Strange (MacGyver) Fixes

What is the strangest thing you have done to get a car running? I have a few which I’ll post as an example. Have fun :slight_smile:

Right after I got out of the army I worked at pizza place in Indiana. At 2am on a very cold night my manager’s car had a dead battery. Neither of us had jumper cables and no place was open. I told him I could get it started but he wasn’t going to like it. He said, I don’t care what you do, just start it. I pulled out my trusty Gerber multi-tool and proceeded to cut the very expensive cables he had for his stereo system. He was tickled to death until he took it to get the wires fixed :slight_smile: I told him, “Well, I told you that you wouldn’t like it and you said you didn’t care just get it started.” We all of course had a good laugh at his expense.

A friend of mine had the starter switch fail on his older 60s car. He worked in a plant where they used alot of large punch presses, which had enormous red start/stop buttons since the operators wore heavy gloves to protect their hands.

The company decommissioned and scrapped one of those presses, and my friend took the big red button switch and screwed it on the dash to replace the inginiton switch.

Personally, I have used panty hose (source undisclosed) as an emergency fan belt to get me to the repair shop. Advice; try using just the legs and cut off the lose ends.

The daughter had a date with guy, and about a half hour after he picked her up they returned because the radiator was leaking. When I went to check it out there was coolant literally raining out of the bottom of the radiator. Since this was in the evening there were no parts stores open to get a replacement radiator or even a stop-leak product. His concern was that he had to drive twenty miles to get back home, and he knew he wouldn’t make it with that leak. I grabbed a can of black pepper and poured about a quarter of the can into the radiator and then added some water. He started the engine up and after five minutes of idling all the leaks stopped. He looked at me in amazement. He left for home and after twenty minutes he called my daughter saying he made it home with no problems and that the radiator wasn’t leaking at all.


Nice :slight_smile: Thats good stuff there

I had an old Taurus that someone had given me for free, but had lost all the keys for. It had the common Ford problem where you could pull the key out at any position, so when I bought it the ignition switch was in the “off” but not “lock” position and I could drive it around so long as I didn’t turn it to “lock” I’d be fine. Well, of course I did one day.

What I ended up doing was taking the steering column apart and unplugging the ignition switch module and then I bought another ignition switch and plugged it in. The ignition switch on these has kind of a long stock, so to start it I’d reach under and grab the new ignition switch and twist it sort of like a motorcycle throttle to get it to start. Of course the first time I did this I went to drive off and the steering column locked, but that’s another story…

This is one of my favorite strange repair stories:

I had an ignition switch fail in my 15 year old plymouth sundance. Fortunately, I had the factory repair manual in the car for reference.
I disconnected the ignition switch and jumpered the connector with paper clips to start the car and drive home.

I’m glad I wasn’t pulled over by a cop while driving it that way.

Hell, the cop would have just laughed at you anyway. Who in their right mind would steal a 15 yro sundance anyway? :slight_smile:

I pulled into a gas station with my 1967 VW Beetle, I noticed something on the bottom of the car in the rear seat area. It turned out the battery had fallen through the floor pan. I scrounged up a heavy gauge aluminum baking pan which fit nicely over the hole and used the battery clamp to hold it in place. The Bug lasted a few more years and 2 more owners before it allegedly broke in half on a dirt road in the Poconos.

Ed B.

It probably works better than oatmeal, which has a tendency to clog up narrow channels. It was a standard fix for a leaking rad in the Ford Model A, which had no water pump, and no heater.

Let’s see… Drove my 74’ Caddy with a Crescent wrench jammed in the top alternator bracket in place of the bolt (which had sheared off) for about two weeks until I got the ambition to fix it. Same car the headlight switch went bad, so I added another floor switch next to the dimmer to turn the lights off/on. I could then operate the headlights independently to the tail lights. I later added a switch to kill the brake lights too—came in handy a few times when I was 17 :slight_smile: A piece of picture-hanging wire replaced my throttle cable for a while. Used bumper-to-bumper for ground and a bike-lock cable held carefully in place with pliers and vicegrips for positive to jump a car once. Fixed a hole in a tire with a sheet-metal screw and super glue to get me home once. We got my buddy’s car a couple of blocks home when the fuel pump failed by pouring gas carefully into the carburetor with someone balanced on the fender doing the pouring while I drove it.

