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Tell us about your best roadside fix


#1

Driving a vintage car carries an increased risk of breaking down compared to modern metal, especially if the car is mechanically original. Whether it’s fuel delivery or lack of spark or whatever else, sudden vehicle failure can really ruin an otherwise blissful day. Those drivers who regularly venture out seem to have at least one story of getting nearly stranded, only to save the day with a stunning roadside fix.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/05/21/tell-us-about-your-best-roadside-fix

#2

Imagine touring in an unfamiliar area of the country and it’s time for a gas stop. You pull into a gas station island that has two pump handles. One green & one red. You pick the red one and after you’ve filled your tank you notice that this gas island is the diesel island. Your old car has a larger fuel opening so any size nozzle goes in.
Green is road diesel and red is OFF ROAD DIESEL! @^%$*(#
Now what do you do? .
With luck you have a bulb siphon in the trunk and luckily your car has an electric fuel pump.
You find 5 gallon buckets and start to siphon all the diesel out of the tank Then you disconnect the fuel line from the carb and pump the fuel line into a bucket using the electric pump. Problem solved and you’re able to continue touring. True story, names withheld to protect the guilty :slight_smile:


#3

@jimsfetko - At least you caught it before you starting the engine back up! I wold hate to have to pump out a full tank of fuel. that would take a while…


#4

It wasn’t me that did it :wink: but he had put in 26 gallons (32 gal tank) Luckily, right behind the filling station was an off road construction crew who was happy to get free diesel. It really didn’t take that long to siphon & pump out.


#5

Well… It wasn’t my own roadside repair. In the mid-1970’s I worked after school pumping gas. Station was located on an interstate exit ramp. One afternoon I saw a boat of a car lurching down the ramp and finally stall. I noticed a sweet elderly lady driving so I trotted across the street (I could do that then). Raised the hood and checked the vitals. Her transmission fluid was bone dry. I pushed her across the street (I was young) and onto the lift. Raised her car and saw the rubber connecting line from her tranny dipstick tube to the tranny had split. In a moment of brilliance I cut a short section of the “ding-ding” bell tube. Tightened it in place with a couple of clamps. Filled her with tranny fluid and she was good as new… Best part of that story is she was so thankful she returned an hour later with a warm plate of chocolate chip cookies!


#6

I was a 20 year old Spring Breaker, it was 1984 and the car was a 1973 Chrysler Newport. The Transmission Blew out in Fancy Gap Virgina on my way back to Pittsburgh, from Ft Lauderdale. Our buddy ran a transmission and 12 quarts of down in his 1969 Chevelle SS 396. from Pittsburgh. 12 hours later, we limped back home, digging for spare change in the back seat for gas and toll money.


#7

25 years ago I bought a 1967 Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider. It was in awful shape. It had the usual history of skin flint owners and bad mechanics with many parts missing and poor repairs. I started by fixing the obvious and getting it into some kind of shape, but one odd thing it had were two aluminum straps that ran from the valve cover bolts to the tops of the carbs. I had no idea what they were for, but left them there until eventually they both broke. They were jury rigged home built things so I could not replace them. Months later it became obvious what they were for when my car abruptly died on the side of the road. I opened the hood and found that the intake manifold had broken at the rubber tubes that fed mixture from the carbs to the intake valves. The carbs were now pointing at the sky. The tubes were broken 3/4s of the way through not all the way, so I grabbed a box that was road trash on the side of the road where I broke down, some duct tape, pushed the rubber throats back together, duct taped them, then shoved the box between the air box and the fender wall, applied a little tape, and drove the car home. A little research revealed that there was supposed to be a support rod under that intake box that held everything in place. $25 on Ebay later, and I had one installed along with a complete intake rebuild, but the box on the side of the road did get me home … well that and duct tape.


#8

Good job. Mine was simpler: Driving from Flagstaff to Phoenix with my dear grandfather, the 1956 Olds started to miss and loose power. We were in Oak Creek canyon and not a person or car in sight in either direction. After a while I pulled off the distributer cap and found the points to be a mountain on one side and valley on the other. All I had was a flat screwdriver… no cell phones and no one was coming to help or even driving by…I took the points out and dug through the glove box finding a book of matches…took the rough striking surface of the matchbook and “sanded down” the points…after putting back in and setting the gap by eye, I cranked her over and that sweet Olds purr began, I was so thankful to get grandpa home safe and bought new points the next day of course.


