QotW: What’s the scariest thing you’ve discovered while working on your car?

Since we in California are under “shelter in place” orders due to the coronavirus, I decided to spend some much-needed time making a bit of headway in my multiple project cars. About a year ago I picked up an FZJ80 Land Cruiser but since we took delivery of it it hasn’t seen much action other than sitting in the driveway. It was clear it needed some new shocks, as the front end got bouncy every time it hit a bump, but I had no idea how bad it was until I stuck my head underneath. The lower retainers, bushings, and stud had completely shorn off, leaving the damper just resting on the frame and an unsecured 3/4-inch nub keeping it in place. I don’t know if this is the most alarming mechanical malady I’ve ever discovered among my heaps, but it definitely raised an eyebrow.

What’s the scariest thing you’ve discovered while working on your car?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What shot of a JNC will be forever seared into your brain?

We got the best kind of answers this week, the kind that alerted us to things that begged for further investigation. Take, for example, daniel‘s news of Isuzu trucks employed by the Automovil Club Argentino, or Angelo cluing us in to a tokusatasu show called Space Sheriff Shaider in which the main character’s love interest drives a yellow SA22C Mazda RX-7. We also enjoyed teddy‘s image of Colin McRae piloting his WRC Impreza and Banpei‘s pic of Masaru Kubota’s A60 Carina catching major air in the 1982 Paris-Dakar Rally. Bert‘s photo of an MS75 Crown lining up at the drag strip against a 1969 Camaro was great too, and Steve‘s mention of the classic Nissan G.I. Joe commercial made us run to the YouTubes immediately to rewatch it. Ultimately, the winner this week was jiji, who shares with us a love for the awesome HKS M300:

Probably one of my favorite shots of all time, not just automotive-wise, has to be the shot of HKS’ M300 Celica XX at the Yatabe Test Track. Reminds me of the days when I was just getting into classic Japanese cars and into the old-school tuning style back in maybe 2014-15ish. This was one of the first photos I saw and it’s stuck with me ever since.

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16 Responses to QotW: What’s the scariest thing you’ve discovered while working on your car?

  1. Troy said:

    I had bought a 1987 Starion as my first car off of an admittedly shady guy on CL, but the price was cheap and it had a fair bit of rust but not too much, so I figured I’d take it as a bit of a project car since it at least needed a fuel pump. Came to find the tank was rusting from the inside, and a lot of other small things turned it into a real project, so after restoring the tank and some other small things I wanted to do the valve cover gasket as it was leaking some oil in the back of the head. Pulled off the valve cover and there were what seemed like mountains of metal shavings in the galleys of the head. I was shocked, and I new this engine did not have a lot of life left in it, so I bought a much nicer one a week later (the idiot that I am because I spun 2 rod bearings 6 months after I got that car) and eventually sold it for a bit more than I bought it for, still not making any profit though. The new owner drove it through a couple of states with no registration whatsoever, amazingly enough, and I figured that car’s off my hands. A couple days later my dad gets a call from the new owner (I was working at the time so my dad sold it to the new owner) . New owner says, “Why is there a lien on the title?” Of course since I never went to register it, I hadn’t looked at the paperwork and had no idea in the first place. I was shocked again! I got him the info to the guy that sold the car to me, and vanished, I did not have or want anything to do with that car anymore. Since then, I haven’t seen it anywhere, not even on the forums. Kind of glad about that…

  2. Negishi no Keibajo said:

    I can’t say working on a car but researching a problem; I needed a work car that could haul a bunch of stuff in a secure manner. Because of the circumstances, I needed it very quickly. I owned a Gen I Scion Xb. Reliable, roomy, good/fun handling for a toaster on wheels. After looking at a few overpriced auction queens, I found a Gen II in pretty decent shape. I shook on it & went merrily on my way. A month later I noted some valve train noise. Rechecked the oil. The engine started going through oil like a two stroke on a continuous oil change. It didn’t take 5 minutes to find the culprit. These Toyota 2AZ-FE engines used on Camry, Corolla, Matrix, Rav4, Solara, Scion xB and tC‘s are 100,000 mile engines. (Now) Known faulty design of the piston can prevent proper oil circulation necessitating a complete set of pistons replaced. Mine only made it to 98,000 miles. It was a subject of a lawsuit but Toyota only offered a limited Service Bulletin as a settlement that won’t help me. A replacement motor is $4000 plus labor. The car resides a 1000 miles from my tool box. The math is not difficult. WTF, Toyota?!

  3. BlitzPig said:

    I have worked on cars professionally for over 39 year now, so I could write a book on this subject, but the one that always spring to the top of my mind is this… It’s not about a JNC, but a very old, tired and rusty VW Rabbit diesel. The customer brought the car in to the shop with a complaint of poor running and hard starting. He left it running out front, so I hopped in, buckled up and started out on a test drive. Slipped it into first and proceeded to the end of our longish driveway, which ended in a “T” on the county road the shop was located on, that had a rather deep ditch on the other side of it. As I approached I lifted off the throttle and went for the brake pedal, which promptly went straight to the floor. No brakes… I put my foot in on the clutch and ripped up on the handbrake, which thankfully worked. Whew. I gingerly backed the car away from the precipice of the ditch, and back down the drive to the shop. Went inside and asked the customer if he knew the car had no brakes, and he told me this… “Yep, they haven’t worked in a long time, if you know where you are going to stop, you don’t need brakes”.

    They live among us folks. Be careful out there.

