QOTD: What's The Worst Home Mechanic Mishap You've Ever Seen?
I’d like to think I was hurrying because I had a date, but an honest reassessment of my frantic reassembly of my first car was likely spurred by a need to get to work. I’m sure that after my misadventure, my fuel-soaked clothing and fouled undershorts conspired to keep me from working at the donut shop for a day or so.
Those of us not privileged enough to afford a mechanic have all done it: the cheap, likely unsafe repair meant only to get a car back on the road until time and/or funds allow a proper fix. Some call it a kludge, others redneck or ghetto engineering — depending on which stereotype you find more distasteful — but it’s all part of owning a car on a budget.
Back to my stories, I’ve done plenty of stupid things, like driving on a temporary spare for six months, wiring a muffler back on with a coat hanger, or getting knocked over by something heavy in my garage and onto a five gallon pail of waste oil, which ruined both my clothes and my driveway. Still, the big one could have been much worse.
It was my first car, a gloriously brown 1985 Nissan Maxima, and my dad and I were trying to keep ahead of the various electronic funkiness that came with its early digital dashboard. The fuel gauge never worked properly, leading to the occasional long walk with a red can. I was tired of it. We decided to replace the fuel gauge sending unit, which — naturally — is inside the fuel tank.
Dad was an enthusiastic mechanic — if never a professional one. We always had some sort of project in the garage, typically a British car of some sort or a vintage Datsun, and most weekends throughout my childhood included some garage time. He and I tackled the Maxima with some enthusiasm.
Unfortunately, access to the fuel tank in the Max was below the rear seat, which for whatever reason was unusually difficult to remove. We managed to raise the lower cushion, but the seatback could only be pried out of the way under significant tension. I held the seat up, straining against some hidden bolts, while dad put his hands down into the full tank of fuel to switch out the sending unit.
I also held the old-style “safety” shop lamp so we could see our progress.
Unfortunately, the effort required in holding the seat was too much, or dad moved and dislodged the seat. Either way, the seat moved, knocking the lamp out of my hand, which crashed and broke right next to the open fuel tank aperture.
How the gasoline fumes didn’t ignite is a question I’ll never be able to answer, but that was one seriously terrifying moment.
For inspiration and laughs, head over to Reddit, specifically r/JustRolledIntoTheShop and r/ThereIFixedIt, which are a wonderland of shoddy work and misplaced ingenuity. However, I want to hear your stories. What stupidity have you wrought upon a helpless auto?
[Images: Accord, By Shah rukh khan (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; Maxima, © Chris Tonn]
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