Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Master of my own disaster

I’m posting this just to add moral support for all of those that are embarassed to ask questions.

I recently came up with the crazy idea that I might be able to drill a hole in a perticular spot in my headlight module and slide an amber LED strip in there to supplement my directional blinkers. Bad Idea. The toughness of the lexan, the required angle of the hole, and the metal reflector inside the module caused neither to be successfully modified and one to split open at the seam. It’s now a condensate collector.

I’ve already received my new modules in the mail, waiting for a good day to install them (I need to remove the bumper shell), but I wanted to let you embarassed guys know that we ALL screw up. And there’s nothing embarassing about it. It’s the price of trying new things.

Peace to all.

Yes, we’ve all seen many ‘‘famous last words’’ epitaphs like your ‘’ a hole right about here should do it .’‘
Mine might read…’‘just a little tighter.’’
( installing a rear gate glass , 80 Bronco. )

Yup, there’s a bit of a fool in all of us.

Thanks for sharing.

I have a friend that decided to do his own brakes, in trying to disconnect a drum spring the screwdriver slipped off and went up to his eye, and he was scared shless, ended up he was lucky in that he ended up pushing his lower eyelid under the top and it got stuck there.

Moral of the story don’t forget safety glasses.

Thank God he was okay. And thanks for the story…and the reminder.

Hmmm. I’ll think about my adding my story as long as I can’t be identified and prosecuted.

I wouldn’t get embarassed over that incident. Everyone including myself has those WTH moments… :wink:

Like the FWD car I was going to tow and it was parked on a very steep rise. Since it had an automatic trans I quickly popped the front drive axles out and went inside for a break from the 100 degree heat. Getting ready to leave an hour or so later I was going to move the car and connect a towbar so I leaned in and released the park brake…

To my horror, the car shot backwards (NOW I remember the drive axles in the trunk!) and in a panic, desperation move without thinking I missed reapplying the park brake and threw the only thing I had behind the driver’s side front wheel in a futile attempt to stop the rolling; my foot.
Didn’t even slow it down. The car flew down and across the street, made a U-turn, and took out someone’s brick mailbox while I lay sprawled on the hot concrete with a now throbbing foot.

The homeowner whose mailbox became history wasn’t upset. He said it had been knocked down 4 or 5 times as the rise there is so steep that park brakes and manual transmissions left in gear just stress themselves loose and away they go. That may be true but didn’t make me feel any less foolish… :frowning:

Well a number of them are coming to mind. I’ve never hurt anyone though. One of the lamer ones anyway: Must have been about 1980, and it was cold in the winter and dark in the grocery store parking lot and the battery was dead on my Olds for my wife. I had overhauled the alternator a day or two before, so just went down and bought a new battery. After putting it in with flashlight and frozen fingers in the parking lot, I happened to notice the wires to the alternator weren’t connected. Dope slap. Probably needed a battery sometime anyway.

1970, changing the spark plugs in my Porsche 912 (that’s German for “young, single, and foolish”) (912 had the souped-up VW air-cooled 4-cyl). Cleverly decided to use a ‘regular’ spark plug socket instead of the rubber-lined one that came with the Porsche tool kit. I learned that the rubber liner is so the plug won’t fall out into the interior of the air shrouds, like mine did.

Around 1998, changing the radiator in the '84 Chevy wagon (that’s American for “older, two kids, but still foolish”). Drained the coolant and disconnected the tranny cooler lines. Decided the car needed to be moved a couple of feet to get access to something. “Sure, it’ll be OK to run it w/o coolant for a few seconds.” I still have the stains from the tranny fluid in my carport.

Experimentation is the American way! A non-success is simply another data point pointing you which way not to go on the road to greatness. Good on you I say!

I once met a frugal Scotttich lad in an automotive store who was going to buy a $30 “in-car” electric warmer (500 watts/120 volts AC) and plug it into the cigarette lighter socket to heat his air cooled VW Bug… All he wanted was an adaptor plug. It took me a while to explain that the heater was 110 Volts/AC, and the battery was 12 volts/DC, and it would require at least an expensive inverter.

Even if he got it to work, it would soon wreck the alternator. His very used bug had a poor heater and he was not used to North American winters.

Not sure what he ended up doing eventually

The point I try to emphasize to people who work for me, and apply to my own life, is that there is often much more to be learned from failures than from success. It’s no small feat to overcome years of conditioning and the subsequent aversion to failure but rather to embrace trying new things without the threat of negative consequences if you fail.

Think about it, if you had done the job and it was “successful” on your first attempt, what would you have learned? Those initial success stories are often more about disasters narrowly averted by “luck” rather than perfectly designed and executed plans IMO. I get the most nervous when something goes perfectly from the outset and no problems are encountered…

At some point, people are taught failure is bad and to be avoided at all costs. When you do fail, whatever you do, do not tell anyone about it! You will be perceived as a failure and that’s bad. The biggest success stories are often preceeded by unprecedented failures and obstacles that had to be overcome. The most important thing is to not give up but to analyze failures and learn from them.

A few points to ponder:

In the old days, everyone’s pencil came equipped with an eraser. (Note: there’s a modern day equivalent no matter how you’re accomplishing the planning aspects)

When learning to downhill slalom ski, the guy who was mentoring me said, if you’re not falling down, you’re not trying anything new or pushing yourself.

Celebrate failure!
Appreciate success.

