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McGyver fixes

Have you ever done one? Mind sharing?

Here’s one I had to do recently:

My '03 Camry with 50k miles has had a lot of rusting occuring around the front end due to the winter salt and low usage. I have replaced the horns, hood lock and some miscellaneous hardware that has rusted out on it.

Recently, it started dripping fluid on the driveway which is a situation I cannot tolerate. It appeared to be oil and I thought it was just age and some engine gasket/seal. Having a 19 mo old boy, I don’t get much time to do any repairs and even then I get maybe an hour at a time. I finally got around to looking at it and lo and behold, it is leaking from under the radiator, running down the splash shields and dripping back by the engine. It turns out to be the trans cooler line.

I get under the car and remove the shields (I hate push nuts). It’s two rubber hoses coming off the trans and going into tubing nipples on the rad. Figure the hose is leaking on the inlet side. Go to remove it and the whole nipple comes off in my hand. What luck, it could have easily failed on the road. Closer examination shows this is a brass tube with a flare and captive nut. The nut is rusted away, leaving only a small portion holding the tube. The return line is simply a tube brazed into the lower rad tank.

Quick searches online show this inlet is not available separately. It comes with a new radiator. I don’t need a radiator. Nobody seems to have one except the dealer can order it. Having no time, I go to the dealer and order it. $21 and should be here in three days (Sat->Tues). I can wait. Tuesday comes and I call to see if it came in. OH NO, that wouldn’t be in yet, it’s coming from our warehouse in New York (said like it’s a million miles away and they’re hand carrying it). Do you know when it might be in? Nope. Just call us everyday to see if it came in. WHAT? Are you kidding me? Well, maybe Thursday.

Sensing a problem :wink: I decide to look at fixing the one I have. Miraculously, a standard compression nut (think ice maker tubing) has the same thread pitch. I try it and it screws right on but is too deep. The tubing is also metric size so the nut is not going to fit over the line without some modification. Another hurdle, my flare kit does not accomodate this odd sized metric tubing…and, the tubing has two, raised crimps for the hose; one to secure the clamp, one to set the depth of penetration. Enlarging the nut hole to fit over them will leave very little to engage the flare.

So, the best fix is to cut the tube, enlarge the nut hole, slip it down the tube to the flared end. Then splice the tube back together. I found that copper tubing intended for the compression nut was just about the right size to fit over the brass tube. I cut a small section of the tubing to act as a mechanical joiner. A little flux, some heat and solder and viola, the tubing is back together.

To reduce the nut depth, I simply jammed some paper towel into the tube end and ran it up against my stationary belt sander until it was the right depth. Cleaned it up and installed it. It has been working ever since.

The new part finally came in a week later. They took 1/2 hour to find it when I showed up. I almost told them to keep it and give me my money back. When I saw the part, I knew why it failed. They had cheaped out and used a galvanized steel nut on the brass tubing hoping it would last longer than the rad…

For whatever reason, non OEM replacement battery posts very often just don’t mate well with the terminals on the cars we have: You have to crank the bolts so tight that they appear bottomed out and yet you can still move them, if you pushed them sideways.
They just don’t make good contact.

I usually cut a piece of plumbing pipe, maybe 3/4" long and cut a vertical slit in it, bend it out slightly and slip it over the post. Then slip the battery terminal over it.
Sure, it is dissimilar metal so there may be some electro-chemical reaction but no more than the wires that they crimp in the lead battery lugs. It works great and beats putting new fitting lugs on or tightening the lugs so much to the point of stressing/breaking them.

Many years ago I made a Saturday trip to a town near Tulsa so as to do some dealing on antique motorcycle parts. At the time I was driving an older carbureted Subaru wagon and took the back highways for the 125 mile trip home. About 60 miles from home and with no houses or cars in sight the Subaru coughed and quit; and it was still near a 100 degrees outside.

I determined the less than 1 year old electric fuel pump had failed and I was up the creek without a paddle; especially on a Sat. evening with the sun going down.
After some minutes of contemplation I came up with the cure to get me home; hopefully.
A jug of anti-freeze in the back was dumped (sorry environmentalists) and the jug was filled with gasoline after removing the fuel tank drain plug. (every tank should have one)

I then lashed the jug of gasoline to the windshield wiper on the driver’s side, rigged a few pieces of vacuum hose (plugging what I needed to along the way) into a fuel line, and then started the jug siphoning to the carburetor while allowing the hood to remain partially open on the safety catch to prevent the fuel hose from being squashed flat.

