What's Your Worst Working-On-A-Car Experience?

Image for article titled What's Your Worst Working-On-A-Car Experience?

I take a fair amount of pride in working on my car myself, and although sometimes I feel like I’m backed into a corner by the warranty-loving CarMax junkies out there, I know I’m not alone. However, when you rely on yourself, things can turn from bad to panic in record time. What are some of your worst wrenching experiences?


I’ll start it off with my own:

Some time before my 19th birthday, I took it upon my underworked, under-experienced and broke self to swap out the transmission in my 1998 Nissan Maxima GLE from an automatic slushbox to a rifle-precise manual. I had no idea what I was doing for the most part, but I eventually completed the task with a little help from my friends, afair amount of encouragement from the internet and a hell of a lot of divine intervention. I am still in your debt, Odin. At the time, I had a girlfriend that lived two short hours from me in a rural part of the state - a drive that would certainly stretch the legs of my new-to-me manual transmission. On one of the weekends when I elected to drive to her place (read as: “Dad’s not home, come over”), after getting to a nice desolate area in the middle of nowhere, I decided to convert one of my front tires to smoke.

As I expertly laid waste to the secondhand Toyo Proxes4s in fine form, an unusual “pop” sound came from the engine bay and the car awkwardly coasted to a stop. I could still hear the faint idling rumble of the adequately sized V6 and although I could physically put the car into gear, the body wouldn’t move in the slightest. I popped the hood and didn’t see anything other than the rat’s nest that I had created from a once-stock family sedan. At that point, I reluctantly had to flag down a passing patrol car and asked him nicely to radio for a tow truck and explain to him that the skid mark on the ground wasn’t mine, but I’d do everything I could to help him to find the reckless hooligan that would attempt such a monumentally dumb feat in his town. I also phoned my then-girlfriend to come down and confirm that we wouldn’t be engaging in any of the fun stuff 19-year-olds do when parents aren’t home because I had no money and she had to pay the $350 charge to tow my cobbled together modified grocery-getter back to my house - two hours away.

When the car arrived at my house, I had realized the issue almost immediately - one of the front axles had slightly popped out of the transmission. It took me about ten minutes to slide and secure the shaft in the transmission and the car was good as new - er, as good as it was, at least. This discovery cost me $350 at a time when that was a typical two-week paycheck. Thankfully, nothing was hurt other than my pride, my wallet, and my sex life for the foreseeable future but that stood out as one of the times when I screwed up in epic form and paid the price, literally.

What are your worst DIY wrenching stories? You can send your responses to apidaonline@gmail.com. Your names will be withheld for the purposes of the story, unless otherwise noted. I’ll round up the best ones for a juicy post or two in the coming weeks.

(Photo by : : w i n t e r t w i n e d : : on Flickr)

Tavarish is the founder of APiDA Online and writes and makes videos about buying and selling cool cars on the internet. He owns the world’s cheapest Mercedes S-Class, a graffiti-bombed Lexus, and he’s the only Jalopnik author that has never driven a Miata. He also has a real name that he didn’t feel was journalist-y enough so he used a pen name and this was the best he could do.



You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He won’t mind.



I think I’ve got this. I’ve done some difficult things (rear brakes on an E-Type with no lift, Giubos on my Alfa, water pump on an A/C-equipped Mercedes 220D just to name some off the top of my head. But one experience stands out as the worst.

Thanksgiving break four years ago. My best friend says that he needs to replace his oil pump on his V8 dodge truck. He’s pretty competent so I agree to help him. We spend all night in the cold taking the oil pan off and cleaning everything. I’m being very careful - after all, this is his only car and I’m staring at the guts of his engine and removing a main bearing cap. It’s cold and dark, but we finish everything by the next morning.

Then we take the truck for a spin. The oil light comes on. “Oh” he says, “I guess it’s the sender then.” The look on my face is one of utter shock and bewilderment. “You mean you didn’t try replacing the sender first? The easy-to-reach, no-risk sender?”

“Yeah, I figured I’d try replacing the oil pump first.” I asked him why on earth he would try a part that requires major surgery before something held on by two bolts.

“The oil pump was $5 cheaper than the sender.”