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Hooniverse Asks- What’s Your Most Harrowing Highway Breakdown Story?

Robert Emslie November 8, 2012 Hooniverse Asks 58 Comments

How many of you have read in your owners manual that, should the CHK ENG light on your dash come on, that you should PULL TO THE SIDE OF THE ROAD AND STOP IMMEDIATELY, OPEN THE DOOR AND LEAP OUT IN A ROLLING FASHION? None of you? Okay, just checking. Still, it seems like road trip failures can run the gamut from an inconvenient flat tire to a scaring-for-life breakdown in the middle of absolute nowhere, where cell coverage means a nuclear membrane and – holy crap are those vultures overhead?

It’s those last ones that we want to hear about today. Have you ever been stuck on the roadside for so long you needed a shave? What was that all about, and how did you get out of the predicament? What is your most harrowing highway breakdown experience?

Image: [35milimetros]

  • Circa 2000: I drove my 1990 Dodge Daytona Shelby down from Farmington NM to Las Cruces to visit some college friends. The Daytona has had quite a life, and as such, has been prone to breaking down more like an Alfa than a rock-solid Chrysler product.

    I made it to LC, had a rip roaring good time, and was headed back. After going through border patrol, I decided to see how fast I could take the Daytona. Yeah, I was 20, cut me some slack. I did manage to take it up to 120 before every light came on in the dash, and smoke started pouring out the back. I managed to crawl to Radium Springs, call a friend (who didn't have a car) who called a friend (who did have a car) and they picked me up and headed back to Las Cruces.

    I called my dad, who lives 3 hours away, to come pick me and the car up. He obliged, and borrowed his brothers car trailer. It was an awesomely bad experience, but I still have fond memories of that Daytona…

    • Vairship

      Radium Springs or Radiator Springs?

  • I had a few in my old K-5 Blazer back in college. I was working in Connecticut and my parents flew up to visit. Me and my dad went to a race at Lime Rock and my mother and grandmother went another way. Somehow we ended up in the NYC area with my Blazer and my parents rental car. Outside New York City the old Blazer starts overheating. The thermostat was stuck. I get to a dark and empty park and ride lot. After things cool down a little bit I get out the tool bag and go to work. The whole time I am working a pay phone in the lot is ringing. This was 1994, "Great we are probably interrupting somebody's drug deal!" I manage to get the old thermostat out and cut out the valve. I need a new gasket. I find a cardboard orange juice carton in the trash in the lot and make a gasket. I got back home and drove the Blazer for about a week that way.

  • Alcology

    I ran out of gas in baxter state park in maine. This a big park and pretty remote! Luckily a ranger drove by and grabbed some gas which was enough to get to the gas station. Of course I went and hiked first

  • Circa 1996: Traveling from Roswell, NM to Monterrey, CA for motorbike races. My genius father decided that the Daytona had enough PAH! to tow a trailer and 2 motorcycles all the way to California. Turns out, it didn't.

    We left Roswell, my dad, his friend and myself. We got to Albuquerque, barely. The car was having a very, very hard time, and a quick diagnosis pegged a bad MAF sensor. Autozone had one, and it was replaced, though it still ran really rough. We had to stay the night there (Motel 6 quite a bit like that motel in Breaking Bad) and managed to make it all the way to California. It still struggled quite a bit with hills, and at one point, my dad just abandoned the car, unloaded his bike, and made his friend drive the car while he rode the rest of the way.

    Good times…

  • Circa 2001: The broken Daytona was in the shop, and my dad lent me his brand new F-150 to finish out my spring term in Farmington. I was planning on heading down to Las Cruces to visit my friends, again, and see GODSMACK! Oh man, I was totally thrilled. I did some routine matinance on the truck (hard lessons learned from the Daytona) and set of bright and early. About 10 miles outside of town, the truck started overheating. I pulled over, and the radiator cap was MIA. I looked all over the engine bay, hoping that it was sitting some place, but no luck. Shit. Also, 10 miles out is pretty much like being in the middle of nowhere.

    There was a gas station a good jog ahead, so an hour or so later, I returned with 2 gallons of water. It sucked both down, and I headed back, rather slowly. NAPA did have the cap in stock, so I managed to head back out, albeit half a day late.

    Harrowing: Missing a Godsmack concert.


