The Ten Worst Road Trip Horror Stories

You thought the one time you had to sleep in your car on the side of the road was bad? Wait until you hear these ten stories from Jalopnik readers of true road trip hell.

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Photo Credit: Dave Sag

The Ten Worst Road Trip Horror Stories

10.) Carbon Monoxide Is Not Your Friend

Suggested By: TarHeelandToe

Here's what happened: A rainstorm forced the occupants to close all the windows in their '78 Buick, not knowing an exhaust leak would fill the cabin with poisonous carbon monoxide. They escape with some wet drifting and a bloody gash.

A good friend of mine wanted to escape the drudgery of central North Carolina for the weekend and see what Atlanta, Georgia had to offer. He borrowed his dad's 1978 Buick Regal Turbo, we stacked our Led Zep and Pearl Jam CDs from center armrest to ceiling, and we headed out on the road.

The summer day started out overcast and gloomy which helped us partially forget the fact that the car had no A/C. Then the rains came. In buckets. We rolled up our windows and I experienced what I later learned was an under-car exhaust leak.

That's just the beginning. Read the full story here.

Photo Credit: OldCarBrochures

The Ten Worst Road Trip Horror Stories

9.) A Big-Block Chevelle Goes From Arizona to Detroit

Suggested By: mtnhopper1

Here's what happened: To say the least, shitting on the side of the road was the least of this guy's problems, as he attempts to get his blown out Chevy through the country despite exhaustion, a dead battery, and getting pulled over for a high-speed chase with a mysterious woman in a BMW.

The times are estimates based on by sketchy memory from 15 years ago. I may have blocked portions of the trip out

The car: 1967 big block Chevelle
The route: Flagstaff, AZ to Detroit, MI

Dec 18, 1997 - First day of winter break - I am moving back to Detroit because I transferred to Univ. of Michigan beginning Spring 1998.

Dec 17, 9 PM - 11 PM - Flagstaff, AZ - load car with the contents of my dorm room so I can get an early start in the AM.

Dec 18, 6:12 AM - Flagstaff, AZ - Woke up at 5:45; put on a clean T-shirt; brushed by teeth; and went to the car, only to find someone had smashed the passenger side quarter window and stole the radio and all of my tapes (yes, tapes) out of the car. Fortunately they left most of my other crap. Unfortunately, whatever they did to the radio shorted the car and battery is dead.

Read the full story here.

Photo Credit: OldCarBrochures

The Ten Worst Road Trip Horror Stories

8.) A Jeep Leads to Desperation and a Failed Border Crossing

Suggested By: skwimjim

Here's what happened: Somehow, a group of guys can't get the soft top on their Jeep to close, are mired in misery, and buy away their sorrows with booze and Cuban cigars in Canada. The US border control is not happy about that.

In 1999, my buddy and I were going to drive straight-through from Grand Rapids, MI to Glacier National Park in western Montana to do 2 weeks of hiking and backpacking. Neither of us had a reliable car (he was 19 and I was 20), so we borrowed his mom's 1992 Jeep Wrangler Renegade. We finished packing the Jeep at about 11pm and were going to leave first thing in the morning. Being too excited to sleep, we decided at around midnight that we should just hit the road. As soon as we hit the freeway, the soft top started luffing in the wind, creating a "whoop whoop whoop" sound. Less than 40 miles into the trip, the aftermarket soft top pulled loose from the lip on the Jeep body and started flapping wildly in the wind. We pulled over and reattached it. About an hour later, it happened again. This continued all night long.

Read the full story here.

Photo Credit: Georg Schwalbach

The Ten Worst Road Trip Horror Stories

7.) Trapped in the Back of a Cavalier

Suggested By: Brian1321

Here's what happened: Thankfully this story does not involve any vomiting, hideous breakdowns or crashes, but is just a singularly awful tale of woe from the penalty-box rear of a Chevy Cavalier. This guy suffered sixteen hours back there.

A couple years ago I was somehow convinced to drive to see my mom in Sunrise Beach, Mo (instead of flying) by my Aunt. I drove the 2 hours down to Jackson, NJ to begin my trip and arrived at her house 3 hours late because of traffic (Total time in car: 5 hours).

