April 10, 2014
Spiders Cause Car Explosion Risk
It sounds like something from a slightly questionable movie, Snakes on a Plane, Spiders in a Car etc., but is the subject of a real disaster waiting to happen. Spiders have been hiding and spinning their webs in a certain number of Mazda cars, which could potentially create a blockage that may lead to an explosion.
The cars concerned are Mazda6 Sedans, specifically out of the Flat Rock, Michigan plant, which happily for those with an irrational fear of spiders and a quite rational fear of explosions is no longer producing the cars. For people with cars from that plant between 2010 and 2012, though, the issue is a concern and a recall is necessary.
Reuters says that owners should “bring cars to dealers, where the evaporative canister vent line will be checked and cleared if necessary. Also, the dealerships will reprogram software.” This is the second recall like this in recent years, and it is thought the spiders originally came to the plant from a warehouse via a shipment of hosing, where they like to hide during the daytime before hunting at night. They remained inside the hosing when it went into the car engine.
Once inside the engine, their webs can block fuel flow and reduce pressure in the fuel tank, which can lead to a build-up of stress. This can cause the fuel tank to crack, which has been the main cause of complaint so far. Such cracking could potentially lead to leaks and therefore fires, but thankfully there have been no reports of this.
The recall involves 42,000 sedans with 2.5-liter engines in models from 2010 to 2012. There is so far no news on any recall involving cars from outside the US. This follows the recall in 2011 of 65,000 cars from model years 2009 and 2010.
The offending spider is a yellow sac spider, which is commonly found in homes. They love the smell of gasoline, apparently, and so naturally are comfortable in this unexpected environment. This doesn’t really match the theory that they entered hoses in a warehouse before reaching the car plant, but it is only a theory. Let’s put it this way: they like hoses and they like gasoline, so cars are asking for trouble. It’s a miracle it hasn’t happened more often.
I wonder how the plot for a movie based on this would go? The extent to which there was a plot, anyway. First of all, the title should probably be “Partial Recall.” The storyline might involve a driver who discovers the problem and realizes that his only chance of making it safely to a mechanic or dealer is if he can keep the engine at exactly the right temperature to make the spiders drowsy and drift off to sleep. This means he will have to drive the car at exactly 50 miles per hour without dropping or increasing speed. Doesn’t sound like that exciting a plot, I know, but the last movie along those lines – Speed – was a surprise hit, making more on its opening weekend than Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Superman II and Ghostbusters. The 1990 movie Arachnophobia also did well, so cars and spiders may be a good combo.
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