    A few years back on the new toll road highway in Israel the Chrysler minivan of my in-laws got a flat. Of course on the side of the traffic, not on the side of the guard rail. There was a pretty major traffic jam and the should was barely wide enough for the minivan. The people almost running me over while trying to change the wheel were one thing, the people trying to pass the traffic jam over the shoulder were another thing entirely.
    These knuckle heads thought we were an inconvenient obstacle on their way and honked at us non-stop. Then they needed to merge with the rest of the traffic jam which created an even more hazardous situation behind my back.
    I almost threw the wrench at some Arabs making obscene comments aimed at my wife and was ready to start smashing windows of cars that got close enough.

    On top of all this, since car mechanics in Israel don't know what a torque wrench is and probably don't even know what the word torque even means, the lug nuts were tightened way beyond the maximum torque. From the 5 lug nuts, two broke off when I tried to release them. We finally drove home with three lug nuts on the front wheel of the Chrysler while being very thankful that we all made it without getting hurt!

  • jtk2

    When I was young enough to still travel by car with my parents (ie, 1992), their Sable station wagon had a belt tensioner break in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, meaning the battery wouldn't charge. There was no dealer nearby and no place had the part, so we left it for a week and drove home in a Rent-A-Wreck.

    Other than that, my only other story is someone else's: 1984 Oldsmobile wagon with the wood paneling, given to my friend to use as a college car. He didn't check or change the oil for 4 years. Driving back to college, the oil finally ran out and his engine seized. He pulled over and proceeded to sit there for 8 hours because he thought a trucker would contact the state police for him.

    • BobWellington

      That's an intelligent friend ya got there.

      • jtk2

        To be fair, he is sort of good at math.

        Another friend and I thought his wagon would be good for a demolition derby (after the incident) and inquired about the price (assuming it was crusher-bound), and he said his mom wanted $9000. We passed.

        • BobWellington

          Granted most people don't know anything about cars, but still…

          I always imagine what it would be like to take an old car and thrash the crap out of it, getting air, running over stuff, etc. I guess I'll just have to relegate that fantasy to my dreams.

  • I've only had one story like that. Back about 10 years ago, my friend and I were driving back from Las Vegas to San Diego on a Sunday afternoon in his '94 Integra. We had passed the Zzyzx Rd exit many times making this same trip, but this time we were curious about what was actually there, so we took the exit. The short answer is there's nothing there (although I have since learned there is a research center several miles away via dirt road), so we drove down the dirt road for a short distance and turned around. Unfortunately, we ran over something sharp and got a flat tire.

    The car had aftermarket wheels, and my friend did not know until right then that the factory lug wrench would not fit in the smaller diameter aftermarket lug nut holes. We were stuck. So he called AAA and we waited in the car with the A/C on (it was in the 100s outside) until a tow truck picked us up and headed to Baker, California. Baker is known as being the "gateway to Death Valley" and consists of a few restaurants and gas stations (along with the world's tallest thermometer!) but not much else. By this point it was about 5PM on a Sunday, and most of the repair shops were closed. Even if they were open, we highly doubted anyone would stock a 205/45-16 tire, so we figured we'd be spending the night.

    The tow truck continued to the outskirts of town and pulled into a very run down looking repair shop. Think of New Deal Used Cars from the movie "Used Cars" minus the car lot and you've got a good idea of how it looked. Out walked the mechanic who looked like a young version of Jonathan Winters, but with an eye patch. He said he'd take care of it no problem. We were doubtful. We went inside the office to wait in the A/C, and another guy was in there. No idea if he was an employee, just hanging out, or what, but he could best be described as Kid Rock in 15 years, complete with stained wife beater.

    Despite the apparent shadiness, the mechanic pulled a brand new correct size Goodyear tire out of an old semi trailer and got us back on the road within about 30 mins. We were amazed. Guess you shouldn't just a book by its cover!

    • Kris

      That wouldn't be Bryan would it?

  • Devin

    I have two stories.

    My brother had a Ford Ranger with clutch problems, and he decided no mechanic in the city where he lived was good enough to fix it, he had to get it fixed in a town 2 hours away through hilly terrain by a friend of his. He also somehow suckered me, who was something like 19, into driving it there, and slightly undersold just how ruined this clutch was. There were likely other transmission problems going on as well, considering what eventually happened.

    So, every hill, it starts slipping badly, until finally a few miles outside of St. Penis (well, St. Denis, but their sign get vandalized a lot) the entire shebang goes "screw you! I won't do what you tell me!" and suddenly bam, it's all broken, and slightly on fire, as I am going up a hill. As you are all not from Saskatchewan, you may not realize that there is no real shoulder on the hill outside of St. Penis. So I have to maneuver the truck mostly off the road with no power, on a surprisingly heavily trafficked day. Also the truck was on fire. The fire put itself out and I was eventually rescued, but not before sitting on the side of the road for a long time.

