By on November 13, 2018

Want to feel good about yourself? Scratch the surface of an outwardly successful, right-thinking person and peer inside. Needle them just a bit about a topic that should be mundane — politics, for example — and watch the quaking begin. Watch the dam crack and the deluge pour forth. The emotion, the spittle-flecked ranting, the complete irrationality. The rage. Glad you’re not like that person, aren’t you?

(Note: this will only make you feel better about yourself if you’re a relatively even-keeled individual and your sparring partner isn’t wildly affluent.)

Now, flip the equation and replace your previous role with a car. That’s the situation many of us find ourselves in at one time or another — rendered inconsolable by one too many quirks, hiccups, or full-on meltdowns of our unthinking driving partner. The vehicle we pour money into, and get depreciation and varying levels of service in return. Sometimes, it’s enough to make a peaceful man violent.

Admit it. Have you ever battered your car?

I know I have, though not to the degree some people sink to. The most prominent example was more an act of self-preservation than giving a vehicle its comeuppance. Back in my uni days, long-haired, idealistic, naive Steph drove a sensible Corsica with a serious Northern design flaw. Melted snow would get under the upper door frame weatherstripping and freeze, binding door to body like contact cement. The Jaws of Life couldn’t pry open those entry points.

On a particularly cold evening that followed a deceptively mild and sunny afternoon, I returned to my car to find it as impenetrable as Fort Knox. As a howling, bitter wind threatened to turn my face to ice, I resorted to violently kicking the door until it finally jarred the seal loose. I was more than willing to live with that dent. Meanwhile, the Corsica’s resale value dropped by 58 cents. Yes, I was angry. This wasn’t some weird exotic — it was a General Motors vehicle, damn it! The pride of Wilmington, no less.

Other fits of anger had to be reined in, lest further damage befall the faulty piece. Take, for example, a window regulator that just couldn’t get the glass all the way to the top. There were other blows, maybe a kick or two, plus numerous “Come ooooon, you stupid piece of…” as an ignition key was turned in vain. No doubt, vehicular assaults are all the more common for the DIY mechanic.

But pounding a door or dash in frustration is only natural. What I want to know today is, have you ever just punished your car, Basil Fawlty/Austin 1100 Countryman-style, after it let you down one too many times? Did it survive?

[Image: General Motors]

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47 Comments on “QOTD: Candidate for Anger Management?...”

  • avatar

    Not really. I realized pretty quickly that learning how to wrench on my car was far more effective than yelling at it. It’s kind of similar with people. You’ll get far more by finding what motivates them than by yelling at them.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, take care of the car and it will take care of you. No need to batter it.

      I won’t call an inexpensive “expendable” car a beater because I appreciate what it does for me. I even respect rental cars and couldn’t enjoy an old JB article when he took a rented Camry to the track.

      When auto-journalists write “wring out the engine” I wince. I prefer “flirt with the redline.” Yes, we are doing the same thing, but one is an act of violence and the other is being playful, and the emotion you choose projects onto the car and the world around you.

  • avatar

    Just swapping over to snow tires on my new-to-me A4, I got pretty frustrated dealing with those stupid lug bolts. Didn’t help that I was working outside in poor lighting. I get that there’s probably a good engineering reason to use bolts vs studs and lug nuts, but it certainly makes the simple task of putting a wheel onto the hub needlessly more difficult than it normally is.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Weimer

      That seems to be one of those quirky, incomprehensible German auto engineer things; like vacuum-operated door locks that require it’s own pump because, well these cars get fitted with Diesel engines.

      Audi does (did?) helpfully include a plastic pin you thread into one of the holes to help mount the wheel that gets snapped off the first time you use it.

      Previous B5 A4 owner.

      • 0 avatar

        I was just using my finger to check alignment of the wheel and hub holes while suspending the wheel up by the hub LOL :O

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I remember my 1997 Jetta (VR6, not diesel) had vacuum-operated door locks. Unfortunately, the vacuum was in the trunk, under the floor, and the lines could be crushed by large amounts of cargo, causing the locks to move in a depressingly slow manner.

