This week's question is pretty simple, what was the most frustrating repair you've ever had to do on your vehicle? Be it in your garage or on the roadside, we'd like to know what was the toughest, most frustrating, most whatever-you-felt experience when repairing your vehicle.
For me, it might be my recent need to rebuild an entire fuel system on a throttle body injection car, when I was hoping I only needed to clean the tank and replace the fuel pump and filter. But no, I also needed a new tank, sending unit, fuel injectors, and fuel pressure regulator to get it running again! The parts took months to find, it was a huge pain! 😳
In the early 1970s, I owned an older Volvo P1800. It was in pretty good condition but needed a lot of love. Since it had the large original plastic steering wheel, I wanted to replace it with a smaller leather steering wheel. I bought a small Moto Lita leather steering wheel that I mounted in the car on the street outside my parents' house. When I mounted the steering wheel, I had to cut the wire to the horn running in the middle of the steering column and connect it to the new steering wheel. While I was mounting the steering wheel, a neighbor came by and was curious about what I was doing. It was an older man with his little dog. He complained that so many young people drove by in the street with cars and motorcycles without silencers making a lot of noise. I politely agreed and thought it was a nuisance. In the evening I met some friends and it was a late night. At 2 AM in the morning I was on my way home and had a few blocks left to my parents' house. Then suddenly the horn on the car began to honk with a very high and even tone. I quickly understood that the cord for the horn probably had come loose in the steering column and made contact with the metal. That's why the car started honking. Since I didn't have that far, I quickly concluded that it was easiest to go home as quickly as possible and make the car powerless. When I turned around the corner and had a few hundred meters left, I saw that for some reason the older neighbor was out with his dog in the middle of the night. He stared at my Volvo passing him wildly honking. As soon as the car stopped, I threw myself out of the car, opened the bonnet and ripped a battery cable off the battery. I felt his gaze as laser beams in my back as I quickly entered the house. I was sure I was a new member of his list of badguys. I have experienced a lot of roadside repairs but this was the fastest.
The worst repairs are often intermittent electrical.
What is bad with electrical is it often is not something you can see. Unlike a mechanical failure that is often visual for wear and breakage electrical can not be seen.
To find an electrical issues you need it in failure mode as if it is working then often you can not locate the failure with a multi meter. Grounds are notorious for this.
I had a car once with a tach wire that was put through the firewall. It had no grommet so it rubbed and wore through. All was fine till I would go over rail road tracks. The wire would bounce and short taking the voltage regulator out. It took a while but I finally found the wire I did not install damaged. Once repaired all was fine since.
Today many vehicles are now suffering Body Control module issues. This is often found with the failure of a part. Sometimes it is the unit its self or in one case the factory put in LED back up bulbs vs Halogen. This created a different voltage reading that led to many issues in the cars dash. A change of the bulbs and it was fixed.
Electrical can at times be my kryptonite.
I also lost a supercharger belt on a Pontiac. It had no guide and I had to try to figure out where it went. This one was a real test as the engine mount had to be removed to put the belt on. It was an easy 15 min job once we got the diagram but it was tough to see with out.
I have to agree that intermittent electrical problems can be frustrating, especially on newer vehicles. The most frustrating experience I had was with a '97 Mercury Mountaineer. It was Memorial Day, and after putting the flowers on the graves, the vehicle, which had been running perfectly, refused to start. Some quick shade tree diagnostics determined that it was getting spark, but there was no pressure in the fuel injection rail. The most likely culprit, and the easiest to check without tools, was the fuel pump relay. I swapped it for the neighboring (identical) relay, but no luck. I got a ride home and returned the next day with a truck and trailer. On a whim, I tried to start it, and, what do you know? Fired right up! For the next month, it ran erratically. Sometimes I'd have no problem, sometimes it would cut out momentarily while driving, sometimes it would die and I'd have to sit by the side of the road for a few minutes, sometimes it would fail to start after having been driven a short distance, but NEVER the same problem consistently. All this while I was identifying and testing any component that might affect the fuel delivery. I finally bit the bullet, dropped the tank, and replaced the fuel pump, even though I've never had one of them that ran "some of the time"; they're either fine or dead. Seemed to fix the problem for a month or so, then it came back. Since I had changed out EVERY other sensor, switch, or other component of the fuel system, I replaced the relay I'd checked the first day. Wouldn't you know it? Both that relay and the one next to it functioned only intermittently! Aarrrgg!
