What Is The Moment You Knew You Were In Over Your Head?

Illustration for article titled What Is The Moment You Knew You Were In Over Your Head?
Photo: Mercedes Streeter

One of the goofs we are bound to make is getting in too deep on a project that we should have thought twice about. Tell us about that memorable moment when it became clear you were in over your head.


Maybe you tackled an engine swap and got halfway through before realizing you had no idea what you were doing. Maybe you decided to take your truck off-road and got stuck up to your doors in mud. Or perhaps you got your big boat stuck in the Suez Canal. It happens to the best of us!

There were a few times when I got way too far over my head. Most notably was the time when I thought that I could fix a broken Volkswagen Passat TDI, only to discover that the engine wasn’t producing any oil pressure. I cut my losses and moved on. Another time, I got too confident in my abilities to fix barn-find motorcycles. Before I knew it, I was staring at four completely trashed bikes under a tarp, covered by a foot of snow.

But it’s fine. This is all part of the experience: Learn your limits, be it skills or budget.

What is the moment that you knew you were in over your head? Is it a purchase that did you in? Is it a type of motorsport that you tried out that didn’t work out? Maybe you experienced a big fail on the job? Anything goes.

Staff Writer at Jalopnik and learning pilot. Loves all vehicles! Smart Fortwo (x4), Honda Beat, Suzuki Every, AmTran Bus, VW Jetta TDI (x2), Audi TT, Buell Lightning, Triumph Tiger, Genuine Stella...


As expected, a trip to the drag strip for 13
consecutive runs on my 3.0-swapped SVT Contour
wiped the new clutch straight out. Having never
gone this deep into a car before, I pulled the
wheels, suspension and transaxle off and swapped
in a new clutch disc and pressure plate. But
when I went to put the transaxle back on, I
couldn't for the life of me get the input shaft
in place.

*Help! I'm stuck in a slideshow and I can't get out!*

No amount of jacking or lifting or
wobbling it around would let me seat the thing
properly. It was literally a month of coming home
from work, messing with the car for a half hour,
giving up, then riding my motorcycle to work in
the snow and rain instead. Finally I asked a coworker to
help me put it back together. He looked at it for
a minute, then grabbed the transaxle, rolled
underneath the car, benched it upwards, and slammed
it right into place. I'd spent a month trying to
get that thing put back together, and he nailed it
in 30 seconds.

I asked him where he learned that trick. He
replied, "I read about it in a slideshow of screenshotted
text." ¯\_(ツ)_/¯