I started to think about life on the side of the road because various mechanical components on my car finally decided that life was simply not worth living anymore and exercised their right to die.


It was rarely convenient and I discovered that four decades behind the wheel had built a pretty sizable list of mechanical breakdown.


So I decided to do a mental inventory on part failures and compose a list of memorable occasions when bad things happened to old cars.


I blew up U-joints in three separate vehicles, but the most impressive was on a hot summer day in a 1962 Volvo back in the 70s. The explosion felt like we had just driven over an IED device as the dust lifted from the snapped driveshaft when it hit the underside of the car.




You never forget your first U-joint explosion and can understand why you can’t ignore a deep rumbling vibration that doesn’t disappear with higher speeds on a freeway.


I don’t know whether to include water pumps in the equation because thoughtless disregard for an overheated engine meant that I always made it home. The same could not be said for a dead fuel pump that finally gave up its last gasp of gas in two separate vehicles.




I’ve blown up several clutches, numerous gears in manual transmissions, two torque convertors and three automatic transmissions. I also broke off a shifter in first gear on a VW microbus and took 8 hours to travel approximately 20 miles, a journey made mainly because I was 17 and really stupid.



I’ve fried three electronic ignition modules and instantly learned the not-so-hidden message of the Byrds song ‘You Ain’t Going Nowhere’.


I’ve snapped an accelerator cable to a rear-engined vehicle and idled my way to the side of the road to wait for a tow.




I’ve had a fan lose a blade and put a big dent in the hood that didn’t slow me down, plus a fan that came loose and chewed a giant hole in the radiator that did slow me down to a complete stop.


There are many places and times when old car parts give up the ghost. It is never fun or convenient, but it is always memorable.


Jim Sutherland

More car stuff at-


DENNIS: I’ll give you a ‘tales from the side of the driveway’ story that’s less than 12 hours old.

My ‘Hot Rod’ Rambler has ‘shaved doors’ (no outside handles). The doors are relay operated off a little gadget on your key chain like you lock modern cars with. When I got the car a few months ago, both doors were broken. You didn’t dare roll up all the windows or the game was over. The way the cable/solenoid mechanism is laid out, a ‘slim jim’ is out too. I’ll try to keep this brief.

I’ve ‘re-engineered’ the left door and replaced the dead solenoid, so the left door works. I left the car in the driveway last night with the windows rolled up. This morning I decided to drive it to McDonalds to get the Mrs. and me some breakfast. I got in, fired her up, got Lynyrd Skynyrd blasting on the 400 watt sound system and realized I needed a towel to wipe the frost off the windows. Well you guessed it. I got out to get a towel and closed the door behind me. Thanks to the chopped top, the left door window doesn’t roll up properly (yet) and there’s about a eighth inch air gap at the top. So at 7 AM this morning, my neighbors got to listen to a Chevy V8 with little tiny mufflers on it on fast idle and a 400 watt version of ‘The best of Lynyrd Skynyrd”, worthy of a rock concert, while I took a coat hanger and after about 10 minutes of fishing through the opening above the window glass, managed to get it hooked around the inside door handle and popped the door open.

I will be fabricating a manual, cable over-ride from the door latch, into the front wheel well, to protect myself from myself in the future.