Question of the Week: What are the parts that have left you stranded?

Driving vintage cars is an exercise in patience and understanding, especially if something lets loose and you find yourself stranded. Sometimes the failure is merely the usual suspects or parts that cause trouble—and are often a quick repair since they have been repaired before.
We want to know what those regular offenders are that leave you on the side of the road.

Fuel, air, spark, and compression. It’s the fab four of engines. Without each and engine fails to reach its potential. Beyond the engine compartment the number of possible failure points only multiplies. U-joints, wheel cylinders, and ignition switches share little in common until they make you call Hagerty Roadside.

The fuel petcocks on this Moto Guzzi just didn’t want to do their job that day. (photo Hagerty/Kyle Smith)

Tell us which part you keep an eye just a little closer than the others, or the first thing you check after you coast off to the shoulder. Maybe it’ll help someone else out, or be just a little cathartic knowing that there are others who commiserate with you.

Flat tire, when spare was not easy to change out… sometimes the lug nuts are just too damn tight for me.

Out of gas (more often than I’d care to admit.)

Outside of those, I have a litany of ones that only delayed me, here they are:

Accelerator cable snapped on the 66 vw beetle. Luckily, was at the meijers and bought some baking wire and a set of needle nose pliers to affect the repair at the gas station so I could get it home.

Loose wires on the coil, same car.

Loose lug nuts, thankfully figured it out before the wheel fell off, same car.

Fuel pump rod seized up, again same car. Happened to have sand paper with me, and liberal application of the 30 grit yielded results good enough to get me home.

Engine fire, what happens when you trust a mechanic working on your car and not go back over the work yourself before driving off. Unfortunately, same car.

Dodgy fuel injection on my old squareback. Also, dodgy generator as well.

Improper charging on old blue, thankfully sorted out with a new alternator.

Only one that kept me stranded besides that engine fire was the fuel pump/dual carb fiasco on the boys corvair.

Update: Old blue left me stranded this past Wednesday. Turned out to be the fuel pump relay.

Water pump bearing failures on MGB and Mini. Never stranded by Mssrs. Lucas or Skinner, though I must confess to the occasional field-expedient repair.

Ballast resistor and control modules on my Duster used to mess with me. Started carrying spares. Same thing with my 83 Foxbody’s module. Nothing ruins a nice cruise more than ignition module blues.

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Water pumps and alternators are my arch nemesis on the road. I have dropped a belt or two as well, but usually that was caused by the failure of the water pump or alternator.

Alternator, fuel pump. 10 years of a group of 15 street rodders we take a 600 mile trip at the end of the season and those two items seam to be the main breakdown culprits

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The most common problem I’ve had with classics: Running out of gas due to inaccurate gas gauge and inattention on my part.


I recall a shorted connection (old cloth insulated wire) between the voltage regulator and generator (yes, not an alternator) on a ‘63 6 volt VW bug. Drove for miles using battery voltage only. Found short miles from home and was able to “fix” with a piece of cardboard from a match book cover (remember those?). Those were the days my friends.

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Rubber items, once a gas line and once a brake line that develop leaks, also belts.

72 Fiat 128SL, rear wheel fell off.
72 Volvo 1800es, fuel pump.
70 Volvo 164, oil pump failure.
80 Peugeot 505, voltage regulator.
87 Subaru Legacy, timing belt.
93 grand Cherokee, coil failure.

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Fuel pumps, three times. Twice the SU pump on my '72 E-type crapped out, so I replaced it with a Holley pump and regulator. Once on my '79 Honda Civic. Return spring broke. Once with the voltage regulator on my Austin-Healey 100/4. Once with the oil pump coupling on my '68 Roadrunner. I had changed to a Miloden high volume pump and didn’t know I had to change to a metal coupling to take the higher torque. Once with my '72 Triumph Spitfire. The mixture screw fell out of the carb. I think that’s it. I always maintained my own cars. You live and learn. Oh, and once with my Mustang. I had spend a day on the track at Road America, and apparently something rattled loose in the battery. Fixed by Ford under warranty, no charge.