#9

Nevada. The empty West. The part of US 50 which is officially called (you can look it up) “The Loneliest Road in America” is a beautiful two lane highway in perfect condition that runs roughly east/west across the center of Nevada. I was driving my 1968 Lotus Seven; a 1200 pound, right hand drive car with no top, no doors, no radio, no anything. US 50 runs straight as a string across the valley floors between about a dozen little ranges of “mountains” and then wiggles up and over to the next valley floor then straight til the next wiggle…an absolutely perfect sports car road except for one thing. It is “The Loneliest Road in America”

From the western edge of Nevada to Eastern edge of Nevada, a distance of 256 miles, there are only two towns with any services at all: Austin and Eureka. Fallon to Austin is about 110 miles, another 75 or so to Eureka and then 73 more to Ely. In between these points is a whole lot of empty! No gas, no food, people, or cell phone service, and almost no traffic. One vehicle every half hour is typical, and sometimes one can go an hour without seeing any other traffic. Somewhere between Austin and Eureka, on a flat straight highway that I could clearly see five miles in either direction, the charging light on the dash panel lit up. What could be up that the system isn’t charging? So I slowed pulled off to the shoulder although I could have parked in the middle of the highway with no concern of being hit. As I eased to a stop I noticed the temp gauge rising rapidly. Aha! Fan belt! No water circulation from the belt driven pump would do that. So, off with the bonnet and nose cone to have a look. The culprit was a loose bolt in the generator bracket, and the generator lying on its side. Apparently, the bolt in the front bracket hadn’t been fully tightened and backed out from the vibration at some point. The poorly supported generator had broken the back plate and the fan belt was thrown. But when? It could have been a quarter mile or two miles back. And even if I found the belt, the broken bracket wouldn’t support the generator. And there wasn’t a soul around; just the wind, the sky and the road: “The Loneliest Road in America”.

There are times when we really want some solitude and quiet, yet we cannot find it in our hustle bustle world. Then there are times when the most beautiful thing we could have is a friendly face for support. This was one of those times. And yet, there was nothing. No sound. No sign of human habitation. No cell reception. I was totally, completely, fully alone. If I were to get out of here, it was going to be up to me to figure it out.

I summoned up my best MacGyver attitude and went to search for something to turn into a suitable fan belt. Now, there isn’t much room for spares in a Seven, so pickings were slim. I had a small tool kit with some wire and hose, spare clothing, and my gas jug, all tied down with bungee cords. YES, that’s it, a bungee cord! I found one that looked to be a bit short, figuring that it would stretch, and began taking off the wire hook ends. Prying them off with a screwdriver and small pair of pliers took the better part of 30 minutes. Then I had to wire the ends together with my fine wire, like a bungee surgeon, which took another 15. During this time, not one vehicle passed.

Finally, I had what looked somewhat like a fan belt. Green, puny and stretchy, maybe, but it was a beautiful fan belt to me. I slipped it over the crank and water pump pulleys, bypassing the generator. I figured I could make it quite a way without draining the battery. I started the car and it worked! It turned the water pump. I let the car tick over for a few minutes and the temp stayed steady. Eureka!

Yes that was my destination, but I wasn’t sure how far it was. 20 miles? 40 miles? 60 miles? Well, I’d better button this up and get going. But before that, I thought I’d rev it a few times to make sure I had a solution that really worked. I flipped the throttle and the bungee flew. Well the load of the water pump could have stretched one side and allowed the other to come off. I remounted the belt and this time I’d just ease the throttle up smoothly and gently. It worked perfectly until about 1,700 rpm. Each time I got to that speed the bungee would fly off. So I set off for Eureka at 1,600 rpm. First, second, third gear and we were moving. It worked fine. In fourth gear I was moving at about 24 miles per hour. Eight times as fast as the pioneers, yet still slow enough to see the varied scenery of central Nevada up close. In the nearly one hour drive to Eureka, one car passed me in the same direction at about 80 and two went by the other way. I had plenty of time to reflect on the place around me and I thought of the pioneers who had no road at all. As lost and alone as I felt, it was nothing compared to their situation. They were brave folks indeed. All this reflection was accompanied by the reassuring click, click, click of the bungee fan belt as it spun merrily around the wire touching each pulley. Finally I reached the booming metropolis of Eureka, Nevada, Population 600. As this was a Saturday about 3:00 PM, much of Eureka was closed for the weekend, but the fellow at the gas station said the hardware store was open and maybe they could help. So I clicked up Main Street to the hardware emporium. The very kindly lady who owned the store asked what I needed. I said, “A fan belt for a 1968 Lotus Seven”. I may as well have asked for a Flux Capacitor for my DeLorean.