Oh, and my friend drove his old Chevy “Three-in-a-tree” manual shift van home for a few blocks using the starter motor for motive force when it wouldn’t start. The starter ended up being a casualty of this endeavor.

I didn’t do it, my dad did.

He was stationed in Germany following the war and had what amounted to his own personal Jeep. Problem with it, and maybe the reason he had it, was that it had a bad crankshaft bearing. Don’t remember if it was a rod or main. He couldn’t get parts to repair it so he replaced the bad bearing with a piece of a leather belt. Said something about shaving it to the correct thickness, dunno how close he had to get it. He had to pull the pan and replace the leather a few times, but he apparently ran the thing for quite a while that way.

Stuck somewhere in Maine in the dead cold at night with my buddy in a Vega. I don’t remember how my somewhat limited diagnostic skills figured out it was the electric fuel pump relay. With only a few basic tools and no supplies, we took out his speaker wires, ran the wires direct from the battery to the pass seat, made a break in a wire there and continued to the fuel pump. I was the “switch”. make contact to run the car, open to stop. Oh, and lying in snow at below a witches’ teat temps was the added bonus.

Last year I just started a new job after being laid off for 6 months. About 2 weeks after I started, the harmonic ballancer came apart. I didn’t have the money (just over $100) to replace it but I did have the pulley part. I took it off the car and brought it too work. I ended up wrapping a part of a rubber conveyor belt around the shaft side and pressing the pulley back on over the belt and shaft. Now its not EXACTLY strait but I have been driving it like that for over a year now :slight_smile:

Went skiing with a friends dad in high school. The car shift linkage fell off at connectinting so her dad climbed under the Omni and used the little wickets(metal clips) for ski tickets to reattach the shifter to transmission. It worked but we lost 1st gear and eventually 2nd gear on the way home.

It was a friends car, a Rambler I believe, and we were in the middle of nowhere down 30 miles of dirt roads on the north rim of the Grand Canyon and the throttle return spring on the carburator broke. I was able to make a new spring from wire I got from a seat cushion thing they had in the car, the kind that provides an air space between you and the vinyl seat so you don’t stick to it.

One day in the mid 1990’s I was driving back to work from lunch in my 1977 Lincoln Mark V. When I went to shift into drive the gearshift collar on the steering column snapped and the gearshift lever pivoted right down onto my lap. The car was in drive so I drove back to work and put blocks behind the tires. After work I was able to jam the collar around enough to get the car into neutral to start it and then get it back into drive for the drive home.

Once home, I removed a cover from around the steering column near the dashboard, slid the broken gearshift collar down into that spot and out of the way, removed the gearshift arm itself and attached some vise grips to the now exposed stump from where the collar had broken off.

The vise grips became my gear shifter, and I drove the car this way for the next 7 years or so. It worked great; I just needed to count how many clicks to get to drive, reverse, etc. (L1 was a little harder to get to but the rest of the gears were easy to get to and it never popped out of gear). The car already had over 250,000 miles when this happened and I didn’t feel like spending the money to fix this properly (the car actually made it to just under 275,000 miles before its demise).

steve63 reminds me of my coat hanger shifter. 68 Dodge van, the one with the engine between the front seats under a dog house with a hinged cover.
When the shift cable broke it was a simple matter of rigging a coat hanger to the lever on the transmission side and up into the engine dog house where it just sat at a slight angle laying just under the cover on the driver’s side.
As I needed to go anywhere I would lift up the dog house cover, move the coat hanger the appropriate number of notches, and away we went.
Worked flawlessly, and was in no hurry at all, while awaiting the new shift cable.

Tried to start a 70 Plymouth 318. Noticed a puff of smoke from between the intake and head, so I held a rolled up rag down on that spot and the owner started it right up. We changed the intake gasket after that.

A Corolla in cold weather wouldn’t start so I pulled the pcv out and put my thumb over the end; vroom.

Starter on Maverick did nothing so connected both ends of jumper cable to negative terminal and both other ends to the block, started right up and replaced negative cable.