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Anyone have any amusing/interesting/ frightening stories re drift, tow or push starting a car?


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I'll start.  In another life I did archaeological survey work at the Delaware Water Gap.  Drove a '64 Rambler station wagon to the top of one of the very steep hills forming the Gap.  One lane dirt road.  Went to leave later and the battery was near dead. After contemplating the long walk we were going to have back to civilization I decided to try to drift start the wagon. Two problems.  It was an automatic and it was facing uphill with no room to turn it around. Nothing ventured nothing gained so I gave it a shot.  I drifted it backwards down the hill being careful to avoid the several hundred foot drop off on one side of the road.  Amazingly I got it rolling fast enough backwards that it started!  I was the hero of the day.

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A long time ago one of my roommates tried to start his Datsun 240Z and discovered the battery was bad. 

 

No problem, I thought. We lived near the top of a long slightly steep hill and there would be no problem push starting the car and then driving to the auto parts shop for a new battery.

 

My other roommates volunteered to help push. I gave the car owner the instructions: ignition on and keep the car in fourth gear. We started pushing the car and it quickly sped down the hill away from us. All the way down the hill without starting

 

My roommate followed instructions: ignition on and car in fourth gear. With the clutch in all the way down.

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We finished a 1919 crank start International truck that had been partially restored before it came to us.  We towed that son of a gun maybe 2 miles trying to get it started.  Eventually we realized that the engine was turning the wrong direction.  Whoever restored the diff had it in backwards.  We repaired the diff and towed some more and it still would not start.  Turned out the shop ( a VERY well known shop at the time) that rebuilt the engine installed the cam 180 degrees out.

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my friend's sister's car wouldn't start so we told her to put in gear and when we had it rolling, let the clutch out.  We did this unsuccessfully several times.  Fortunately, because when we looked inside she had it in reverse.

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Acquaintance of mine was working for a resto shop.  He was laying across the engine compartment of a '65 T Bird trying to start it.  He did not realize the neutral safety switch had been disconnected.  Well, it started and yep, it was in gear.  Car crashed thru the fiberglass garage door and sped across the parking lot with my friend still aboard hanging on for dear life.  It hit the rollback parked in the lot doing considerable damage to the T Bird and breaking my friend's hip.

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I remember push starting my mom's 55 Ford a couple times, it had the Borg Warner Fordomatic with front and rear pumps so you could do it but you had to get the car moving at like 20 mph then drop it in gear. Back when all cars had beefy chrome bumpers with bumper guards and most of them were so dinged and scratched you didn't mind the contact. Not frightening then but there was very little traffic on the roads. I also push started a few stick cars, sometimes with my foot on the ground outside the door!

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Earlier this century we were out east in our 1961 Chrysler 300-G visiting family after a 300 meet. Then we were waiting to catch a ferry from Connecticut to Long Island to visit a Chrysler collector friend. Went to start the car to load up and…nothing! I was going through the troubleshooting process when a woman drove up in a Chevy Tahoe headed for the ferry and asked if we needed a jump. I said I didn’t think so. She said did you try jumping the relay? I said yes. She asked did you bang on the starter with a hammer? I said yes. Turns out she worked in sales for an automotive electric concern. I had a tow rope so I convinced her to tow us on and off the ferry, and the ferry operators to let us do that.

 

I called our friend who met us on the other side with a rebuilt starter he had on the shelf. As we contemplated changing the starter right there, he said have you ever push started one of these? I said no, but it’s a cast iron Torqueflite automatic with a rear pump, so it’s supposed to work. He said he hadn’t tried it either but it would be a lot easier to change the starter in his garage than this parking lot. So we pull started it with his Subaru Brat. Fired right up!

 

We had one more small ferry to catch. Left the Chrysler running, which the ferry guy wasn’t too happy about but understood when we explained the situation. Made it to our friends place, went out to dinner and changed the starter the next day. That starter is still my car.

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I bought my 1925 Buick through an estate. It hadn't run in 25 years. The estate executor apparently had tried unsuccessfully to get it running,as the plugs were out and the wires off. We reinstalled the plugs and wires (firing order on all these old sixes is 1-5-3-6-2-4,right? ),checked the timing,and hit the starter. It turned over but wouldn't even bark.

We pulled it out on the road for a tow. Had the transmission in "second". On letting out the clutch, the tow rope snapped ! Long story short, turned out the firing order is 1-4-3-6-2-4. After this little correction, it fired right up.

