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

Tell us About Your Car’s Worst Road Trip Breakdown

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
6 years ago

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
6 years ago

see comment below

Sjeer Ke
Sjeer Ke
6 years ago

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 student loan ment for studying and bought myself an awesome Volkswagen T3.

Not just a Volkswagen T3, a high milage, ex police, ex rockband bandbus, ex taxi with a massive peacock in the jungle painted on the sides.What can possibly go wrong?

Chapter 1 ;Day One of ownership.
At the time i just had a new girlfriend. she was smart, good looking and most of all, just like her parents a perfectionist. everything in and around the house was spotless, and then the VW peacockmobile showed up for the first time, in a clouwd of blue smoke.
Keep in mind, this is the first time i was allowed to sleep over, share a bed with their daughter.
My alarmclock goes off, i open my eyes, go down the stairs, open the door… and it looked like a bloody BP oil disaster, The van i bought apparently had a rusted trough diesel tank and i just filled it up with 65 litres, til the last drup in the perfectionistic maintained blue stone driveway with white gravel.

chapter 2
After the BP driveway oilspill i had a week of exams followed by weekend and on monday the final exam. so i decided to follow trough with my plan.
Study like a monk, depart to le mans friday after the exam, drive back sunday night and tackle the last exam on monday.
in the meantime i still had a leaking fuelltank wich needed sorting. i sourced one on the internet, picked it up, called a mate and started the job.
after 5 hours of work its about 3 am, me and my friend where litteraly as black as charcol but decided to treat ourselfs to a midnight snack. I was living at my parents place back then just like my brother, and he picked up the smell “frikkandelen” (dutch meatsticks) in the deepfryer. so we are standing in the drivway, me and my amigo covered in grease, and my brother, only wearing underwear holding the ‘ fricandel’ and found out that the battery was flat so we pushstarted the car and went for a drive. imagine this me, pitchblack, my bro, practicly naked holding a meatstick and another nasty dude sitting in the front of this shitbox… and yes, police pulled us over, did not have the documents of the car pressent, got taken to the bureau.. explain this story

chapter 3; the jorney to le mans.
mad friday at le mans, would not miss it for the world. so we left aroud 10am, and drove off the the holly grail of motorsport. this van was not particilor designed for motorway use, the tiny 1600cc diesel engine and 4 gears blessed me with a max cruising speed of 85 km/h. after a few hours you start to push your little motor, and your luck. 95, 100, 105 kmh.
Everything went fine, and we reached our destination. or atleast i thought so, at the last “Peage” toll booth people started laughing and pointing. i did not know why until i saw a huge clouwd of smoke, My smoke.
so we did what every le mans maniac whould do, we drove to the supermarked and bought a pallet, Yes a pallet with 1000 botles beer. the handicapt van got loaded with a forklift, we drove to the campsite, started the generator, hooked up the cristmas lights, and blasted the speakers. it was an incredible party and sold all the beer at Mad Friday!!!

chapter 4, the journy home.
so, sitting on the campsite, what now?
i knew the vw was not in mint condition so i did have an AA insurance, including being brought home. called the ANWB, they told me i wasnt a client, i had the bloody membership card in my hand.
who else can be my savior? the only person i could think of was my father, who warned me for this scenario and told me, if you fuck up youre on your own.
called the man, and who did the real 24 hours of le mans, yes your can guess..
borrowed a range rover, rented a trailer, drove 700 km up and 700 km back, almost lost the vw, because 2 tiedowns came undone that where done by 2 drunk blokes.
Needless to say i failed the exam on monday..

opend the engine a few weeks after, piston number 4 was cracked, and because the MOT of the car ended and i forgot to SORN it i got a ticket of 700 euros for “no insurance, mot and no roadtax”. fantastic.

Cristian Braicu
Cristian Braicu
6 years ago

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 in the farthest point in our trip, Paris in France. Everything was full of excitement and I was looking forward on every chance we had to drive the car further and push it to the limit.
On our way back, we stopped to visit a friend in Stuttgart, Germany, and on 4th of August, for my birthday, we spent almost the whole day in the Porsche museum. It was a dream 😀
And finally we needed to return as the vacation was almost over. I planned this very carefully and on our way back we had to stop in Vienna, Austria for one day, then return to Bucharest and be ready the next day to go to work. In Vienna it was really hot outside. You could feel the car struggling as i had the clima turned on to maximum and it still was not good enough. Every time I stopped for refill or something I would feel the heat brutalising the car. We stopped at the last petrol station before Hungary and filled up the car with petrol. It was our last stash of money as we thought, in 3 hours we’ll be in Romania and there I could use one of my credit cards to withdraw some money for another refill.

