Journal: Tell us About Your Car's Worst Road Trip Breakdown

Tell us About Your Car’s Worst Road Trip Breakdown

Avatar By Yoav Gilad
October 13, 2014
29 comments

Photography by David Marvier and Yoav Gilad

A couple of weeks ago we asked you to share photos of your greatest road trip and we received lots of great submissions. But there is always the risk, especially with a classic car that you’ll break down. And if you’re far from home, in an unfamiliar area, then that risk is greater as you may not have a suitable place to perform the necessary repairs or even be able to get the required parts.

Just last week, attending a new Los Angeles-area Cars & Coffee, my upper radiator hose exploded as I pulled in. While the steam escaping was impressive and made for quite an entrance, I was stranded thirty miles from home. Fortunately, some new friends offered their help. One fellow with a British car had “Rescue Tape” for just such an incident and once my Viper had cooled down, we wrapped the hose tightly, bought some coolant down the road, and refilled the radiator. It lasted about ten miles before there was steam escaping rapidly and the temperature gauge soared. I shut down immediately and some of my new friends who were actually following me to ensure I made it home, stopped and called me a tow truck. It showed up quickly and I made it home to repair my car with no real trouble. It certainly beat breaking down in the New Mexico desert last year, but that is a story for another time.

So what’s been your worst breakdown and what did it take for you to make it home?

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Abdulrahman Linjawi III
Abdulrahman Linjawi III

28hr drive with a bunch of friends in my 97 burb from madison wi to boston ma on thanksgiving, whole way is wonderful, get to my buddys dorm and a coolant hose explodes, 3 days to get the necessary part fixed to make it all the way back, no cooling problems since. Doesnt seem like much, but when your college buddies are high as shit and smokes coming out the front of your truck, GTA instincts kick in and everyone wants to leave the vehicle before it catches flame and blows up.

Sjeer Ke
Sjeer Ke

see comment below

Sjeer Ke
Sjeer Ke

Okay, so this is my worst. Its june 2012, at that time i was 24 and studying product design. As most of you probably know june is that time of the year where every student lives of redbull and coffee, sits behind his desk and try to make it to the next year of university. But as you also know, the second weekend of june hosts the legandary 24 hours of Le Mans, so yes there is the problem. after vissiting from Maastricht the netherlands in 2011 with a straight cut rally mini i decided to save up the montly… Read more »

Cristian Braicu
Cristian Braicu

While my car is not yet that old…the story is still eligible to be posted here. I own a 2004 rotary Mazda rx8. It’s still a 12 year old car so I figured it fits. Along with my girlfriend we planed a trip through europe. We are from Bucharest, Romania. We planed what was supposed to be a beautiful experience including 6.000 km and a 2 week journey so last summer in late july we hit the road. Short, we went thorugh Austria visiting a friend, then Munich to visit my brother. Afterwards the famous Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany and… Read more »

BlakeT
BlakeT

My Dad and I flew out to California, from Wisconsin and Tennessee respectively, to pick up his old 1977 320i and drive it back to Wisconsin then Tennessee. Along the way we ran into a blizzard, had the ignition switch fail, fuel pump fail and points ignition largely cannibalize itself. We made it to Wisconsin only about one day late. After the car lived in WI for a bit being repaired it made the trip to TN without any issues.

Micah Daniel Lazarus
Micah Daniel Lazarus

My dad and I were out in an Aston DB6 and right in the middle of a busy crossroads the car stops with a loud bang, completely out of petrol, will not start again.
I had to get out and push us out the way of everyone else. Not a single pedestrian came to help either.

Llohan Esburgo Llamas
Llohan Esburgo Llamas

Loose my steering column, in my 67 mustang, allmost hit a motorcicle , ended in the midle of the street, now i need to do like a preflight whit this junk

Alexander Hay
Alexander Hay

My recent break down was on my way up to Amelia Island for a car event a lot know as the Amelia Island Cars and Coffee late Friday afternoon. I decided to take my 1997 BMW 528i with 198,xxx miles. The trek was a total distance of 156 miles from departure to where I needed to be in Jacksonville. I left around 4:30 PM just in time for rush hour traffic. The drive went fine up until I reached a little north of Daytona Beach on I-95 before my car started sputtering and losing power! The section of highway was… Read more »

Lee H
Lee H

Worst breakdown was a few years ago after purchasing my 1977 Porsche 911 Turbo. This is the first generation 930 (’75-77) with 3.0L non-intercooled engine, no power steering, etc. Very raw, occasionally scary, but very fun car. This was also the first vintage 911 I bought though had already owned a modern water-cooled Porsche. I was literally driving home to the New England area from buying the car from a guy in Pennsylvania. Total distance was ~350 miles, so a meaningful haul but not a crazy multi-day trip with a new to me vintage car. The car had been largely… Read more »

Rex Seven
Rex Seven

Short story. Rotor tip seal self destructed and ran amok through the combustion chamber, out the exhaust port destroying the turbos, and the first engine in my 1993 RX7 was toast. That was at almost 100,000 miles. Engine two seems fine at a little over 160,000 miles total (60,000 for this engine).

