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Old 09-17-2012, 05:36 AM   #1
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Worst mechanical disaster? (may you learn from your mistakes)

One of the constants of doing your own wrench work is that something is bound to go wrong. What's the worst crime you've committed against your car while trying to fix or improve it?

For me, it's probably the time I barbequed my intake manifold...

I was in college, and had a '96 Chevy Silverado with the Vortec V8 (back when I lived in the south and gas was less than $2). It was late fall, but in May of that year I acquired an '81 KZ Kawasaki 1000, my first real daily rider motorcycle and rode it exclusively for the summer. The truck sat for a couple of months, and when I went to start it, the motor turned over and... nothing.

Now this was my first fuel injected vehicle, and I was raised in the "better get a bigger hammer" school of auto repair so my first reaction, after checking the ignition fuse was to pour a little gas into the throttle body to get things flowing, just as I'd done on my old '77 mercury I'd driven through high school, every time it sat for more than a week.

What I didn't think of though, was that unlike a carbureted engine, this thing had a lot of flammable parts underneath the nylon intake manifold. Namely, this thing, which on the early vortec engine was called the "spider injector", basically one huge fuel injector with a bunch of hoses going to individual intake runners, barely a step up from throttle body injection.

A little gas down the hatch seemed to work. The engine fired up and ran for a few seconds, and then boom! Backfire! I went back and stuck my head under the hood, smelling burnt plastic. I went ahead and (remember, I was 20 at the time) tried to start it up again. It ran, but very very poorly, sputtering and trying to stall. I cut it off and retreated.

What had happened was that the backfire had regurgitated gasoline onto the plastic hoses underneath the intake, burning a couple of them so that whenever the truck was running, two cylinders worth of raw gas was being squirted into the manifold. After talking to dealer mechanic my dad knew, I pulled the intake off to inspect the injector, which is when I found the gas soaked burned up evidence of attempted truck murder!

Fortunately, genuine GM is cheap, and I hadn't caught the actual intake on fire so I got out of this one for about $250 in replacement parts. It turned out that the original problem was caused by a fuel pump that was on its way out. Glad I didn't learn this lesson on a Porsche!

What are some of your most embarrassing stories of automotive horror?

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Old 09-17-2012, 05:59 AM   #2
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The worst mechanical mistake with my boxster so far, was using lug bolts that were too long, whereby they protruded into the E-brake assembly and came in contact with the E-brake springs - subsequently causing the E-brake shoe to fall against the rotor . I had to drive 60 miles home like this. You what to talk about a horrific sound ! Fortunately, by some miracle nothing was damaged, and I was able to fix the problem by simply replacing the springs.
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Old 09-17-2012, 06:03 AM   #3
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When I was in college about 30 years ago, I once left the headlights on all day while I was at work and then tried to roll start the '72 AMC Gremlin down a long hill but I didn't realize I had the key in the accessories position instead of the run position. Since it didn't start all the way down the hill, my buddy and I hooked up jumper cables and when I went to start it it, the raw gas that had been pumped through the engine into the muffler exploded, blowing the muffler to pieces. It sounded and felt like a bomb going off. The worst thing was that it I had borrowed the car from another friend and it wasn't even mine.
The good news from this was that when I offered to pay for the damage, my friend sold me the car for $100. It was an old beater but ran great and I really needed a car since my '67 Triumph GT6 needed a new transmission and wasn't driveable at the time.
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Old 09-17-2012, 06:33 AM   #4
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Probably my worst was using Heavy Duty Degreaser to clean the carb. on a running engine. This created a cloud of Phosgene and HCL acid gas from the tailpipe, which had me sprinting from the garage trying to get some air. It rusted every bit of exposed metal in sight, including my '65 Mustang restoration project. Live and learn!
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Old 09-17-2012, 06:51 AM   #5
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my parents bought me my first car - a 1981 toyota celica - in 1991. it was a good car to learn what not to do on, thankfully the car was only $300. we never replaced the missing muffler...

