COTD: The Vanilla Ice Cream Conundrum Edition

The thing with engineering riddles is that the theoretical ones are just as effective as the real ones, so hardly anyone ever fact-checks to see if the scenario ever really happened. Even Snopes tried to chase down the story of the Vanilla Ice Cream Conundrum, and still couldn't prove its veracity. Its effectiveness, however, is undeniable.

We'll let r.hein1969 explain exactly what the Vanilla Ice Cream Conundrum is, and what it has to do with solving particularly vexing automotive service issues.


There's a similar story about an American car in the 60's - don't recall the brand [It was Pontiac —ed.]. The customer complained that the car didn't like vanilla ice cream.

Every evening the customer's family would vote on what flavor of ice cream to have after dinner, then he'd get in the car drive to the store and get the selected flavor of ice cream. If he got Vanilla ice cream, when he returned to the car, the car would not start. If he got ANY other flavor, no problem.

Well the car was taken to the dealer numerous times, and nothing was found to be wrong with it. Yet the customer still complained. Finally the corporate office sent an engineer to the house to see what happened.

First day the family selected Strawberry for the flavor. Drove to the store, got the ice cream, came out, car started fine.

Second day, the family selected Vanilla. Drove to the store, got the ice cream. No Start.

The engineer couldn't believe this. But there it was. The car didn't like Vanilla. But WHY?

As it turns out: Vanilla being the most popular flavor, was kept in a cooler right next to the check stand. All the other flavors were kept in a cooler at the back of the store. When the customer went to get the Vanilla ice cream, his time in the store was much shorter, and the engine hadn't cooled enough, and was vapor locked. When he got other flavors, he was in the store a longer time, and the car had cooled enough to prevent the vapor lock.

So now you know the story of the car that didn't like vanilla ice cream - I'm a Chocolate Chip Mint man myself.

(Photo: Thomas M. Perkins / Shutterstock.)

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