Question of the Week: What is your greatest hack?


It might not be something you are proud of, but it got your wheels turning again. The hacks that many a self-mechanic has done to get the job done are a true rite of passage. It’s time to reveal what your favorite is, and no one will be judging—we’ve probably done it too.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/07/16/question-of-the-week-what-is-your-greatest-hack


I swear that I am not making this up… About 15 years ago I put together an older Dodge Club Cab pickup for beater / junkyard / loan-it-to-friends duty, and one fine summer day me and my (definitely a car-girl) wife were in it on the way home from one of my favorite country junkyards about an hour and a half from home. We hit one of those torrential downpours that you often get with an afternoon thunderstorm, but as soon as I turned on the wipers I heard a weird noise and the wiper arms stopped instantly. When we pulled over and got under a bank canopy, I could hear the motor still turning and figured out pretty quickly that the little plastic bushing had disintegrated at the crank arm on the motor where it connects to the main linkage rod. A common problem with older Chrysler products. I usually carried a lot of typically needed spare parts for roadside repairs (ballast resistor, starter relay, some bulbs and fuses, etc…) but I didn’t have a spare linkage bushing. Rummaging through the toolbox I found a spool of 14 ga. wire, so I tied one end of the wire to the outside tip of the driver’s wiper arm, ran the loose end through the vent window and across the interior and out the passenger’s side vent window, and then tied the other end to the lower end of the passenger’s side wiper arm. As we pulled out of the bank and onto the highway I pulled on the wire to make the wiper go up to the top, and then said “pull” to my wife and let her pull the wire back through her vent window to make the arms go back down again. She and I laughed out loud for about a half hour as we tried to drive down the interstate in the pouring rain with our “manual wiper arms” shouting “PULL!” at each other whenever we thought it necessary.


My son’s 1958 Karman Ghia had a failed fuel pump. I ferried a 2 gallon plastic gas can and some clear vinyl hose to him. Oh, and of course, Duct Tape!

We duct taped the gas can to the roof of the car, inserted the hose into the can and then pulled it out with a finger over the end (to start a siphon), threaded it thru the louvers in the trunk lid to the gas inlet barb on the carburetor. More duct tape secured the hose so it wouldn’t dislodge on the trip home.

Woerked like a champ!


Greatest hack was done for me in my 1960 Edsel, when I tried to go home after an Edsel club meet and found the car had no headlights. A mechanically inclined fellow member took my high beam wires and moved them to my low beam bulbs. The lights worked again, allowing me to drive home in the dark.
Eventually my mechanic replaced the low beam headlamp circuit with the cigarette lighter circuit, giving me back both high and low beam lights again. Since nobody would dare smoke in my car, and it was just the one circuit gone bad in the harness, that modified hack remains in the car today, 35 years later.


Here ya go: getting a GM electric speedo sender to work on the Nissan transmission in my '60 Bugeye Sprite!



When putting a standard trans onto an engine, even if you have the clutch alignment tool, it still can be tough to get that input shaft through the clutch and into the pilot bearing.
Pull the coil wire and crank the engine while pushing the trany on. It will snap in in a revolution or two.
Regards, Ray
BMW 700


I was locked out of my Olds convertible on a Montreal winter night…keys inside.

However, I still had access to the trunk via a messed up lock … I was a student and it was an old car.

In the trunk I had some sheet metal and snips…inside 5 minutes I fashioned a quick slimjim and slid it down beside the drivers door window and presto … car unlocked. Granted … convertible … there were other ways in, but this caused no damage.


Once on a road trip outside of Memphis my galaxie blew a radiator hose. The split was just before the radiator inlet so I was able to take a pocket knife, cut 2in off the hose, stretch it and reattach it resulting in a great off the cuff fix!


After preparing a friend’s 1972 Mercedes 350 SLC for the Great Race 2017, the engine was still smoking on the overrun and after idling. This indicated poor valve guides or seals. We hoped it was only old dry or cracked seals.
Normally a heads off job the owner and I decided to try to do this ourselves without head removal.
We heard about putting air pressure to the cylinders one at a time with each piston at TDC on compression stroke. If anything went wrong, the crank rotated or the retainer removal caused the valve to drop into the cylinder while we were removing the retainers, springs and collets the valve would drop requiring head removal. Not an easy task on the overhead cam V8 Mercedes 3.5 liter engine. This sounded a very dcy operation using air pressure.
We decided to remove each spark plug in turn and push some NEW thin cotton cord/rope into the cylinder until the cylinder was as full as we could get making sure we kept a pigtail remaining outside, then turn the crank in the normal direction until the cord/rope compressed the valves tight against their seats.
We fabricated a spring removal tool and compressed each spring cap enough to remove the collets. After the spring was removed we could remove the old dry and time expired valve stem seals and instal new ones. Then the cord/rope was removed and fed into the next cylinder. This operation for all eight cylinders took an afternoon. I adjusted the valves at the same time after changing the seals.
No valves dropped, no collets, retainers, springs were lost, “eaten” or disappeared into the engine. rocker covers refitted…Spark plugs and wires refitted, all good.
Cream on the cake for us, our reward, was that the engine works well and no longer smokes.
The car now has two Great Races plus other mileage under its belt no issues.


