This week's community question is about fixing a problem in a way that nobody would ever consider. Take, for example, this printed circuit for the digital speedometer module on a 1985 Ford Thunderbird.
This printed circuit is attached to the last known NOS speedometer in the USA for this car. Yes, it's NOS: it totally sat in a box for decades before I opened it up.
I went through FOUR speedometer purchases to wind up with this dud? And it's the last one I will ever find? But wait...there's more!
Fear not, I say. After speaking to several people smarter than I, we hatched a plan to replace the printed circuit with individual wires that are soldered to the speedometer's circuit board, then soldered to the factory connection.
At this point, I want to thank my local electronics rebuilder for believing in me, and subsequently doing what I asked to a brand new part. $98 dollars later, I now have a functional speedometer that's likely to outlive the rest of the car. Fingers crossed on that!
Need and desperation is the mother of all problem solving.
I have fabricated parts I Never thought I could but was force to as there were no other options.
Same in situations. We had a tow truck once with a bad gas gauge. We were told it had enough gas to go pick up a Road Runner with the bad wheel bearing. Well we ran out. So I got in the car on the hook and my buddy told me when to gas and he did the steering and brakes. Things teenager will do on a later Sunday night but we got to the gas station and got the car in.
With many of the cars from the 70's to the 80's we will need to do more of this as many parts are never going to be reproduced and the lack of the old traditional wrecking yards has made things even more difficult. They. scrap cars so fast anymore there is little to choose from.
Picture this, a car with 2 teenage boys and their worldly possessions, one Mom on the way home from Boarding school.
All of a sudden the compact car (Opel) IIRC quits running.
I know we need spark, gas and air.
So on the remote roadside (between Pietermaritzburg and Durban ) I start checking the obvious.
Spark Check (Ouch that hurts)
Air Check (seems to suck and blow)
Fuel, Fuel, Fuel.......... Beuller, anyone seen Beuller
OK, so we got power to the electric fuel pump, but no pumpy.
But with power turned on, on every connect and disconnect it seems to cycle once.
Rip a lamp cord from side lamp, run from passenger seat to fuel pump power side (Between terminal and feed) Now sit in passenger seat and arc the other side of the lamp cord. Every arc equals one cycle of the pump.
We made it home, but boy were there some tired teenage arm in that car.
A Craftsman 7/8" 12-point combination wrench will fit over the negative battery terminal at the correct angle to just barely stretch enough to touch the engine block on a 1995 Toyota 4-Runner 2.4 to enable circuit completion if your ground cable is totally toast. As long as you are careful over really rough stretches, it will get you off a mountain where you are deer hunting and wake up on a snowy morning to find you are stuck nearly 25 miles from the nearest civilization 'cause your cable rotted off. It must be a 12-point end-wrench, however, so that when you pound that down over the battery terminal, it'll gouge itself in and stay put during torquing of the engine and flexing of the chassis, thus keeping the open end rubbing on the block and maintaining contact. Ask me how I know - and why I'll forever have a spare battery cable in my kit whenever I go to the outback again...
One of my best was back in '62, four of us were headed from Minneapolis to relatives down in south Iowa, just before Christmas and COLD. We left on Friday night at five, driving a nice '53 Caddie', was just before Christmas, ten below zero.
Somewhere in middle Iowa on a lonely state highway it quit cold turkey, I knew it wasn't fuel. I took the cap off, told somebody to hit the starter, the points didn't move. I took them out, the plastic nub was gone ! With flashlight, I walked down the shoulder, saw a Cheerio stick, broke off a small piece (wood) with pliers, my wife cut two small strips from a BandAid, I taped the wood to the points, put 'em back in and set by eye ... we drove down to south Iowa. We bought and installed new points there, things back to normal.
When faced with a broken throttle cable coming home from Whistler in a 1971 Volkswagen 411 squareback, the solution was to remove the rear engine cover and have my friend pull the throttle. Shift!
It's 1964, and we are heading home from a beach day. This trip involves climbing the Cajon Pass where the weather can go from nice to "uh oh" in a heartbeat. Following my parents car is my sister, riding with her best friend and the best friend's boyfriend in his '57 Olds coupe. As we passed Highway 138, it started to rain. A quarter mile farther, it's just bucketing down. My dad, checking his mirrors, sees the young man rapidly flashing his headlights. We pull over and the guy tells my dad he can't see to drive because the wipers quit. My dad notes the very tired Olds engine isn't making enough vacuum to run the wiper motor, even at an idle. So, my dad, ever the clever fellow he was, digs in our trunk and comes out with a piece of small-diameter rope about ten feet long. He tied one end to the left wiper arm, feeds the free end through the car via the vent window on the right door and tells the guy to get back in. Dad takes the free end, feeds it through the left vent window and tied it to the left arm as well. He told my sister and the friend to pull the rope left and right, and both arms started to clear the windshield! And that's how they finished the climb, only getting a little wet from the open vent windows. My sister's friend still talks about that trip!
Back in college, a buddy & I had an old 21' 1958 wooden boat with a Graymarine flathead 6 in it. We were enjoying a weekend out with pals and a 1/4 barrel of beer and as the sun was setting we decided to head back in.
