Episode-1981- Stranded Vehicle Successful MacGyver Stories — 20 Comments

  1. 1981- That’s the year my truck was born! I’ve had it for two years now and I haven’t had to MacGyver any roadside fixes. But I’ve been able to do all my maintenance, from oil changes to a new water pump, with the tools I keep in my truck bed toolbox. I love old trucks.

  2. Guy’s car breaks down on a wet stormy night on a creepy rural road deep in a forest in the middle of nowhere, silence, only the sound of an owl and something getting slaughtered by a fox. Guy doesn’t know the first thing about cars, he lifts bonnet and has a look. Totally bewildered he hears a voice behind him instructing him to repair a corroded electrical connection. He looks around to see a white house talking to him, it’s head over a gateway. He follows the instructions as best he can. Then car starts first time, he thanks the horse and drives to the next town where he runs in to the first bar shaking and asks for a beer. He tells his story. Bar tender asks “was it a white horse?”. Driver says yes. Bar tender says “you are one looky guy to be standing in front of me right now”. Driver asks “Why?, what evil could have happened to me out there?” Bar tender explains, “If that had been the black horse then you wouldn’t have made it here to tell us your story, You see, That black horse does’t know sh*t about car engines.”

  3. I loved the Ron White bit on Sears Auto Service. I started out as a tire buster there, and I too witnessed a wheel roll into the woods right off the front of a car, at least it wasn’t by my hand.

    I am the same Greg that prompted this bit. I say tire expert to someone who worked at his grandfather’s shop for many years, and I certainly didn’t mean it to sound pompous. I should have said that I know more than 99.9 percent of the population when it comes to tires.

    I worked at Sears through my college years and at graduation, instead of landing that dream engineering job, I continued at an independent tire and repair shop in the country. We worked on everything from granny’s church vehicle to 4.00-8 cart tires to 10.00-20 split rings. We happened to have the contract for the township’s heavy equipment as well as the fire and police vehicles. Let’s just say I wasn’t a stranger to a bead hammer. We were the only shop to save tires for customers with innertubes in the area, and we even sold alignments to dealerhips at a cut rate. Let’s just say that as the front end and alignment tech, I learned to let the “tread talk to me”. I learned that I had to use the old analog Hunter Electron-A-Line to adjust differently for Granny driving her caprice to church, than for her lead footed grandson when he learned to drive. Basically, I had to throw the specification book out the window, just like I did when we aligned vehicles for our 450 lb customer.

    I wouldn’t say I’m the “tire whisperer” or anything like that, but if we pay attention, we sure can learn a lot if we’re willing to listen!

    permaethos founder

    This was a great show!

    • I didn’t take it as pompous at all I actually thought you were referencing the bit as a bit of sarcastic humor.

  4. 1989 Jetta II Wolfsburg – They have two fuel pumps. I didn’t know that. Neither did the shop I kept taking it too. Between OH and DC I had to pull over every 30mins, open the hood and scream at the engine….cuz I don’t know anything about cars. But, if I lost my ever loving shit on the open hooded VW, it knew who was boss, saw things my way, started acting proper. Or the one poor fuel pump that was pulling fuel from the tank, through the broken ghost pump and too the engine would cool down and start working again. I loved that car (around town). Sold it to someone who knew what they were doing and fixed it in a half day. My girlfriend now wife thought I was hilarious. I’d get out of the car with a screwdriver…for pointing at the engine. Mostly she thought I was funny because it “worked” AND I gave it my all when she was laughing in the passenger seat.

    I was subsequently hit by a dump truck in the replacement Buick 4wks later. I guess that VW saved my life. Or the Buick. Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Anyone on I-70 E or W between 1997 and 2002 can corroborate.

  5. To answer your question on popping the clutch on newer vehicles to start them. Yes it’s still possible. I owned a 1990 Jeep Comanche in high school. I popped the clutch to start it a few times just to see if I could. It started every time. It’s not as easy as carburetor trucks because you have to get it moving fast enough to turn the engine over a few times for the crank sensor to see the engine is rotating, but you can do it. Make sure your are on a big hill before you try it.

  6. I have actually used black pepper in my radiator. What i thout was a hole in upper hose was a pinhole leak in the radiator spraying a very thin stream onto the hose. A couple of packets of pepper from McDonalds did the trick. I did replace the radiator a short time later though.

  7. This episode is The best! I will be replaying it time and time again, in the near future.
    Boy, it made my morning so far Jack. I learned ALOT from this elisode, as you predicted at the beginninng of it. I even posted about you, Jack Spirko at The Survival Podcast, on Facebook this am promoting what people now know they have been missing out on. Keep up the inspiration.

    Love and respects from California…


  8. The funniest story for getting over a vehicle issue was as I was ETSing from the Army. I was in short timer mode and wasnt happy I was forced to go on a dog and pony show asthe unit prepped to deploy.

    I was driving a HEMMT tanker pulling a HEMAT trailer as others deployed hoses for our helicopter fuel point. I was waiting and waiting for my signal to go. We were being timed by the higher brigade brass, who were on site.

