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Old 20th November 2022, 15:44   #1
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Default The armchair detective and the case of the misfiring engine

The armchair detective and the case of the misfiring engine


In the days of yore, there once was a detective who used to specialize in dealing with misbehaving automobiles. Her name was Mrs. Chhanda Holmes and she had made 221B, Cake Street, Kolkata her base of operations. In her own words, she enjoyed working with automobiles more than anything else.
Detective Chhanda Holmes aka Mrs. C. was sitting at her computer on a Sunday morning reading the news with her usual piping hot cup of Darjeeling's finest when her assistant Dr. Arka Watson aka Dr. A. poked his head into the room.

Dr. A. : Maa, busy ?
Mrs. C. : Not quite, why ?
Dr. A. : Wanted to talk to you about something.
Mrs. C. : Found a girl who wants to marry you ?
Dr. A. : Not that (blushing). Wanted to talk to you about your Creta.
Mrs. C. : When did the accident happen ?
Dr. A. : What ? (surprised) No, not that ...
Mrs. C. cuts off Dr. A. : I am not letting you sell or exchange the car
Dr. A. : Will you let me finish speaking ?

Mrs. C. nods her head in approval relieved that her car was fine or so she thought.

Dr. A. : Yesterday, I was driving up the Vivekananda Bridge when the car started shaking and the engine turned off by itself.
Mrs. C. : What ? How ? What did you do ? (visibly panicking)
Dr. A. : I tried restarting it and it started right back up but the RPMs kept dropping and again it shut down. This happened 3-4 times whenever I would press the accelerator pedal harder for climbing the bridge. Somehow I reached home without any further issues. But today, the same issue is happening again.
Mrs. C. : Error lights ?
Dr. A. : None
Mrs. C. (somewhat calmed down): How much fuel is there in the car and when was the last time you filled up ?
Dr. A. : I filled up about a week ago and there is still around 40% petrol left.
Mrs. C. : So there are no issues with the petrol itself or else you would have faced these issues much earlier. How about the engine air filter ? Did you check its condition ?

Dr. A. leaves the room with the words "Let me check".

Mrs. C. is visibly irritated and tries to distract herself with her tea only to find that it has become cold. She finishes it in one gulp and tries to shift her attention to the numerous messages that she receives on a regular basis. Meanwhile, she could hear Dr. A.'s heavy footsteps approaching.

Dr. A. : I checked the engine oil and the engine air filter. Both seem fine.
Mrs. C. : Throttle body ?
Dr. A. : Let me check

And off went Dr. A. again. Meanwhile, Mrs. C. became engrossed in replying to her emails and messages. It took her a while to finish those and just before she could click on the links of some automobile forums, she could hear Dr. A.'s heavy footsteps again.

"The throttle body is squeaky clean" announced Dr. A. after entering the room.
Mrs. C. : When was the last time the car was on the highway ?
Dr. A. : About a year ago but why ? (slowly realizing the nature of the problem) Should I do the Italian tuneup ?
Mrs. C. : Oh ye of little faith. When were the spark plugs last cleaned ?
Dr. A. : During the 3rd free service at the Hyundai ASC at 20k kms.
Mrs. C. : What is the odometer reading now ?
Dr. A. : Just crossed 50k kms two weeks ago
Mrs. C. giving Dr. A. a death-stare : Check the spark plugs.
Dr. A. : Right on it

And off he went to check the spark plugs. Mrs. C. started checking the automobile forums for updates. It must have been around an hour before she heard Dr. A. approaching again. His hands were visibly dirty. She looked at him quizzically.

Dr. A. (sheepishly) : It was the spark plugs and they were dirty. I cleaned them properly with some sandpaper, a tooth brush and some WD-40. Now the engine sounds butter smooth just as it did on the day of delivery 5 years ago.
Mrs. C. : Go wash your hands and get something to eat. There is no Mrs. Hudson yet. So you have to get the food yourself.
Dr. A. : Sure

Dr. A. turns around to leave the room when Mrs. C. motions for him to wait.

Dr. A. : Now what ?
Mrs. C. : My consulting fees ?
Dr. A. (laughing) : You are joking, right ?
Mrs. C. with a straight face : Not at all, I am quite serious.
Dr. A. (still laughing) : Alright, what do you want ?
Mrs. C. : A daughter-in-law
Dr. A. (turning beet red) : I will think about it
Mrs. C. : If you have someone in mind then tell me about her
Dr. A. : If I had someone in mind then you would have been the first one to know.
Mrs. C. : Then let me find a suitable someone for you.
Dr. A. (trying to avoid the topic) : I will think about it later, I am hungry now.