My aunt and my cousin come out (about 5'2-5'4 each) and I approach the passenger door of her 1997 Chevy Cavalier. "Hop in the back," I stood there wide mouthed as I processed that statement. I was asked to sit in the back of a Cavalier for 15 hours with enough luggage to choke an Atlantic City hooker (I am 6'2''). I dove into the pile of luggage and managed to hollow out a cubby hole in which to slowly await the sweet relief of death. It never came.

*Smash cut to Penn Turnpike*

Read the full story here.

Photo Credit: Skyline014/Wikipedia

The Ten Worst Road Trip Horror Stories

6.) Dad spins the van with no seatbelts

Suggested By: Zombie Wagon

Here's what happened: You'd think that children would be a parent's first priority. Wrong, it's drinking and fishing. If it wasn't surely this dad would not soldier on with a Ford van after the family wagon crapped out in front of a prison, only to spin out with the kids flailing around with no seats, let alone seatbelts.

We made a bi-weekly tradition to pile in the family station wagon, either my Mom's '79 Century, or my step-dad's '78 Malibu wagon to drive up north and do some fishing and whatnot.

On one trip in particular, the ignition coil on the Malibu pooped out, right outside the Oshkosh Correctional Facility. AT NIGHT.

My sister and I were young, 8 or 9 years old, and looking out the window into the dark, at the bright spotlights of the Correctional Facility..... semi trucks blowing past, our hood slamming shut in the wakes.... our step-dad making jokes about looking for guys in orange jumpsuits... yeah we were a little freaked out. Plus it was cold, and with no heater to keep us warm we had thankfully brought a blanket. But when our step-dad wanted a cigar, he rolled his window halfway down and lit up. Thanks, we weren't cold enough. And now we can't breathe.

Read the full story here.

Photo Credit: dave_7

The Ten Worst Road Trip Horror Stories

5.) Your First Car Explodes, the Second Breaks Down, and the Cops Are Here to Screw You

Suggested By: LandofMinos: I am the Nightrider! I'm a fuel-injected suicide machine. I am a rocker! I am a roller! I am an out-of-controller!

Here's what happened: The title explains most of it. First a friend's cherished Datsun catches fire and explodes in a the middle of a wildfire-prone national park in Australia. Then one guy rushes out to get help, breaks his car, and gets no pity from the cops.

Our long weekend that just got worse and worse...

We were a bunch of 17 year olds with relatively fresh drivers licenses and three days off school. So we decided, unbeknownst to our parents, to go on a camping trip south of Sydney to Thirlmere lakes.

I was driving my mother's 77 Mazda 323; 1.4L 4spd RWD... and my mate was driving his Datsun 120Y (B210); 1.2L 4spd RWD. There were five of us, myself, my three mates and one annoying 11 year old brother who promised to not tell if we took him. We were so pumped up about going away on our first ever road trip (albeit only an 80 mile road trip).

We camped in a dirt car park at the second of the three Thirlmere lakes. We didn't care that we were camping in a non designated camping ground, and we got away with it on the first night. On the second day, the local ranger told us we can't camp there, but if we moved off down a nearby track, he'll turn a blind eye (well he was a second cousin of mine).

Read the full story here.

Photo Credit: Alden Jewell

The Ten Worst Road Trip Horror Stories

4.) Hitchhiking with a Meth Head

Suggested By: DriventoInsanity

Here's what happened: It's one thing to spin out and break down in your truck, it's another when your sole source of rescue is a crazed redneck who may or may not want to take you back to his meth lab. Things don't end well.

On a drive to visit Ottawa along the frozen wasteland of Route 81 in bumfuck near Watertown but not close enough I hit some black ice in my pickup, which at the time was a Dodge Ram extended cab 4X4 but in two-wheel so, ass-end comes around and thankfully nobody is around, I do probably a 880 winding up facing the opposite direction in a snow packed median up to the axels/underside from that area around the Tug Hill Plateau 200-300 inch lake effect winters. Everything I do to free the truck, as it's pretty much balancing on hard packed snow, does nothing and, even though I have a manual winch I'd have to stretch it across the highway and there's nothing even in sight to do that.

Luckily a trucker sans trailer drives by, slows down, and asks if I want a lift, which, I always thought afterwards like there'd be another answer? He drives me into Watertown, a small rustbelt nothing upstate New York City with its only real claim to any fame having a large military base off to its Northeast and it's 1 AM, so everything is closed except a gas station which he graciously drops me off at.

