Question of the Week: What’s the dumbest mistake you’ve made working on your car?


2 months after triple bypass surgery, I deceded it was time to remove my radiator with the hood still on my 73 corvette by myself. I now know the difference between heart pain and chest pain!


I was 17, and had just finished rebuilding the 383 in my '69 Charger. I couldn’t get the thing to start. I had been turning it over for a bit and no go, so I decided to check the fuel pump. I undid the two bolts holding it in place and pulled the pump. Both hoses were still attached to the pump. Did I mention I did this with the key in the “on” position? I was wearing a wristwatch with a metal band. At some point my watch band touched both the fuel pump and the engine block. There was a spark and a huge bang, and my engine was on fire! I ran into the kitchen and grabbed the fire extinguisher, ran back out and put the fire out while my Dad yelled at me for trying to burn the house down. My nicely detailed engine was partly scorched and covered in white powder. The explosion blew the valley pan into a hill, not a valley. I learned some valuable lessons that day. I’ve built a few big block Mopars since then and now know how to get them to start instantly after a rebuild. Biggest takeaway? Always disconnect your battery, and have an extinguisher as close as possible!


Heres. A good excited to go mistske… Build a custom Benz Replica. Hadvto make brackets for the rear end… After about 35 miles. Lots of grinding for the rear axel… Oh Shit jimmy says … Forgot tobpit the fulid in the rear end…
You Cooked tha son of a gun like a burndt t bone.
,i got my son a model T. Fronty Ford race body… Showed him how to check the oil. ( you must crawl under the car and turn the pet cock to check the oil ) if it drips your good… Well,it dripped
Then he went to close it. And turned it to far. No problem. .untill he started it up and as he drove odd wilth me screaming. Shut it down …,turing to far reopened it and it pissed oil when running
…after fixing cars for 50 years. I got bunches…


One time in the shop i did a tranny on a car.
A drive on hoist was used… Old walker elect. .
NOW PAY ATTENTION. NEVER EVER PULL A KIVI…YOU SEE KIVI HAD A EXHAUST LEAK . His smart fix KIVI .was to run the car put it back up . and retighen or adjust the exhaust untill the leak stopped.
Hell it worked well. Untill. One time. He used a bar to pry the. Xpipe. Hit the manual,linkage, bam in reverse in went jumped the stop blocks and took off in reverse. Drove it self off the hoist in air. I watched in awe as the front bumper of that 71 javlin bent as it hit the edge,of the ramps attached to the driveon hoist. As the rear wheels. Were on the floor already.
It then slammed. The front bumber into the floor , and actually straightened it back on shape. and the car then ran into a oil,holding tank b4 it stopped. . Damage. Was limited to a dent in the oil tank. I bet your wondering if we told the owner,of the car about this little mishap. Well if you are Guess What. Keep,wondering…


Back in my early 20’s I drained the oil and then couldn’t get the oil filter off so drove the car down the street with no oil. Got autozone to get the oil filter off and then put a new one and filled it up with oil. Issue is I should have never drove it without oil even if it was only a mile if that. What a dumbass I was.


When I was in HS my 55 T-Bird (they were affordable back then) was overheating. Replacing the thermostat didn’t fix it because the spring is supposed to go towards the engine and not towards the radiator.
More recently my 09 Explorer was making noise from the front that sounded like a dry PS pump. Since it was full of fluid and I assumed since it sounded like the pump, it was the pump but the noise was still there after replacing it. Fortunately before I removed the new pump to send for warranty I did a little more checking and found the idler pulley bearing was trash. I’ve changed a lot of idler and tensioner bearings but never before heard one that sounded like a pump low on fluid.


I decided to do a tune up on my 71 Charger. While changing the points, I dropped the screw. Thought it fell through to the ground. I finished my work and started the car. I found the screw - in the distributor. Needless to say, that money saving tune up cost me a new distributor.


I locked my keys in my 86 Corvette. I put a trouble light on my lexan top so I could see inside the car while I used a coat hanger to unlock the car. By the time I got the door open the light melted the top. Luckily insurance bought me a new top. I sold it shortly after!


In 1976, (I was 16) I broke a valve cover bolt while trying to extract it in my 66 Mustang. I still have the car. The broken bolt, along with the broken easy-out, is still in the head. However, RTV keeps it from leaking.