Mrs. C. watches Dr. A. go into the kitchen to wash his hands.

Disclaimer : The above is a work of fiction based on true events
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Old 20th November 2022, 16:08   #2
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Default Re: The armchair detective and the case of the misfiring engine

So the important question is
Did a new member join your family ?
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Old 20th November 2022, 16:46   #3
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Did a new member join your family ?
Not yet. Apparently, Mrs. C. is still looking for a lady with a shared interest in automobiles to become her daughter-in-law
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Old 20th November 2022, 23:31   #4
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Default Re: The armchair detective and the case of the misfiring engine

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chhanda Das View Post
Dr. A. : ...the car started shaking and the engine turned off by itself.
...
I tried restarting it and it started right back up but the RPMs kept dropping and again it shut down. This happened 3-4 times whenever I would press the accelerator pedal harder for climbing the bridge.
...
Mrs. C. giving Dr. A. a death-stare : Check the spark plugs.
Dr. A. : Right on it
...
Dr. A. (sheepishly) : It was the spark plugs and they were dirty. I cleaned them properly with some sandpaper, a tooth brush and some WD-40. Now the engine sounds butter smooth just as it did on the day of delivery 5 years ago.
...
Mrs. C. : A daughter-in-law
...
Disclaimer : The above is a work of fiction based on true events
Loved the fictional write-up in search of your daughter-in-law! I do hope someone in this forum knows of an automotively-inclined young lady who may want to choose you as her mother-in-law.

However, the description of the (fictional) symptoms of the vehicle's behaviour do not match the (fictional) findings of dirty spark plugs, unless the engine has busted oil control rings. If this is for real, you do need to check for oil control ring failure, blow-by, bad engine oil, or any other reason why the spark plugs are fouling after 30k km (interval after last service). In a fuel-injected car with sensors and ECM, the likelihood of plug fouling due to the engine running rich is practically nil.
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Old 21st November 2022, 00:04   #5
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Default Re: The armchair detective and the case of the misfiring engine

30k run since the last service. Did I read that right? Isn't that too long an interval? My car has a recommended service interval of 15k, and yet I get the service done at least once a year or at 10k interval. My car has done over a lakh kms and still runs like new. Maybe you should get your car serviced more often.
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Old 21st November 2022, 00:29   #6
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Default Re: The armchair detective and the case of the misfiring engine

I had faced similar sudden loss of power issues with my 4 yr old EcoSport (petrol). Gave it to 2 service centers but that issue persisted. Finally, I was told to replace the spark plugs and engine coil assey. Did that and the issue got resolved.

Edit: The engine issues persisted for about a year before it got resolved. Getting the car serviced made no difference. I once even did a second full servicing schedule after a gap of 2 months but even that did not help. I even thought it was a fuel issue but that was checked and ruled out.

Last edited by DriverR : 21st November 2022 at 00:35. Reason: Added more details
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Old 21st November 2022, 00:46   #7
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Default Re: The armchair detective and the case of the misfiring engine

Somebody should enlighten Mrs C to the wonders of OBD!

Also, As SS-Traveller pointed out, from a diagnostic point of view Mrs C. Leaves a lot to be desired.

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Old 21st November 2022, 08:33   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
" ... the description of the (fictional) symptoms of the vehicle's behaviour do not match the (fictional) findings of dirty spark plugs, unless the engine has busted oil control rings. If this is for real, you do need to check for oil control ring failure, blow-by, bad engine oil, or any other reason why the spark plugs are fouling after 30k km (interval after last service). In a fuel-injected car with sensors and ECM, the likelihood of plug fouling due to the engine running rich is practically nil.
Thankfully, no other issues were found and the car is running fine. The service schedule of this car mentions the cleaning of the spark plugs every 10k kms and replacement at 60k kms. Since the car is serviced mostly by my son at home, he was supposed to clean them every 10k kms which by his own admission, he did not do resulting in a misfiring engine.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Neversaygbye View Post
30k run since the last service. Did I read that right?
Sadly, you did not read that right. The first generation petrol Creta is supposed to be serviced every 10k kms or 1 year (whichever earlier). And my son religiously sticks to this schedule when it comes to replacing the engine oil. The service schedule of this car mentions the cleaning of the spark plugs every 10k kms and replacement at 60k kms. Since the car is serviced mostly by my son at home, he was supposed to clean them every 10k kms which he did not do (by his own admission) resulting in a misfiring engine.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeroen View Post
Somebody should enlighten Mrs C to the wonders of OBD! Also, As SS-Traveller pointed out, from a diagnostic point of view Mrs C. Leaves a lot to be desired.
Mrs. C is old school and believes in starting with the simplest things first especially since there were no error lights in the car. It was way faster to check the parts than fiddle around with each of the individual parameters on an OBD device in this case. And her line of reasoning turned out to be correct since it was Dr. A.'s fault for not cleaning the spark plugs in every service as suggested by Hyundai India. But Mrs. C does know about the wonders of OBD as you can see in the following link :