She said she had lots of belts if I could just tell her what size I needed. So I rolled one front wheel up on the curb to get a bit more working room, and carefully wrapped a piece of wire rope around both pulleys and marked the overlap spot with my pinched thumb and finger. Into the store I marched, where we found a matching size Gates belt for a washing machine. Nothing ventured, nothing gained they say so out to the waiting car I went. It was a struggle to get the belt over the flange on the crank pulley so I put the car into fourth gear and gently rocked it forward. On popped the belt. As I checked for fit, I found a perfect half inch of deflection…neither too loose nor too tight. Problem solved!

I drove the rest of the way home with the battery providing all the current needed for my simple little car as long as I charged it at night at each motel stop with the Kmart charger I bought.


#10

About 15 years ago I was driving my 86 El Camino South on Hwy 99 in California’s Central Valley. I had an appointment to meet a client in Visalia and was a bit cramped for time. Driving about 65 mph I saw a starter or generator fly out of the pickup ahead of me. It came bouncing back straight towards me so I pulled to the right to avoid it, Well, the starter, or whatever it was, took a wild bounce and went under my vehicle making a hell of a racket! Immediately I determined it had hit and blew out the left rear tire. I pulled over and got off the pavement but there wasn’t a lot of roadside to park on. I should have called a service truck, but I was in a hurry! I got out my spare and jack and began to jack up the vehicle. I noticed that the big rigs, traveling 60-70-+ mph were coming VERY close…like 2 - 3 feet… from where I was huddled taking the tire off! It was getting dangerous and I was almost ready to call a service man to bend down next to those giant wheels. Then the California Highway Patrol showed up, lit up all his lights, and backed his car about 50 yards North of me to block the right lane. He came back and manually directed traffic away from me. With those big rigs running 25 feet away instead of 3 feet I got the job done fast, shook the officers hand, and made my appointment on time. This wasn’t my “best” roadside fix but it was the scariest one I’ve ever had! I have not personally changed a tire since then! Thanks again to the California Highway Patrol! I’m still driving that 86 El Camino as my “classic” car.


#11

Fourteen years ago I purchased two '56 Bel Air hardtops via the internet. Both cars were located in Michigan and I couldn’t find a shipper who would pick them up in what they all considered a remote part of the state. So I decided to fly with my wife from the San Francisco Bay Area in the spring and drive them both home, with the thought that if either of the cars had issues, we would have a backup to pick up parts or whatever was needed for repairs. When we picked up the first car in East Lansing, I was pumped, as it was in beautiful, restored condition, as represented in photos and description. We then picked up the second car, north of Lansing about 50 miles. The car looked fine, but the seller then told me that he had not told me the truth about when it had last been on the road…he had previously said he drove the car from Texas to Michigan the previous year. When we picked the car up, he admitted that it had not seen the road for many, many years. He tossed me the keys (I already had received the title via Fed-Ex) and practically ran into his house, not responding when I knocked (okay, pounded) on his front door. I decided I would chalk it up to another experience of being deceived by seemingly “truthful” people…a sad reminder that there are many unscrupulous people in the world. The car had a dead battery, so we picked up a new one, installed it, and the engine started right up. Then the nightmare began. The engine ran fine, the automatic tranny shifted well, and the car actually drove pretty well. The tires looked good (no cracking), and I decided to take a chance and drive it home. Over the next five days, I replaced the fuel pump twice, the second time installing an electric pump and bypassing the original mechanical unit, and changed the gas filter a couple dozen times, as the fuel tank was loaded with sediment. The more I drove it, the less frequently I had to change the fuel filter. After driving about a thousand miles, each filter lasted about 200 miles. But the fuel supply problems were the least of the problems encountered.

The original generator died, and unable to find another locally, I purchased an additional battery to swap out each time the battery in the car ran down. I also bought a charger to recharge the batteries at the end of each driving day. It’s amazing how far a car can drive on a battery without an operating generator. Being a type A, driven individual, I (we) forged ahead.