    Eventually he found out that the transmission was now broke, and got really pissy about it even though he probably should have gotten it fixed at the place next door to his freaking house instead of getting a teenager to drive a truck with severe transmission problems in hilly terrain.

    The second story I've told before, it involves a Pontiac Grand Am, which I had to drive one winter as my real car was getting accident damage from a deer fixed – deer are jerks by the way, they don't look where they're running and bam, even a cautious driver who kindly avoided hitting their best friend gets massive damage, but I digress. So I was driving along in winter, in this car where the window wouldn't close fully, and bam, no lights. The lights were working just fine minutes ago, but now, the lights were gone, completely. I was on the highway between town, which meant it was pitch dark. I attempted to pull into a nearby farmyard, but all that was there was a scary sounding dog, so I had to get back to town. With no lights. In the night.

    The hazards, luckily, did work, but they didn't exactly light the road, so I drive about as fast as I feel comfortable as being blind, which is maybe 30km/h, and somehow make it back to town. I go to a business, phone my dad, and get picked up later. He drives me to work the next day and drives the headlight-less car home. When I get back he just goes "that was quite the car."

    • danleym

      I had a similar situation with headlights going out. Mine were flashing- they'd stay on for 3 or 4 seconds, go out for 15 or 20. Fortunately, a friend was driving another car with me to the same place, so I just had him take the lead and followed close behind with the parking lights on. Drove for about 30 minutes like that through winding roads in the middle of nowhere central California. I'd rather I never have to do that again.

    • quattrovalvole

      Deer are jerks indeed…

      [youtube MoMXovAuCKA http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoMXovAuCKA youtube]

    • BobWellington

      St. Penis, eh?

      • Devin

        I believe a Sask person would know exactly the spot I'm talking about, because that sign always read St. Penis.

        Eventually the department of highways got sick of repainting and just took the sign away.

    • RetroBox

      Sask + "hilly terrain" = lolz

  • JayP2112

    Not really 'stranded stories' but circumstances that made for some long days.

    High School: Driving from school I noticed one of the tires making more noise than usual. Made it home to find a flat tire, and no air pump. The spare has rotted away. Drive the car 2 miles to the quickie-mart for a fill. Realized the valve is cracked and I'm stuck. Called my pal Nigel who picked me up and took me home. Climbed into the MGB that hadn't been fired up in a year. It was low on gas, drive to the same quickie-mart for fill. Filled up, it won't start. 2 cars at the quickie-mart.
    Nigel picked me up again… repaired the valve on the Beetle and we towed the MG home.

    College: In the MG to check on my 5000 that was getting a trans seal. On a ramp on the highway, my brother who was driving said the car HAS NO POWER!!! So we stop on the shoulder. Before the car stops, a guy stops and asks if we needed a ride. Turned out I knew this guy from highschool and we hopped in to go to the next exit to call who else? Nigel. He shows up in his sister's red Firebird and on the way home he has this great idea! Call my AAA and get a free tow!! We stop at a pay phone and call. AAA is asking me all kinds of questions like where I live, my insurance and whatever. I made up everything not thinking this may weed out the numbnuts. Anyway- they said the tow will be there in an hour. Nigel takes us back and we wait.
    3 hours later… no tow. Popped open the hood and see the ground from the coil had come loose. Fixed it, car fires up. We head home. Had that guy not stopped and offered the ride, I would have spotted the loose ground and we'd been on our way in minutes

  • smalleyxb122

    Several years ago, I enlisted a good friend to travel with me out to Vermont to pick up a car that I had bought on ebay. It was about a 750 mile journey, in my 20 year old Jeep to pick up a (at the time) 25 year old Checker. The car supposedly ran, and the seller had it idling when I showed up to pick it up (never a good sign). Paperwork signed, and we were off. The Checker was severely down on power, but was moving, so we soldiered on. A very slight grade conspired to bring the Checker to a stand still, and I pulled off onto a side street to sort it out. I was acting like it was overheating, so I bypassed the rear heater core which was evidencing a slight leak, and I topped off the radiator. Everything seemed marginally better for a short time, but the symptoms returned as we reached a small town. This was on a Sunday, so most businesses were closed, so we parked the Checker in an empty lot, and took the Jeep into town to find a parts store. We actually found one, and purchased new plugs, wires, cap, rotor, and coil for the Checker. The parking lot tune-up woke the Checker up. It was like night and day.