    Finally I got out and started cussing a storm asking what the delay was. There was a hole worn in one of the air hoses between truck and trailer. I would’ve gladly drug the trailer to get the mission done but our Platoon Sgt said no.

    Instead I grabbed some tape, bent the hose over itself to seal enough to stop the leak, then taped it to hold it.

    As only a short timer who can taste his DD214 could, I not so politely instructed the Sgt to get this shit done or else the Colonel will gig the platoon again. All in ear shot of the Col and other brass. We got the fuel point set up quicker than we ever did before. At the end I asked if the Sgt had contacted the motorpool for a new hose yet. Still not sure how I disnt get in trouble over my attitude… Maybe it was because I was GSD..

  9. Great show. Am now adding vise grips to my tools in the cars.

    Would love to hear another episode like this sometime.

  10. Hey Jack. Loved the show!
    As far as testing the charging system by taking the negative battery cable off while the engine is running, yes that was a quick test that we did for years. With modern vehicles (say 1995 or so) this type of test could damage the vehicles computer system. Alternators now a days are controlled by the powertrain control module, disconnecting the battery while running is discouraged due to possibility of voltage spike could damage any one of the many micro controllers in the vehicle.

    Again Great Show!

    • Thanks Gregd I cringed when I heard Jack talked about pulling the cable off as I knew the same info

    • The pull the battery cable trick isn’t something people generally do to cars that much anymore, probably because the “old schoolers” are getting fewer and more far between, but that’s not all. You just can’t reach the batteries as easily on newer cars that well either, but I digress…

      This trick still works well on most tractors, mowers, and smallish equipment and I probably wouldn’t hesitate to run the test on this older equipment if I didn’t have my favorite tester…

      Here’s an Item that I think everyone in our community should have. In the business we used to call this the “toaster”

      This is a VERY basic, yet fully functional battery tester. You can “load” test your battery with the switch, it draws current through the device much like that of a toaster, and it does get quite hot. The reason this is needed is for checking for shorted cells. Your digital volt meter may give a reasonable voltage reading, but can’t load test the battery. This will identify a battery with a shorted cell in less than a second, well, as long as you know how to read it.

      My wife worked at Advance Auto Parts for 8 years, and they have that fancy dancy computer controlled battery tester, you know, that one where they offer that free service of battery installation if we hook up this machine and you need a battery??? Guess what… it is programmed quite a bit on the “let us sell you a battery” side of the spectrum.

      I’ve told more than one person I’d bet them $100 that I could more properly diagnose their starting/charging/battery system in about 3 minutes, and more accurately, than the folks at the superstore auto parts outlets. Nobody has taken the bet, but they sure let me hook up my toaster…

      This is a fantastic device for any prepper or homesteader as well… don’t we have spare batteries or battery banks? This and a small hydrometer would be in the must have category in my opinion.

  11. I really enjoyed this show.

    Knock on wood, I’ve only had two minor roadside fixex. I was driving from Reading, Pa to West Point, Va on a Sunday afternoon. The exhaust pipe rusted off and I started dragging the muffler. I exited I95 to provide a “fix”. I had no bailing wire or a coat hanger. However, I had a fishing stringer with me and I used that to keep the muffler from falling off. I drove it the rest of the trip and the next two weeks until I got it fixed.

    A buddy and I were outing beating the hell out of my blown 95 Trans Am. The intake tube blew off at the throttle body. We pushed the tube back on, but any amount of throttle caused it to blow off and the car to stall due it being all unmetered air. I cut up a rag and jammed it between the tube and the radiator support. I babied it back home and double clamped it.

    Two hacks I’ve done. The first was on my wife’s MX-6. The intake tube was split after the MAF sensor causing an erratic idle and rough running. A new one was almost $200. I took it off, cleaned it up and put some black RTV on it. I wrapped a roll of electrical tape around it. That solved the air leak problem. She gave that car to her sister and as far as I know it eventually went to the junkyard with that “repaired” intake tube on it.

    The second fix was a “get by”. I had a beat 1988 1500 pick up. It was running real rough. I diagnosed it to a bad coolant temperature sensor. I pull the plug and jumped various resistors across the plug until the idle calmed down. I drove it like that for a few days until I was able to replace the sensor.

    I also had a 1985 Honda CRX that kept having failed coolant temperature sensors. After the second failure I got pissed and ran hot wires to the fans. Before I would get in the car I’d plug the fans in and start the car. I never had another cooling problem after that.

  12. Great show. I have done a lot of the things mentioned. This would make a great monthly, quarterly, or annual show.

  13. One more thing not to mix . Hammers and modern starters . Light taps on the brush cap (end cap of starter ) will work but most people hit the field housing instead. What you are doing is jarring the brushes and getting contact back to the comm on the armature . People doing this more than once or twice end up A. busting the magnetic fields or B. destroying the armature . I replace most auto starter brushes for $25 – $35 . Armatures and magnetic fields start around $45 . Yes I know most people just run to the parts house instead of fixing what’s wrong. That’s why there are less and less local rebuilders every year.