The , now funny part, beginns near Budapest, the capital city of Hungary. We were like an hour and a half away from the Romanian border on the highway when suddenly the car lost power..started decelerating and finnaly cut power to the engine while doing 130 km/h. I pulled over…we sit there for like 10 minutes and I checked the car again. It started! So without loosing more time we hit the road again only to go through the same thing 40km later. We were now 5 km past a petrol station and about 50 km far from the border. The car would not start, our cell phones were out of service, and our pockets were empty. All we had was 1 cigarette left, 200 romanian lei ok my credit card which would be like 50 euro…almost worthless :)).

As you would expect, the patrole was there in 30 minutes asking what happened. He was speacking hungarian and a bit of german. I know german very well so we could communicate and understand ourselves. He said in order to get us on a trailer and bring us to the border it would cost us 250 euro. I explained to him we do not have that money on us and we will give the car a rest and then try again so he said he’ll be back in 2h. While we sat there and trying to fighure out what to do…the night settled in. We were in the back of the car…holding each other while out of nowhere a mans voice said in our romanian language: “Hello, we saw you here on the sideway with the lid open, do you need help? We go wome with an rmpty trailer and if you need some help, we can take you to the border!” This was unbelieveble! So they took the car and uploaded it on the trailer and that is how we managed to get in the country. They let us in the closest and biggest city there in order to find help from services the other day…where we did not, by the way because nobody would touch a rotary engine! :)) so we slept in the car…with no money to hire a trailer and 700 km away from home. But those 3 men…did us a big favour and wouldn’t even ecelt nothing in return. They were just glad they could help us. We finaly managed ro convince them to at least let us put some petrol in their trailer from the money I still had. 🙂

CB 😉

BlakeT
BlakeT
6 years ago

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
6 years ago

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
6 years ago

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
6 years ago

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 going through major construction so there were no places to pull over let alone safe. As I said earlier rush hour traffic played into this so you have a combination of a lot of cars on the interstate, tired and impatient drivers.
Finally coasted lightly to an exit and found the nearest gas station to set up and figure out what exactly was going on. Finally arrive to an intersection where I can make a legal U-turn where my car drops in RPM’s then dies. Great… Try re-starting it no luck and put on my hazards to warn the biker behind me that I am having trouble. Oh did I mention this particular week was Biker Week? Finally get the car started barley and arrive at the gas station. At this point I got on the phone and called my INDY. He said fuel pump is toast based on what I told him in the past 15 minutes of events and position 2 noise from the pump area under the seat. The irony is that the BMW dealership was 5 miles away yet about to close! I must make decisions quick as sunset is approaching and I was not in the safest place in Daytona Beach!
I quickly contact my insurance company to set up a tow service. Keep in mind this is a Friday.. Get the tow truck 3 hours later in the dark and make my trek back to where I live at midnight with a nice bill. The worst part was having a lack of tools and being by myself in a town I have never been to or know anyone who lives in the town.

Lee
Lee
7 years ago

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 restored in recent years by a reputable Porsche specialist, but the prior owner had done this in a series of stages over a 5+ year timeframe. In general no corners were cut on cosmetic or mechanical stuff, with a single exception… when one of the rear wheel bearings went the prior owner replaced just that one bearing, not both rear wheels. This was disclosed to me along with detailed records of all the other restoration work, and while I didn’t have my own independent PPI done, I did spoke with the shop that restored the car prior to purchase while they had it in.

This was already early December so I was mainly nervous about hitting an early sleet/snow on my from PA to New England, rather than the reliability of the 930. In general the car ran like a top, and the memory of my first 30-40 miles through rolling farm country in central PA when I first started the journey still brings a huge grin to my face. These early 930s are intoxicating to drive, and in their day they were benchmarked against Lamborghini Countach’s and Ferrari 512BBs. I did hit a patch of cold rain passing from PA into NY, but thankfully none of the frozen stuff.

