Home » Have You Ever Accidentally Made Your Car Worse? Autopian Asks

Have You Ever Accidentally Made Your Car Worse? Autopian Asks

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“I shouldn’t have done that.”

I usually utter that immediately after trying to do something to improve a vehicle, only to make it worse. Sometimes, I end up feeling like I shouldn’t have bothered to try working on the car in the first place. How about you? Have you ever accidentally made your car worse? As a goofball, I feel your pain. I’ve made my own vehicles worse more times than I can count.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

You may remember my 1972 Yamaha U7E motorbike, the rare competitor to the Honda Super Cub. I bought the Yamaha from a family who owned the bike since 1976. The Yamaha spent three decades teaching generations of one family how to ride. Then, they let it sit for years before I picked it up and then I let it sit for more years. I decided to reverse that course by finally getting it running. I took the motorcycle apart, cleaned its carburetor, and then halted my progress once I saw how nasty the tank was.

Fast-forward two years and nothing has happened. That tank is the only thing keeping the Yamaha from riding again, but until I get around to cleaning it out, the poor thing will remain in a bunch of pieces sprawled out in my mini-warehouse.

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It’s a problem echoed by our Jason Torchinsky. Years ago, he pulled the carbs off his Beetle’s engine for cleaning and synching and the improved performance that would surely result … then life got in the way and the project stalled out. The last update was that the poor Beetle’s engine seized up, presumably from sitting out in the open for so long. We both made our vintage vehicles worse by not actually finishing our work. “Awesome.”

The car I carry the most made-worse regret for is my 2012 Smart Fortwo Passion Coupe. I bought it new as my first Smart, and that car served as proof that dreams can come true. Unfortunately, I haven’t really treated my Passion Coupe like the beloved almost-family-member I like to think it is.

I babied that car for years, keeping it in as perfect shape as I could keep it in. Then, in 2018, I began taking the little machine off-road. In 2019, I had a few White Claws and proceeded to spray-paint it. My beloved Smart went on to pull Toyota Tacomas out of mud pits, drive down waterfalls, log miles with low oil, and frolic in Tennessee clay. Then, the car’s alternator went out, the fun stopped, and I parked the car for two years – without cleaning off all that caked-on mud.

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Now that I’m a little older, a little wiser, and have other cars to take off-road, I regret what I did to my tiny friend. I loved (and still love) the car so much, yet I was willing to beat it up so hard that it ran low on oil. It’s complicated, too, because the adventures I had in that car helped me become who I am today.

Thankfully, cars are just things, and I was able to bring my little Tucker (did I mention his name is Tucker? His name is Tucker) back up to health. Now, I just need to finish the restoration job.

Here’s where I turn things to you. Have you ever set out to repair or improve your car, only to make it worse? It could be a wrenching job gone wrong, a crash, a wrong turn, an ill-advised “performance mod” … you name it.

See you in the comments!

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VanGuy
VanGuy
20 days ago

I had one incident of breaking something en route to replacing a different part, but that’s both boring and probably common (even if it represents possibly the largest “unexpected repair” I’ve ever paid in my life to date).
Who knew “clock springs” and the mechanisms that let wheels have buttons and position sensors and other magic would run $650 for the part and another ~$100 for installation from the Toyota dealership for my Prius?

(Incidentally, I’d love to get an article about clock springs…it was an intriguing mechanism, where I would have been saying “oh! This looks really interesting how this works…” if I wasn’t holding a piece of broken plastic that I knew was about to hurt.)
All that because I needed to remove my steering wheel to replace the windshield wiper stalk, and I forgot to disconnect two last connectors before pulling the wheel.

Anyway–with my old conversion van, I bought a set of LED strips to illuminate the driver and passenger footwells. I thought it would be cool. And in my defense, it did look cool, but had the unfortunate side effect of being reflected in the side windows. I’d look at the window to the left and see my feet perfectly reflected in a big chunk of the window. Removed them for the sake of safety. Fortunately, that lesson only cost me ~$20 for the strips and wiring.

Crimedog
Crimedog
21 days ago

1996 200SX SE-R.
I was at the edge of early 20’s dumbshittery credit card usage.
Bought an FMAX turbo kit that came with both a 7lb and a 10lb spring. The 10lb required 370cc injectors from a Z. Couldn’t swing it.

BUT, in order to harness all of my planned power, I installed a 3-puck race clutch, because, in my F&F brain, I was going to be harnessing 400whp.
I did not harness that much.
I harnessed 211.1 whp and 199.7wtq.

Unfortunately, it meant that my left calf was 2 inches greater in diameter than my right, that I kept 2-4 clutch cables in my car at all times, and that I could change it on the side of any highway or road in less than 15 minutes without being burned.

Everything else I have done after has just been with the more wise understanding that I am making everything more expensive.
35″ tires? How about upgrading those brakes.
300lb steel bumper? Let’s get those 700 in-lb springs up front…

So, after actively making stuff worse, I have taken a more holistic approach to my goals and the real costs.