It gave me another 5 years of trouble-free service until it started draining the battery any time it was parked for more than a couple of days. I still haven't chased that one down because it's such a hassle dealing with the retained power functions - I just bought a new truck! The Mountaineer isn't really worth much, but the engine and transmission still work so well I hate the thought of scrapping it. So, there it sits behind the shop until I make time to fix it or the wife runs out of patience!
I've actually experienced this same problem on two occasions, both were Ford products. The first, on a1982 Ford van, one proved to be very expensive by way of a new carb. but, of course, that didn't do the trick. It turned out to be the 'sock' on the end of the gas pick up in the tank itself. When operating, the line would pick up tiny particles and clog the gas flow.
The next was was a pre fuel infected mustang. It craped out the same way as described by gyashko. I told my son to turn the engine off and shake the **bleep** out of the car's ass end. He only had to do that three times before he successfully made it home where we took the 'sock' off.
My 2010 Volvo S80 headlight went out on a cross country trip. It was in the 40's and raining. I stopped at a truck stop, but they did not have a chart for the light bulb, so I had to take it out to get the number. The manual only described the bulb, but gave to comprehensible number. You have to remove the headlight assembly and then disassemble it reach the bulb. I had changed one before at home and had no problem. I could not get the bulb to come out, no matter what I did. I guess it was too cold. So I had to complete my journey with one headlight. When I got to warmer weather I discovered that I had ruined the headlight unit and had to buy a new one. Result $200 bulb change.
Removal and install new airpump on 91 Caddie Deville. Can't get to to it up or down. But did get it "just in-between" you might say. Then sold the dang thing!
Not frustrating exactly but right up there in the "worst experience" charts. I was the junior guy in the shop of a dairy outfit. The trucks went out super early, 3 or 4 AM. In the winter they'd get stuck and I would get a phone call to go out and put snow chains on. Laying on a slick, icy road under a truck that is dripping salty slime down on me, trying to wrestle chains onto a 10.00x20 dualie, the driver yapping incessantly because his schedule was shot to hell. I don't miss that job.
The '40 Ford rear suspension is a tranverse leaf spring. Each shackle consist of two cylinders With a nut on each end and two short bars that bolt to the cylinders. One of these little hot dogs slides into the eye at the end of the spring and the other fits into a boss on top of the axle housing.
The holes in my rear end were just a bit small, I tried woodworkers clamps, c-clamps, large hammers, and only succeeded in destroying two sets of hot dogs and making Dennis Carpenter a bit richer.
Finally, I located an expandable reamer on eBay, bought it, and carefully enlarged the holes in the axle housings.
I have a million stories, but this one comes to mind first: My dad's beautiful 64 Bonneville. Starter died at a mall, so we rolled it to the back of the parking lot and got a new starter. When we cam back, it was raining hard, and water was flowing a couple of inches deep under the car; we had picked a spot near the drain. I hated to do it, but I finally dropped into the water and started to replace it. When I looked up, we had been given the wrong starter, something I had suspected, but the guy at the counter had assured me it was correct. So I had to get out, get in the car and get another... The counter guy was given a nice funeral at least.
Quite simply installation of intake manifold on any FE motor in the vehicle. Those that have done it know what I mean; those that haven’t don’t ever try! Trust me.
They only weigh like more than the whole rest of the engine! I've done two- one when I was 15, and another when I was 17. Maybe that's why my back is shot. (I'm 68 now)
I took my 1980 Plymouth Horizon TC3 on a few day business trip in the winter. The car had a four on the floor. When it came to drive home, it was night, and roughly 10 below zero outside. I got in the car and it started up with no problem. But when I tried to put it gear, it was obvious the linkage had broken. I found out a little rubber grommet that connects two linkage parts had broken from the cold. I scrounged some wire, and was able to kludge up a fix. Unfortunately, I had to squeeze into a small space, and thoroughly grease up my nice new down coat. When I eventually got home, I replaced the grommet, but also added a hole to the linkage to add a cotter pin. This would prevent the linkage from falling off if the grommet failed.
Oh, and by the way, I never went on long business trips using my personal car after that. It cost my company the same if I rented or if I took my car. But the cost of towing and repairs etc on my car would not have been reimbursed.