But after my first gas stop in New York not far from the Tappan Zee Bridge , I started to hear a faint and occasional whirring/growling sounds from the driver side rear. At first it didn’t trouble me too much… just the sounds of an old car infrequently driven stretching it’s legs. I pulled over and inspected the general wheel area: wheel bolts tight… check, parking brake fully disengaged… check, tires not rubbing fender… check, no obvious suspension components loose… check. Ok proceed on a bit further.

Growling starts to become more persistent. Starting to get louder. Ok this isn’t right. And then I remember… he only replaced *one* of the wheel bearings when it went bad. What are the symptoms of a bad wheel bearing again? Right… when you have it on a lift, you can feel play in the wheel/hub. When you freewheel it it’ll make a noise. And if you’re driving you hear… a loud growling noise. Time to get off the highway ASAP.

I pull of 95 that moment, at a random exit just a little north of Stamford CT and still about halfway from home. By sheer dumb luck I’m just over a mile from Porsche of Fairfield. There are some good indie shops for vintage 911s in CT, but the dealer will do just fine thanks and I pushed my luck and nursed it that mile and change to the dealer… praying the bearing wouldn’t fail catastrophically leaving me piloting a 3-wheel vintage 911 Turbo. Of course Porsche dealers don’t stock wheel bearings for ’77 930s, but the head technician was super nice and thrilled to work on it and had me up on a lift as soon as I explained the situation. This was on a Friday late afternoon when they were jammed with tons of client cars to finish and deliver, so I was very appreciative.

The final chapter is that the dealer gave me a lift to the Amtrak station and I made it home a few hours later. Once the new wheel bearing came in and was installed a few days later, I caught the train back down to Porsche of Fairfield and resumed my road trip and made it home from there. And the 930 has been a blast and running great ever since.

Rex Seven
Rex Seven
7 years ago

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
7 years ago

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 snapped off, and 2 of the 5 on the other side were cracked and fell off when I touched them. Since we were on the turnpike, I had to drive 40 miles to the next exit, turnaround and drive 45 miles back to the exit we had just passed to get some parts. We got a tow, but the shop wouldn’t help us install the studs, so I pounded out the studs and reinstalled new ones in the parking lot with a hammer. We got a hotel room and started walking across the parking lot to the restaurant for dinner when they shut all their lights off and closed. Did I mention that it was my wife’s birthday? And she was pregnant with twins (although she didn’t know that yet)?

The next day we took the car to an alignment shop that swore they could check the alignment on an old car. They couldn’t. Not only that, they refused to let my wife drive the car into the shop and had some gorilla do it. He couldn’t figure out the manual transmission. Instead of asking the woman who built the car and drove it 900 miles for help, he tried to ram it in to gear, promptly snapping off the shifter. I made some calls and had the car towed to a friend’s uncle’s house since we had to get back to Chicago for a reception. We eventually sold the car from where it sat.

We got another few hundred miles and my ’59 started acting funny, losing power, etc. It was late at night and it died right in front of a used car dealership in central Ohio. Not good. I diagnosed the problem as points related. Good thing I had brought a spare set of ignition parts… but had left them in the ’51 back in Pennsylvania. To make matters worse, I had no cell phone reception. Luckily, the local dirt track races were just finishing and I flagged down a few race teams… but none knew how to work on a points ignition. Finally, a very helpful crew and family (Bruce Lenz and the Lenz Racing Team from Findlay, OH) stopped and agreed that the points were fried, but knew a shop in the next town that could help me. He helped arrange a tow, made sure my very low, very long car was loaded properly, and followed us to the shop.

The next day I went to the shop, but they were closed, and there were no parts stores around. So, we rented a car, and drove the rest of the way back to Chicago. We left with 2 cars, came back with a 3rd, and barely made it to our reception 15 minutes before the first guest arrived! I went back a few days later and picked up my ’59 and drove it home, where it once again died, but this time right in front of my garage. I then swapped in an electronic ignition and haven’t had any trouble since!

