QOTD: What's Your Major Malfunction?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
As I type this, the icy tentacles of major cold snap are beginning to be felt in the Midwest and Northeast, sending frigid residents from Montana to Maine to their computers in search of cheap timeshares in Tampa. Meanwhile, forecasters in this neck of the woods — who smugly called for average to above-average temperatures for the duration of the winter — magically get to keep their jobs.The onset of a deep freeze stirs up so many memories, none of them good.Let’s see, there was the Plymouth Sundance with sticky valves that turned over with a series of small explosions on especially frosty mornings. Then there was the ’89 Prelude with a driver’s side window that stopped four inches from the top of the frame. How can one forget the drive home on a morning where the windchill factor hit minus 47 Fahrenheit?Oh man, does cold weather ever make driving a pain, though your author once suffered frostbite while waiting (and waiting, and waiting) for public transit. There’s an “it could be worse” argument within easy reach.From car doors freezing shut due to poor door seal design to windows freezing open due to aging scissor-type assemblies, Mother Nature’s wrath hits owners of older cars the hardest. (Is there enough juice left in this battery to turn this hunk of iron into a warm, whirring machine? Let’s pray and find out.) When the mercury plunges, everything becomes a chore. And when something goes wrong, chores become torture.Without a doubt, the most infuriating (and odd) cold-weather malfunction in this writer’s history had nothing to do a part defeated by low temperatures. It was a part defeated by the need to stash food away for the winter. Years ago, that aforementioned Prelude, equipped with delightful pop-up headlamps that rotated into place with a satisfying clunk, fell victim to nature’s most troublesome beast. A squirrel.With a fierce wind raging on top of the subzero temps, a turn of the ignition key brought one of the Prelude’s headlights into action, with the other stopping at half-mast. Lifting the hood and peering inside the mechanism, I quickly saw the cause of my car’s droopy eye: a big freakin’ nut.Yes, as my car sat innocently outside my university, some enterprising squirrel had stashed the green, spherical product of a black walnut tree in my headlight assembly, despite the fact that I had never seen such a tree anywhere near the campus. The tight confines of the assembly and the surprisingly large fruit meant extracting the foreign body was easier said than done. The wind howled. Curse words flowed faster than water over Niagara Falls. Bare hands turned into rigid claws.Ultimately, I persevered.So, B&B, cast your mind backwards in time. What’s the most frustrating vehicular issue (malfunction, quirk, breakdown, etc.) that ever cropped up due to the cold?[Image: Wikimedia Commons ( CC BY 2.0)]
Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • JREwing JREwing on Dec 27, 2017

    The cold northern Michigan winters didn't do the head gasket any favors on my '84 Crown Vic, but a cold snap in Minnesota froze my battery solid. The initial cold start with the replacement battery showed how the exhaust gaskets and manifold had shrunk in the -20F weather. Exhaust leaked out of all the exhaust ports until the engine had warmed enough for thermal expansion to seal up all the gaps. Thankfully, throttle-body fuel-injection saved the day. :)

  • Forty2 Forty2 on Dec 29, 2017

    Ran my '91 240 through a car wash to get the road salt off. Opened rear door later to stash some groceries, and the latch froze in the open position and the door wouldn't stay shut. I had to go buy a propane torch from the adjacent hardware store to un-freeze it. I still have the torch, but I've only used it the one time.

  • Rust-MyEnemy Whoa, what the hell is wrong with Jalop1991 and his condescension? It's as if he's employed by Big Plug-In or something."I've seen plenty of your types on the forums....."Dunno what that means, but I'm not dead keen on being regarded as "A type" by a complete stranger"" I'm guessing you've never actually calculated by hand the miles you've driven against the quantity of gas used--which is your actual miles per gallon."Guess again. Why the hell would you even say that? Yes, I worked it out. Fill-to-fill, based on gas station receipts. And it showed me that a Vauxhall Astra PHEV, starting out with a fully charged PHEV battery, in Hybrid mode, on my long (234-mile) daily motorway daily commute, never, over several months, ever matched or beat the economy of the regular hybrid Honda Civic that I ran for a similar amount of time (circa 5000 miles)."You don't use gasoline at all for 30-40 miles as you use exclusively battery power, then your vehicle is a pure hybrid. Over 234 miles, you will have used whatever gas the engine used for 200 of those miles."At least you're right on that. In hybrid mode, though, the Astra was using battery power when it wasn't at all appropriate. The petrol engine very rarely chimed in when battery power was on tap, and as a result, the EV-mode range quickly disappeared. The regular hybrid Civic, though, deployed its very small electric reserves (which are used up quickly but restore themselves promptly), much more wisely. Such as when on a trailing throttle or on a downward grade, or when in stop-start traffic. As a result, at the end of my 234 miles, the Civic had used less gas than the Astra. Moreover, I hadn't had to pay for the electricity in its battery.I look forward to you arguing that what actually happened isn't what actually happened, but I was there and you were not."Regardless, that you don't understand it appears not to have stopped you from pontificating on it. Please, do us all a favor--don't vote."You really are quite unpleasant, aren't you. But thanks for the advice.
  • Tassos Jong-iL Electric vehicles are mandated by 2020 in One Korea. We are ahead of the time.
  • 1995_SC Can you still get some of the tax credits under the new program?
  • Analoggrotto HyundaiGenesisKia saw this coming a long time ago and are poised for hybrid and plug-in hybrid segment leadership:[list=1][*] The most extensive range of hybrids[/*][*]Highest hybrid sales proportion over any other model [/*][*]Best YouTube reviews [/*][*]Highest number of consumer reports best picks [/*][*]Class leading ATPs among all hybrid vehicles and PHEVs enjoy segment bearing eATPs[/*][/list=1]While some brands like Toyota have invested and wasted untold fortunes into full range electric lineups HyundaiKiaGenesis has taken the right approach here.
  • EBFlex The answer is yes. Anyone that says no is just….. wrong.But the government doesn’t want people to have that much freedom and the politicians aren’t making money off PHEVs or HEVs. So they will be stifled.