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What's the silliest reason ever for one of your car problems?

I was thinking back on some of the repairs/maintenance that I have done on my car, and one incident in particular came to mind.

I had been experiencing an annoying chirping sound from the front end that sounded like a flock of little birds when I went down a gravel road. I had sprayed all kinds of lubricant on the control arm bushings, but the sound never went away.

One day as I was doing something under the hood for which I think I had removed the air filter box and intake, I happened to look down at the control arm mount and I noticed a foreign object. When I was able to extract it with needle-nose pliers, it ended up being part of the metal clip on top of the air filter box which holds it closed (which was missing). It had somehow fallen through the engine and landed in the small space between the outside of the control arm and the inside of the frame mount.

The silliest reason ever for me just happened. I tried to drill access holes to the cavities in the top of my headlights to insert LED strips and attach them to my directionals. I breeched the seal on one of them and the lamp filled with moisture. I just replaced both this past weekend.

9 of 10 things I try work out. This one did not.

Back in the 80s my wife called me on day from her mother’s house and said the car had a problem; oil light on and making a horrible knocking noise. Oh carp. (sic)

Go over, fire it up, the oil light delays going off, and the loudest rod knock you’ve ever heard.
Pop the hood and the oil level is over 2 quarts down. Low but not an engine killer; theoretically.
Looking underneath I see oil all over which was caused by a failing oil pressure sending unit.
Leaning underneath the hood, staring in disgust, and thinking about the upcoming engine replacement I just happened to notice a 1" piece of V-belt missing from the alternator belt.
You don’t suppose? Removed the alternator belt, fired it up, and quiet as a sewing machine.
So I changed the oil sender, added a few quarts of oil, replaced the belt, and all was well.

I have never, or would have ever imagined, that a belt would have made such a loud and solid sounding noise as that. It mimiced a rod bearing that was absolutely gone to a tee.

Oh a couple come to mind but I’m sure there are more. I overhauled my alternator in my Olds but forgot to plug it back in again. So a couple days later I was replacing the dead battery in the cold, dark parking lot when I saw the error.

When I quit smoking for a while I decided to super clean my work Riviera. So took the seats out for shampooing the carpet etc. Put it all together and car wouldn’t start. Couldn’t figure it out so finally after a day had it towed. They found a missing fuse for the ECM. How that happened who knows but cost me $70. When I said told them I was embarrased to have towed the car in for that, he said “Don’t be embarrased, it took our best technician over an hour to find it.”

We were riding down the street in our new car just after taking delivery. The gauge showed plenty of gas but we soon ran out. The driver (my wife was sitting in the passenger seat) was looking at the temperature gauge.

Picked up a new company car at the Pontiac dealership. I think it was a 1990 6000XLE or whatever the mono colored sport model was called. Sharpest looking company car I’d seen and I happily noticed the gas gauge was on the “F” mark. I’d never rec’d a company car with a full tank of gas before, but hey maybe the fancy car comes with a full tank. No such luck. The fuel gauge was defective and I went about 50 miles before running out of gas.

I went back to the practice of going to a gas station immediately when picking up any car, new or used. Never trust a gas gauge on a car you don’t know.

Silliest problems I have had where on my 2000 Impala LS. One of the problems was the ABS, and traction control trouble light was on and of coarse both ABS, and traction control was disabled. After hours of trouble shooting taking all the wheels off checking wheel sensor I finally gave up. Sense I had an outstanding recall notice anyway I took the car to the dealer Just to find out the fluid in the Brake reservoir being a Little low caused the problem. Now why GM thinks it was a Good Idea to disable the ABS and traction control instead of just turning on a brake warning light when the brake fluid reservoir is low is beyond comprehension.

Second silly problem was I noticed the cruise control on the Impala was not working, since I very rarely use cruise I did not spend any real time trying to fix it. After about a year or so passes I notice a little cruise control disable switch on the turn signal stalk hidden behind the steering wheel, and after turning off the switch I found that the cruise control works fine. Now why GM put this switch on the turn signal stalk when all the other cruise control buttons are on the steering wheel is beyond imagination.

I should add that I recently had a new alternator installed and a few days leter tried to open the passenger window from the driver’s side…without success. I swore a bit thinking I was going to have to replace the regulator motor. A few days later I tried to open it from the passenger side button and…lo and behold…it worked. At that point I was thinking “great. I hope this isn’t a wiring harness problem”.

A few days later, as I was browsing through my vehicle’s technical documentation, I discovered that the windows have to be “reinitialized” whenever the battery is disconnected or the passenger side won’t open with the driver’s side button! In short, I just need to cruise through the initialization protocol and I’ll be fixed!

Now who were the silly engineers who created that joke?

The problem wasn’t mine but I was there.

A neighbor was building up a Baja Bug. The engine was well built and had a pair of Weber dual throat carbs on dual port heads. He took the Baja out for a test thrashing not having the air filters installed and comes back with a knock that sounds like a failed rod bearing. He pulls the engine; strips off all the accessory parts; and pulls the heads. In the bottom of one cylinder head is a small piece of metal wedged up against the surface. There is contact signs on the top of the piston. The metal piece is easily removed and looks a lot like a clipped end of a cotter safety pin.

Now the owner/builder is an A & P and is very consciencous about keeping track of wayward tools; fasteners; and other debris. So he was mystified as to how that piece could have gotten into the carb – hence into the cylinder. One mitigating circumstance is that his two young children had access to the same garage.

I usually do not lock my car doors. We had a freezing rain and could not open a single door. I went to get a pry bar as I did not want to risk breaking the door handle, The proverbial light bulb went off, what if the doors are locked! They were.