https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/diy-d...dai-creta.html (DIY : Viewing fuel efficiency figures in the 1st-gen Hyundai Creta)

Last edited by Chhanda Das : 21st November 2022 at 08:39.
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Old 21st November 2022, 09:55   #9
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Default Re: The armchair detective and the case of the misfiring engine

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chhanda Das View Post
I tried restarting it and it started right back up but the RPMs kept dropping and again it shut down. This happened 3-4 times whenever I would press the accelerator pedal harder for climbing the bridge.
...
Mrs. C. giving Dr. A. a death-stare : Check the spark plugs.
Dr. A. : Right on it
...
Dr. A. (sheepishly) : It was the spark plugs and they were dirty. I cleaned them properly with some sandpaper, a tooth brush and some WD-40. Now the engine sounds butter smooth just as it did on the day of delivery 5 years ago.
...
Mrs. C. : A daughter-in-law
...
Disclaimer : The above is a work of fiction based on true events
Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
However, the description of the (fictional) symptoms of the vehicle's behaviour do not match the (fictional) findings of dirty spark plugs, unless the engine has busted oil control rings. If this is for real, you do need to check for oil control ring failure, blow-by, bad engine oil, or any other reason why the spark plugs are fouling after 30k km (interval after last service). In a fuel-injected car with sensors and ECM, the likelihood of plug fouling due to the engine running rich is practically nil.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chhanda Das View Post
Mrs. C is old school and believes in starting with the simplest things first especially since there were no error lights in the car
Mrs.C might be old school but the Creta is definitely new school. If the spark plug was as bad as described to cause an engine shut down on its own the ECU would light up the check engine light and log a fault code cylinder x bank 1 misfire. Random misfires will not trigger check engine light (but this will still be logged) but if its serious enough to cause the engine to shut down it will light up the check engine lamp as multiple cylinders will be affected. I'll have to agree with SS-Traveller and there are holes in this fiction.

Last edited by Sankar : 21st November 2022 at 09:59.
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Old 21st November 2022, 10:05   #10
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Default Re: The armchair detective and the case of the misfiring engine

The disclaimer was already in place: Armchair detective! Why pick?

I think the car shutting down might as well be due to an improper gearing or a coincidental misfire and need for a power surge. We have all stalled our cars, I would tend to believe; the driver in this case, too interpreted such a stall, (especially with an underperforming engine) to be a "shut down".

She/her son, clearly followed the KISS methodology and it worked just fine. Congratulations on the DIY, Mrs.Das!

Last edited by lapis_lazuli : 21st November 2022 at 10:34.
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Old 21st November 2022, 10:30   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sankar View Post
If the spark plug was as bad as described to cause an engine shut down on its own the ECU would light up the check engine light and log a fault code
I do not know what to tell you except that there were no fault codes and nothing about the unexpected engine shutdowns in the log files.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lapis_lazuli View Post
I think the car shutting down might as well be due to an improper gearing or a coincidental misfire and need for a power surge. We have all stalled our cars, I would tend to believe; the driver in this case, too interpreted such a stall, (especially with an underperforming engine) to be a "shut down".
She/her son, clearly followed the KISS methodology and it worked just fine
Thank you for the kind words. The idea was indeed to "Keep It Super Simple". However, an "improper gearing" is somewhat unlikely since the car has a torque converter automatic transmission. But the other probable causes mentioned by you are definitely possible and are more than likely to have been the actual cause especially since the car had gone through 3 services without the spark plugs getting cleaned.

Last edited by Chhanda Das : 21st November 2022 at 10:32.
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Old 21st November 2022, 13:15   #12
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Default Re: The armchair detective and the case of the misfiring engine

Air + Fuel + Spark = Boom.

Pay obeisance to the holy trinity and your life goes smoothly. As a Bengali, i just wondered why pick on Holmes when you have the home grown Byomkesh Bakshi?.
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Old 21st November 2022, 16:18   #13
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Originally Posted by srini1785 View Post
Air + Fuel + Spark = Boom.