    Back on the road, and feeling pretty good about it, until sundown. Apparently, the alternator in the Checker wasn’t charging well, and the headlights were enough of a draw that I was depleting the battery as we travelled. We resolved to stop whenever the lights got dim, and charge the Checker with the Jeep. This was working well, until I had the bright idea to just swap the batteries each time we stopped. The very first time doing this fried the alternator in the Jeep, so as we continued on, we were now depleting both batteries. This led to both vehicles dead on the New York Thruway, and my roadside assistance didn’t have the authority to send someone to us on that particular road. I did call a tow, but it cost me nearly $200 to have both vehicles towed to the next exit, and drop us at the nearest parts store.

    They didn’t have an alternator for the Jeep, but I bought a new alternator for the Checker, and a new battery for each vehicle. Changing the alternator in their parking lot, the bolt was frozen into the alternator. I did eventually get the alternator changed out, and we learned that there was another parts store just a mile further which had an alternator for the Jeep. On the way to that parts store, I noticed that the Checker still wasn’t charging, so while I was swapping the alternator in the Jeep, I tasked my friend with troubleshooting the charging system in the Checker.

    It turns out that a previous owner had replaced the battery lead with one that lacked the alternator pigtail, thus it was charging, but trying to do so through the entire electrical system. A small piece of wire later, and we were back in business.

    The rest of the trip was uneventful. I made it home only 2 days later than I had planned.

  • DemonXanth

    When I was younger I watched a tire blow out on a uhaul trailer going through the grapevine on I-5. It was being towed at legal speeds by a small Mazda pickup. The trailer turned the truck onto it's side and it slide across four lanes of traffic before hitting the center median head on. The driver was unhurt and his wife had a gash on her arm. Not going into the gory details, I learned two important lessons: child car seats exist for a reason, and u-haul sucks ass.

  • I was driving my '66 GMC van.
    It broke down.
    I sat by myself on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.
    Eventually, help arrived and I got it fixed.
    I resumed driving my '66 GMC van.
    It was all a little scary.
    Well, except for the not driving part.

  • SSurfer321

    I've been pretty fortunate.
    1. Ran out of gas 0.25 miles from hwy exit. Cop happened to be behind me and gave me lift to gas station at exit.
    2. 4wd tried engaging at 70mph in F150 while traveling to Atlanta from Toledo, OH. Pulled off side of road, stopped, restarted truck, problem went away. Had a local 4wd place in Atlanta check it out and they wanted to replace the half shafts but as it was the weekend, couldn't source parts from Ford. I decided to roll the dice and drive it back to Toledo. Symptons reappeared twice on the drive back. Turns out it was a faulty relay switch under the hood and I never got the TSB notice. $25 part from Ford fixed it.

  • Macko

    I have a bunch, but here are three.

    1. I was in high school driving my 64 Studebaker Cruiser out in the country in North Texas in 1992 at about 70 MPH, I noticed an odd vibration. Then the vibration stopped and there was a loud BANG at the back of the car. Then I saw a wheel bouncing off into a field. I had time to think, "wow, I wonder why there is a wheel bouncing off into a field over there" before the car leaned slowly backward and the front lifted up. I slammed on the (manual) brakes, which did not do anything, and pulled over onto the shoulder as sparks flew from the rear of the car.

    Eventually it stopped. I jumped out, though I do not remember doing so, and started wandering around. When I gathered my senses I discovered that the brake drum had separated from the hub causing the wheel to fly off. The rotor had also separated from the wheel in flight and slammed into the roof of the car about one millimeter above the rear window. I ran off into the field and found a narrow wheel and tire that looked like it was mine and brought it back to the car. Never found the brake drum. Got the car towed home. Discovered the wheel was from a different car. Never got the car running again. My brother has in in his shed to this day.

    2. In high school in 1991, driving my 49 Studebaker 2R10 Pickup at about 52 down the freeway, the drive shaft separated at the front, and bounced around under the truck, wrapping itself in exhaust pipe and locking the rear wheels. The truck spun into a ditch. It had no seat belts and the driver door had no latch, but somehow I didn't fall out. My brother has that one in his shed too.

    3. Driving my 1971 VW Camper on a 9000 mile road trip to break in its new engine about 12 years ago, I pulled into a gas station in a Native American town somewhere in northern Quebec. It was very quiet. I filled up and paid. It was very, very quiet. I got in and turned the key. It was still very, very quiet. Stuck starter key. I beat on it. Nothing. I tried to push start it by myself. Nothing. I went into the store and asked someone to help me push it, explaining about the stuck key. Silence. i offered money. Silence. I went back and managed to get it rolling backwards down the highway. VRRROOOOOMMMM!!!!! Only problem I had on that whole trip.