Thomas Swoboda
Thomas Swoboda
7 years ago

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 have emergency flashers in these days. Right behind me a NY cab driver with passengers tailgating me like it is common practice in NY…..I managed to stop without the cab running into my car and was blocking one of the two inbound lanes since you cannot switch lanes in the tunnel. Cars must have piled up half a mile out of the tunnel within seconds. There I was stuck in the hot tunnel mid July not knowing how to get out.Luckily, there are security cameras and the police arrived after a couple of minutes with the biggest towing truck I have seen and pulled me out just to dump me right after the exit on some emergency parking spot. I suspected the fuel pump was broken and had to get another tow truck on a Sunday afternoon. In the garage they informed me then that the alternator and regulator were broken too. And did I mention that the gas pedal fell off the rod?

After this initial shock my car never let me down again.

Chris Muise
Chris Muise
7 years ago

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 it’s all I can do to keep it in my lane. I pull off to have a look and can’t spot anything other than some pretty extreme camber. Michigan state trooper pulls in behind to watch traffic and after strapping up a loose inner fender liner I drive off but take my next exit and meander into the first town and stop at the first shop I see. Must be backwoods because he won’t touch my foreign car. This is 2009 folks. He mentions it sounds like the wheel bearings. I have the car put on a flatbed and taken to the Mazda dealer in Battle Creek. They can’t even get parts for this thing without me sawing my own limbs off. Thankfully the RX community is close and I’ve autocrossed with some fine friends in Grand Rapids so I place a call and after spending a weekend on my buddies couch and yanking an entire front suspension off another junk RX-7 I hand Mazda the parts and have one of their techs bolt it all up. I spin myself around and head back home. I missed my friends wedding, spent all my money, and never wore the suit. Why?Because I had over tightened both front wheel bearings and completely destroyed them as well as the spindles. I double check the procedure every time now.

ian jordan
ian jordan
7 years ago

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
7 years ago

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 got the new battery hooked up and thought we had everything back to normal.
We fired the car up and took it out for a nice Sunday afternoon cruise. About 15 minutes into our ride, with his feet resting against the passenger foot well, he felt the battery shift. We immediately pulled the car to the side of the road, fearing the battery might fall beneath the car and cause significant damage. It was late in the afternoon and we were loosing sunlight quickly, so we didn’t have much time to fix the issue. Given the situation, the owner decided the best course of action was to start the car and disconnect the battery. Because the car is void of any electronics, we only needed the battery to power the starter.
In the end, his plan worked flawlessly and we were able to get the car home without any further issue.

Jon Bopp
Jon Bopp
7 years ago

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 leaving home). It was Sunday the station was closed and Gallup had only a couple of motels and no other gas station. I was thinking of removing the broken push rod and plug wire and limp to the next town. I had a used plug in my tool box but who carries a spare push rod. I had a coke from the vending machine and for some reason wandered around to the back of the station only to find a heap of old junk and there it was………a small block engine! I removed a push rod and 15 minutes later I was on my way. All is well that ends well.

Trackdust
Trackdust
7 years ago

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 I was slowing down for fun and while driving very close to me, he put on all his lights and horns. Just what you need in a hot narrow dark tunnel filled with diesel smoke, with no emergency lanes, while your car is losing power. Putting on my alarm lights didn’t help. Just before standstill a small emergency cove popped up and with the car’s last speed I could steer into it. I didn’t have to brake, because the car stopped by itself. This cove was just large enough for one car and a tow truck, say 25 meters max.. I was at kilometer point 12 of the 16 km long Gotthard tunnel. Very soon after I made an emergency call I saw a tow truck driving in the other direction. A couple of minutes later it was at the cove, where I already had pushed my car back to make place for it. The driver of the tow truck was called Mario Ferrari, a name you never forget. Quickly he towed my car out of the tunnel and brought it to a Toyota garage in a village on the Gotthard mountain. Mario and the Toyota mechanic quickly diagnosed a non working fuel pump. They had to order a new one, which was delivered and placed the next morning.

For the third time we had to spend a night not in Italy because of the car problems. The fuel pump was a suspect earlier, but an Alfa Romeo garage had checked it and said it was ok. So our trust in the Toyota garage was not very good. And the costs of being towed and the reparations at the three garages meant I lost a great deal of my budget for the Italy trip. We decided to cancel the trip and go back to The Netherlands. This meant driving again through the Gotthard tunnel with a car you don’t trust anymore. Well, the tunnel went fine and a couple of hours later we were back home. The 33 never let me down since then. It was the fuel pump after all. The quick reaction of the Swiss resulted that we arrived at the Toyota garage with a still non working fuel pump. In the earlier cases it costed a lot more time to get the car to a garage.

