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

What is the worst repair that turned out to be easy/inexpensive

I have had a few of these.

I was dreading the intake manifold gaskets on my Ford Explorer. But the upper and lower set cost me less that $20, and once into the job, I had it done in less than 2 hours. Not bad at all.

A couple-similar. About 1965 and took my folks 61 Merc to the big city with some friends. When I put the turn signal on, all the lights flashed. Stopped at a station and a guy looked at it but couldn’t figure it out. When I got home I took it to a shop and the guy tried everything and took the steering wheel off but couldn’t find anything. When I had it the night before I must have hit a rock or something and punched a hole in the resonator way in the back. I was crawling around looking at it and discovered the hole in the resonator had melted the wires above it. Separated the wires, patched the hole, and all was well.

Some years later on my 67 Buick wagon, I had gone down to the library at night. On the way back I got stopped for no tail lights. Hmmm. Put a fuse in but as soon as the car was driven a little the fuse would blow. Started crawling around underneath and discovered the wiring harness had plopped down on the tail pipe. So as so as the pipe got hot, it would melt the wires, short out and blow the fuse.

On my Morris Minor, every time I would make a right turn with my turn signal on, my horn would honk. It was pretty disturbing to pedestrians downtown. Took the steering wheel off and the turn switch was grounding against the wheel. A little black tape took care of it.

In 1970 I purchased a highly customized vehicle with a B&M 4 speed Hydromatic. It ran fine but would not move. When I checked it out the transmission dipstick was dry. Asking price was $700 I offered $500 and it was accepted. When I came back to pick up the vehicle I had 8 quarts of ATF. I drove the vehicle home and had no transmission problems in 3 years. Idiots had installed the transmission and not filled it with ATF!

Well there I was in Naples FL, cruising the country with my good friend Kim, and no start, ended up a battery cable had been rubbing , salt had gotten in and corroded the copper, $25 fix! At least we got off of Sanibel Islands before it happened as I am sure it would have been 10 times the price.

My other one was a 1981 Fiat Bertone (X-19). I noticed it was sitting in the parking lot at my work for a long time. I located the owner. He said the clutch was shot. When he was driving to work he was pushing the gas pedal and it wouldn’t go. We jump started it and I drove it around the parking lot. The clutch was fine. I was thinking fuel pump. He asked $400. I told him a clutch would cost twice that. He accepted $200. I had to drive it home on secondary roads as the top speed was about 45mph. I checked fuel pressure and flow which were low. I proceeded to remove the fuel pump. The electrical connectors were under a sheet metal plate. When I removed the plate it was full of gasoline! All of the fuel line was steel except for this 7 inch neoprene section which was leaking like a sieve. Did Fiat place a potentially fire hazard on purpose? I spent $1.50 for this repair as I splurged for 2 new clamps. I drove the Fiat for 2 years with no serious problems.

My friend’s 1972 Impala began randomly bogging and stalling during all but the most gentle acceleration. He was frustrated and thought the carb needed rebuilding. He was over to my parents’ house (I still lived at home–tells you how long ago it was) and it was just getting dusk. He popped the hood and revved the engine and I noticed that the headlights dimmed a lot when the engine stumbled. I poked around the engine compartment and discovered a power feed with chafed insulation was shorting on the transmission dipstick tube every time the engine rocked on its mounts. Moving the wire a little and taping it was all that was needed to fix.

These are kind of like repairs. The first one was an '80 Citation that had a leaky head gasket that would blow steam out of the exhaust. I drained and flushed the cooling system and added “Bars Leak” upon refilling with fresh coolant. It kept working OK for ten years afterward until the transmission output shaft bushing failed.

Another one that was a work-around solution was on the beater '82 Prelude. When the clutch pedal was pushed, it wouldn’t come back up from the floor. I sprayed WD-40 in the hole plugged by the grommet on the top of the tranny, and it worked for the few years that I had the car.

I pulled the bed off of my 2001 Chevy S-10 to replace my fuel pump. As soon as the bed was off…I spotted a broken wire to the fuel pump and it was repaired with a 10cent splice. It could have been around $400 for a Delco fuel pump.


Unfortunately, that seems to be an extremely common problem on GM fuel pumps. Perhaps that’s why they’ve come out with “updated” fuel pump pigtails . . .