Pay obeisance to the holy trinity and your life goes smoothly. As a Bengali, i just wondered why pick on Holmes when you have the home grown Byomkesh Bakshi?.
As you said, the three musketeers - air, fuel and spark are absolutely essential. The issue, in this case, was clearly "spark" or the lack of it to be more precise.

I chose the name "Holmes" since that is undoubtedly and by far the most widely recognizable name among sleuths. But I can definitely say that I am not the first Bengali to be inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. The Holmes account of "The adventure of the 6 Napoleons" and "Netajir Choy Murti" by Hemendra Kumar Roy definitely bear some similarities. I am an Assamese-Bengali and speaking of Byomkesh Baksi, let us not forget Feluda, Kikira, Mitin Mashi, etc too. Maybe I will have new stories based on them

Last edited by Chhanda Das : 21st November 2022 at 16:42.
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Old 27th November 2022, 17:47   #14
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Default The armchair detective and the case of the dead car

The armchair detective and the case of the dead car


Episode 2
If you missed episode 1 then here is the link :
https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/shift...ng-engine.html (The armchair detective and the case of the misfiring engine)

It was a cold dreary winter night on the desolate streets of Kolkata around 221B, Cake Street. Mrs. Chhanda Holmes (Mrs. C.) and her assistant Dr. Arka Watson (Dr. A.) had just finished dinner when the phone rang. Dr. A. got up to answer the phone while Mrs. C. started picking up the plates for washing. She picked up the plates and took them to the kitchen sink intending to wash them in the morning when the water wouldn't be as cold when she heard Dr. A. entering the kitchen.

Mrs. C. : Who was it ?
Dr. A. : It was our neighbour Dr. Bidhan Strange aka Dr. B.
Mrs. C. : Who, the cardiologist ? What does he want at this ungodly hour ?
Dr. A : Apparently, he has to reach Burdwan tomorrow to attend a medical conference.
Mrs. C. : So what has this got to do with us ?
Dr. A. : I was getting to that. Apparently, his Creta is dead.
Mrs. C. : Tell him to contact Hyundai RSA.
Dr. A. : I did but he said that the extended RSA period expired a few months ago.
Mrs. C. : Alright, what is the issue in his car ?
Dr. A. : The car is D E A D as in no electricals, no lights, no electronic lock/unlock, nothing.
Mrs. C. : Battery ?
Dr. A. : Probably. The car is 6 years old and the battery was never replaced.
Mrs. C. : Car batteries usually last longer than this under normal circumstances. Alright, go take a look.

Dr. A. left the house only to return 10 minutes later.

Mrs. C. : Did you check for rat bites ?
Dr. A. : I did but couldn't find anything irregular even with a flashlight.
Mrs. C. : Any signs of physical damage on the battery ?
Dr. A. : None
Mrs. C. : Blown fuses ?
Dr. A. : Nope
Mrs. C. : Hmmm, he is getting late too. Take our portable jump starter kit and see if you can jump-start the car. If it starts then tell Dr. B. to keep it till he returns home. Make sure to teach him how to use it. And warn him not to turn the car off in the middle of his trip since the jump starter only has a limited amount of charge. Tell him to plug the jump starter into the 12v socket of the car once the engine is started to keep the jump starter recharged and ready. Also, take the multimeter and check the battery voltage beforehand. Take the hydrometer too and check the specific gravity in each of the 6 cells before jump starting.
Dr. A. : Roger, Wilco

Dr. A. left the house for his neighbour's again while Mrs. C. started cleaning the dinner table. Mrs. C. had finished cleaning the dinner table and had already filled up the drinking water bottles for the next day when Dr. A. returned ten minutes later beaming triumphantly. Mrs. C. looked at him quizzically.

Dr. A. : The battery was dead. It was showing 2.6 volts but the portable jump starter successfully started the engine and now the battery is showing 13.4 volts. So it is charging.
Mrs. C. : That sounds like the alternator is fine. Specific gravity ?
Dr. A. : All within an acceptable range
Mrs. C. : Hmmm

Meanwhile, Mrs. C. still had a furrowed brow and Dr. A. noticed that.

Dr. A. : Now what is the matter ? Aren't you happy that his car started ?
Mrs. C. : Of course, I am happy about that but I was wondering why did the battery die in the first place.
Dr. A. : Oh, I forgot to tell you. Dr. B. told me that he had not used the car in the last week and it was parked at his home.
Mrs. C. : That is not an acceptable explanation for the battery losing its charge. A car battery can easily hold a charge to start the car even if the car is not started for more than a month.