Sadly the 33 never went back to Italy. Two years later it was stolen and damaged severely. Every time I make it through the Gotthard tunnel it feels like a victory and every time I look at the emergency cove at kilometer point 12.

Andrew Salt
Andrew Salt
7 years ago

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 bike struggling to cope with its burdens, it just died. A pulled in the clutch and rolled to a stop on the hard shoulder. I guessed I was out of fuel. I opened the filler cab and coudn’t see any fuel. I tried shaking the bike to listen for fuel, but with the huge load, it started to fall over and I was completely powerless against the force of gravity. With my new bike lying there dented, its wheels sticking up in the air, the load in the ditch, and passing motorists slowing to wind their windows and laugh, I felt a right chump! I unloaded, righted the bike, re-loaded, and started pushing for the services and petrol station in sight about a mile away up the hill. After about half a mile, fit to drop and soaking wet with sweat in my black leathers in the summer sun, I looked down at the tarmac slowly inching by, the fuel tap under the side of the tank caught my eye. Only then did I realise there was a reserve setting. I turned the tap 180 degrees, pushed the starter and the engine burst in to life. Exhausted, I tried to get on the bike – but fell over, again this time to my right. I unloaded, lifted the bike, re-loaded, rested, mounted, rode in to the petrol station and filled up. When I eventually got to Scotland, the Ghetto Blaster still worked!

Ray Houghton
Ray Houghton
7 years ago

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 roads out of the valley till Tom hit a patch of gravel in a turn, his front wheel washed out, and down he went. We were both riding old air-head BMWs His was a race prepped R90S with an over-sized touring fuel tank and every speed and handling upgrade offered by BMW of San Jose, mine a dead stock short swing-arm R75/5. As you might guess sliding across the pavement on an air-head boxer engine he ground a hole in the valve cover. Not a problem. We patched the hole with duct tape and were back on our way. We made our way out of the valley, hit a long straight desolate road and opened up our throttles. I was in Toms draft trying to keep up when I saw puffs of white smoke blowing out his tail pipes then saw his rear wheel lock up. I quickly got on the brakes and moved over. we pulled off to the side to find his engine seized. When he ground the hole in the valve cover it must have scooped up dirt and rocks that got into the oil pump and that was all she wrote.

I left him there and rode miles to the next town. BMWMOA gives all it’s members a book with phone numbers of other members, where they live and who’s willing to help out. Luckily there was member about 50 miles away that after a quick call said he was willing to follow me back to Tom and his bike in his truck, pick up the bike, and store it in his garage till we could get back for it.

That out of the way we were back on the road two up on my bike. we were taking turns driving and Tom was driving as we got to the long hellish strip of pavement we call Interstate 5. Tom switched to the reserve tank as rolled past a gas station. I tried to get him to stop, but he was used to his bike with a good 2 gallon reserve. As you can guess about 5 miles down I5 my bike sputtered to a stop. We started pushing in the heat of the central valley as the sun slowly and mercifully set on two sweaty motorcyclists in full leathers pushing that bike a good two to three miles to the next off ramp and gas pump. the rest of the trip was uneventful, but for a short trip from Death Valley to San Francisco, man was I beat when I finally rolled into my own driveway.

Nicki L.
Nicki L.
7 years ago

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 & a woman came out of a room & asked if she could help me. I let her know we were there for the clinic to fix the cats. She informed me that I was the wrongs office. The place I needed to go was 5-10 min away. So I rushed my boys & cats back to the car. It doesn’t start. I think oh great dead battery! So I find a nice older man to give me a jump start… still nothing. I start to panic. I am officially late for my appointment w/ 2 cats & 2 kids 45 min from home & my car won’t start. Also it was my sons picture day school. My husband who was currently on his way in from fishing could make it to make it to us in 1 1/2-2 hours. He was coming into celebrate our anniversary which was also that day! Well all said & done I got a hold of the other office who said due the circumstances they would still fix the cats, put myself the cats & the kids in a cab( which I left my coffee cup in ), got the cats checked in, and awaited the arrival of my husband. While we were waiting the cab driver brought me my coffee cup back & said, ” Honey I knew you needed this after your morning!” My husband picked us up, we got the boys to school on time for their pictures! It was definitely a day I will never forget! Oh for those that are curious I needed a new starter!