Plugs wouldn't fire and we were dead in the water miles from nowhere out on a fairly large reservoir. We were Auto Tech guys though, and quickly determined the rotor had a nasty carbon track straight through to ground.
A 2" piece of insulated 12 gauge stranded wire did the trick. Trimmed insulation a 1/4" off one end and flatten it, and in the middle we wallowed out a hole in the insulation to expose the copper and make contact with the distributor cap's center terminal.
A couple pieces of electrical tape to hold it atop the distributor's post and we were back off to the launch site.
No one was more surprised than us when that old flathead popped over and got us moving...And just before the mosquitoes moved in for the kill..!
Lots of imaginative fixes here. Mine was on my '74 Ford courier. I was about 85 miles from home when the throttle pedal broke off of the bellcrank down by the firewall inside the cab. I searched the side of the road and found a piece of bailing wire just long enough to reach from the linkage up to the steering wheel. I wrapped the wire around the linkage and around the handle of the screwdriver from the factory toolkit so I could operate the throttle with my left hand and shift with my right. Made it home and got the bellcrank welded up the next day.
Phil in TX
A buddy and I were stranded by his failed fuel pump. Our fix was to fill the washer reservoir with gas (old cars would gravity feed to the low-on-the-block pump) and reroute one cowl nozzle to the carburetor and plug the other one. We laughed at what a crazy idea it was the whole time we rigged it but we were astonished at how well it worked. Drive until the engine sputtered and hit the washer button.
I think this applies to all of the above problem workarounds: Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. ~ General George S. Patton
I once got home on an actual shoe string. My throttle cable popped the lead end off and pulled out. I took a shoe string out of my shoe and tied it to the carb throttle arm and routed it through the old throttle cable hole. I couldn't connect it to the pedal but I could pull it with my hand and managed to drive it home with a "hand" throttle.
Not really a car work around but a boat work around. I was doing a Gulf of Mexico crossing from Destin, Fl to Clearwater, Fl on a Watkins 36 center cockpit sailboat with 4 of us aboard. This crossing usually takes about two days on a sailboat. About 50 miles into the trip we encountered the 1st significant wave action while on a starboard tack when water in bilge started to rise. Needed to find leak or would haver to abandon the trip. Checked all of the obvious leak sources but no luck solving the mystery leak. Finally traced it to a drain for the forward anchor locker which on a starboard tack was shifting water from the outside to the locker and then to bilge. Needed a temporary plug, but all my emergency set of plugs were to big. Flash of inspiration: solution was a green onion stuck into the vent which would stop the leak. When I called to the crew for the green onion, I was upside down in the anchor locker (which is about 5 feet deep) with legs sticking out of the anchor locker. Crew thought I was crazy but dutifully brought a green onion from the galley which I stuck in the vent and saved the day. The onion lasted the next few days until we got to Clearwater. On all subsequent trips I was always watchful when on a starboard tack and always carried an ample supply of green onions.
I did almost the same thing while working at a Ford dealer. Older car came in, I don't remember what it was, complaint was that a gauge on the dash was inop. Pulled the cluster and found someone had run a Very long bolt thru the steering column bracket (holds column to dash), cutting the bottom strip of the printer ckt in the process. Had a gap of about 1/2". No new printed ckt was available thru Ford. So, I cut away the plastic insulating film down to the copper, and soldered a small jumper wire across the gap. Worked perfectly, cust was happy!
Ok, this is technically not my fix, but a co-worker's who found themselves in eminent danger. Between my boss at the time and the two guys who this happened to, I believe them.
We all worked for a Co2 supplier in dual roles as techs. and delivery guys. Mike and Davey were on a route (Mike was an install tech tasked with training Davey on 2nd shift) in South Atlanta when the throttle cable for the truck breaks and leaves them stranded right in front of Carver Homes, a haven of drugs and gangs to which you would see updates on shootings on the news at the time.
Anyhow, Mike gets on his cell phone (which he luckily had. Back then in was mainly pagers so Davey lucked out to have both a gear head and a guy with a cell phone in one person). They call my boss in the middle of the night to get the number for Ryder, the place that does all of our repair, maintenance and towing when the bottom drops out. The unsavory folks that are up at this hour have taken notice of the big green and white tank truck and decided to start taking pot shots at the tank. Mike throws Davey the phone who by this time is screaming bloody murder while he bravely jumps out, unlatches both sides of the hood, takes his boot lace out, attaches it to the throttle body and runs it through the firewall. He jumps back in hangs up the phone, calls 911 while Davey starts the truck and mike operates the gas. Keep in mind they are still shooting at the tank and they are on the floor with no real idea of whether or not they are going to hit anything.
I was told this the next morning. That afternoon, Mike, Davey, Randy (my boss), and myself had a good laugh about it. It would have been my last day if it had happened to me. I don't think they realized how thick the tank actually is on a Co2 truck. Either way, those two were lucky to make it out and live to tell about it. And cudos to Mike for keeping his head and having the guts to step out of a truck with people shooting at it.