As to why the tow cable snapped, turns out this car has a reverse H shift pattern. "Second " was actually reverse !

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A couple come to mind. In 1982 we still had a drive in movie. I was there on a saturday night in my '72 Gran Torino. After the movie the battery was dead. Didnt have a pair of jumpers, started asking around not a single person either wanted to help or didnt have cables. Finally there was a guy with a chevelle or nova. He didnt have jumpers but had some heavy duty speaker wire. Tried that unsuccessfully. Ended up pulling the battery out of his car, hooking up to mine to get it started.

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Ever jump started a newer twelve volt car from an older six volt car? As long as the twelve volt battery isn't nearly stone-cold dead. You pull one of the battery cables from the nearly dead twelve volt battery, and jumper cable the six volt battery in series (being certain to get the polarity correct) with the nearly dead twelve volt battery. The good six volt battery added in series with the remaining voltage of the nearly dead twelve volt battery will usually start the newer twelve volt car. I have it done it twice.

 

As for pushing or rolling manual transmission cars, and popping the clutch to start them? Done that probably a hundred times at least! Could tell a couple dozen stories about those.

As for automatic transmissions? I have known for years that some can be done that way, but I never knew any specifically that could, and never tried it myself.

 

Back to dead batteries? Did you ever have a battery get SO dead that even jump starting the car wouldn't get it to run on its own right away? I once foolishly managed to leave the headlamps turned on on our 1952 Chevrolet for fourteen hours. A quick jump start and pulled the jumper cables to only have the engine die immediately. The generator worked fine, but the voltage regulator needed some voltage from the battery side to keep the generator connected to the ignition (I have been told this is normal for Chevrolets that vintage?). We had to keep the jumper cables connected for about five minutes before the engine would run on its own. And even then, needed to keep the rpms up a bit for awhile.

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Posted (edited)

I guess I'll join in...

My first car was a 1953 Chevy 210 with standard transmission. It was 1968 and I was just out of high school and could not afford much. I bought the car for $50 and was told the starter was bad. I went to take it home and the starter worked just fine. Little did I know that the starter would not work when the engine was hot. I taught my girl friend how to pop the clutch and she got pretty good at it. In fact, so good I decided to keep her and she still pops my clutch, just not as often as I'd like...

 

Frank

Edited by oldford (see edit history)
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Had a 1986 Jeep Comanche pick up with a factory Renault turbo diesel and 5 speed . Starter broke off the bell housing common problem . Lived on a hill to jump start it but had to leave it running if I went anywhere where there was no hills this went on for months before I finally pulled the trans and welded the broken piece back on

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Bought a 1947 T & C Sedan back in the 70's. Car was not running, no brakes, no interior seats...but was a "roller'

Wanted to "move" it from my house to a garage I was renting - total about 2 miles.

Convinced my girlfriend (and still my wife) to sit in the car and steer it while I towed it with a rope - through town no less. Ah the good old days. The reason I had to "convince" her was that the bolt-in floorboard was out as well as the front seat and that she would have to sit on a milk crate to steer it. There being no brakes was explained away by telling her to let it coast until it stops.

When we reached the garage boy did I hear about it. She kept saying something about looking down and seeing the stripe(s) in the road whizzing by. All I could do was crack up laughing. She said she could've fallen out and I said "Obviously you didn't so what's the problem?"

She eventually found the humor in it and to this day, when we tell that story, we both have a good laugh.

 

I had a 1949 DeSoto Suburban Sedan (a HUGE car), around the 70's, that had vacuum power-assist brakes. I tried to fix the assist several times but couldn't get it to work properly. Sometimes the brake pedal would be "hard as a rock" and they would not release.

Of course, me being a kid and not worrying about such things as that and the fact that the e-brake was useless put me in a serious predicament one day.

I was driving up a very steep hill that led out of the center of my town. There was a traffic light right before the hill started and the center of town was behind that light as you faced the hill. So I am maybe 100 feet from the traffic light going up the hill and I let my foot off the gas pedal to allow the Fluid Drive to upshift. Instead of upshifting the car stalls, like it had done many times before, and I couldn't get it to start again as the car was rolling backwards down the hill. Naturally the e-brake didn't help and the brakes were also useless as I was literally standing on the brake pedal but to no avail. So here I am in a HUGE car hurling backwards toward the light AND the center of town with no way to stop - except one. Since I was picking up speed I had to decide what to do - and in a hurry. So I cut the front wheels so that the car would jump the curb on my right and plow into the little dirt hill on the side of the road. This stopped me but then I started to think how fortunate, for other people, that there was no one behind me at the time (probably because they all passed me, thankfully, because I was so slow getting up that hill).