In my 1951 Buick the (stupid) hydraulic brake light switch went out for the THIRD time. Maybe I watched too much MacGyver as a kid, but I took a clothes hanger and fashioned a D shape, where the straight leg of the D followed the floor mat, where it was attached with duct tape, and the curved part stuck up under the brake pedal. I took a 10" square piece of aluminum foil from the kitchen and folded it over-and-over down to about a 5" x 2" wad that I duct taped to the back of the brake pedal. I happened to have a piece of speaker wire with insulated alligator clips soldered on the ends left over from my son’s oobleck-on-a-speaker science fair project. I connected the wire to the pigtail at the hydraulic switch, then routed it through the fender, in through the driver’s door, and connected it to my makeshift switch, one side to the hanger, one side to the wad of aluminum foil. When I pressed the brake pedal, the aluminum foil wad would come into contact with the curve of the D and bend it downwards–completing the circuit–but when I released it, it would spring back up. It stayed like that for about 6 months until my dear wife bought me a mechanical brake light switch for Christmas. It worked like a charm, plus the sparks were a little exciting.


In 1968 I was driving my new Plymouth GTX 440 on the highway from Indianapolis to Columbus , Ohio. It just died at 80 mph. I pulled over, tried to start it - no spark. Pulled the distributor cap and found the rotor in pieces. I found a paper clip and an eraser in my glovebox. Stuffed the eraser into the distributor shaft and stuck the paper clip in it. Rotated to number one and pointed the clip at number one. It fired up and I drove fifteen miles - not very fast - but I got to a service station where they got me a new rotor.


I was just leaving a buddy’s place after helping him do some work on his stereo. I was several blocks away when the throttle cable snapped, leaving me with an accelerator pedal sitting on the floor. I went through my “work stuff”, and found a spool of #18 stranded hook-up wire in my box of junque. I threaded the wire through the cable jacket after pulling out the steel cable, tied it to the throttle lever with a cable tie, and had a hand throttle all the way from Chicago to Joliet.


had to inflate a tire with rim frozen to car (did not have a rubber doughtnut used once upon a time to fill the gap between tire and bead seat. Could only get back side to seat and front would not… in a vertical position… so… used some vaseline… still not enough as some gaps, tire had sat long and was a bit flat… so filled gap with grass… yes grass,… stuffed it in, between the grass and vaseline… could reseat the tire and inflate


This was some years ago when I got a call from my mother. She had been out with her friend in his 1989 3 series BMW. They were on there way home when the car started smoking really steaming and the temp was going up. When I got there I discovered that a barbed fitting had broken off the thermostat housing!! So much for German metallurgy. So I was looking at a 4 or 5 mm hole that needed to get plugged up. So I channeled my inner MacGyver and looked around we were at a gas station so I went in and got a lotto pencil. I used my pen knife to make the pencil pointier and stuck it in the hole. I surmised the when the hot water hit it the pencil would swell up and seal the hole. I refilled the lost coolent and started it up. It worked! It got to operating temp and stayed in. He drove it that way for a month until he got the housing replaced!


So mine was in the garage during a repair not road side. It was my 86 S10 Tahoe, my first driver. I was 16 when it stranded me from going to school. For some reason it was actually in the garage (a rare treat.) I convinced the parents it was better I skip school to fix the truck. I diagnosed the crank sensor may not have signal, on inspection when I removed it the plug end came out put the body stayed in the block. WHAT NOW! I couldn’t get a screw in to pull it out, tried cranking it to use PCV to push it out (had fun watching it push out just to suck back in.) I’m running short on ideas by now (as our all friends now out of school.) the final fix after filing the edge for clearance was a 3/8 drive socket with an od the same as the bore, I wrapped the end of my 6” 1/4” extension with tape and coated with glue on the tip. Ran the extension through the socket as a guide and holder and glued the sensor to my stick. Presto in about 10 min of cure I retracted the extension pulling the sensor to the socket then removed the broken sensor.
I was quite proud of my 16yr old self!


Broken throttle cable in a TR7, 200 miles from home, idle screws to max only gets ~20 mph, followed that by some folded 12-pack cardboard between the screws and the push plates yielded 60 on the level in 5th gear, once back in the city trimmed down the thickness for city speeds and nursed her home. As my friend Jack K. always said, having a British car means learning to drive with major systems unavailable.


When I was in high school tailpipe on a 52 Chevrolet Vert rusted out just aft of the muffler. I didn’t have the money to replace it right away. Used a soup can (opened at both ends) with two muffler clamps to reconnect the two ends. I think I drove it like that for the rest of the school year. Still have the car, wished I’d saved that can to remind me of humbler times. :+1:


My 1976 Alfa Romeo Spider had a common Alfa Spider issue: The clutch pedal attaches to a pivot shaft by a poorly done factory weld - and it broke loose from the weld. The job of removing the entire pivot assembly is non-trivial - so I employed this hack: After insuring it was in position, I ground off about half of the exposed pivot shaft to pedal joint in it’s installed location in the car and stick welded it .

It’s holding so far!!


@paulbldr - Now that’s impressive! I surprised the paperclip could effectively transfer the amount of energy going through the distributor.


@jbaguley - I have heard (and done) stories of hacked throttle cables but using the idle screws and blocks to just raise idle until the main circuit kicks in and then drive it is a new one. I dig it!