QOTD: What's Your Major Malfunction?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd whats your major malfunction
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)]
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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.

  • Brett Woods My 4-Runner had a manual with the 4-cylinder. It was acceptable but not really fun. I have thought before that auto with a six cylinder would have been smoother, more comfortable, and need less maintenance. Ditto my 4 banger manual Japanese pick-up. Nowhere near as nice as a GM with auto and six cylinders that I tried a bit later. Drove with a U.S. buddy who got one of the first C8s. He said he didn't even consider a manual. There was an article about how fewer than ten percent of buyers optioned a manual in the U.S. when they were available. Visited my English cousin who lived in a hilly suburb and she had a manual Range Rover and said she never even considered an automatic. That's culture for you.  Miata, Boxster, Mustang, Corvette and Camaro; I only want manual but I can see both sides of the argument for a Mustang, Camaro or Challenger. Once you get past a certain size and weight, cruising with automatic is a better dynamic. A dual clutch automatic is smoother, faster, probably more reliable, and still allows you to select and hold a gear. When you get these vehicles with a high performance envelope, dual-clutch automatic is what brings home the numbers. 
  • ToolGuy 2019 had better comments than 2023 😉
  • Inside Looking Out In June 1973, Leonid Brezhnev arrived in Washington for his second summit meeting with President Richard Nixon. Knowing of the Soviet leader’s fondness for luxury automobiles, Nixon gave him a shiny Lincoln Continental. Brezhnev was delighted with the present and insisted on taking a spin around Camp David, speeding through turns while the president nervously asked him to slow down. https://academic.oup.com/dh/article-abstract/42/4/548/5063004
  • Bobby D'Oppo Great sound and smooth power delivery in a heavier RWD or AWD vehicle is a nice blend, but current V8 pickup trucks deliver an unsophisticated driving experience. I think a modern full-size pickup could be very well suited to a manual transmission.In reality, old school, revvy atmo engines pair best with manual transmissions because it's so rewarding to keep them in the power band on a winding road. Modern turbo engines have flattened the torque curve and often make changing gears feel more like a chore.
  • Chuck Norton For those worried about a complex power train-What vehicle doesn't have one? I drive a twin turbo F-150 (3.5) Talk about complexity.. It seems reliability based on the number of F-150s sold is a non-issue. As with many other makes/models. I mean how many operations are handle by micro processors...in today's vehicles?