ClutchAbuse
ClutchAbuse
21 days ago

I’ve owned my 2000 XJ for 21 years and just about everything I ever did to it in that time made it worse. The budget lift, the K&N filter with extra holes drilled into the air box. The shitty Auto Zone off-road lights. The wrong electric fan zip tied to the radiator mounts. The broken fan shroud. The shit exhaust job…I could go on.

Starting last year I began to undo all of the jank. Having a big boy job let’s me buy things like quality lift components. SYE eliminator kits, an air box with no holes with a regular paper filter and the actual fan that’s designed to go in there. I’ve taken my time, done my research and done shit properly this time. I still have more to go, the front driveshaft is shot, the steering wheel needs to be centered with the new lift and the tires are end of life. But it’s in such a better place now.

The catalyst to all this was it getting hit while parked and the front bumper getting ripped off. I came out that morning and decided I was either fixing it correctly or getting rid of it. I’m glad it’s still out front.

Last edited 21 days ago by ClutchAbuse
AceRimmer
AceRimmer
22 days ago

Went for staggered 18″ wheels on my 01 Bullitt. WAY too much tire. I took some friends out to show the my “muscle car” performance. Couldn’t to a burnout or drift because too much grip and unsprung weight, not enough torque. Then made the same mistake w/ my GTI. Never again!

Alex Rockey
Alex Rockey
22 days ago

Yes. I put larger wheels on after putting on a camper (gutted for cargo use) on my ’80 Jeep J10 with the 4.2 and now I can’t do 100km/h in fourth*. The whole reason I chose this was it has a six with 4 speed manual in a 4×4. However, this was given higher gear ratios for better fuel economy due to the time. Thankfully, it’s just fine in town where I do 99% of my driving. Still, I should give the engine a good inspection and think about what power upgrades to it that I’m able to do.

*Technically, it will, but unable to keep it there.

86-GL
86-GL
23 days ago

I didn’t actually do it myself, but I had a beige 1976 Volvo 242 coupe for a few years. The previous owner had installed the full compliment of popular IPD handling enhancements- Lowering springs, Bilstein HD shocks, and stiff 25mm sway bars front and rear.

I actually endorse the springs and shocks- From the factory, most Volvo 240s were set up to handle really rough roads, riding high on skinny 185 tires. A slightly lower ride and firmer shock pairs well with modern rubber, and does not necessitate roll-center correction.

The rear sway bar though? Holy shit that thing was dangerous. 240s are RWD cars with near 50/50 weight distribution, they do NOT need help to rotate the rear end. Some of the wagons don’t even have rear bars for this reason. Yes, if you go fast and simply twist the wheel they will understeer, but that just means they were engineered for safety. With proper braking and weight transfer, a stock RWD Volvo is capable of all kinds of tail-out shenanigans.

The 25mm front bar is great, but the rear bar basically just destroyed rear traction and ruined the vehicle’s road holding. We’re talking accidental power slides through an intersection on dry pavement at sub-legal speeds.

When I moved the parts to a new shell, I actually scrapped the rear bar. Yeah I could have sold it to some teenager for $250, but I’d rather not be responsible for someone wrapping their car around a hydro pole.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
22 days ago
Reply to  86-GL

+1 For ethical behavior. Really.

Rollin Hand
Rollin Hand
23 days ago

Well, I somehow broke the tilt steering on my 87 Integra.

I tried to replace the headlight washer switch on my 300zx and lost all interior lighting. Months later, my dad and I worked on the wiring until the lights came back on and I said “the lights came back. We stop now!”

I got my late dad’s 1988 Country Squire going. I took it for a test drive, and a coolant hose broke.

And multuple times on different cars, I put a new battery in the car, and the starter went out within a couple of weeks. In fact, when my MIL’s starter died, I asked her when she had the battery replaced.

“A week ago. Why?”

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
22 days ago
Reply to  Rollin Hand

There is a link sometimes between a bad starter, and the future need for a new battery.
When a regular customer would have a starter replaced at her shop they would automatically order a new battery for when they came back a week or two later. Like clockwork.

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
23 days ago

I replaced a stereo and speakers, and now the shifter’s backlighting doesn’t work.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
22 days ago

Seriously? There easily could be a wiring issue here.

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
22 days ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

Ya think? :p

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
22 days ago

So not to be an Easter Smart Ass here. But I have installed probably 5K stereos over the years. What you are referring to is something that’s pretty common. There’s usually a wire dedicated to the dash and aux type interior lights. It’s very common for home installers to hook it up wrong, or not at all.
So I’m not sure if you are being serious or not here.
But wish you a Happy Easter, and a happy life.

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
21 days ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

Yeah, I figured it was a wiring issue. It requires removing more parts than I want so I just live with it as a reminder of my ineptitude.

Happy Easter!