David Saffioti
David Saffioti
7 years ago

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 wheels on the 4×4 with the complete grooms party pushing the bus from the other end. After 30 mins we finally got out and with a quick Dizzy check the Benz was back in business. We arrived on time to the church but my wife still doesn’t like hearing this story. It made a great photo.

Joseph Chimbolo
Joseph Chimbolo
7 years ago

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 heading back to CT. So we headed out past Billy’s Used Car Lot and Baptist Church (for real). When I got home, trying lots of stuff, I popped in an old rotor and it fired right up. New rotor was bad.

Sid Widmer
Sid Widmer
7 years ago

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 the lot, tires squealing. Luckily half the lot was empty and I threw the Z into tight circles in the vacant part of the lot until I slowed enough to pull my e-brake to aid in the stopping without spinning me out. I must have looked like a complete crazy idiot racing around the lot. The culprit was a worn out break booster. Thank God I had an opening with no people in the way or I would have had to crash her into the trees to keep from hitting anyone.

Focodave
Focodave
7 years ago

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 pieces together and proceeded to thread the new “throttle cable” through the louvers in the hood, up alongside the car and into the driver’s window. I used my left hand to pull on the throttle, my knees and legs to steer, and my right hand to shift. Pretty traumatic in highway traffic, but it worked.
I drove to school and back home with my makeshift cable. Nothing graceful about it, but I got where I needed to go.
I miss that VW terribly. Those were the days…..
Focodave.

Emerson
Emerson
7 years ago
Reply to  Focodave

And we have a winner.

Johannes
Johannes
7 years ago

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 classic gear lever anymore but lots of switches and buttons, it took a while until I got the hang of it. Meanwhile, two friends were left with the immobile Unimog, which they weren’t allowed to drive, in the middle of the German woods not knowing where they really were, and sporting a hunting rifle on the passenger seat for which neither had a permit. Pulling the Unimog back to base was an interesting task insofar as that the guy now behind the wheel had never driven a vehicle with air brakes before, which tended to either be on or off. It must have been quite an odd sight: a well-lit tractor with hazard lights, and, apparently, a VW van following a couple meters behind, also with hazard lights. The Unimog was lower than the van and unlit in the middle. We reached home safe and sound – it turned out to be a clogged fuel filter in the end.

Christopher Cole
Christopher Cole
7 years ago

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 for the distributor. I thought I had nothing to lose, so I gathered my spare tools and got to work. I soon realized I didn’t have the right socket to get to the distributor clamp nut (think, that would McGiver do??). Instead, I spliced the new condenser into the old one’s wire. I turned the key and it fired up, only with about 30\% less power. This makes a difference on a 67hp motor pushing 4500 lbs in van and camping gear, but we managed to get underway. Once inside Yellowstone I found a maintenance shop that had the socket I needed so I could properly install the condenser and was off once again having avoided a tow back to Jackson.
Hole and a delay in the trip. It was a real bonding moment with the “Beast” of burden.

thataabguy
thataabguy
7 years ago

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 and some random woodland creature on the side of the road, jammed the plug back in at a 10 degree angle…and it held. And got us to the final night’s stop. And started right up again the next morning, and ran fine…until the air leaking around the plug caused detonation, and holed the piston. We got a ride back to Seattle in a Hudson Commodore, and the next morning I hitched up the tow dolly and drove 8 hours north to pick the thing up from the very friendly tow yard, then back across the border, seriously freaking out border patrols on both sides of the 49th. The car has run flawlessly on every Spring Thaw since!

Rip Curl
Rip Curl
7 years ago

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 was that my friend was not a very good manual transmission driver so I had to keep track of the traffic lights, road conditions, and engine speeds to lift off and do all the appropriate revs during gear changes. The second problem was that as we picked up speed the air pressure on the large rear hatch (that was partially open with me in the trunk) starting to get rather high putting quite a strain on my neck that was supporting the whole assembly open. It all must have looked rather interesting from the outside but we managed to make it home without any police intervention.