 

We had a 66 Malibu I was driving when I was 17 years old. It was a 283/automatic. 

At the time I was dating my then girlfriend/wife to be.

So I park the car in front of my house and later on I do all the things we did to get ready for our "dates" - you know shower, dress up real nice, blow-dry your hair (wish I could do that now) etc...

So as I am leaving to go pick up the girlfriend I get into the Malibu and when I turn the key - NOTHING. This had happened before with this car and it was always a loose battery cable.

Now mind you, of course, it was pouring rain and I had an umbrella to keep my hair dry (Geez). So I get in and out of the car many times after wiggling the battery cables but the car still would not crank.

After those several aggravating attempts I was drenched and my hair was all messed up. I got so angry that I beat that car with that umbrella until the poor umbrella was in pieces. You know, now I was going to have to go back into the house and re-dry my hair - oh the horror - and call the girlfriend and explain why I was late.

The best part of this whole story was the car wouldn't start because when I parked it earlier I left in "DRIVE".

I have so many other stories because I have been into cars for so long - and have/had many moments of "STUPID".

Maybe I'll write about a few more later.

 

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In 1994, I pulled my ’54 Chrysler station wagon into a gas station market just off I-81.  On my way back to Tennessee from the Fall Carlisle car show.  It was about 9PM when I got off the interstate, and the car had performed flawlessly all the way up and back.  I was stoked.

 

After shutting off the engine, I started filling the tank.  A couple walked over and started asking me about the car.  We must have talked nearly ten minutes about old cars.  I still had probably another 80 miles or so to get home, so our conversation ended and they started walking away.  I got in the car, turned the key – nothing.

 

I got out, opened the hood.  The couple I had been talking to walked back over.  We looked under the hood.  The lighting wasn’t that good, but everything looked okay.  The man volunteered to scoot up under the car.  I kept telling him he didn’t need to do this, but he insisted.  He got far enough under there that only his legs were visible.  When he came out, he said “That thang’s just a-pourin’ automatic transmission fluid”.  This was evident in the fact that he had a big smear of fluid across his face and up into his hairline, and it was all over his sleeves and hands.  I felt badly, because I knew the car leaked tranny fluid.  It had the Chrysler Powerflite automatic transmission.

 

Still, the fluid leak shouldn’t have anything to do with the starting issue.  Since the gas station was located on a road with a decent grade, we wondered if the car would start if we rolled it off down the hill.  I turned on the headlights (six volt, not all that bright), put it in neutral and turned on the switch.  The guy and his wife were pushing by hand, and we timed it just right, rolling out of the parking lot onto the highway.  They were still pushing like mad, and the car picked up enough speed that they quit pushing.  I got up to about 25 MPH, pulled the tranny into Low – engine turned over but didn’t start, so I put it back in neutral.  Traffic started coming up behind me.  It was a long hill, and this time it got up to nearly 35MPH.  Pulled down into Low, and it started.

 

I did stop back by the market and the couple was standing there.  I thanked them profusely for their help, and got home.  The problem turned out to be the starter.  I took it to two or three different shops before I found someone who would fix it.

wagon.jpg

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15 hours ago, oldford said:

My first car was a 1953 Chevy 210 with standard transmission … Little did I know that the starter would not work when the engine was hot…


My ‘52 Chev sedan was the same way. This was the summer of 1972, and some guy who seemed to know a lot about cars suggested the starter armature was bent slightly — spun OK when cold but just a teeny bit larger diameter when hot and thus binding against the field coils. 

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i used to drive a tow truck back in the 1960's. one day got a call to go to an accident scene. it seemed a corvair van had driven head on into a large tree. the dash was destroyed and none of the controls were functional so there was no gearshift.. so i hooked up to the front end to pull it back to the storage yard, but i had no dolly wheels to put under the rear wheels. about a mile down the road, it started, but about 5 miles down the road, it caught on fire. happy ending, i made it back to the yard just as it ran out of gas.

 

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4 hours ago, cheezestaak2000 said:

i used to drive a tow truck back in the 1960's. one day got a call to go to an accident scene. it seemed a corvair van had driven head on into a large tree. the dash was destroyed and none of the controls were functional so there was no gearshift.. so i hooked up to the front end to pull it back to the storage yard, but i had no dolly wheels to put under the rear wheels. about a mile down the road, it started, but about 5 miles down the road, it caught on fire. happy ending, i made it back to the yard just as it ran out of gas.