  • danleym

    My dad and I rebuilt my Spirit when I was in high school. Full on, 3 year long tear down to nothing and rebuild it. After finally getting it back on the road, there were a few kinks to work out. I ended up on the side of the road a few times, never anything real major or scary, but there's one story that stands out.

    I was on the way home from school, and was taking two girls who lived nearby with me. One was just a friend, one was definitely an interest who I was trying to impress. So we're about 5 minutes away from school out of a 20 minute drive in a very industrial part of town, and I drive over a really rough railroad crossing and immediately get a loud thumping that sounded like a flat tire. I pull over into some factory's parking lot, get out, and all the tires are fully inflated. Great, what's wrong? So I get to looking under the front end, and a bolt that I apparently didn't torque correctly had managed to back out. Great. I don't have any tools with me. So now I get to be real cool and call my dad, which is a surefire way to impress a girl. But it gets better- my dad is a firefighter, and is on duty that day, and we happen to be in his district, so he brings the firetruck to help me out. And both the girls were in the band, and they had a concert that evening, and as long as it was taking to fix the car they were going to be late, so one of their moms had to come pick them up.

    And that, my fellow hoons, is how not to impress a girl with your cool old car.

    Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, I think my Spirit gets jealous of girls. When I brought my then-girfriend now-wife home to meet my parents for the first time (and more importantly, see the Spirit for the first time!), we went out in the Spirit one night, and at 2 am, it magically decided not to start. So yep, once again, call my dad to come pick us up. Fortunately he wasn't working that night. Went back the next morning to figure out what was wrong, and it fired right up.

    • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      Very suspicious… Astrid did not like my wife at first either. I think it's cause my wife did not like the stiff brakes and wasn't tactful about it in Astrid's presence. Anyway, shortly after that we drove off one fine afternoon, only for the key to break off in the ignition for the return trip. There was a hobby store nearby and they lent me some bitsy tools, so I got the car started again. Then on the way back the clutch slave cylinder mostly gave-up. The last time I had to start by banging into third, fortunately no more red lights after that.

    • JayP2112

      Cars jealous of women… So yea, the Mustang likes to be driven hard but when I'm trying to impress the ladies I poke along at normal speeds. The car do not like that.
      It spits, howls and bucks.

      One evening on a date, my girlfriend was really dressed up for the cocktail bar. Valeted the Mustang, had some drinks, etc. Get the car back from Valet and it goes 100ft and idiot lights all over the place. No throttle. Shut it down, won't start again. Wait for a while and some of the "locals" are starting to gather. Wanting rides…

      Get it started, tear out, shutdown. Made it home after wash-rinse-repeat 4 more times.

      The throttle position sensor was flaked and only went haywire when I was driving like a pappy. Fixed it the next day for a 1000 mile trip out east.

      The gal's name- Christine.

  • Back in 2002, while moving here to Tombstone from SLC, driving the Road Condo, I was on I think it's Arizona Highway 70 between the San Carlos Apache Reservation and Safford. It was about one in the morning, and I was beginning to question why it is I always try to avoid the freeway and take two lane roads, because it was the middle of nowhere. Everything was going just fine until there was a loud explosion under the hood, and everything went dead. No lights, engine stalled, nothing. Smoke coming from under the hood. I coasted to the shoulder, grabbed my flashlight and got out and had a look. The alternator had somehow shorted out and half the wiring in the engine compartment was fried. It's a good thing I had quick disconnects on the two batteries, I disconnected them right away. Then, I disconnected the alternator, tried the starter. Nothing. Batteries were dead. I'm screwed. I could always pull out the generator, crank it up, and charge the batteries with the pathetic little charger I carried, but I figured screw it, it's almost two o' clock in the morning by now, I'll dick around with it in the morning. So, I went to bed. No big deal. Remember, I'm in my motor home, moving to the desert to live in the damn thing, so I'm equipped with everything I need, even a cat. I get up at first light, and get the jumper cables out, and I'm standing there hoping someone drives by and sure enough, a friendly rancher stops in a pickup truck and gives me a jump, and there's just enough juice in the batteries to get me to Safford where I park in an Autozone parking lot and replace the alternator (one of the diodes had vibrated loose and grounded the stator to the alternator body) with a new one, and replaced the fried wiring. They even charged the chassis battery for me. I drove to Tombstone later, without incident.

  • PotbellyJoe

    I used to do Delivery/Pick-up for a decently sized Toyota/Hummer Dealer. It had a good regional reach and awareness so we would make deals and deliveries from PA to CT and up into upstate NY. Being that I come from Michigan originally, Management trusted me in the bad weather over their other options for drivers, warranted or not.