    • 0 avatar

      Go get a long M14X1.5 bolt and cut the head off. Then you can thread it into the hole nearest the top, and hang the wheel off it while you get the other 4 started. There are a number f places that sell a special tool that is essentially just this if you don’t want to mess with the bolt.

    • 0 avatar

      GTEM said “I get that there’s probably a good engineering reason to use bolts vs studs and lug nuts”

      Bolt is cheaper than stud + nut? The Swedes used to do this; my 1960 SAAB was the same way.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      I’ve had the same experience with Mercedes. I end up using a large phillips screwdriver to get the holes in the wheel an the bolt holes lined up. Whoever made this choice has never had to change a flat tire on the side of a road in the dark.

      A related annoyance is that spare tires are almost always mounted where you have to take the tire out to check pressure so the spare is usually half-flat when you need it. I maintain a Toyota Avalon where you can mount the spare with the valve stem up and pointed toward the back of the car with a short flap you can flip up to check pressure without emptying the trunk.

  • avatar

    I’ve been lucky enough to never have been pushed to a point where I’ve beaten on a car, but I know two people that have. One was only last week.

    My roomate has a ’99 VW Passat Sedan that has an endless string of issues from burning oil to parts falling off while driving. He had an appointment early in the morning last week for something or other and the car wouldn’t start. I let him borrow one of my cars and got his running again after he had no luck getting it going. The next day I noticed his knuckles were all covered in scabs… from repeatedly punching the steering wheel till they were bloodied!

    A coworker of mine had a Chevrolet Sprint with several outward dents in the roof from the same sort of treatment! Beat it till it runs!

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Weimer

      Hey, another VAG B5 horror story!

      • 0 avatar

        My ’00 B5 Passat had the random parts falling off problem too – in fact the day I traded it the sunroof switch came off. I was so mad I wanted to drive it into a lake!

        I’ve smacked some interior panels in various car including my current C7 ‘Vette in effort to stop them from rattling but never hit anything hard enough to do damage. Some parts like exhaust bolts require abuse to remove. I’ve screamed at many parts before for being stuck or not aligning easily.

        • 0 avatar

          After I bought my A4 I noticed the corners of the B-pillar plastic trim was cracked near the headliners at all of the corners. I can honestly say that was a first. I’ve had many things wear out and fail on cars, but never b-pillar interior trim.

        • 0 avatar

          In the three years I have known him and that Passat:
          >Sun Visor holding brackets broke
          >1 radio button fell off
          >Driver’s side mirror glass fell off
          >Some of the VW wheel center cap logos have fallen off
          >Fabric on the A-pillar peeling off

          That car is going to be more epoxy than car by the time he’s done with it!

  • avatar

    Next winter, spray your door seals with some silicone spray. This will prevent them from freezing shut.

    Source: I suffered Michigan winters for 22 years.

    • 0 avatar

      This is the mature response, after kicking a few cars I’d bought because I thought they would make me look cool or bring me eternal happiness, I finally wised up and started buying good cars that suited my needs.

      I’m happy to say I haven’t abused a car in a long time and have had many happy long term relationships with the right cars

      Now, if I could only apply this philosophy to people…

    • 0 avatar

      also growing up in Michigan on a cold morning going out to start my 63 Pontiac Catalina the battery wasn’t turning over, bad connection I thought, I got out the tire iron and beat the battery post/connector until it made a good connection! it worked, didn’t have time to tighten it correctly, had to get to my Dana job! the same car on my way back from our honeymoon in Niagra Falls(1968) got a flat tire (on the front right passenger side), first one on that car, I’ve had flats before, I’ll show ya how to change a flat! started turning the lug nuts counter clock wise (lefty loosey), SNAP!, broke off the lug, went to the next nut, SNAP! that one broke off also, what the hay I thought how are we gonna get home? a trucker stopped and said “what’s the problem”? “lugs are snapping off” I replied! trucker said “ya gotta turn them clock wise, your turning them the wrong way!” GM made them to turn opposite on left/right side of the car – righty tighty, lefty loosey didn’t apply on the right side (passenger side) of the car! THANK YOU SIR!