Joe Wislar

July 2007 My wife and I built a pair of custom Chevrolet Bel Airs (mine a 1959 and hers a 1951) and drove them from Chicago to Maryland for our wedding. That’s about 700 miles one way. Mine already had a lot of road miles on it, but hers was a fresh build. The trip there went very well. On the way home, in the mountains, we were hit with a sudden rain storm and she noticed a shimmy and pulled over. It turned out that 3 of the the 5 wheel studs on the front driver’s side wheel had… Read more »

Thomas Swoboda
Thomas Swoboda

The day I bought my first classic, a beautiful 65 Ford Mustang Fastback. After taking over the car from the seller the parking brake handle fell off, but who needs parking brakes anyway…..on the way back to Manhattan the engine sounded a bit odd but I attributed that to fine tuning of the carburetor. When I entered Midtown tunnel to get into Manhattan I realized that if was more than just fine tuning….in the middle of the tunnel under the East River the lights suddenly went off and then the engine died. That was when I realized cars did not… Read more »

Chris Muise
Chris Muise

It was all my fault. Driving from London, Ontario to Winnipeg, Manitoba cutting through a few US states for a friends wedding. A year before I had made the drive in 20 hours straight. I bought a brand new suit, first I had ever owned, packed a few tools and hit the road in my 84′ RX-7. I get half an hour down the highway and the car jerks hard to the right as I hit a bridge joint. Afterwards drives on fine. Half an hour past the border and the car is randomly jerking all over the place and… Read more »

Ian Jordan
Ian Jordan

This years Le Mans 24. My ’69 ETypes’ clutch master cylinder went 50 miles form Le Mans on the Friday morning. It spent 5 weeks in a Peugeot garage lockup/workshop before being sent home. I got to Le Mans in a Renault hire car 🙁

Charles Ward
Charles Ward

When I was 17 years old, I had the privilege of driving an original 1966 427 Shelby Cobra. The car belonged to a good family friend. The car had not been driven in a while, and we knew the battery was dead, so we came prepared with a new battery. On that car, the battery is located just behind the passenger foot well, and is installed from underneath the car. We didn’t have a lift or even a jack, which made it very difficult to replace the battery. After spending more time than I would like to admit, we finally… Read more »

Jon Bopp
Jon Bopp

I was returning to Ft Bliss Texas after leave in my 1969 Z28 from my home in Indiana. As I let of the gas entering Gallup New Mexico I heard a bad noise in the engine and it began to misfire. I pulled over into a gas station and opened the hood, hearing the noise coming from the driver side valve cover. I shut the engine off and got some tools from the trunk and removed the valve cover, finding a broken push rod and removed the spark plug which was the culprit (I had put new plugs in before… Read more »

Trackdust
Trackdust

On my way to Italy, driving through the Gotthard tunnel in my Alfa Romeo 33, the car lost power. It was the third time this happened during this trip, but the two garages I visited after the earlier power losses couldn’t trace the problem. The first one suspected the fuel pump, but that was working like it should be, the second one in Freiburg thought it was a problem with the lambda probe and replaced it. While my car lost speed in the tunnel, it was clear that the probe wasn’t the problem after all. A truck behind me thought… Read more »

Andrew Salt
Andrew Salt

It was summer 1983. I was riding my new 250cc Honda motorcucle up the M6 motorway through Cumbria from Birmingham on my way to the Isle of Skye – about 200 miles done of my 500 mile journey. The bike was loaded to the gunnells with camping gear, and thinking I was a cool dude, a huge Ghetto Blaster stereo strapped on top of it all. I barely had room to sit on the bike! It was slow going. My mate, on a bigger bike, lost patience and went off ahead. As I was riding up Tebay Gorge, with the… Read more »

Ray Houghton
Ray Houghton

This was back in the 80s. It is a motorcycle story rather than car. Several years running my friend Tom and I would go to the unofficial BMW motorcycle owners of America rally in Death Valley. One year the ride home was cursed. it started with me getting a flat tire on the way out of the valley. that ended up being way more trouble that it should have been, and held up leaving for a day, but was a minor problem compared to what followed. The next day we got an early start, we were having fun carving he… Read more »

Nicki L.
Nicki L.