 

 

That one is almost creepy?

 

 

22 hours ago, oldford said:

Little did I know that the starter would not work when the engine was hot.

 

7 hours ago, Chris Bamford said:


My ‘52 Chev sedan was the same way. This was the summer of 1972, and some guy who seemed to know a lot about cars suggested the starter armature was bent slightly — spun OK when cold but just a teeny bit larger diameter when hot and thus binding against the field coils. 

 

One of the 1952 Chevys I had also developed a wouldn't start when hot problem. Again, I think it was a thermal expansion thing. Except that it turned out to be in the solenoid itself. The big copper washer inside had worn and arced itself very thin where the contact was made. The solenoid on those Chevys is mounted directly onto the starter, and down alongside the warm side area of the motor. The starter and solenoid began working fine when cool, but wouldn't make contact when hot. I figured the aluminum body of the solenoid expanded more than the steel of the starter, and the solenoid piston could just barely not reach the contact disc. I turned and flipped the copper disc around, and the starter worked flawlessly for years.

 

I once jump started a car by touching bumpers and using a crank style jack handle. Better than a coat hanger, the jack handle only got warm.

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In the late 70s I went with a friend to pick up a 49 Chevrolet school bus from a field near Charlottesville. Too big to tow, so we had to get it started. It hadn't been parked that long (a few years), brakes still worked, battery looked like it would charge, but only our 12 volt car for jumping. Sure, you can jump a 6 volt vehicle with a 12 volt vehicle for a short burst, but we had to charge the battery some and crank a while to get fresh fuel to the engine from that tank way back there. Hmmm. Hey, some coat hangers are laying around. Used about 20 feet of them to make a dropping resistor to charge the 6 volt battery from the 12 volt car. It did finally fire up and we drove it back to Richmond at night! Engine had a rebuild tag riveted to the side and it ran very well. Crazy youth!🤣

 

I've rolled started vehicles maybe a thousand times.... even Corvair Powerglides.😉

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Nothing very exciting for me other than my first date with my wife I was in a 1991 Quad 442 W-41. It would not start and had her get out and help me push start it. After it started I said I was sorry about that, she said that she only drover older cars with lots of problems so she was use to it. We now have been married for 21 years. 

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All - My first car was a 1959 Chevy Impala Convertible with a 348 ci. Engine with tri-carbs. It was in the mid 60’s and we got the car cheap because it had been raced and abused but it ran. My dad who was a mechanic,  and I couldn’t tune the tri carbs correctly so we took it to the local stock car mechanic to tune. 
   Somehow during the tuning, the mechanic who was leaning into the engine bay, short circuited the battery terminals and shocked himself thru his genitals. I remember his face and his reaction vividly even today. 
  Not something I’ll ever want to enjoy.

   Ron 

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It was around '93 I bought a brand new Jeep Grand Cherokee (the year the redesigned ones came out). We went on our annual family trip to the beach. Stopped at a rest. on our way there and went back out and the car was dead. Nothing. I knew nothing about cars (hardly know anything now!) and a couple of guys came up and said 'oh those jeeps are known for ........  and told me horror stories about how the engine most likely was toast. Even though the car had probably less than 10k miles. I was about 3 hrs from home. Mom and dad brought down my truck, which we used the remaining of the week cramming 4 people into a standard cab. I had the jeep towed home to a trusted mechanic. When I got back I found it had a DEAD battery!!!! A jump start would have saved a lot of aggrevation and money!

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Always check the simple things first....😉

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My parents told me this story (it happened before I was born): About 1950, the battery in my father's '38 Pontiac died so he borrowed a truck and had my mother steer the Pontiac and pop the clutch to get it started.   My father pushed the Pontiac all over our Brooklyn neighborhood and the thing refused to start.  He was pretty steamed up by that point.  Turns out my father didn't tell my mother to turn the key on before letting out the clutch.   With the key turned on it quickly fired up.

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21 hours ago, Harold said:

My parents told me this story (it happened before I was born): About 1950, the battery in my father's '38 Pontiac died so he borrowed a truck and had my mother steer the Pontiac and pop the clutch to get it started.   My father pushed the Pontiac all over our Brooklyn neighborhood and the thing refused to start.  He was pretty steamed up by that point.  Turns out my father didn't tell my mother to turn the key on before letting out the clutch.   With the key turned on it quickly fired up.

I confess to making the same mistake with my Dad one time!

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