Bad Alternator, Bad Starters, and a Bad Radiator. The bad 30 years old (original unit) alternator experience has taught me to check the charging system gauge every time I start up any car (just a glance is all that it takes to make sure that everything is normal). A host of bad starters from 40 or 50 year vintage 60’s cars have taught me to point all of my stick shift cars down hill at car shows (if possible) in case I need to do a “bump” start. And most recently, a radiator split at one of the seams when I took the car out for a routine dinner one evening. Refilling it when it was cooled off got me home, but if I would have been far from home I would not have tried that.
Keeping these older cars means driving them regularly and tending to any problem that pops up ASAP.

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Been driving MGs for over 50 years, with never an issue that stranded me and precious few delays, either. Last time I was stranded, roadside, was by a new VW Golf III (coil). Before that, there were a few strandings caused by Porsche 356s, that were fairly new at that time. And, the issues were serious enough that there was NO HOPE of a roadside fix. They were, in order of happening:
1.) Sucked a high speed enrichment nozzle into #3 combustion chamber.
2.) Broken shifter “hockey stick”.
3.) Burned valve.
4.) Burned piston.
5.) Broken pushrod.
6.) Sheared differential carrier bolts.
All of my cars were and are very carefully maintained, in accordance with factory recommendations. Other than two defective, newly manufactured SU fuel pumps (Burlen Fuel Systems), a few years ago, I’ve NEVER had an electrical problem with an MG that delayed me getting to where I needed to be.
In fact, the most reliable, “bullet-proof” car I’ve ever owned was a 1974 MBG-GT, which gave me over 125,000 miles of dependable, “daily driver” miles with never so much as a “hiccup”.

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Years ago I didn’t have trouble with tires other than wearing the rear tire tread out fast.

These days I keep close tabs on tires on my old cars. The tires can look perfect and still have most of their tread and blow out at any time. Old tires are dangerous.

I had a front tire blow out backing out of the garage, an actual “bang”.
Had a blow out at speed on interstate, back tire. Damage to fender.
Had a tire shed large chunks of tread driving 40mph less that a mile from home.

Old tires are dangerous. They have a manufactured date code. Check the code, determine the date and replace if they are close or over ten years old.

Yes, I know, hate to throw away a perfectly good tire.
How much is your car worth? How much will it cost to repair blowout damage?
How much is your wife and child’s life worth? How much are the hospital bills or a funeral?

Replace old tires.

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Fuel filter. Fuel pump.
Close to home, so not a big deal.
Had to limp home with a few other issues over the years, but the only time stranded was in my wife’s daily driver. Transmission went halfway to to cabin.

1996 f-150 with the ford 300/4.9 I-6( you know, the one that’s not supposed to give anyone issues. Especially with the timing system since it’s all gears and no belt or chain). The timing system stranded me three times. Twice the pin holding the gear onto the distributor drive shaft sheared so the distributor stopped spinning. Once was only a block away from home, once was on my home from college via a band competition. Missed the performance I wanted to see. The timing gears themselves also got shredded so the cam shaft stopped spinning entirely. That time was also on my home from school… in pouring rain… with a tornado warning in my location. Both of those trips home from school required 4-5 hours waiting for dad to get home from his own trip so he could hook up the trailer and come get me. Thankfully, it isn’t an interference motor, so parts just had to be replaced. And it’s safe to say I will be rebuilding the stock distributor from now on if it breaks, since I’ve had issues with two replacements. The truck now has metal gears instead of the composite ones ford switched to in the 80s.

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Have a Model A Ford and an MGA. Have had a few failures mainly related to fuel delivery/carb and minor electrical which were repaired roadside. The two failures which required flatbed service were both electric. For the MGA it was a failure of the voltage/current regulator. I am now running an alternator. For the Model A it was chafing of the battery-to-starter main cable against the bell housing completely melting the ground cable. Luckily it was all smoke and no fire.

Drive an old Alfa Romeo and you’ll understand that the beautiful engineering was meant for the pure fun of driving and not for going from point a to point b. Of the many road side repairs my favorite was the throttle cable (always carried spares) for the SPICA injection The diametric opposite car experience was my 05 Camry, after 322,000 trouble free miles I gave it to my brother who is approaching 400,000 miles and has yet to have a breakdown.

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My 356 started to run rough and developed an intermittent miss. I lived with this for awhile then replaced the distributor. No change. Finally ended up having to get the car carried home on a flat bed truck. Ended up to be the ignition coil. I didn’t think of the coil because I thought I had replaced it all ready. Checked my records and yes I had replaced it, about 46 years ago. Time…

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