Love the ski advice Turbo. When I started riding horse my instructor told me “You can’t call yourself a rider unless you’ve fallen off 100 times. If you don’t ever come off, your not pushing your self or the horse”. I eventually got to the point where I could call myself a rider!

My biggest mess up that I can recall happened while on vacation. I had a Ford Escort wagon and was traveling on I-95 through Rhode Island on the way to Cape Cod when my “BATT” light came on. I pulled over and since I carry tools with me on road trips I was able to diagnose that my alternator had failed. Well I figured I would be OK to get to the next exit and find a shop to fix it, but, alas, as I pulled off the exit the car died. Luckily I have AAA so I called and they sent a tow truck. The truck took us and our car to 4 different “Authorized Repair Facilities”, none of which were open. (I guess they didn’t call ahead as they were “supposed to be open”. Finally I got him to drop me in the parking lot of an open NAPA parts store who had an alternator.

Well, as luck would have it, it started to pour rain as soon as I opened the hood of the car. As I got to work changing the alternator, the kind guys at the NAPA store took my battery in, tested it and put it on a charger. As I was buttoning things up it was REALLY pouring and I was in a rush to get out of the rain. I put the battery in and started hooking it up, positive first then negative…the OOPS a shower of sparks as in rushing I put the battery in the car backwards and hooked up + to - and - to +…and destroyed the new alternator!

So I got to change the alternator TWICE in the pouring rain and buy 2 alternators AND a new battery!

Haste makes waste!

And wouldn’t you know it…as I pulled out of the parking lot, the rain ended and it didn’t rain again that entire week!

We learn more from our failures? Gee, I must be a GENIUS by now!!!

Truth be told, I knew there was a possibility of this happening. I took the risk and lost this one. Now I get to pay the piper. Life will go on.

Thanks all fo the moral support. And for those afraid to try things, weigh the risks and consider the “worst case” result. As long as nobody gets hurt and the cost is affordable, t he “worst case” result is generally worth the adventure. For those who might feel dumb admitting their mistakes, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being dumb. Dumb is part of being human too.

My disaster occured when I replaced the brushes in the generator of my 1954 Buick. Instead of buying a rebuilt generator for $12, I bought brushes for $2. I had to take the end plate off the generator. I installed the new brushes and it began charging the battery. The problem was that the ammeter needle was showing that the generator was running on full charge all the time. I replaced the voltage regulator and it made no difference. I drove 350 at night to get back home from graduate school at Christmas break. I turned on everything in the car to keep from overcharging the battery. What I finally figured out was that I had shorted the field coil to ground when I replaced the long bolts that went through the generator. The GM cars had an externally grounded field coil. I ended up paying $17 for a rebuilt generator because the parts house wouldn’t accept my old generator for a core charge as too much solder had been thrown off the armature. They couldn’t believe that the generator hadn’t burned out on my trip back home.
You would think this would have taught me to buy a rebuilt part instead of attempting a rebuild myself, but some years later I decided to rebuilt the carburetor on my 1950 Chevrolet pickup. I didn’t want to pay $15 exchange for a rebuilt carburetor, so I bought a kit instead. It took me 4 hours–had to take it apart twice–to make the truck run right.

Everyone makes mistakes, but what separates one person from another is whether you have the ability to recognize and to admit that mistake.

Since far too many people nowadays refuse to acknowledge their mistakes (it’s always someone else’s fault, apparently), mountainbike is in a small and select group that is actually honest about making a mistake.

As I used to tell my students, the best learning takes place when you see where you made a mistake and how to correct that mistake. In other words, every mistake has the potential to be a great learning experience.
Kudos to mountainbike for his honesty and his humility.

My saying about mistakes is “if you can’t laugh at yourself, how will you ever get along with all those people that are laughing at you?”

Mainly I thought my posting might make those who are embaressed to ask questions feel a bit more comfortable doing so, and perhaps those who are reluctant to offer advice (for fear of sounding stupid) a little more willing to post.


A couple of years ago, I posted my goof–circa 1968–that took place when I was rotating the tires/mounting snow tires on my father’s car. I was interrupted by a phone call, ran short of time, and jumped into the car, confident that I had done my final tightening of the lug nuts. After a couple of low-speed turns, it was obvious that the lug nuts were loose, so I had to complete the job by the side of the road.

After the fact, I felt like a real doofus, but you better believe that I learned a good lesson that day.

And then there was the time that I mis-gapped the points on my Charger…

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
― Thomas A. Edison

Truth be told, I knew there was a possibility of this happening

That’s the voice of experience weighing in. When we’re young and haven’t encountered these type of problems or consequences from our actions, we forge ahead without any caution. What could go wrong? When we get older and have experience, we carefully consider the consequences and forge ahead anyway. So what if it breaks, I can buy a new one! :wink:

For those who might feel dumb admitting their mistakes, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being dumb. Dumb is part of being human too

There are such negative connotations to both “dumb” and “ignorant” that no one likes being associated with either. I figure you’re only dumb if you can recall the prior result and repeat the same mistakes. Ignorance is something everyone has. Until you have experience, you’re ignorant. Nothing wrong with that, it’s a fact of life. As you get older and gain experience, hopefully the number of things you’re ignorant about declines…

Everyone makes mistakes, but what separates one person from another is whether you have the ability to recognize and to admit that mistake.

Right on!