Your most hacked together car repair

To get you off the side of the road, and limping home (or to a shop, or just to drive it til it breaks again…) what is YOUR most hacked together, seat of your pants, duck tape glory, story of on the spot car repair?

One day a guy let me ride his velodrome style bike… no brakes, and only one gear. Not for me, but fun to try.

Later that day, walking home, a neighbor asked me to help him tow a truck back to his house. He would attach a rope between his car and the truck, and I would be in charge of the truck. OK, fine. On the first downhill, it became clear that the truck not only didn’t run, it didn’t have any brakes.

Not really a repair story, but two vehicles with no brakes in one day.

I actually did use pantyhose (source unrevealed) as an emergency fan belt for a 1979 Pontiac Lemans. The car was parked overnight in cold weather and the belt just snapped while starting the car in the morning. It allowed me to drive to the nearest garage without any problem.

For best results, use only the legs and twist them into a rope to get a smooth shape. Much easier than carrying a spare fan belt and a set of tools.

I was with some friends in heading to CA in a Winnebago. The throttle cable broke and the nearest place to get one was 100 miles away. I got a throttle control for a lawnmower hooked it up and was in charge of the gas while my buddy drove.
My shop teacher while in Africa and made a rotor out of a cork and paper clip.

My brother had a 1971 Datsun (now Nissan) pickup truck and the frame rusted through and broke. We needed to use the truck, so we jacked up the two sides of the frame so they were even and, using two big C clamps, spliced the broken parts of the frame together with a 4 x 4 piece of wood. He drove that truck until he located a similar truck with a blown engine and swapped out his good engine. When the frame on the next truck gave out, he gave up and bought a newer truck.

It was a Christmas Eve 4-5 years ago and I was doing some last minute shopping just before the stores closed. As I was heading home, the pipe coming from the catalytic converter let go (it wasn’t a total surprise as it had been making some noise) and my 1990 Jetta got very LOUD. No repair shops were open and weren’t going to be for the next two days, and I had to get to my sister’s for Christmas day. She lives 300km (180 miles) away.

I play electric bass, and I own several, and keep all the old sets of strings after I change them. I decided that I’d try to re-attach the pieces by “lassoing” the cat and tying the end to the pipe. Fortunately, I had lots of these and each one is almost 30 inches long and the thickest ones are about 0.1" thick, so I thought they’d be sturdy enough to do the job. I jacked the car up a little, blocked it and used about 20 of them to put the exhaust back together.

Once I felt that I’d secured it, I started it up. It was still a little loud, but it wasn’t going to let go, and at highway speeds, the sound was actually only marginally louder than usual. I got cleaned up, set out and made it there (and back) no problem. I took a couple of pictures and send them to my brother (who is also a hacker and bassist) and he got big laugh out of it. When I got back, I took it to a muffler place and had a more permanent fix done. I explained what I’d done and the guy there had also had a laugh.

So… pantyhose saved one guy; my ‘E’, ‘A’, ‘D’ and 'G’s strings saved me.

I did something very similar when the throttle cable on my Karmann Ghia broke.
I rigged up a long piece of twine to the carburetor linkage, left the engine cover ajar, and somehow managed to yank on the twine while steering and shifting in order to drive the 1.5 miles or so to my mechanic. Needless to say, I drove very slowly.

I’ve seen this done.

Like VDCdriver, I drove about 60 miles home after a throttle cable broke one time on a SAAB. I had remembered seeing a hunk of hay baler twine on the side of the highway (pretty common here in OK) so I bumped the idle screw up a bit to increase the idle and backed down the shoulder for about a mile to where the twine was. Snipped a piece off, tied it to the throttle lever, ran it under the hood, through the drivers window, and attached it to my left index finger. It got me home although it was sure cutting in and painful by the time I got there.

The other was when a fuel pump on an old Subaru quit me. This was an older carbureted model and the pump died about 70 miles from the house with the closest car parts house being about 50 miles away.
So after some serious deliberation I poured out a jug of water I carried for emergency use and drained a gallon of gas out of the tank. (Easy to do on a Subaru, it has a drain plug.)
I lashed the gas jug onto the windshield wipers. Some emission hose was removed and spliced into the carburetor gas line. I siphoned the hose to get the gas running and attached it to the carburetor while leaving the hood slightly ajar so as to prevent pinching the line flat.

The speed was kept down to about 30 MPH and I had to stop a couple of times to replenish the jug but it got me home. The roads are sparsely traveled but a few people passing by me did give me the occasional odd look while wondering what that yellow jug on the windshield was all about.

1982 – '73 Volvo wagon; about 120K miles. Driving my bride into downtown Pittsburgh, in a little snow. As we reach the end of the ramp onto the freeway, the left wiper arm breaks off. Whoops! Pull over. Hmmm. Recover the wiper blade of the broken arm. Remove the stub of the left arm (as I recall, it was some simple spring release). Remove the right wiper arm, blade and all, and move it over to the left side. Good enough to get into town, do our errand, call a Volvo dealer, and motor over to get a new left wiper arm.