I was going to a vet’s office to get my 2 kittens fixed. The vet was about 45 minutes from my home. The cats had to be dropped off by a certain time in the morning. I brought my 2 cats & my 2 sons w/ me where it was a late start day @ there school. I was quite impressed w/ myself for arriving @ the vets office w/ 10 minutes to spare. Took my time getting out the cats & kids & strolled in. There was nobody to be seen. I rang a bell @ the desk &… Read more »

David Saffioti
David Saffioti

On my wedding day…. While getting photos with my 72′ 250 Benz I got a call from the driver of the London double decker bus I ordered. (to drive the complete wedding party around) He said that he was stuck in a back street and that he couldn’t turn around because reverse wouldn’t engage. I quickly drove down the street to help him out and as I pulled up my benz stalled and broke down. A passer by offered to tow the bus a few meters back so we could complete a 3 point turn, he was smoking all 4… Read more »

Joseph Chimbolo
Joseph Chimbolo

College days flew to Daytona to drive my aunts 1966 Ford Anglia back to Connecticut. Our trip was delayed by a very attractive waitress in a bikini at Kokomo’s beach bar. Hit the road at last call. The car broke down about 40 miles from Savanah, towed in the wrong direction to Darien GA. Stuck there for a few days trying to fix the car, with me and mechanics trying to get it going. The town made it clear we were not welcome. So we got caught a tow home from my mom with a tow dolly as she was… Read more »

Sid
Sid

I was driving a ’72 Datsun 240Z at about 65 MPH when I came to a small town where the speed-limit was quickly reduced to 45mph then 35mph. When I went to apply the breaks they were to my surprise, completely gone. There were cars slowing down to the appropriate speed in front of me and I was coming up on them fast. With nowhere to go but a small grocery store parking lot to my left I swerved across traffic into the lot at speed. I went blasting past the front of the store and around the outside of… Read more »

Focodave
Focodave

34 years ago, while I was attending college and commuting about 40 miles each way from home to school, my 72 Super Beetle went dead on the highway at 60 miles per hour. I gracefully steered it to the shoulder of the road, opened the hood and found that the throttle cable had snapped. I was on my way to school for an important exam so I did not try to flag anyone down for help. Instead I scoured the shoulders of the highway to pick up whatever wire, rope, string I could find. I connected several pieces of mis-matched… Read more »

Emerson
Emerson

And we have a winner.

Johannes
Johannes

Not too long ago, our ’72 Unimog (don’t know if they have those in the States) which we still use on a daily basis in our forest, just died on a country road not too far away from home. Since I didn’t know what was wrong and didn’t want to starting searching in the setting dusk, we went to fetch the tractor to pull the 5.5-ton Unimog home – of course not before having pushed the Unimog to the next side road, which got us seriously sweating. I hadn’t driven the tractor since 2007, and since it doesn’t have a… Read more »

Chrispc
Chrispc

I was slowly pulling out of my campground one morning in the Grand Tetons on the way to Yellowstone NP in my ’82 Westfalia. Suddenly without coughing or sputtering the motor quit. I coasted out of the way to let other campers leave and removed the rear deck lid. Everything looked normal. After checking different possibilities for the failure I remembered carrying the one part my mechanic said I would probably never use. It had been riding with me for 15 years, stowed away with other spares like distributor rotors, caps, fan belts, points and oil. It was the condenser… Read more »

thataabguy
thataabguy

Every spring, we take our 1966 Saab 96 Monte Carlo 850 on the grueling 4-day, 1200km Spring Thaw Rally, deep into the wild interior of British Columbia, almost as removed from civilization as one can get below the Arctic Circle. The very first year we ran, plug #3 ripped right out of the head, taking the threads with it. Since the engine is a 3-cyl 2-stroke and uses gigantic plugs with an M18 thread, the chances of finding a proper Helicoil kit an hour north of Kamloops was pretty slim, so we wrapped the plug with electrical tape, wire strands… Read more »

Rip Curl
Rip Curl

Years ago my friend had a breakdown in his Lotus Esprit and needed help getting home. I opened the engine compartment lid to find that the throttle cable had snapped. We were about 5 miles away from his house so I devised a plan to get us home. I grabbed a wooden stake from a nearby real estate sign and climbed into the rear trunk compartment (behind the engine). While my friend drove I used the stake to operate the throttle as it was too hot and remote to use my hands. During the drive two problems arose. The first… Read more »