anyway, it had a coolant leak and an oil leak. but i didn't like getting dirty so i never bothered to check the fluids. since school was only 1.5 miles away it ran pretty well for a while. but after taking it 35 miles with virtually no oil and barely any coolant (oil and coolant light flashing most of the way) it wasn't happy.

when i got home my father proceeded to explain to me in no uncertain terms the importance of both oil and coolant (he wasn't happy when i joked that i always knew to keep gas in it). he then stood there while i checked and filled both. oddly the car continued to "run" for a few more months until i bought my own car and sold it to a scrap yard.

non-mechanical was my second car. the steering wheel + horn assembly developed a short whereby any turn of the wheel would cause the horn to blare until the wheel was straightened again. turns and corners gave me so unkind looks and finger gestures. to fix it, i removed the horn from under the hood.
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Old 09-17-2012, 08:24 AM   #6
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I had a TR7 for about 2 weeks and I was working on getting the dual side-draft carbs synched. As I took off the air cleaners on the carbs, I noticed there was a bolt missing, no big deal right?Well, I got carburetors synced and the car ran like a champ, for only another week, when suddenly it's making the classic rapid rat tat tat noise that comes from bent valves. Remember that bolt that was missing from the air cleaner? Well it got into the intake and was sucked into the engine and bent a valve.

So no big deal, just take off the head and take it to a machine shop to have it fixed right? Well the British, in their infinite wisdom, had designed the head so that it bolted onto the block with a combination of studs and bolts. But it gets even better, the studs and bolts are not perpendicular to the block, they are at an angle. So there's no way to just slide the head over the studs to get to head off. Of course the studs are completely frozen and after trying myself to get the studs out, with everything from solvent to a blowtorch, no luck. I take it to my mechanic and he has it for another six months trying to get these studs out, again with no luck.

The long and short of it, I had the TR7 for about three weeks and ended up selling it as a roller for 300 bucks.
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Old 09-17-2012, 09:58 AM   #7
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Oil filter gasket stuck to 128 block, my brother didn't notice and installed a new filter over said gasket, engine blew after customer drove it 20 miles with the oil light on. My father ate the entire replacement engine labor too, now that's how a dealer should act.
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Old 09-17-2012, 02:35 PM   #8
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Had a '70 Corolla when I was about 18 or 19. Just had to go and put a Weber carb and a header on it. Anyway, it needed an adapter plate to put the carb on the stock manifold and I let my buddy convince me that we had to use gasket goop to put it on. Hell, I didn't know any better. We totally plugged the PCV outlet and blew the oil pan and fuel pump gaskets when we fired it up. Made a nice oil puddle on my dad's driveway.
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Old 09-17-2012, 05:52 PM   #9
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Good thread , this happened to my 1958 Mercedes 190SL.......

Shortly after a professional mechanic rebuilt my Solexes one of the floats developed a leak, sank, and gas poured out of the rear carb onto the starter.
I called him up and left him the garage door opener so he could fix the carb again. He left me a note saying let the car sit for twenty four hours then push it outside and open the hood before you try and start the car.
I let the car sit forty eight hours, opened the hood and tried to start the car.
There was a bang and a fireball about the size of a basket ball rising rapidly from the right side of the engine. fortunately the fireball burned out before it hit the garage ceiling. My wife yelled "what's going on out there?"
"Oh nothing" I replied as I pushed the car outside from the driver's seat using only my left leg.
fortunately there was no damage ( the hood might have melted if left closed)
I bought a set of Weber's the following week.
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Old 09-18-2012, 04:02 AM   #10
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I had a Mitubishi Eclipse Spyder Turbo. These cars are extremely easy to work on and cheap parts abound. I designed (with the help of many published plans) a water injection system. The spray nozzle was built into a custom made silicone hose prior to the thottle body. While driving around some twisty roads the nozzle worked its way loose, fell out and wedged into the throttle plate, keeping it nearly wide open!