Keeping the speed down, I had to stop now and then to refill the jug but this setup got me home without the expense of having a wrecker come out from who knows where and possibly leaving me sitting on the side of the road until midnight waiting on them.
Facing the west, the sun shining through the jug allowed me to keep an eye on the fuel level and stop as needed and thankfully I did not pass any law enforcement; although I’m not sure what the charge would have been… :slight_smile:

I had a shop teacher that made a rotor replacement with a cork and paper clip for his VW bus. He was on missionary work in Africa and out there there are not a lot of parts stores.

just go buy an aftermarket trans cooler and bypass the one in the rad…

I had the horn button fail on my 1950 Chevrolet pickup, so I mounted a push button on the steering column to open and close the horn relay to sound the horn. I kept having problems with the automatic choke on my 1955 Pontiac, so I bought a hand choke kit and forgot about the automatic choke.
This wasn’t an automotive repair, but when my wife was in the hospital, the latch mechanism on our ancient clothes dryer failed. I thought it might take more time to get the parts if the parts were even available and to try to repair the original latch mechanism, so I fitted the door with a barrel bolt lock. It held the door closed and all worked fine. When my wife got home and back on her feet, I offered to fix it right or buy a new dryer, but she thought my “repair” was just fine. We used the dryer that way until it finally gave out.
My brother had the start side of the ignition switch fail in one of his old vans, so he rigged up a switch used to bump the starter under the hood that we used to use for cranking the engine to set the ignition points. He ran the wires through the firewall and taped the switch to the steering column. It worked just fine.

After work one Friday I jumped on my 1944 Harley flathead and took off on a fairly short road trip; about 200 or so miles total.
Thirty miles down the road the engine starts spitting and running out of power followed by the inside of my right leg getting very hot. Looking down I notice a 3" piece of head gasket is blown out and dangling by a thread.

Making it a few miles to a gas station I borrowed a ratchet/socket and loosened the head bolts.
The piece of head gasket was shoved back into place and the bolts retightened. (Where you gonna find a head gasket for a '44 flathead on Friday evening anyway.)

I then took a small pair of Vise-Grips that I kept attached to the rear fender support for emergency use and clamped them onto the cylinder fin where the gasket was blown. The pliers kept the piece of gasket in place and the bike ran acceptably well (as much as a 5:1 compression ratio will allow) and completed my trip without any more problems.

Loving this thread!

Shield above the exhaust deteriorated around a good number of the bolts that were holding it place. Wire cutters + wire hangers + “Now where can I find somewhere to hang this from?” = fixed car.

One of my rental cars, a Chevy Aveo, had the solenoid go out on the shift release. So, the car wouldn’t come out of park, thinking that the brake pedal was not pushed down. I flip open the little panel where you can get a screwdriver or something to manually push down on the release as a way to get the car to a shop. I folded a piece of paper enough times that it worked like a bolt, holding the release down. Cut the paper to shape, replace panel, car never had any more problems.

^^ Cut the paper to SIZE, not shape. Sorry.

On my POS Volvo, the backup lights quit working somewhere around the third or fourth year, as a result of a bad switch. (considering the abysmal quality of the car’s electrical system…I guess that this was inevitable)

Because the backup light switch was essentially inaccessible for me (I forget if it was mounted on the top of the trans or inside the trans, but it would have required way too much work to access the switch), I came up with a work-around that was actually very practical.

What did I do?
I spliced a toggle switch into the wiring for the backup lights, mounted it in my dashboard, and simply had to throw that switch in order to be able to see in back of me when I was parking.

The really big plus from this fix was that I had a terrific way of making tailgaters panic.
If you ever soiled your pants while tailgating a teal blue Volvo many years ago, I was the guy who turned on his backup lights when you were riding my rear bumper.

I’ll bet that you stopped tailgating…at least for a little while after that, didn’t you?


Does a soda pop cans, a wire clothes hanger and a couple of hose clamps work as a taipipe repair, sure we did it but pop cans are not what they used to be!

Connected a large rubber band to the passenger side wiper and the door mounted mirror and a string to the drivers side wiper and in through the vent window to operate the wipers manually for the trip home.

I just thought of another one.
When the accelerator cable on my Karmann Ghia snapped, I ran a piece of twine from the passenger compartment, out the window, to the carburetor linkage. I had to prop the engine cover up in order to make this work.

By pulling on the twine, I was able to drive the car (not very smoothly) to my mechanic’s shop. Having to steer, pull the twine, and work both the clutch and the brakes was apparently a real test of my coordination…and I barely passed that test.

@VDCdriver, that reminds me of a road trip in a Winnebago with friends, the accelerator cable broke, no parts available within 150miles, I got a throttle control for a lawnmower, hooked it up to the carb and we tag teamed through the mountains, me controlling throttle on shotgun, and him controlling brakes and steering! stuff that works!

