"My Volkswagen Ate My Hand"

Illustration for article titled "My Volkswagen Ate My Hand"

Welcome back to Garage of Horror, where we share your worst wheeled experiences. Today we have two stories but one lesson: If you have two choices, pick the option that doesn't end with people laughing at you.


Today's tales aren't so much horror stories as face-palm moments — you know, the moments where you find yourself either intentionally being stupid, or maybe simply making a choice without thinking. Maybe you managed to catapult a stove into someone's front yard with a 1990s Nissan Frontier. The details may vary, but the result is the same.

Our first story comes from Santarita:

While I was in college, I drove an '89 Volkswagen Jetta. Like most cars, it occasionally needed attention, and I often gave it oil changes. Once, during that most special time together, I decided that an extra half a quart of oil would help with heat dissipation (or something — I forget the logic), and that I should just toss it in the engine instead of tossing it in the trash. I went to class the next day as normal and everything was fine. After work, I got out of school and met up with my friend Tom, who had a Probe GT-S at the time. We decided to go play a little on the way between school and his place.

If you've owned one of a late-'80s Volkswagen, you know that the vacuum and intake systems are close friends. There's a reason that they spec a certain amount of dino juice. As soon as the heated driving got under way and engine rpms broke into the 4000s, there was a sudden and immediate power loss. I first thought I blew the motor, since that power loss was accompanied by huge billowing clouds of brackish smoke.

Knowing I was basically dead in the street going 12 mph full pedal (but not knowing that the intake system is sucking in the overfilled oil and burning it), I pulled into the nearest grocery store and went to pop the hood. Tom parked next to me.

For some reason, the hood release was limp. That's fine, I thought — I knew I could pop the latch, if I could get to it, behind the VW logo. The logo pops off with a screwdriver, but I didn't have one with me. Tom goes inside to get a soda while I start to poke my finger into the space in the second dip of the "w."

Bravo! I think, as I catch it and the hood hops up half an inch. Oh shit, I think, as I realize my hand is stuck in the logo.

Tom comes out of the store to find me sitting on the bumper with my hand stuck in the front grill. Without realizing the whole mess, he immediately asks me if I'm done figuring things out. He then realizes that I'm stuck and lets out an "OOOOOOHHHHHH SHHHHIIIIIIIITTTT!" as he starts to revel in it. He then goes to check the cars for tools.

A decent flathead screwdriver would save me. The uniball pen and loose change we found would not. Turning the car on resulted in painful vibrations, and riding on the hood was bad enough, to say nothing of the fact that I was at risk of breaking off a finger. Tom goes home, leaves me there in the grocery store's parking lot to get laughed at by the public, and gets a flathead and our friend Drew, who brings his camera to shoot me stuck to the car.

We eventually get the logo off the grille but not off my hand. Shifting with the logo stuck to my bleeding hand, I drive the smoking, powerless VW to Tom's place. We break the plastic away from my cut and bleeding finger, drain a little oil, and drink away the pain. Tom still hasn't let me forget it.

As well he shouldn't. The following short story comes from joerogers:

One summer, a friend and I were dispatched by his parents to take an old stove to the junkyard. We loaded it into the back of his mid-90s Nissan Frontier. As we drove down the gravel road toward our destination, he decided throw the truck in to a few fishtails in the gravel. The stove's extra weight in the rear shifted, giving just enough weight shift to send the rear end of the truck around. As we crashed into an embankment, the stove went flying.

Now, someone had witnessed this entire event from their front yard and came over to talk with us. Instead of calling the police as we had expected, this person just wanted to make sure we didn't leave the stove in the road in front of his house. We promised him we would clean up the mess and be on our way.

By some terrible coincidence, the stove had left the truck and landed directly over a yellow jacket nest. As we walked over, we were surrounded by tiny balls of stove-induced fury. We escaped with a few bee stings to serve as a reminder to drive more carefully. And without the stove.


Stove drifting? Isn't that a national sport in Finland?

Garage of Horror is a recurring feature where we share your automotive nightmares. Some are mild and some are wild, but all are moments — some funny, some painful, some outlandish — that you'd rather not repeat. Have your own Garage of Horror story? Email it here with the subject line "Garage of Horror."


Image Credit: Paul Julius Martus


Van Sarockin, rogue trebuchet

Dammit, hand me the metric left-handed crescent wrench.