Two come to mind:

-On a friend’s Ford, we used a piece of twine tied to the carburetor as a throttle when the linkage broke.

-On my first car, a not-so-cherry 1974 Cadillac, the alternator bracket broke. I drove it for a month with a Crescent wrench wedged between what was left of the bracket and the top of the alternator. Worked very well as I recall. On the same car, the headlight switch went bad so I had two floor switches–one for hi/low beam and one for on/off for the headlights.

On a narrow secondary road 5 miles from home a friend’s boat trailer had a wheel bearing fail and the hub broke loose. He called and with no place to park the boat we used an E-tool to cut a limb from a tree and secured it between the axle and frame with rope and drug the boat home. It was red neck engineering at its best.

My '82 Honda Prelude engine shut down on me when my girlfriend (now wife) and I were about 100 miles from home visiting her family. On the side of the road, I managed to figure out the ignition switch was bad. I disconnected the wire harness, and jammed two jumpers of 12 ga. wire (had some small pieces in the trunk) into the connector, one to turn on the ignition and the other to activate the starter. The radio wouldn’t work, and the cooling fan didn’t run, but I managed to limp home that way until I could get a replacement switch, which was only $40.

Reminds me of the movie “The World’s Fastest Indian,” when the wheel falls off his motorcycle trailer and he lashes a log onto the trailer frame to drag along the road instead, Indian travois-style. Yeah, it was Hollywood, but it looked possible…

Had a Corolla, automatic, on this car the differential was separate, was leaking oil. So I always had a bottle of W80 oil glue to the driver pillar and tubed to the differential. Car lasted 20K like that and I sold it.

On another car I had the mechanical fuel pump was shot and could not find replacement. My buddy had an electric on sitting in his shop. Wired it from the ignition with extra tubing for the fuel and drove around for a while like this.

I was driving a '78 VW Scirocco at night when the alternator light came on. I had about an hour left to drive so I disconnected one headlamp to lessen the battery drain. I did manage to make it home.

The next day I took apart the alternator and saw the brushes were worn down. No parts store around had the right brushes for it. So I bought brushes for a similar alternator and carefully filed them down to the dimensions I needed. They worked for many years.

This actually was not a hack but it was a step that kept us in the race. We blew a sparkplug out of our Class 2 VW powered off-road car (this is back in 1977) and when the crew found us we took the head off the car they were driving (a Class 5 VW Bug prerunner) put it on the race car and left them to get rescued otherwise.

I did shear a pin that staked the gear on a distributor drive on a 235 Chevrolet and put an easy-out in the hole and broke the left over part off, worked good. Best use ever for an easy-out.

While I did not do the cobble job itself, I was nearly a victim of it. Many years ago I bought an antique Harley motorycycle that had been customized. Molded frame, Bondo, custom paint, etc.
The frame was an altered Harley rigid (meaning no shock absorbers which did not come along until '58). It had the as per usual extended Harley spring fork on it. (done by welding Model A Ford radius rods onto it)

I rode it around quite a bit for a number of months and while coming home one cold fall night I was about 20 miles from town and clipping along about 65 MPH or so. All of a sudden the ride became “cushiony” and very nice. (Keep in mind the rigid frame has no shocks, the seat was thin, and the fork has little movement in it.

My back and kidneys enjoyed the rest of the ride and the next morning I took a closer look at the bike to try and figure out what was going on.
Both front downtubes under the steering head had separated and there was a 1/2" gap in both of them; meaning the only thing holding it all together was the frame backbone and the motor mounts.

A bit horrified, I started chipping Bondo off from the broken area and discovered that some fool in the past had modified this frame with a couple of pieces of 1/2" plumbing pipe. Even the pipe threads were still in place and had been welded on.
It’s a miracle the bike, me, and the front end all remained traveling in the same direction.

1961 389 scored cylinder walls. Jb weld - hone- new rings. Good for couple thousand miles. Just a guess odometer cable gone.Just wanted to try it. Had seen it done on small engines. Junked the car. Ever see that trans. with the interior convertor. Crazy

Driving my 1968 Pontiac Tempest Le Mans convertible, full tank of gas, about 10 miles from home when - CRASH grind slide grind, cough cough - the car stalls and I look in the mirror to see the gas tank sliding down the road after me. So I stop, we get out to inspect the situation and the gas tank, a flat thing with a very short spout that gets filled by pivoting the license plate down, is OK, no leaks, and seems fine. The straps that held it to the underside of the car had rusted through. So we picked it up and put it in the trunk, piled the other stuff around it and on top of it, I found the gas line that had come off and ran it up through a convenient rust hole in the trunk floor and re-attached it, and started the car. Off we went. I drove that car another year, like that, then the rust got so bad I couldn’t open the doors if it was parked on uneven ground, so I junked it. The junkyard used it to run around town, gas tank still in the trunk, until the car broke in half and collapsed onto the road. Convertibles don’t do well with rusted frames.