  • avatar

    In HS I had an girlfriend who have a Mazda GLC, nicknamed “Glick”. One night she drove around, trying to find me – I was probably off with my friends. She got angry when she couldn’t locate me, and ended up putting 30-40 dents on her driver side door, right about foot level.

    Another one: my mom’s old 1974 Malibu was sold to some local, who apparently had a disagreement with the poor vehicle and shot it twice with a shotgun.

    I’ve come too close to beating on car while trying to figure out some maddening automotive problem. Usually caused by having the wrong tool for the job or trying to reach some place my big old hands don’t want to go. In those cases I’ve managed to walk out of the garage and fling the tool into the yard or kick something.

  • avatar

    Growing up in the ’80s, my neighbour across the street had a couple of Mustang IIs mouldering away in their driveway. I always knew when they had an argument or something, as the husband would go outside with a baseball bat and take his frustration out on the rattier of the Mustangs.

    It was his beatin’ car, I guess.

  • avatar

    Right-thinking rage? Christ, you haven’t seen the REEEing that happens when you crack a light-hearted joke around a liberal, have you?

    • 0 avatar


    • 0 avatar

      I’m not sure that’s what the author intended with the use of “right-thinking.”

      Chill out man, flying off the handle for any perceived political-based slight just makes you an “NPC.”

      • 0 avatar

        The words “left”, “right”, “conservative”, and “liberal” do exist outside a political context. “Right-thinking” just means sensible; it doesn’t have anything in particular to do with politics.

        Given the B&B’s predisposition toward indignation, however, sports would have been a better topic to cite in the next sentence rather than politics.

  • avatar

    At some point with every car I have owned I have just got fed up and decided to move on to something else. The most prominent case was a Saab 99EMS. I was on a first name basis with the mechanic. When I hit the breaking point I told the mechanic to stop and put the car back together. The next day I drove to the largest local Toyota dealer and bought a brand new Celica Coupe in trade for the Saab

  • avatar

    One of my weirdest stories involves car violence. We were in our mid twenties in a college town about 40 miles from available paying real jobs.

    Friend A: Engineer, married. Inherited parents Honda Accord from about 86. Silver, pop-up headlights, stick. Lots of miles, but of course it’s perfectly preserved. No longer drives because of commute distance.

    Friend B: Accountant, single, lives in a semi-affluent apartment complex on a hill. Trees, hot-tubs, etc. Drives sh1tb0xes because not a car person. Current car (ancient) flames out. Short commute, semi-wild grad school girlfriend.

    I suggest to Friend A that Friend B could rent his extra Honda for the local commute for a few months while he saves up and buys a newer car. After all, it’s just sitting. A couple weeks in, there is a party at B’s apartment complex. Some drunk a-hole literally stomps the Accord. We know this as the huge dents down the side fit a shoe perfectly. It seems random, as the car has no stickers or signage and is parked normally next to the building. As expected, Friend A is apoplectic. Friend B now has to pay to have the body shop repair a 200k-mile decade-old no collision-insurance Honda, and still buy a car. Never again will I have any stupid ideas not involving ONLY me and cars I directly own.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s why you never say “You should do “. Mine is a bit worse where I pulled the “just give them the keys to that timeshare.. it’ll be fiiiine.” Wasn’t fine. Nope. From there, I keep as much stupidity to myself as possible.

  • avatar

    Of course!
    My first car was a heavily used $500 (brand redacted) intended to get me through my senior year of college. It had a lot of issues. Body panels were all damaged; engine smoked; required weekly cap, rotor, and points; brakes were weak when they worked at all. Finally the suspension failed completely mid-spring semester. What to do? Obviously a ‘bash the car to smithereens’ party was the answer. The evidence was eventually towed to the main tracks feeding the largest railyard in (region redacted). Not much left in the morning!

