23 Feb 2024

Which way is up?

You see some strange stuff when you are driving around. I was taking a vehicle out for a test drive a few days ago. It was one of those sunny, bitterly cold winter days when everything is so bright and clear it hurts your eyes, and often your nose for some reason. Clear days are good for road safety, but not so great if there are some scratches on the paintwork of your car that you’d rather not look at, as if you don’t, surely, they aren’t there. On days like our day in question, the scratches are clearer than the rest of the car.

Anyway, so I was out doing a post-job road test on a car, and it was all running how it should, which was good news, so my eyes started to wander to the traffic around me. I was on the local dual carriageway that is quite near us. There were a few pretty unremarkable cars driving alongside me, including a Citroen Picasso people carrier that was just ahead. I didn’t really take it in beyond its mere presence, as there are so many rattling around, until my eyes registered its exhaust, which seemed to have been installed backwards. Honestly. It really should have been facing the other way. Where were the fumes coming out? Was there even an exit on the pipe, or was it some sort of M.C Escher situation? No, he’s not a Dutch rapper; I am referring to the artist who did those pictures of stairways that go infinitely nowhere.

Back to the exhaust. Was it really on backwards? That’s how it looked to me. Now, I know some aftermarket replacement exhausts can look a little strange before you clamp them on, certainly in comparison with what they were fitted with at the factory, but you expect to at least see some sort of outlet for all those increasingly unpopular engine gases. I know we need to cut down on emissions, but not letting them out at all seems like it could end badly, possibly with a bang. Not what you want to happen to your car, even if it is just everyone’s past-its-prime oversized shopping trolley.

One rule of thumb to work with when it comes to all things engineering, and this is not an exact science I admit, is that if it looks right, it probably is right. What do I mean by that? Well, something in the realms of: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty.” Gosh, this is getting profound for February, but I digress. In short, if it looks right, in whatever way you can define that, it should probably work the way you would want it to. On the flipside, if it looks like it was designed in the dark by someone with only the faintest understanding of the variables involved, you can probably bet it’s not going to function so well.

With specific reference to the part under discussion, it really did not look like a functional car exhaust, and I hope I never find myself fitting one like it. After all, which way is up?