  4. teddy said:

    So about 2 months ago I purchased my first car, it was a 2009 Subaru Impreza 2.5i. The day after I got it I decided to clean it as thoroughly as a 16 year old can. I was digging around in the trunk and lifted up the small flap at the bottom and discovered a large amount of rust by the spare tire. I then decided to life up the spare to see if there was anything else I needed to see, and ended up finding a bloody and rusted razor blade. I have absolutely no idea how a bloodied razor blade would accidentally end up underneath a spare tire, so I like to imagine some cereal killer drove my car before I did, or just an edgy teen.

  5. MikeRL411 said:

    That Pinin Farina designers are nuts! The 410,411 and I believe early 510 have the rain drip rail as part of the body, not the roof panel. The roof is secured with spot welds INSIDE the drip rail, leaving a leak path all around the roof. To “compensate” for this design defect the open seam is slathered with “non shrink, non crack” panel sealant inside the water channel. It does shrink and crack leading to corrosion of the spot welds. Oh, did I forget to mention that the drip channel has no outlet so that rain pools up on top of that crappy panel sealant?

  6. Yuri said:

    About fifteen years ago, my dad and I bought an ’83 A60 Celica GT-S P-type. The body was a bit rusty, but the engine had just been rebuilt (but wouldn’t start), and because of that, we were able to pick it up for $50.

    After about half an hour of looking around the engine bay, I realized that the reason it wouldn’t run is that none of the spark plug wires were hooked up in the correct order.
    I wired them correctly, and the the engine roared to life.

    I was extremely happy, and put the car in gear to take a celebratory victory lap around my parent’s yard (we lived on a farm, so this was totally doable.)
    20ft into the drive, I run over a small mole hill, and I hear a loud “GRONK”, and the hatch opens, taking the latch with it. It literally pulled the latch from the body due to rust. Upon dropping down off the 2″ tall mole hill, the driver’s seat immediately drops 3″ at the rear, and is now sitting reclined at about a 45 degree angle. I stop the car and pull up the carpet under the seat to discover that there is no metal beneath the seat rails. The seat is being held up off the ground by only the front tabs of the front mounts, and those are starting to crack.
    Realizing the car was so rusty that if we drove it on the road, we could “ejecto-seato, cuz” ourselves directly onto the tarmac, we immediately drove it into the garage and parted it out.

    • Yuri said:

      In another instance, a friend of mine bought an S13, and while installing coilovers, we found around 70 full-grown black widow spiders in the left front wheel well.

  7. Banpei said:

    A few years ago I bought a Celica GT-S AA63 with it’s roof replaced by a big lexan window, so hardly any structural rigidity. But this wasn’t the scary part of the car! It had been abused as a track car and was basically way beyond being salvageable. So I bought it for parts to be swapped into my Carina. I drove the Celica for about 60 kilometers to the shed where it was going to meet it’s final destiny on semi slicks in the rain. This also wasn’t the scary part of the car…

    When I took the car apart and removed the bucket seat and four point harness, I found the 4 point harness was attached to a aluminum bar of maybe 0.5 centimeters (0.2 inch) thick. This bar was attached to the body with two self tapping screws. If for some reason I would have spun out (due to the semi slicks) and went through a barrier, I probably would have met the windshield head on…

  8. Dallas D. said:

    When we got our FJ Cruiser, used, it had a sideways wobble/shift in the rear suspension. We quickly learned to drive with that wobble, chalking it up to worn bushings. A couple of months later, when I finally got some time to crawl underneath, I found that the bolt connecting the rear axle to the lower link (like a trailing arm) had backed out 2/3 of the way, nut nowhere to be found.

    It sounds cliche, but I actually felt shiver run up my spine when I saw that bolt. We had spent thousands of miles with my family in the car at highway speeds. Any tiny anomaly gets checked immediately now.

  9. Steve said:

    Not my car but…

    My friend was replacing the front pads on his father’s pickup, a full sized Ford crew cab because the brakes were squealing. It was only a few years old at the time but his dad was a contractor so it had a lot of miles. I happened to see him so wandered over to see what he was doing. He had the wheel off and the pads out and he pointed at the rotor and said, what a weird rotor. Instead of a smooth surface, it had cooling vanes! So, at first we thought, “Wow, cool! Externally vented brake disks!” Then we thought about it… and realized that what we were actually looking at were the internal cooling vanes that had become exposed because the outboard surface of the disk had worn away and was gone. His father had been driving around like that and only decided to have the pads changed because it was “getting noisy”…

  10. Lee L said:

    I had recently bought an 84 S12 with SRA. The car was lowered with cut springs and camaro rear shocks when I bought it. I was driving to a friend’s house and once I got in his neighborhood the rear started to feel really unstable. I limped it the rest of the way and we found the right rear shock lower bolt had fallen out. We also noticed that the springs were only being held in by the weight of the car on the axle.

    We put a bolt back in the shock bottom mount and I stupidly kept driving it with the springs just sitting on the perches.

    I put several more thousand miles on it like this.

    I was young and dumb.

  11. Keith said:

    Driving along a rural road in my early 260z, powered by a 240 engine, and I heard a sound like I had caught a stick and dragging it on the road. Quite common so I waited til I got home to check it out. Saw something suspect and grabbed it and it was a foot long piece of my frame rail! It disintegrated in my hand. Sad day.

  12. Peter Q said:

    Late 1960s, a friend’s Vauxhall Victor getting a bit of a look over before going for it’s roadworthy test (MOT). We’re stood at the back, boot lid open, talking about how it’s really not bad. As I’m leaning on the rear guard the car is rising and falling on the suspension. Then I noticed that the boot floor was not moving with the rest of the body. It had separated from the body on 3 sides, so the suspension was the front edge of the boot floor bending, not those leaf springs attached to the floor.

  13. Madis said:

    a loose ball joint after i drove over 200km/h with my fc3s turbo II

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