to the DMV, whenever one of you misbehaved, rather than sending you to your room or making you go to bed earlier, I would threaten a trip to Motor Vehicles as punishment. “No, no, I’ll be good”, would be the unanimous response.

Thankfully, South Carolina does not care if we end up like China with alarming-levels of air pollution. There are no requirements here for any vehicle inspections whatsoever! Look out lungs!


3 thoughts on “Motor Vehicle Musings

  1. I remember one time I picked out an accessory or an outfit for one of my dolls, something you couldn’t play with on your own, as my toy. I was so bored the whole time in line that I regretting picking that. I had to do the emissions tests when we lived in Georgia too but it was never a big wait like when we were kids.


  2. Kelly I was just about to comment the same thing that you did.. about getting the outfits. I think it was an outfit for the Quints babies. There were 5 little baby quints and they all had a number 1-5 on them.


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