The wheels were American mags and gradually loosened because rivets on the front brake drums dug into the back of the wheels, damaging the wheel hub mounting studs. In Omaha, we stopped at a local Firestone store and the manager had a tech grind all the drum rivets off and remove the rivets so the wheels seated properly against the drums. We also replaced all the studs. The manager refused to take more than $25 for the service. Great guy! On our way again.

Things were going well when we were driving across Wyoming, cruising at 65 mph, when the fuel filter let me know it needed changing again…being on the interstate, without a close exit, I pulled over to the side of the road. As I was coming to a stop, moving at only about 2 mph, suddenly the car screeched to a halt, as one front wheel turned outward. The drive-side tie rod had snapped in two. Imagine if it had broken one minute earlier, when I was moving at 65 mph… Well, for a moment, I considered having the car towed to California. Then I decided to have it towed to a nearby motel in Rawlins, only about ten miles away, and ordered a new tie rod online, having it shipped overnight to the hotel. When the tie rod arrived (two days later), we had looked at the local sights and I was ready to go to get the car back on the road. Of course, as soon as I went out to the parking lot with the new part, it started to snow. Not to be deterred, I changed the tie rod in about ten minutes, and the car was ready to go again. Very glad I brought a small tool box loaded with essentials on our trip. As a side note, the old tie rod had apparently been cracked for a long time, as two-thirds across the section of the break had visible rust. Nothing that I could see when we picked the car up and I made a brief inspection of the undercarriage before hitting the road.

Well, the remaining portion of the trip was fairly uneventful, with only one minor issue on the other car…the engine died outside Battleground, Nevada, and I found the distributor points were corroded. The engine would not re-start A helpful highway patrolman advised us of local parts stores, and my wife hit them all, but to no avail, as no one had the correct points for a '56. So I cleaned the existing points with sand paper and the engine started right up. Off we went again.

Finally, after a five-day trip, we arrived home in Concord, California. We dropped the cars off and went directly to a party at my brother’s house, where we celebrated our experience with more than a few brews!

Gotta do a similar trip again sometime…


#12

Great story!! As hard as I try I can’t beat that one.


#13

Where in the world do you find a woman like that! Congrats!!!


#14

Well it’s not really too spectacular but we were on our way race and we stopped for fuel in the truck and we notice a trailer tire leaking. The spare had a slow leak and we were already late so we find a sheet metal screw and we dig the silicone out and put a gob on the screw and run it into the tire. Filled it up with air and made it to the track and home. Ahh Rube Goldberg at its finest.


#15

Shortly after getting my 69 Ghibli, I was invited to a get together of the Maserati Club. A local event at a winery by the East end of Long Island. It was also my wifes first time ridding this car.
It turn out to be the hottest day in NY in a long time. A/C not working. As we left the vineyard
the car lost the clutch and I was confronted with a 50 mile ride back home in traffic.
Well… it turn out to be the ride from hell, shifting without clutch, 100+ degrees inside the cabin.
Not one word was spoken for the duration of the ride. By the time we got home, my knees were shaking. I parked the car in the driveway and run to a cold shower. Next day I found out I was out of fluid due to a small leak. Simple fix. Drove great after that. But the memories of that drive still lingers.


#16

I lost the fan belt on my 70 GREMLIN with a 383 and 4 speed in 1972 coming back from Rode Island to Long Island. I used Mansions twine wrapped and tied a few times in it’s place to get home.

. Of course it was 2 am…


#17

In 1973 I was four wheeling and ran over a rock that made a small hole in the oil pan. The only tool I had was a 6 way screwdriver. I used a washer head trim screw and a piece of the tongue from my Red Wing boots. Stopped the leak. Fixed the oil pan about a month later.


#18

OK, so this was in 1980, in my 1966 MGB-GT, driving down the freeway with my then-girlfriend. Suddenly there was that heart-sinking loss of power as the engine appeared to shut down entirely. I was able to coast off the freeway and down an offramp. As we all know with our old cars: “It’s one of three things.” Since I determined that the fuel pump was still pushing go-juice, and the carb float chambers were full, and I knew it was getting air, I turned to the ignition system. I popped the cap off, saw that the points were indeed opening and closing properly (dang! that was my first guess: worn points!). I did, however, notice a line trace along the rotor. It sure looked like an arc trace. Well, my girlfriend being a coquettish thing, I managed to separate her bottle of nail polish from her, scraped the arc trace as well as I could with my pen-knife, and painted the trace/crack with nail polish. Once it dried, put everything back in place, and it fired right up!
The epilog is that I soon parted with the girlfriend, but I still have the car!