    On the even of a major snow storm I was made aware that a customer had purchased a new Sienna in Upstate NY along I-87. They had an older model to bring back that had already been appraised. Simple mission, go, sign the final paperwork, take the check, get in their old car, come home.

    Of course the new car doesn't cooperate.

    The new Sienna I was driving up decides it no longer wants to listen to it's electronic throttle gas pedal and slows to a crawl just as I leave I-287 in NJ and creep onto I-87 in NY. The snow was falling so I knew I was going to be waiting a while for rescue.

    Anyone familiar with the laws of the Thruway, a Tow truck must have a medallion to tow on it. This enables local shops to monopolize areas of the road and keep competition to a minimum. So I call a tow from a shop down the hill from where I am standing (obviously with a fence in the way). He states they take corporate payment and they'll come get me.

    Typical tow truck guy, shows up with the cigarette in his mouth already and goes on about how people shouldn't be out in the weather (now 3-4" deep on the grass) and that "kids" especially should stay home. I told him it wasn't weather related and I just needed to get off of the road and somewhere our company's truck could come and get the car (since we don't have the Thruway medallion being an hour away). So he hooks everything up and takes me to the shop where I meet the biggest A-hole I have ever met in my life.

    The first words out of his mouth to me were half curse words. Now being in car sales, I was used to blue language, but I typically didn't hear it until at least 2 minutes into conversation. He asks me how I think I'm getting home. I told him our shop truck was already on the way and we would PO a payment to him from the dealer. He states that they don't take corporate payments by PO, and tonight with the weather was cash only.

    I had $20 to my name as a poor college student, so that wasn't going to work. He laid into me again about being out in the weather and being stupid for not carrying cash; that I shouldn't expect people to take credit or PO.

    So I do all I can at that point to explain, using small words, that it was 2005 and the "kids" stopped carrying cash, I was with a reputable dealer and the PO would be in his account no problem, or he could take my MC, Visa or whatever.

    I called the GM at this point of our shop to explain the situation. His Italian anger started to boil as the Tow guy's did too. I finally handed him my cell phone and had them duke it out.

    As they kept going it proved to only anger them more and the shop owner decided to throw my phone. Luckily I was able to grab his fastball before it hit the wall or floor and I proceeded to read him the riot act of how to treat other people's stuff. A moment that made me keenly aware that he had a brand new, 76 miles on the Odo Toyota Sienna out in his lot that I should be keeping a better eye on.

    15 tense minutes later, my shops flatbed showed up. He starts to load the car onto it when the shop owner decides to blow a gasket again and goes out screaming at him to get his truck off of the lot, as the bill wasn't paid.

    so here in the serene scene of huge white flakes of snow and 5-6" on the ground these two guys, the shop owner (260+ and 5'8") stood chest to chest with my shop's flatbed driver (6'3" 240 Retired USMC) screaming their lungs out over each other's right to tow, stow and go.

    It was so close to coming to blows that as soon as the van was loaded, we took off. We had to cover 5 miles of the Thruway with a car on the bed, with no medallion, on a night where the only vehicles on the road were cops, or tow trucks. All while this shop owner was on the phone with the authorities over our "stealing" of our van, despite a voicemail from him that he had left me confirming that he took corporate payment.

    NJ couldn't come quick enough.

    We made it back to the dealer and had a very irate tow shop owner on the phone with the Owner of the dealership when we arrived. Neither was budging and police were now involved.

    Eventually, thanks to the voicemail, the guy had to accept a corporate check for a fair price and it blew over, but holy cow, never break down on the NY Thruway.

    I made the run again, two days later, when the ETC was sorted and made it to and from without issue.

  • jeepjeff

    The worst that's ever happened to me is my wife curbing the front passenger side tire on the way to work. It was in the city, there was a legal parking spot right there and she wasn't far from work, so calling a cow-orker to pick her up was no big deal. Not so bad, right? Well, the moment she gets in to work, she calls me and asks me to take care of it. I think it was a December morning because it was cold and bucketing down rain. Just dumping.

    So, just hop in the Jeep and go rescue the car? Nope. Pre-Jeep. We only had her car at that point. So I ended up having to bus it. The closest bus stops were half a mile from the apartment and nearly a mile from the car. I got poured on walking to and waiting for the bus, but fortunately, right as I was getting off the bus, the rain slowed to a trickle. I hoofed it to where the car was, and the tire was deep in an overflowing gutter. Also, on the side of a busy road. There was a church parking lot around the corner, so I only had to drive it 50 yards on the flat to get somewhere I could work on it.