  14. Curse me for missing contributing to this show… I’ll have to stick to comments.

    As a former hobbyist offroader and Jeep rebuilder/rebreaker, I’ve seen and performed more than my fair share of improbable and inadvisable repairs, including most of the above and some of the below:
    – Pepper in a radiator works (1963 Jeep J300 truck, circa 2007). Bought a fixer-upper with multiple pinhole leaks in the rad, dumped in a small jar of pepper from a local convenience store to plug it up and drive it home
    – smacked the old rusty gas tank on my CJ-5 against a rock hard enough to crack the metal and cause a substantial leak; no epoxies would stick and no easy way to plug it, or so we thought. A friend grabbed a bar of soap from his day bag and smudged it all over the problem area… soap is pliable and impervious to gasoline. The leak stopped, I finished the trail, and drove it 50 miles home without losing another drop
    – A friend with a Jeep Cherokee XJ snapped a c-clip axle shaft on a trail, and (as in one of your stories) the axle and wheel desperately wanted to part ways with the vehicle. We cut and ratchet-strapped a small sturdy oak beam on the outside of the rear wheel well to keep the thing in place long enough to get off the trail.
    – Likewise, my $300 1980 Toyota offroad beater’s rusty rear leaf spring hanger decided it had enough of its time with the frame and snapped the F off. Another oak limb was sourced and ratcheted to both the free leaf spring and frame for just long enough to get the poor jalopy to a place where it could be properly chopped to bits
    – After buying another fixer-upper CJ with only a rear driveshaft included, that driveshaft apparently hadn’t been bolted securely and parted ways with the rear third member and both its ujoint caps on the way down the road. Extreme expedience caps were formed from strips of two aluminum cans and some cardboard (to hold the ujoint in place), and four quarters (to serve as the ends), and the CJ limped home at about 30mph.

    Most notably
    – While on a medical mission trip in Liberia, circa 2008, we rented a truck (a 1990’s 4Runner) and drive to take us from Monrovia into northern Lofa county, a VERY ROUGH 300mi journey. About halfway along and near nothing, the relentless beating on the truck’s suspension finally resulted in the front brakes locking up and the front right A-arm shearing off the vehicle. Kinda bad news. With only some multitools and an extremely inadequate toolkit that was located in the truck, my friend Charlie and I were able to scrounge just enough similar bolts from elsewhere on the truck to re-attach the a-arm, free the brakes, and get the truck moving again.

    The driver DID NOT let up.

    About an hour later, after near constant haranguing from us to SLOW THE HECK DOWN, the front a-arm again gave way. The damage was almost identical, and there were just enough bolts left on the vehicle to again temporarily patch up the suspension and recommence moving down the road. after a mere 21 hours, we finally completed the 300 mile journey with no other problems than an electrical fire in the truck’s radio.

    While we worked in Lofa, the truck was repaired. Supposedly.

    On the way back to Monrovia a week later, maybe 1/4 back, BANG… suspension let loose for the third time. There were no more “unnecessary” bolts to scavenge from anywhere on the truck. Luckily, we were close enough to a village that, after asking around, we located an old overturned stripped medium truck that was more bullet holes than truck (remember, this was only a few years after the worst of their civil war). Miraculously, bolts were scrounged and the 4Runner AGAIN put back together.

    We made it back to Monrovia, with no more problems than a burnt diesel pump fuse (that we jumpered with some bare wire) and some rubber plantation workers threatening us with some machetes.

    We did not hire that driver again.

  15. Dude, easy on the Pintos they were actually a really tough little car. A 71 Pinto and a 73 F-100 “3 on the tree” were what I learned on at about seven years old. The Pinto lived through a kid who’s favorite show was “The Dukes of Hazard.” If you look into the Pinto gas tank explosion thing, it was overblown by the media. Imagine that. By the way, a 302 fits under the hood and bolts up to the stock C4 tranny.

    Pine pitch and charcoal makes a very good glue.

    No Debt from Az.: happy trails on H2H, upper and lower Woodpecker and Table Mesa

    • Loved my used two tone brown Pinto back in 87 when I was 16. Had the acdc blastin with no shame! Somehow I caught the girl in the big Mach II Mustang about a year later in it and am married to her to this day. Those Pintos had mojo I think. Her and her car were way outta my league.

  16. I listened to this episode last week and heard you mention how useful vice grips can be so I checked my toolbag I keep in my car. No vice grips, so I grab a couple extra pair I had accumulated from garage sales and put them in my toolbag.

    Fast forward to yesterday on my drive home, in a dead zone for my cell phone, the hose between my engine and the heater springs a leak causing my car to overheat. The tubes to the heater and from the heater were close enough together that I could salvage enough of the ruined hose to bypass the heater entirely. What tool did I have that made this possible? The vice grips! Removing the clamps on the hoses behind a hot engine would’ve been a pain without the vice grip feature of staying closed on their own.

    Today I bought a new set of vice grips for my toolbag. I think they’ve earned a place there.