  • avatar

    Revenge of the Car…

    In my 20s I drove an ’84 Ford Escort. Being young and impatient I would often take out my frustrations with other drivers by pounding on the poor horn button, which was the entire front center of the steering wheel. One night at 2:30am outside the apartment I lived in, a car horn came on and didn’t let up. I finally went outside to discover it was my horn. I had to run back in and grab the keys, then run back out and unlock the car. I suppose I should have disconnected the battery, but instead…

    I ripped the front of the steering wheel off. Thankfully, it was a pre-airbag car. I tore the horn wire off.

    The design of the horn was simple. Two large copper plates faced each other with a thin foam layer between them. The plates had raised bumps that corresponded to holes cut out in the foam. When the face of the steering wheel was pressed, the foam compacted and the bare metal dimples allowed the plates to touch which completed the electrical circuit.

    All my frustrated pounding had warped the front plate and brought it close enough to the rear plate that when the temperature dropped at night, (around 2:30am) the plates contracted and touched each other without a human touch.

    This happened again the next two nights, but since I had torn off the steering wheel cover I was able to disconnect the horn easily.

    I was able to bow the plates out the other way and cured the problem. But after that I stopped beating the center of the steering wheel.

    After 30 years I’ve mellowed, but on the rare occasion that I do raise my hand to pound the horn, the memory of discovering it was my horn wailing that night, and the angry faces of my neighbors stop me.

  • avatar

    Well, since I drive Fords, and we all know that none of them have made it past the warranty period without becoming unfixable, I have no story. Sorry.

  • avatar

    No, but sure wanted to. 1996 Volvo 850GLT, everything was on the verge of non-functioning. It was the lowest mileage example in town (179K km) and the priciest $3,600. I was tired of looking for a car and just bought it. Check engine light comes on halfway home from buying it and I think, “Great, and so it begins.” Spent another $1,600 on tune-up and other odds and ends. It never idled properly despite an all new PCV system, cap/rotor/wires/plugs and throttle-body MAF cleaning. Constantly smelled of soot too. Wanted so bad to push it off a cliff, but I live on the prairies.

    • 0 avatar

      I also owned a ($4400USD) 850GLT. Some bizarre things happened with that car that never happened with any other. Like the power steering that would go out, unless it rained, which would, by some Nordic miracle, make the power steering return.

      And oil pump issues… and etc etc. Though the 850 did feel like a little tank, I will never go back to another.

      Its replacement, a $4000 Buick Roadmaster, was a much better car.

    • 0 avatar

      Same year as my Volvo 850 sedan, which I tried battering via kicking it, throwing stuff at it (tree branches just sitting around), I could only muster some scratches.

      Mine never made it past emissions testing due to a permenant CEL, even after several smoke/leak tests.

      There was also the headliner, broken odometer, melting dash, dead AC, suspension noise, dead ABS, peeling airbag cover, torn seats, dead radio…I planned on fixing this stuff after plating the car, but that never came.

  • avatar

    No, but 40 years ago I was buying gas after work late one evening, for my first car (’75 Vega Hatchback), and witnessed as a shirtless guy was splashed by hot coolant as he tried to add water to the radiator of an early ’70s Ford Torino. He proceeded to rear back and kick a large dent in the left front fender. It was pretty entertaining.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    To quote Billy Joel, I didn’t start the fire…But I didn’t do anything to put out the inferno that my Alfa Romeo 75 eventually became either and I may have smiled just a bit as the smoke billowed into the Naples air (making the air quality no worse I might add).

    I had thrown many a tool over that car and IIRC cracked the window with a wayward socket trying to sync the absolutely worn out carbs.