    The fun part of the Civic is the compact spare is mounted in the trunk with the valve stem pointed down. So if you want to be a perfect maintainer of your car and regularly check the pressure on the spare, it's a giant pain in the backside. So, it was at 20psi when it should have been at 60. Oops. I got the spare on and the Civic back on the ground. Then I called my wife (pre-smart phone ownership), and she found a gas station a couple blocks north of me. Another slow, careful drive well below the speed limit, and I got the tire filled. Hop back in, and the rain starts hammer the top of the car.

    After that, took it to the dealer and got new tires. It's been fine since. And that's the worst thing that's ever happened to me as far as car breakdowns go. I've been pretty lucky.

    EDIT: Since it takes about 5 minutes for enough hair to grow that I need to shave again, this constituted a long enough that I needed to shave again after dealing with the flat.

    • JayP2112


      • danleym

        I saw that too. I was wondering if it was intentional, Freudian, or just a plain ol' typo.

        • Irishzombieman

          Probably a plain ol' typo, but the most amusing one I've seen in a while.

          • jeepjeff

            Not a typo at all. Am I the only one here who reads Dilbert? (EDIT: Or, at least, I used to, and that stuck with me…)

            • skitter

              I still can't read Dilbert.
              I get bad flashbacks.

            • vroomsocko

              DNRC approves.

      • jeepjeff

        Orking Cows is hard work.

  • Irishzombieman

    So I was driving around Foggy Mountain one day with Earl Scruggs and Steve Martin and the boys when the car broke down.

    We wrote a song about it.

    [youtube icMTVV5Lwaw http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icMTVV5Lwaw youtube]

  • Van_Sarockin

    I'd tell you the tale, but I hate to see grown men cry.

  • racer139

    I was ambeling along in my 71 plymouth valiant mindin my own business when this crazy guy in a 55pete 281 tried to run me off the road….

  • aastrovan

    Me and the boys were whooping it up at the Malamute Saloon.
    The kid that handled the music box was playing a jagtime tune.
    When out of the night which was 50 below and into the din and the glare,stepped a miner fresh from the creeks,dog dirty and loaded for bear. He looked like a man with a foot in the grave and barely the strength of a louse. But he tilted a poke of dust on the bar and called for drinks for the house.
    There was none could place the strangers face, though we searched ourselves for a clue, but we drank to his health and the last to drink was dangerous Dan McGrew.
    …….Robert Service from "Tales of the Yukon"……………………

  • BobWellington

    My car has a never broken down. You could say I lead a pretty boring life.

    • JayP2112

      Man, you ain't lived until you've been busted on the side of the road at 2am, trying to mend a hot coolant line with electrical tape while hearing the faint sounds of "Dueling Banjos" in the distance.

      • BobWellington

        I look Ford to it.

        • JayP2112

          Be Valiant in that effort.

    • Keep driving. You'll experience the joy eventually.

  • discontinuuity

    Copied and pasted from a previous thread:

    So I've been out camping and mountain biking in Moab, Utah since Saturday morning, and I've missed teh internets since then (like the desert misses the rain).

    On Saturday night, I was riding with Alex, Zach, and this Caleb guy in Alex's '93 Toyota 4Runner on our way to our campground just outside of Moab, Utah.

    Right around 9 pm, we were going up a fairly gentle incline (gentle compared to Vail Pass or most of the other mountain roads we had already gone through), when the truck's ever-present rod knock became even louder.

    Now, this vehicle was certainly not pampered by it's previous owner (which is probably why it developed rod knock), and it is 16 years old, but it's a Toyota, dammit: those things are supposed to be reliable! Plus, Alex has driven this thing over hill and dale (several trips over the Continental Divide), hither and yon (from Colorado to Kentucky and back), and it hadn't quit yet.

    But quit it did. Maybe it was that slight incline: the final straw that broke that noble Japanese camel's back. Or maybe it was the four people, seven mountain bikes, and approximately 500 pounds of camping gear that we were asking the Scrum Wagon (Alex's affectionate name for the old 4Runner) to carry.

    Either way, I awoke from my semi-asleep state to find that we had pulled over to the side of the road, with the temperature gauge pegged in the red. We added some coolant to the boiling and steaming tank and waited for the needle to dip down into the normal region again. After about twenty minutes we cranked it again, and saw a huge white cloud come billowing out of the tailpipe. Shit. Now the head gasket was gone, or something equally serious.