Dr. A. shrugged his shoulders and went ahead to wash his hands while Mrs. C. went to prepare her bed. She took a quick little peek at her messages and emails on her computer before turning in for the night.
Two days passed by when the calling bell rang and Mrs. C. answered the door. It was Dr. B. who had returned from Burdwan.

Mrs. C. : Good morning, how are you ? When did you return ? How is your car.
Dr. B. : I am fine Didi. I returned just now. Car is fine too. Here hold this.
Mrs. C. : What is this ?
Dr. B. : These are the famous Lyangcha sweets. Bought them hot and fresh a few hours ago in Shaktigarh on my way home.
Mrs. C. : Oh my, thank you
Dr. B. : No, thank you for helping me out. Here is your portable jump starter kit.
Mrs. C. : Oh that was nothing. Please come in and have some tea.
Dr. B. : No thank you. I had some on the way home. Where is Dr. A. ?
Mrs. C. : He has gone to the market for some groceries.
Dr. B. : Oh, then please extend my thanks and gratitude to him as well. And I will be taking your leave now.
Mrs. C. : Are you in a hurry now ?
Dr. B. : No, why ?
Mrs. C. : I was thinking about your car. Have you done some modifications to it recently ?
Dr. B. : Nothing much except a few cheap white LED retrofit festoon lights for the cabin. Why do you ask ?
Mrs. C. (visibly perked up) : Maybe I have found the reason for your car's battery dying.
Dr. B. (defensively): Woah, hold your horses. Before you make further assumptions, let me inform you that these LEDs do indeed draw some power even when they are off since I could see them glow very dimly when they are supposed to be off. However, this is only when they are on the automatic door sensor mode. So I always keep them in the manual on/off mode where they do not draw any power when they are off.
Mrs. C. (thinking hard) : How many lights did you say you installed ?
Dr. B. : Four
Mrs. C. (incredulously) : How ? Normally, there is space for only 3 cabin lights in the Creta.
Dr. B. : Oh, I got the fourth one put inside the boot lamp assembly.
Mrs. C. : Eureka, that boot lamp is independent of the cabin light control mechanism and it is always connected to the boot door position sensor. It is very likely that you will find it glowing dimly right now even with the boot closed and locked.
Dr. B. (surprised) : Is that so ? Let me go and check.
Mrs. C. : Hold on now. Here is how you can check it. Do not open the boot door since that would activate the boot light. Unlock the car, open one of the rear doors and get in. Then close the door and lock the car from the inside by pressing the lock button on the driver's door. Now, wait for 2 minutes for the body control module or BCM to go into sleep or idle mode. Then you can fold down the rear seat a little to look at the boot lamp. Please let me know.
Dr. B. (with his jaw on the floor) : Sure

Mrs. C. closed the door and kept the box of sweets on the dining table for Dr. A. and went back to catching up on the latest news on her computer.
Ten minutes later the bell rang again. It was Dr. A and Dr. B. together.

Dr. B. : Didi, it was exactly as you said. The boot lamp is glowing dimly when it is supposed to be completely off. What do I do now ?
Mrs. C. : You still have the original festoon bulb, don't you ?
Dr. B. nodded his head in affirmation.
Mrs. C. : Remove that LED bulb from the boot lamp and put back the original festoon bulb.
Dr. B. (relieved but hesitant) : Could Dr. A. help with this please ?
Mrs. C. looked at Dr. A.
Dr. A. : Sure, let me get a flathead screwdriver.
Mrs. C. : Get the multimeter too and check if something else is drawing abnormal amounts of current too.
Dr. A. went inside to keep the groceries and returned with the multimeter along with the screwdriver.
Dr. A. : Let us go Dr. B.
Dr. B. : I am incredibly grateful to both of you.
Mrs. C. : Oh it is nothing.

Mrs. C. watched with a smile of relief. When Dr. A. returned sometime later, he informed Mrs. C. that all seemed well.

A few months later, Mrs. C. noticed a box of Kiwi fruits on the dining table. They looked very fresh unlike the poor quality stuff sold in the markets of Kolkata.

Mrs. C. : Boy, when did you buy these ?
Dr. A. : I didn't. Dr. B. gave them to me after returning from his trip to Arunachal Pradesh. He had bought these from a local organic farm near Nirjuli 3 days ago.

A wide smile spread across Mrs. C.'s face.

Disclaimer : The above is a work of fiction based on real events
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