My dad had a 1939 Chevrolet that developed a knocking noise in the engine. He had been told that a could be a rod bearing knock or it could be a timing gear noise (Chevrolets had fiber timing gears in those days). At any rate, one service station attendant heard the noise when we pulled in to buy gasoline. He pulled out the dipstick and asked my dad to start the engine. When dad started the engine, the noise was gone. The service station attendant went in to the station, got a hammer, laid the dipstick on the apron around the pump and pounded on it. The dipstick had gotten bent and was hit by one of the throws on the crankshaft with every revolution of the engine.

My 2000 Taurus developed a nasty habit of dumping nearly its entire load of coolant on the road, but only sporadically. Sometimes the system could hold liquid, sometimes I’d leave a giant puddle. I couldn’t see where the leak was coming from, even if the leak was in progress while I was under the hood. My mind went to water pump, radiator, etc. It turned out to be a bad seam on the underside of the reservoir… a few bolts, re-clamp a few hoses, and a new reservoir for about $40 I think, and it was a piece of cake job.

My wife came home with our 1993 Oldsmobile 88 and said that the low coolant warning light had come on. When I checked the car, the coolant in the radiator was indeed low, but the overflow reservoir was filled to the brim and ready to spill out. I finally discovered that the hose between the radiator and the overflow reservoir was very limp. When the car cooled, the hose acted as a check valve and wouldn’t allow the vacuum created to draw the coolant back for the reservoir. A dollar’s worth of new tubing solved the problem.

OK, another one. We had bought a new car so my 74 Cutlass 350 with 240K on it became our second car. Wife drove it to school and picked up son with it. The valve lifters began clattering so bad that my son would hide in the back seat so no one could see him in the noisy car. Finally I decided to take a look and took the valve covers off. I found several of the rocker arm pivots worn so the valve rockers wouldn’t stay tight. A trip to NAPA for a few replacement pivots and rocker arms for about $15 and it was quiet as new.

Warning, turn signal on again: I used to be a Pennzoil fan but after highway miles and regular oil changes, I couldn’t believe how much sludge was under the valve covers. Soon after that I switched oil and don’t use Pennz anymore even for my lawn mower.

I long ago lost track of all the repairs that I thought were going to be difficult and/or expensive that I was able to fix cheaply and/or easily.

I also long ago lost track of all the repairs that I thought were going to be cheap and easy that turned out to test the limits of my vocabulary.

I guess the simplest was many years ago when my '72 Vega started chugging and sputtering in the middle of a wet snowstorm one dark night. I chugged on home and the next morning discovered that a vacuum line had fallen off the carburetor.

First car, '71 Ford Maverick, 200 CID straight 6 (yeah, I know). Transmission wouldn’t upshift automatically. I figured the transmission was bad. It turned out to be a melted vacuum line tot he vacuum modulator.

I’ve got another one. I came home one day and went to go get something out of the hatch on my '88 Supra. That’s when I noticed the brake lights full on! In a panic, I grabbed a screwdriver to pull the underpanel off expecting a broken and shorted brake switch. Instead, I found the plunger of the switch sticking through a hole in the actuator plate where a rubber pad used to be. The pad broke apart, exposing the hole, and the plunger fit the hole perfectly!

My solution was as simple as it was elegant. Some light sanding on the actuator plate and a penny. A bit of JB Weld on the penny and the plate, and let the plunger hold it all together overnight. That was 5 years ago, the penny is still in place, and brake lights work perfectly. All for about maybe 5 cts.

98 Ford Contour 5 speed manual. Clutch replacement.

The book says the cradle with the engine/transaxle has to lowered out of the vehicle in order to remove the transaxle because the cradle doesn’t allow removal from under the vehicle.

If you cut a section of the cradle out, using the control arm as a location fixture, the transaxle can then dropped out from under the vehicle. Then once the transaxle is reinstalled, the section of the cradle that was cut out is welded back in using the control arm as the locator.



I realize that those kind of “modifications” really are time savers for the mechanic

That said, I could never bring myself to do those kind of things

To clarify . . . I’m not judging anybody who does “make the cut” so to speak

I’ll say this, though . . . I certainly hope the customer is informed that the mechanic intends to make a cut, especially if the factory service manual doesn’t specifically tell the mechanic to make a cut, and then weld the piece back in

I know there are guys out there that make a hole in the floor pan or beds of suvs and trucks, because they don’t want to remove the tank to do the fuel pump. Sure hope they told the customer ahead of time. And I hope they did a good job of sealing the hole afterwards


The owner of the vehicle is the one that welded the section back in.