Was out on a first date with a BEAUTIFUL girl. Suddenly my fan belt broke. I pulled over but was no where near any auto parts store. The only EMBARRASING FIX ...ask her for her panty hose. Tied them around the pullies and off we went!
My ongoing problem I can't get thee drivers door to open on my '73 Javelin AMX. It opens to the first notch but that's it. Bodyshops have damaged the paint trying to pry it open. I can't get the entire door panel off as there are 3 screws located behind the dash. Short of removing the dash I'm stumped. Broke the inner door handle off when it first began. HELP!
It's got Pierre Cardin interior so I'm afraid of damaging the door panel.
With my 1986 Benz 560SL there have been so many it’s hard to pick the worst. The engine bay is so crammed you invariably need to have tiny hands ( forget mechanic gloves) and plan on using every tool at your disposal. Saying that I think it was the starter. The upper bolt is impossible to see and almost impossible to touch. In order to get my combination of socket/flex joint/wobble extensions + and a total of 2 feet of additional extensions to clear the chassis I also had to unbolt and remove the transmission dipstick to get in there! Literally took me two full 8 hr days on my back to figure this all out. A number of fellow 560SL owners have mentioned having to put a 24” breaker bar on the ratchet because the bolt was that tight. My only saving grace was that someone had preceded me years ago and was thoughtful enough to apply never seize to the threads. Otherwise I might have never gotten the starter out. All in all a real hairball.
Getting the head off a V-12 E-Type for a blown head gasket. The engine has wet liners and the steel studs (many, many of them) corrode in the aluminum head basically freezing it onto the block. I had the entire front of the car jacked up in the air from the exhaust manifold for 2 weeks before it finally broke loose. Then cleaning the old head gasket off the block and head. That car was a constant nightmare.
When I was a teen I owned a 1964 VW bug. After completing some minor work around the intake manifold I managed to drop a small nut into the intake port on the head. I tried everything from a magnet to a mini grabber to remove the thing but nothing would work. To make matters worse I was supposed to pick up my girl friend in less than 2 hours. Anyone that has owned a beetle knows that an engine can be removed in less than half an hour. I had removed this engine at least once before so I pulled it again (about 15 minutes), tipped it upside down and out came the nut. I re-installed the engine, cleaned up and picked up my girl friend with lots of time to spare. Can you imagine doing that with cars today?
Sometimes it takes more than 15 minutes to put an engine back it, when the splines don’t line up. Solution, take a break and come back after a plate of tamales from the neighborhood deli. Slipped right in. Lesson learned to be patient.
As I was pulling my 1949 Olds Coupe into the garage, I heard squeal and felt a momentary vibration in my left foot. l immediately thought, throwout bearing. That seemed to be verified when i was unable to shift gears. This is no ordinary Olds trans but a Muncie 20 with a CenterForce clutch and custom bell housing. After dropping the drive shaft, removing the Hurst linkage, I removed the bolts holding the trans. The trans would not budge. Not knowing what was going on inside the bellhousing, painstakingly rotated the clutch disc and removed all the bolts and the clutch linkage. I still could not remove the trans. Next step was to remove the bolts holding the bell housing. Now I was abel to see about a 1/4' of daylight between the bellhousing and the block. I inserted 4 small oak wedges in that daylight space and each day for two weeks I would tap each until finally the whole assembly popped free. The throwout bushing was seized on the input shaft of the transmission. Now, how to remove the custom bushing. Pullers were not long enough, packing with grease didn't work either. i tapped the bushing with a 5/8-11 tap and ran a bolt into the the bock and forced out bushing. One frustrating month!
Changing the clutch, for the third time, on my 1980 F250 with a creeper 4 speed, on the cold concrete garage floor in January. Remove the rubber floor mat, pull out the removable floor panel, unbolt the driveshaft and drop the trans balanced on a small floor jack. R&R the clutch. and then fight the 250 pound trans for a couple of hours trying to get the input shaft lined up and then bolt it all back together. All this while fighting the flu. Fortunately I was able to get rid of the crappy diaphragm clutch and install a "Long style" clutch. Never had to change the clutch again.