    I wish that this story had an ending involving the heroic use of duct tape, JB Weld, and bicycle inner tubes, but the truth is that we simply limped into the nearest gas station (Thompson Springs, UT, which apparently consists of a few doublewides and a Shell station) and left the Scrum Wagon parked there for the rest of our trip. We did, however, perform some rather intense car-trunk Tetris in order to fit the Scrum Wagon's cargo into the other cars in our caravan. And we did drive a Buick sedan through some particularly wikkid sandy trails, managing to get stuck only once.

    Well, the rest of the trip was full of the normal things that spring break camping trips in Moab consist of: drinking and burning things at night, freezing our asses off in insufficiently warm sleeping bags, gnarly mountain biking, and campfire theology discussions with our campground neighbor, a self-proclaimed "professional adventurer" and apparent pantheistic anarchist who seemed to have walked off the pages of an Edward Abbey book.

    But the return trip is where things got interesting again. You see, we could've gotten most of the people and gear back home in the aforementioned Buick, but to get everything we would need another car, and to tow the Scrum Wagon over all those mountain passes we would need a big honkin' truck and a trailer. Luckily, Alex has a brother (Craig) who was off work this week. And Craig had an old Army buddy with a brand new Ford F-350 turbodiesel crewcab pickup. I don't actually remember this guy's name, so we'll call him "Roy."

    Well, I'll be damned if Craig and Roy didn't drive seven hours, rent a car trailer, pick us up, and drive another seven hours through the worst that the Rocky Mountains could throw at us, drinking Mountain Dew and listening to talk radio the whole way, to bring us home. We arrived at 8 am yesterday, exhausted but alive. Apparently the ties of brotherhood and brotherhood-in-arms are stronger than I gave them credit, and big-ass diesel trucks are good for more than penis substitutes.

    • Had a very similar thing happen to me and a group of friends on our way down to San Felipe, Mexico. Except it was a Bronco that threw a rod and was abandoned in the desert of southeastern California until we came back across the border.

      Had to cram 3 vehicle's worth of people and stuff into 2 cars, one of which being my old '85 Ford LTD. The car was so overloaded that we got pulled into secondary inspection going INTO Mexico. That's a feat.

  • alewifecove

    My Fiance and I were traveling in the rain and had a flat. As we had no spare, we went to a nearby house to use the phone

    [youtube dEBQ3haBi3c http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEBQ3haBi3c youtube]

  • RahRahRecords

    Driving from Charleston to Myrtle Beach to attend my wife's grandmother's church picnic (which I wasn't too excited to be going to in the first place) in my then recently acquired and even more recently running 280zx. 45 minutes out of town and lost the fanbelt. Pulled over next to this creepy abandoned cinder block house. My wife explored a bit while I worked on the car. There were 4 or 5 rooms, each with it's own entrance. One had several barrels with biohazard symbols on them. The next had a bunch of filthy mattresses and some spanish language magazines. There were huge spiders everywhere.

    After trying unsuccessfully to substitute the A/C belt (too long) we called some friends to come to our rescue. An hour later they show up and while the wives are videotaping the creepy house, we go to work on the belt only to discover the parts store guy pulled the WRONG DAMN BELT! This one was too short. So we drive back to town, drop off the ladies, exchange THE WRONG DAMN BELT for the proper one, then back out to the car, replace belt, back to their place, order a pizza and proceed to drink wine and play rock band for the rest ofthe afternoon.

  • Sam

    I made the drive from Melbourne Australia to Perth. My girlfriend and I in an over loaded mitsubishi lancer. That's just over 2000 miles for the American's. the car would bottom out at even the hint of a pothole but it was all going fine until it came time to cross the nullabor.
    Now for those who dont know the nullabor plain is… long. Its a 1200km stretch of desert between one town and the next with a service station every 200km or so. The car must hhave seen the " welcome to the nullabour plain" sign and shit its self. we had the classic style billowing white cloud of steam coming out of everywhere.
    Blown head gasket had then blown a radiator hose dumping all the coolant onto the exhaust and cracking the manifold… F**K.
    there was enough play in the hose i was able to cut the part with the hole out and refit it. we where luckily carrying enough water to refill the radiator and the next 16 hrs was spent traveling at 60-70km per hour stopping to refill the radiator every 15-30 mins digging through service station bins looking for extra water bottles.
    when night time came the temperature plummeted so i was able to strech the time before refills out to about an hour. i figured i'd keep driving until i felt it wasn't safe. but with the aid of redbull and some cigarettes (non smoker) we made it to the other side by about 9am.

    Other than the incredible amounts of stress we suffered the nullabour plain is a wonderfull trip and I recommend it to anyone visiting or living in Australia. Just remember. dont take a shitty car.

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