#19

Late 70’s, 67 chevy 1/2 ton pick up 2wd. Interstate 90 in Wa. heading E to W over Snoqualmie pass. Good friend and I in the rig. Dirt bike strapped in the bed with a small load of firewood piled around it. Just get over summit and feel rear of the PU drop. Ease on brake pedal, goes to the floor. Look in outside rearview mirror just in time to see a tire and wheel pop out from under the left rear of the truck and fly amazingly high, off the hwy. into the canyon between the East and Westbound lanes. Is Sunday afternoon, max traffic! In the mirror I now see sparks flying from the left rear of the rig, traffic behind me is all standing on their nose. In my peripheral vision I see a brake drum sliding along the bottom of the guard rail of the hwy. Manage to get the rig off to the side of the road. Left rear tire and wheel are gone along with the brake drum, backing plate is bent and ground flat on the bottom. Have a spare tire, lug wrench, jack, and a big hammer for tools. Made it across the lanes of traffic to the guard rail and found the brake drum, undamaged. Truck is setting on what’s left of the backing plate and is too low to get the jack I had under the rear end. Started by putting the jack under the frame up near the cab where it would fit and then jacked it up and used pieces of firewood to shore it up as I worked the jack to the back of the truck. When it got to where I could get it high enough to fit the spare on, I took the big hammer and beat the backing plate out of the way so I could get the brake drum on then put the spare tire on. Now have 4 tires and wheels again and the rig will drive, but, of course no brakes!! Eased it down the side of the hwy. and discovered the right rear emergency brake worked. Very long story short, drove it home!!


#20

The best road side (hotel) repair I’ve had was fortunately during the Power Tour. If you haven’t experience this “rally” I suggest highly you do so. It was my second tour; the first was 2015 when I had just rebuilt and installed a 390, (my first ever engine build) in my 64 Galaxie. When I left the house I had just dropped the break in oil at 200 miles. What better way to test your engine build skill then breaking in a motor on power tour? On this trip I packed every spare and every tool I owned and could fit in the trunk. Long and short successful trip, only issue was an alternator bolt that lost a nut and nearly created a shot put from the engine compartment, and a few timing adjustments along the way.
Fast forward 2 years for my next adventure in power tour. I left out of KC (with some crazy dudes from TX) and soon found myself at excessive speeds on the interstate (over 100 in a land yacht) keeping up with these boys. About 100 miles to the days stop that very slight clicking noise I had heard on my way to KC became a very obvious shacking of a blown u joint. Google being a good friend of mine found my a parts store not far away. Naturally they didn’t have the correct part. “The nearest store with it in Newton,” said the counter man. Great I thought that’s were I’m going!(only it’s 75miles away.) To the nature of this event many people spectate as you travel the specified route. At the time I couldn’t stand the vibration any longer I found a yard full of classic cars with a porch full of beer drinking spectators, it looks like a farm shop behind the house surly they have a grease gun I can use. The certainly did, that got me about 20 miles from my stop before the inevitable shake reared it’s ugly head. I finally made it to Newton, and the parts store, being hobbled to 30mph to keep the car in one piece. I bought the u-join and made my way to our check point.
After I rolled in I ran into my TX “friends.” What happened they ask, u-joint failure I replied, no thanks to the early morning expedition of speed. They offered to change it on the spot but I was parked in soft ground and the idea of lifting and working under 4000lb of Detroit steel in that senecio was not on the top of my things to do to make my day better at that point. Eventually I made it to the hotel for the night (a true dive as it was closer than my original booking, the only place with vacancies and I felt the 40 miles in the wrong direction to my reservation was a poor choice in a very wounded car.) After I checked in I parked by the front entrance as I saw an outside power receptical and felt dusk upon us. As I lifted the car and pulled the drive shaft others on the tour staying at the hotel could see my plight. Two great southern gentleman from Mississippi ended up under and then around my car as we replaced the defective part with a make shift of tools we had. Don’t know if any of you have seated a u-joint with a tree limb and a socket before but in my experience a vise of c-clamp does a much better job! I then returned some favors working on injection issues in their ride.

Moral of the story is if we all work together for a common good we’ll all make it to the next stop. I’m still running on that repair and it’s one of the best moments of the trip. I met some great people I now consider friends.