Been there. I pulled the distributor on my Ford 289. The hex shaft that connects it to the oil pump came half way out with it and then dropped into the pan. Had to remove the pan to get it out.


When I was 16 I decided to rebuild the engine in my Mustang, just because I wanted to. 25 years later, I decided to do it again. When I removed the camshaft, I realized that 25 years ago, I didn’t install the plate that keeps the camshaft from moving front to back. The camshaft was missing big chunks from the lobes.


While changing oil, I left the oil cap on the air cleaner. When done pouring oil into the hole, I closed the hood. There was a small bubble in the hood where the oil cap rested. Ouch


Agree with Kyle, how many times have I put my body parts in harm’s way same as you and gotten away with it by no more than dumb luck.


I’m a slow learner sometimes, so I have two…

I was 13, in love with anything metal that moved. One of the farm trucks was a 1948 International 1.5 ton truck, a fairly new rig at that time. (We still had Model T powered equipment)
Dad let me rebuild it in the truck, I had to settle for honing the cylinders, but all went well, no missing or extra parts.
I buttoned it up, added the oil and water, and it ran!
We put it back in service, loaded it with wheat and Mom headed to town to dump it at the elevators. She didn’t come back on time.
According to Mom, it “just stopped”. I had failed to tighten the oil drain plug. It all drained out, and Mom just kept driving, stopping only when the engine locked up. We towed it to town, delivered the grain, towed it home and parked it. Forever. The hood made a great sled behind snowmobiles.

The second one? This is a cascading failure.
VW Transaxles are soft mounted, and will allow the ring gear to be installed either way. If you solid mount a VW engine/transaxle, the soft reverse gear will fail, especially if you bump up the horsepower.
So, after I build up and solid mounted my 40 hp engine in my ‘65 bug, I promptly lost reverse. I tore it down, the part wasn’t expensive, just hard to get to. Replaced reverse, put the ring gear back on, installed it, got it running. In December in eastern Washington, where the high is sometimes up to freezing. I drove out very happy, until I found that I had four reverse gears and one forward.
It didn’t take as long the second time, I had just done it that day before.
But, reverse kept failing. Lather rinse repeat. I finally got into town and talked to some other motorhead guys, took the solid mounts out, and never lost reverse again.


Back in high school I rebuilt the 351C in my '72 Mach I. I forgot to bleed the new hydraulic lifters, so was given the opportunity to replace a few push rods too!


If you pull off a carb then proceed to use heat to remove the seized intake bolts, be sure the rest of the spilled gas is cleaned up first…



Wasted close to $15,000 trusting my 60S T-Bird with so-called restoration shops. Crap work,


Changing the oil pressure sender on my HHR. I had to drop the starter, it’s behind the starter. I disconnected the battery and started work on drive up ramps. No real problem it was supposed to be a clear , ok day. As I put the starter on the bench and reached for the oil pressure switch it started to rain heavy. The wife said lets get grocery’s and finish later. I said ok - she locked the doors and closed the hood. AS the hatch closed I realized - no battery no door unlocks… When I got home it had stopped raining - so I finished the job. I had to put a battery charger on the starter to pop open the rear hatch to re-connect the battery. The battery is under / alongside the spare in the rear of the car.


I love this thread. It’s nice to know I’m not the only guy that should have “stayed at a Holiday Inn” before working on his car. Hate to admit it, but vicariously learning some lessons in the process.


These days, my tool box “go-tos” are a cell phone and a checkbook. Although there was a time. Rebuilt a Holley 600 on my small block ‘71 Vette. In the rebuild kit were these plastic see-thru bowl level windows. Having never used them before, I put hem in and was very satisfied at the ease and neatness of adjusting floats without the spilled fuel. A few days of driving and tweaking, I noticed that it was idling a little slow. So I pulled over into a gas station near my home. As I did so, smelled a strong raw fuel odor. Opened the hood and found that there was raw fuel laying in my intake runner valleys…ALL of them! It was also pouring down the rear of the engine. I was never so glad to have good ignition wires, and side exhaust, in my life. The windows had melted and fallen out of the carb bowls…WTF? Anybody else see this? Called my son to bring me my box of carb parts. Put the brass plugs back in, never trusted anything else since. Never forget the day I almost burned my Vette to the ground. Ran great though.