Fortunately, I was able to shut off the ignition and coast safely to a stop.
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Old 09-18-2012, 05:23 AM   #11
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My first Porsche (1987 924S) I had just finished rebuilding the engine. it was my first engine rebuild and I didn't understand important things like "speed/ref sensor to flywheel spacing" or "instructions". go to start the car, it turns over....about a half turn, then stops. keep trying to start it, smell burning electronics. engine doesn't budge. after rebuilding the engine, I was tired, confused, frustrated and overall kind of pissed. had the car towed to the dealer. Because of my ignorance, the speed/reference sensor was ripped apart, and jammed between the flywheel and bell housing. $3,000.00 later, and a very important lesson learned.
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Old 09-18-2012, 07:28 AM   #12
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" didn't understand important things like "instructions"

LMFAO - I think most of us can relate to that one from our younger years. The first job I ever did on a car was front brakes on my '67 Parisienne. I was almost done when my dad comes out, has a look, and asks me why I had 2 short shoes on one side and 2 long ones on the other. I hadn't even noticed the different shoe lengths. Glad he caught before I closed everything up and drove it.
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Old 09-18-2012, 07:46 AM   #13
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I ordered a set of brand modified 850cc injectors for my STi, the company I placed the order through took the liberty to modify injectors to their own accord. Injectors stuck open and I hydrolocked my engine with fuel.

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Old 09-18-2012, 09:03 AM   #14
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I understand

Quote:
Originally Posted by black_box View Post
One of the constants of doing your own wrench work is that something is bound to go wrong. What's the worst crime you've committed against your car while trying to fix or improve it?

For me, it's probably the time I barbequed my intake manifold...

I was in college, and had a '96 Chevy Silverado with the Vortec V8 (back when I lived in the south and gas was less than $2). It was late fall, but in May of that year I acquired an '81 KZ Kawasaki 1000, my first real daily rider motorcycle and rode it exclusively for the summer. The truck sat for a couple of months, and when I went to start it, the motor turned over and... nothing.

Now this was my first fuel injected vehicle, and I was raised in the "better get a bigger hammer" school of auto repair so my first reaction, after checking the ignition fuse was to pour a little gas into the throttle body to get things flowing, just as I'd done on my old '77 mercury I'd driven through high school, every time it sat for more than a week.

What I didn't think of though, was that unlike a carbureted engine, this thing had a lot of flammable parts underneath the nylon intake manifold. Namely, this thing, which on the early vortec engine was called the "spider injector", basically one huge fuel injector with a bunch of hoses going to individual intake runners, barely a step up from throttle body injection.

A little gas down the hatch seemed to work. The engine fired up and ran for a few seconds, and then boom! Backfire! I went back and stuck my head under the hood, smelling burnt plastic. I went ahead and (remember, I was 20 at the time) tried to start it up again. It ran, but very very poorly, sputtering and trying to stall. I cut it off and retreated.

What had happened was that the backfire had regurgitated gasoline onto the plastic hoses underneath the intake, burning a couple of them so that whenever the truck was running, two cylinders worth of raw gas was being squirted into the manifold. After talking to dealer mechanic my dad knew, I pulled the intake off to inspect the injector, which is when I found the gas soaked burned up evidence of attempted truck murder!

Fortunately, genuine GM is cheap, and I hadn't caught the actual intake on fire so I got out of this one for about $250 in replacement parts. It turned out that the original problem was caused by a fuel pump that was on its way out. Glad I didn't learn this lesson on a Porsche!

What are some of your most embarrassing stories of automotive horror?
I learned nearly everything I know about computers in this same manner in a time when computers cost much more than they do today. These are lessons you never forget. I have not done much of my own work on my cars since I was about twenty. Hopefully I've aged enough that I don't have to learn any lessons of this type on my Boxster.

Last edited by jrblackman; 09-18-2012 at 09:09 AM.
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Old 09-18-2012, 07:35 PM   #15
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About 4 years ago, I blew a head gasket on my 1987 BMW 325ic, while rebuilding it, my wife was so worried about. My mental health. When we saw a 2001 Boxster S , she let me buy it. So not the worst mechanical disaster, I fact it was one of the best . I now have 2 German convertibles in the garage.


Last edited by Vinney52; 09-19-2012 at 05:40 PM.
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