  • avatar

    I had a 1987 subaru GL koo-pay that I kicked the ever loving shit out of because the accessory belt liked to rub on the accessories under certain conditions and then fling itself off.
    I nearly shoved the S55 off the jack when I was pissed at the umpteenth hydraulic fluid leak from the suspension.
    One frigid night somewhere in Arkansas on a cross country road trip, my wife’s Sentra started shaking uncontrollably at any speed above 40. Was eventually diagnosed as bad axles but on that night, I was attempting to check to make sure that all of the lugnuts were tight. I went to gently pry off the hub cap. CRACK. Fuck. Pry gently the other side CRAAACK. God dammit. Took my gloves off and tried to gently pull and POW a huge chunk of hubcap came off in my hands and cut up my knuckles. Engage furious curse mode and kicked the crap out of that hubcap until it was broken into tiny shards. The lugs nuts were not loose.

  • avatar

    Ive banged up a few cars admittedly, the one that suffered the most was a 69 VW Fastback, busted antennae, dents, scratches… thankfully it was alreadyva bit beaten up before that.

    The other two or three were Volvos, which received little more than scratches. However, with my last 240 as I was working on the flame trap I snapped a fuel line (it was a cheap plastic vacuum line I thought I could reconnect).

    IIRC I chiseled a hole in the traps middle bit to theoretically slow down a rear main seal leak. The car was so cheap and decrepit it didnt matter much to me.

    A week later and the fuel line was fixed, then the car promptly sold. 150k I think it had and it was fit for scrap.

    These days I might batter loose junky parts I have sitting around, but otherwise Ive learned it to be a waste. Though it helps that I drive decent cars now.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    I’ve never whaled on one of my cars but my drunken brother and some of his friends once did. Back in the late 1900’s I was loading in for a show at a big venue just outside of the city. 2500 people. We were the second of three acts so we brought our good gear ( two A/B half-stack guitar rigs; many toms; spare guitars ), which required my 1982 Parisienne wagon to be pretty full. The rear seat doors always needed a gentle side-kick to pop the locks all the way up. My brother’s friends obviously saw me do this and, upon my return to get more gack, I saw one of them jumping up and down on the roof and two more kicking the $h!t out of the door panels. They vamoosed at my yelling but the damage was done. I later sold the car to one of them – and still took a bath on it. CDN$50 for a 1982 V8 wagon with $18 of gas in it. No big D: I’d bought a 944 that could only hold my gear. Job done. The band didn’t last but that wagon sure did, darn it.

  • avatar

    I don’t outwardly beat the $h!t out of my cars because I figure why have something that runs AND looks like hell?

    My father, however is an angry man. I usually would know when something important failed on his aging Lincolns or Buicks because there would be a fresh dent on the door about knee high or fresh fist-sized cracks on the dashboard.

    That said, when I get frustrated with a car’s beater antics, or its (lack of) performance, I tend to flog it more on the road due to either indifference about its longevity or acceptance of the fact that its days are numbered anyway.

  • avatar

    I was ready to light one on fire this past weekend. 195k miles and a leaking thermostat gasket. Start pulling the two bolts and the first one snaps off. OK, drill it, get the screw extractor and bam, that broke off in the broken bolt all nice and jagged. Great, those are hard as can be. So, a Dremel, several bits, several drill bits, go to the store for Cobalt bits, it is kind of out. Run a tap down the hole for clean threads and two days later it is back together. Would have been easier to push it out of the garage and light it on fire.

  • avatar

    Not a car, but a motorcycle. About 35 years ago I goofed and bought the wrong dirt bike. That was a time of tremendous changes in off road bikes and the one I got was 5 or more years behind the others. The suspension, engine, and ergonomics weren’t very good.
    On a mountain trail it refused to shift, for the umpteenth time, leaving me in neutral and falling over into rocks.
    Rather frustrated at that point I picked myself and the bike up and proceeded to kick the bike with great vigor. The person riding with me was aghast. As if I was attacking his sister or something.
    Not surprising, when I tried to sell it there were no takers. Later two guys came by with odd accents and started to pull out money. Turns out they were New Zealanders in SoCal on military training. I inquired about how they intended to ship the bike back home. They said that they came and would return on a large transport plane and could take just about anything short of a full size car or truck. Also they thought the price was good as they said a similar machine in New Zealand would cost many times more due to taxes, import fees, etc.
    Strange how things go.

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