Phil in TX
We had a 1982 VW Vanagon Westfalia with the little tilted-over Rabbit diesel (48 hp to move over 4000 lbs of bus; yes, a 1982, a Canadian model). It had intermittent loss of power, mainly at higher speeds. I had the fuel pump rebuilt by The Diesel Dr. (diesel folks may know him). But intermittent power issue returned, this time just we we set out on holiday. Holiday scratched. I started playing with the pump, driving it out of town again and again to get it up to highway speed until it choked out, then messing with the pump. I thought it worked each time I altered the mixture— until it lost power again. Finally, I took it to the best VW mechanic in town and he discovered algae in the fuel tank. The tank pickup got clogged once it was really sucking in the diesel at highway speed, but unclogged enough to run again each time I stopped for a bit. A new tank and lines went in and that problem was solved — only to be replaced by the next one in the never-ending cascade of repairs and failures that finally led me to sell it (bad mistake, in retrospect, given where prices have gone for Westfalias since then).
Simple Fuel Pump Replacement
How can an, at most, two hour job of replacing the fuel pump on a front wheel drive ‘86 Chevrolet Celebrity turn in to a three day job? It seems that most of my fifteen minute jobs take at least four hours. I have changed fuel pumps on several cars and have never had this kind of trouble.
The car had been taken to a mechanic for some other repairs and he pointed out that the fuel pump was leaking.
I looked it over and found the fuel pump was located right up front with extremely easy access.
A rebuilt fuel pump was purchased and preparations were made for the easy replacement of the offending part. The car was brought part way into the garage to provide some shade, summer, and so that if a shower blew up, it would not hamper the project. The front of the car was jacked up and blocked up for easier access from below.
The leaking fuel pump was easily removed, no hard to remove bolts or connections. This was going to be a breeze.
The replacement was going to be completed in record time. There were no extremely hard to reach bolts or connections. The replacement pump was put in place and the mounting bolts started in the block. Not tightened because I knew that I would have to wiggle the pump to get some of the fuel line connections to thread. Two of the connections were started, but not tightened. Then the main steel line to the pump was left to start. No matter how I twisted, turned, pushed, pulled or any other possible contortion; the connection just would not start.
After much effort, I decided to take the pump back out and start the connection before I put the pump back in. This started out with promise, but the connection just would not start. During this time, I changed position under the car so many times I don’t want to try to count. All of this to no avail. I finally pulled the pump all the way out of the block, turned it 180° and tried to start the connection. Hooray! That worked, now all I had to do was spin it around, put it in the block, start the other two lines and replace the two bolts. Success, the pump was reversed, the other two lines connected. Now all that was left was to replace the two bolts holding the pump in place. One was found right away. The other could not be found. I looked everywhere to find that bolt. How could a bolt just disappear in a garage on a concrete floor with a concrete driveway just outside. That bolt was never found even when the house was cleaned out when it was sold.
The next day, I took the one bolt I had and went to the mechanic to see if he might have one I could use. I looked though his bucket of assorted bolts until I found two that looked like they would work. I took them home and the next day, I successfully replaced the bolts, tightened all the lines and started the car and checked for leaks.
Like I said earlier, my fifteen minute jobs always seem to take at least four hours. This was an exceptionally long project for such a simple thing as disconnecting three lines and taking out two bolts. I don’t think I was ever as dirty or frustrated any time before. But, I had it apart and couldn’t get the car anywhere else without a tow, so I was determined to get it back together. I was glad when it was over and would probably do it again, but this time, I know how to attack it. However, the next time, some other challenge will rear its head and again turn my quick hour or two job into multiple days.
While a lot of repairs that I have done have been more lenghty, complicated and difficult throughout the years the most annoying one to me was a simple one. I had a 1969 GTO. In order to replace the oil filter I had to remove all the bolts on the header on that side , disconnect the exhaust pipe from the collector and actually move the header to get the filter out. This sounds ridiculous but at the time it was very frustrating and unlike other problems that I had, it never went away. If I had that today I guess I would buy a different set of headers but I was young, inexperienced and somewhat dumb.
Mine was a '90 Benz 300CE. Great looking and really quick car with magnificient handling. But I had to service the AC. Replaced the expansion valve, drier, evaporator core ( that required removal of the dash, console, etc until you could see the engine and transmission from the drivers seat ! ) and the all costly compressor. No matter the effort and the use of R12, $900 in parts later, the outlet temperature will not come below 56 *F. Took it to a specialized shop, same thing.
If a car can't go below 50*F on a normal sunny day, kiss it goodbye, it will not cool.