Read the full story here

Photo Credit: IFCAR/Wikipedia

The Ten Worst Road Trip Horror Stories

3.) The Killer BMW

Suggested By: triggrhaapi

Here's what happened: We all know that an old, modified BMW is not going to be the most reliable mode of transportation. We do not, however, expect the car to try and kill us several times over in one trip, though that's exactly what happened to this guy. He certainly was questioning his decision to maintain his red 3-series when he was getting patted down by the cops over its smoldering wreck.

At the time, I had a hellrot E36 325is. It had 17" DS1's on it that had been painted white with some sort of hack job by the previous owner. The motor was stock, but it had a full tilt suspension job on it with Koni 3-way adjustable shocks, Dinan springs and GC sways. It handled like a fucking go kart, especially with the Falken Azenis Sports I had on it (220 treadwear, damn near slicks).

So the plan was to show up at Allan's place in San Gabriel sometime around 6am. I lived in Canoga Park, which is as close to the heart of Mexico as one can get on home soil. No shit, we even had old Mexican women pushing around carts selling lollipops dipped in chili powder and fresh tortillas. This place was a shithole, but I digress. I was a poor college student who made bad financial decisions and prioritized a "rape me officer" red E36 over suitable living conditions. My initial destination was about 25 miles away. I got there in about 18 minutes. Do the math. I was maybe speeding a little. My car had been making a weird suspension knock sound at low speeds but it: a) didn't affect driveability and b) we weren't taking my car to SEMA anyway. It didn't make the noise at all on this short trip and I had forgotten about it entirely.

Read the full story here

Photo Credit: Mazin Al-Waili

The Ten Worst Road Trip Horror StoriesS

2.) Driving A Nigerian Car Through A Anti-Nigerian Riot is a Bad Plan

Suggested By: thebigbossyboss

Here's what happened: An attempt to get across West Africa goes poorly when their pro-Nigerian van attempts to get through an anti-Nigerian riot in Ghana. At least the police were helpful this time.

These are all great stories, but here is one for the ages: Driving from the wonderful city of Lagos Nigeria, to Accra, Ghana, in which I learned an important lesson: Never attempt to drive a car with a Nigerian flag on it through an anti Nigerian riot.

We left early at 6am, because even though the distance is only something like 500 kms, you have Lagosian rush hour traffic (21M+ 3rd world infrastructure) and cross the border into Benin, then a border into Togo, then a border in Ghana.

At the Beninese border, we were stopped for two hours whilst the guards tried to extort us for $20 equivalent in West African francs. That is an outrageous sum for those parts and our papers were in order. We didn't pay but did waste 2.5 hours.

In Ghana (we finally made it by about 2pm), the east of country is bisected by a huge lake (see image), and there is one road you can use to go across. So cross the lake we did, and then we came to a halt.

Read the full story >here.

Photo Credit: United Nations

The Ten Worst Road Trip Horror Stories

1.) The Saturn From Hell

Suggested By: Desu-San-Desu

Here's what happened: It has been a while since we last heard reader Desu-San-Desu's story of his crappy Saturn that cost him a year of his life. If you wish to delve into the very worst that car ownership can bring you, read on.

In October of 2008, I was driving a 1994 Hyundai Excel that was missing all the windows on the right-hand side, along with its door panels, speakers, heater, etc. It ran great and got insane gas mileage (50-plus mpg), but winter was coming and I needed a car that would keep the cold out.

I looked around town and finally found a 1997 Saturn SC2 that looked to be in pretty good condition. Five-speed manual, good exterior and interior and the motor and related workings all looked fine after a little poking around. I traded in my Hyundai and an old 1988 Corolla with a bad torque converter, plus $500 cash for the Saturn.

The dealer gave me the bill of sale and the receipt and told me to come back in a few days for the title, since it was in Conway, about 30 minutes away, and he'd have to get it from his partner dealer there. I had a bill of sale and a 45-day plate, so this seemed fine to me. He also warned that the car hadn't been driven in some time and may be a little pokey at first. Once again, I figured that some cars get like that and drove off the lot... pokily.

Read the full story here.

And if you didn't see your favorite road trip story on this list, email it to us here with the subject line: "Garage of Horror."

Photo Credit: Jalopnik