I actually had to do that twine workaround one time too. The accelerator cable on the SAAB broke on I-35 about 60 miles from the house.
Some walking up and down the roadside provided me with a piece of hay baler twine (pretty common in OK) and once lashed on and routed through the window it got me home although the twine was really digging into the finger due to a strong return spring on the throttle lever.

Bigmarc, Have you even tried to fit an aftermarket AT cooler in an '03 camry? Show me the photos cause I want to see how it is done.

These are great! Really enjoy reading them. Some of these really fit the description of McGyver fixes!!

just go buy an aftermarket trans cooler and bypass the one in the rad…

@Big Marc-

That wouldn’t be prudent, especially since where I live it can get pretty cold in the winter. The OEM “cooler” really is a temperature regulator. The engine coolant both heats and cools the trans fluid. In cold weather, the trans will run cold for a long time if it even warms the fluid at all. An external cooler will only make the situation worse, dissipating any heat it manages to develop.

I don’t know if this would be McGyverish or not but here goes.
Some years back me and a friend were planning on riding out BMWs to the Sturgis motorcycle rally in SD. Just a few weeks before the rally he called me one evening and said he may have to bow out because he had crashed his BMW big time. After some conversation about the bike and the damage I made the 175 mile trip to his place early one Saturday morning with a wiring book and a bag of extras strapped onto the seat of my BMW.

Once there, I cringed because the bike was mangled and the state inspection was due on top of that. The bike had gone off the roadway into a dry riverbed; skidding about 150 feet through rocks and mowing down small scrub trees and brush as it went.

The first thing we did was prop the bike against a large tree and beat the entire rear half into alignment with a large sledge hammer; eyeballing it as we went. A crowbar was used to bend the mufflers enough to get them out of the rear spokes and a large pipe was used to (sort of) straighten the handlebars. The gas tank was beyond hope so he had to live with much less capacity on the fuel quantity issue.
A car seal beam was duct taped into place inside the lamp housing after that was beat into shape with a ball peen. The instruments had been ripped clean off along with most of the wiring and since state law required a speedo we duct taped a VW Rabbit car speedometer in place. The guts were showing but it worked. After half a dozen other workarounds I got started on the wiring and simply cut it all off with snips. I then wired it up good enough to get a charging system, horn, lighting, and called it good.

He gave it a test run down the road and said it was fine so a week or so later off we went to Sturgis; about a 2000 mile round trip. The bike passed inspection and was flawless on the trip other than a subtle vibration which was caused by the rear tire being out of balance. We balanced the tire on the side of the road in the Black Hills by using electrical tape to attach a rock to the light side of the tire. Problem solved.

A BMW club from MN came in while we there and most of these guys were wearing slacks and loafers. They did look with quite a bit of disdain at my buddy’s bike and one finally walked over and asked, “did you really ride that thing here?”.

That would have really been astounded if they saw that bike a year later with the built in the backyard sidecar on it; all made out of scrap pipe, several car tie rods, and large wooden crate mounted on it for storage purposes. The crate had been used to ship Mexican tomatoes in and was lettered in Spanish with a large pic of a red tomato on the side.
Function took the place of styling in this case.

Back when I was a college kid, the old Pontiac I was driving decide to leave the wipers running the whole time the ignition was on. I took a new fuse and purposefully blew it across the battery. I used a soldering iron, two strips of wire and a toggle switch to make and break the fuse connection in the wiper circuit. I left it dangling under the drivers side of the dash and just turned them on when I needed them. Last time I saw the car it was still being used well after we sold it.

McGyverish temp fix ;
1968 Dodge van 318 transmission shift cable snaps.
This old van had the engine dog house right between the front seats where the girl friend ( still my wife ) would sit next to me.
Took coat hanger to the trans shift lever and laid it upwards in the dog house.
Each time to shift I’d lift up the dog house lid , reach in and push or pull the hanger just enough clicks to get the right gear. Worked for weeks till I got in the part.

McGyver-ish permanent builds
1- Add-on fog lights 1992 Explorer. Bought a good ol’ floor mount dimmer switch and wired the fogs to that.

2 - back-up lights on trailer.
All trailer plugs do not have a pin for any back up lights. Drummers house and practice room is rural with no street lights so adding back-up lights to the trailer was a must. Adding the lamps was a snap so I just ran a single wire to the tounge and spliced a sing;e wire to the reverse circuit of the truck allowing the singles to dangle near the other trailer gang plug. When you plugged it the regular plug you simply reach for the two singles and snapped them together too. Viola ! back-up lights on the trailer.