So I kiss mine goodbye with the bitterness of the most frustrating and fruitless time and money expediture in my life. 😞
I'll throw in another one. Summer of 83, my sister had an MGB that locked up. I rebuilt it with a new crank (old one was chewed up) and bearings, etc. Fired it up and made it halfway around the block on my victory lap, engine losing power as I tried downshifting until it stopped with a tire chirp. Pulled it home with the riding mower with my sister at the wheel, embarrassing her soundly. Checked and one of the main bearings was chewed up and had seized. I replaced it and polished the crank. Must have been some debris left in the oil passage I figured. Car ran about three minutes and stopped again (I wisely did not drive away this time), same bearing damaged. This time I flushed all the passages out to be sure nothing was amiss, and reassembled. Locked up again. I was at the auto parts place mumbling about it, and an old man said "sounds like you have a warped block". He was correct; one of the webs was shifted from overheating or something. Had the bearing caps trimmed and line bored and I finally worked. Never heard of one before or since. I was able to pull the engine and tranny out in 40 minutes at that point, I could have been on a pit crew for MGB. My sister is great, I don't regret it.
Approximately 15 years ago we traveled to the Motor Muster Father's Day weekend at The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village with our 1965 Ford Thunderbird Convertible, 1965 Chevrolet Impala and 1974 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible with my wife Janice, 2 of our children, (AJ and Kaitlyn) Aunt Lynn and Uncle Don, niece Arianna and Grandma Dorothy and Grandpa Mike. The trip from Buffalo to Dearborn was uneventful except the air conditioning in the Thunderbird died, making the ride there very hot.
When we arrived at the hotel, we opened the power rear deck lid on the Thunderbird to remove our luggage, showers were moving in, and the rear lid would not lower. Not being a mechanic we wiggled every wire we could find, unplugged and replugged every relay connection we could find. After all that failed, Grandpa, Uncle Don and I read the shop manual I carried in the car. After over an hour of brain storming and a six pack we figured out how to disconnect the hydraulic cylinders and lower the rear deck manually. That save the trip, because the Thunderbird could not be driven with the rear facing deck lid up.
We normally showed the car with top down, but because of the deck lid problem we showed it with the top up. The morning of the show we quick detailed the cars and put vinyl dressing on the black vinyl convertible top. When driving through the pass and review the commentator for the show remarked that my Thunderbird had one of those very rare silk convertible tops. 15 years later that comment still brings smiles to our faces.
My most frustrating one. I had a 66 Type34 Karmann-Ghia. It was an Arizona car, so no rust, but no rubber w/strips, either. The gasket around the windshield was totally shot. I acquired a new w/shield gasket (not easy to do in pre internet days) and attempted to install it myself. After a few days of almost-but-not-quite getting it into place, I got so frustrated that I did something I've never done before or since: I kicked a hole in the wall of my garage. (The pegboard, not the outer.) I duct taped the w/shield in place and drove it to the glass shop. They got it in, but just barely. They said the glass was too wide for the car! It JUST came out of this car! Anyway it was fine until I sold it 9 years later.
I will add a second tale. Not frustrating, but probably insanely dangerous. 1980. I was flat-towing my 66 mid engine V8 Corvair (with a regular Corvair) from a Corvair convention in Atlanta back to Chicago. Somewhere around Gary Indiana at about midnight, I noticed tons of smoke coming from the left rear wheel of the V8. Pull on the shoulder of I-94. Left rear wheel is about 45 deg negative camber, and the tire was rubbing on the coil spring. Hmm. The Heim joint on the lateral strut rod (holds camber in place) had let go. Nothing I could do to fix it without parts. So, disconnect and stash the towbar, put a note on the windshield and drive 1.5 hours home (by O'Hare). Find spare strut. Back to the V8 1.5 hours later. it's now 3am. Pull my tow car behind the V8, using the headlights for light. Jack up the V8 (I had the floor jack with me) and start crawling under to fix it. took about .5 hr to do it. What was so dangerous? Well, I was on the shoulder of an incredibly busy Interstate, just PAST the crest of a hill, at 3am. No jackstands either. It occurred to me that nobody would see me until they had crested the hill, and had one of the zillions of trucks roaring past been even slightly off to the right, I would have been dead. Reconnected everything, wheel was still about 5 deg neg camber, but rolled, got home about 5am, and THEN thought of all the "what if" possibilities as I tried to get some sleep. I still get shivers thinking about it.