I had an 81 Pontiac Trans-am, which had the worst electrical system of any car I’ve ever owned. When I bought the car as a youngster (used), I noticed the tachometer didn’t work. After owning the car for a month or so, I investigated. The electrical connector on the back of the tach was unplugged. Hmm, I wondered, “how could that happen?” So I plugged it back in, the tach worked, and I didn’t give it another thought. …until that evening when I was driving with the headlights on. With the lights on, all the gauges, tach, temp, oil, would all “boogie” with every bass beat of the music on the stereo, which was aftermarket, but not a thumping system like some people have–just a decent sounding, moderately priced head unit.

I would have scratched my head on this for a long time if I hadn’t noticed an extra ground wire from the stereo installation making small sparks just behind the metal ashtray in the car. Mind you, this was a thin little wire only meant as an extra speaker ground from one of the factory front speakers, not something major that had been omitted or cut to make room when adding the stereo. I held it against metal and the gauges stopped moving and read right. The next day I found the main ground in the wiring harness and added a supplementary ground attached to a metal brace with a #12 wire and a beefy ring connector. No more problems with the dash. The car still continued to eat tail light bulbs randomly though at a rate of about one a month until I got rid of it.

I had an issue with my 98 Jeep Grand Cherokee where the interior lights would flicker on and off whenever I made a right hand turn. I figured it had to be a door sensor, but all four (plus the one on the hatchback) looked solid. I checked my connections with a multimeter (no easy feat, since Jeeps are wired by colorblind gremlins); no dice. Once, I got the light to stay on in a Walmart parking lot-I immediately hopped out and began body-checking different parts of my car, hoping to find the loose connection. Of course, I only weigh about 130 lbs, so this accomplished nothing aside from attracting the attention of far too many people. I had resigned myself to the strobe light effect when chance led me to investigate the window latch on the hatchback. Yep, apparently the window on the hatch had its own sensor that would light up the interior, independent of the sensor for the hatch. Five minutes and it was fixed.

Now if only I could find those people from Walmart and let them know I’m not as stupid as I look :).

Not me, but about 40 years ago a customer had her very new Triumph Spitfire towed over 100 miles to the shop where I worked. It was out of gas. In her defense, the gauge said it had 1/4 tank.

For the benefit of the uninitiated, google ‘Lucas, prince of darkness’.

Mice. / squirrels…there is an endless supply of mice and squirrels in the woods we live to eat cabin filters and wiring costing hundreds to repair and lots of traps they just run away with. Shooting doesn’t seem to help as by natural selection, the biggest and strongest and brightest keep replacing the dumb ones causing more damage.
The best solution till they get use to this is Decon…keep it in areas only they can squeeze and we have had three years of respite from them. Now, once they get immune to the poison by evolution and get big as a house, it’s time to bring Steven King and Steven Spielberg to make a horror movie.

Well…it was actually my mother-in-laws problem that was silly in a way. My wife and I stayed overnight at her house and she was going to drive us to church on Sunday morning. She went out to start her vehicle and turn it around since some construction was going on in her yard. She came back in and told me her car died and would not restart. I cranked the engine for a couple of minutes and it did not sound right. I checked for fuel, air and spark and all was okay. I went around the back of the vehicle and spotted the problem. She had backed into a pile of muddy dirt and had plugged her exhaust. I removed most of the mud with a sharp stick and started the engine. The exhaust blew out the rest. We even made it to church on time.

@missileman: Some friends of mine tried the “potato in the tailpipe” trick when I was 16 and had my first car. The car was parked in my friend’s driveway, which had perhaps a 10-degree grade to it. My first car was an ancient, partially rusted out Cadillac with a 500-cid V8 torque monster in it and a single massive exhaust pipe. No catalyst or other emissions. I got in and turned the key. The engine fired right up with no hassle and I didn’t notice anything unusual except maybe a slight lag in the starter, which wasn’t really abnormal for this car on a hot day with a warm engine. My friend stopped me and explained their prank and showed me the potato, which had shot from the exhaust like a cannonball, bounced off the sidewalk, taken flight, and ended up in several pieces on the neighbor’s porch across the street, after bouncing off their house. If the aim had been a little better, it might have gone through their front picture window.

These exhaust stories bring up an episode. A friends 38’ boat had a problem starting, turns out barn swallows had built a nest in the exhaust pipe.

Many years ago I spent a summer with my grandfather who was an industrial mechanic and quite familiar with automobiles. One Sunday the owner of the service station nearby called and wanted some help with a car, the owner was from out of town and desperate. I rode to the station and found a car that I didn’t recognize with a crowd huddled around it. The station owner said he filled the car and the lady started the engine but when she released the clutch the car went backward. The car had 4 reverses and 1 forward. My grandfather adjusted the ignition and everything was back in order. The car was a Saab with a 2 cycle engine that would crank and run smoothly in the wrong direction when the point gap opened, advancing the time too far. That became a suburban legend that lasted many years.

My father-in-law had a brand new 78 Pinto and his wife complained to me that she smelled gasoline in it. When I went to look at it I found that a sheet metal clip that held 3 fusees which had been mounted in his previous car had been screwed into his trunk floor. Of course the Pinto’s “trunk floor” was just the top of the gas tank with a floor mat over it.

I have a 2001 Accord and for some reason the maintenance schedule apparently doesn’t suggest replacing the distributor cap or wires with the spark plugs (you know, the 100k mile platinum ones that cost $20 each) at the 105k service, the cap shorted out, the wires were fried and the $80 worth of new plugs got soaked after about 5 months. I’ll chalk it up to a good lesson to learn.