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
21 days ago

I keep seeing these shows where once the install work is done they test everything before putting it back together. A good idea of which I just don’t seem capable of following.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
23 days ago

Yes, when I used to have an 86 Pontiac Sunbird I was messing around with the neutral safety switch for basically no reason and broke it on purpose- cut the wires and tried to take it off. I hardly knew anything about cars and usually would have problems and try to fix them and get mad/frustrated (my own fault since I didn’t even look up how to do it at all) I hardly even knew what the switch was. I hardly remember why, I think every so often it wouldn’t start but if I let it sit for a little while it would start and for some reason I got it into my head to look in the engine & see things that I didn’t know what they were, and go “ok, well it doesn’t need this switch” maybe because back then I would say that I hated sensors too because newer cars had too many of them and that’s why they suck (Well, still kinda think that ha ha) So completely irrational, stupid & a dumbass thing to do. I took it to a shop, paid & they said “ok, maybe don’t mess w/ that again” since I told them I did it. They were cool & it was a learning experience. I loved/hated that car since it had problems that Sunbirds have but it was awesome because it was a black hatchback coupe w/ a moonroof and fog lights. The front looked sorta like the TransAm and I really wanted one of those so it was like my “cheap” TransAm. I also used it for pizza delivery in the snow with regular tires- they could have been all seasons- I had no idea back then and either way they didn’t have the best tread. Later on I got better tires and learned more about the car and that’s what counts. I can’t believe I went on this long ha ha

InfinitySystems
InfinitySystems
23 days ago

My lovely Thor. Had her underbody rust worked on by a pretty shady shop in the countryside (long story- they basically fed me the classic “yknow legally i can’t even let you drive away” lie and i believed it because i was a scared 17 year old)- basically ended up paying $7000 for them to spray black paint over the rust without fixing any of it. 4 years later the rust is significantly worse and I gotta fix it for real this time.

InfinitySystems
InfinitySystems
23 days ago

Oh, also the time me and my girlfriend tried to replace the starter. Got off to a good start when we bought the wrong starter. Then we bought the right starter, stripped 2 bolts, cut the stock starter wire way too short, went through like $40 worth of heatshrink trying to make it work, then gave up and sent it to my (thankfully actually trustworthy) shop where they proceeded to charge me like $700 to fix the mess we made.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
23 days ago

I had an ex-oil field work truck 2500HD with the LQ4 6.0L V8 and a severely crushed muffler. The muffler bafflings broke free one day and completely blocked the exhaust flow in the muffler, so new muffler time! I had a 3.5″ Borla XR1 race muffler (the ones used as header collector mufflers to meet noise restrictions at race tracks) laying around, so I threw that thing on my truck with a turndown and called it good. Wow did that LQ4 sound amazing, and wow was the noise and drone inside the cab horrendous. I thought I could learn to tolerate it, but after a few weeks of commuting with that noise 2-3 hours a day, I have up and put an $80 Magnaflow muffler on it. It didn’t sound nearly as menacing, which was probably good for something as glacially slow as that truck was, but the volume was drastically more “I want to keep my hearing” friendly and there was zero drone, even with the turndown in almost the same spot. Sadly, that Magnaflow muffler was the nicest part of that truck from the moment I put it on until I sold that truck fifteen years later.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
21 days ago
Reply to  Squirrelmaster

Quitter, you just needed a louder stereo.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
21 days ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

What’s that joke, people call me a quitter because I never finish what I……

I actually had a crazy over-built stereo for a regular cab truck, but that drone was all-powerful. Sitting in the eternal Houston traffic where the same trip at the same day could take one hour in the morning and four hours (seriously, it was awful when they were expanding I-10 on the west side), my ears would be seething by the time I made it home. I didn’t regret the stereo, though, only that the whole truck rattled so badly when the mids and subs hit.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
21 days ago
Reply to  Squirrelmaster

Hey I lived in Houston for awhile. Actually lived in Katy but worked in Houston. I worked it so I started st 6am worked until 4pm never got stuck in traffic. Incidentally Houston is where I saw people shooting at other people from 10 feet away while standing on my ground level patio, before moving to Katy. I would move back if I could afford lawn care. I remember driving home on the 10, 6 lanes and every car but mine in the 2 right hand lanes.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
21 days ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

I lived in Katy/Cypress and had to commute to one of two offices – one near Memorial and one in Baytown. The Baytown one was brutal, as they were rebuilding 610 at the time, and then when I started going to the Memorial office was when they started expanding I-10 to it’s current 20-something lanes. I suffered through the construction, but never got to reap the rewards, as my company relocated me before they finished I-10.

Keon R
Keon R
23 days ago

I put a Flowmaster Outlaw on my Jeep. The drone was nothing short of nauseating. Luckily, I was able to get a refund on the exhaust, but that thing droned more than anything else I’d been in, worse than a straight pipe for sure.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
23 days ago

Been too long so I don’t remember the details but I hooked something up wrong and melted the wiring together completely. BTW you can buy a complete wiring loomfor a Jensen Healey relatively cheaper from a member of the JHPS.

Inthemikelane
Inthemikelane
23 days ago

Had an early Chevy Monza with the 262 V-8. Not a good car, but I made it worse by trying to improve performance by putting on headers and changing the carb. While it would go, it never really ran right after that, started eating tires left and right (maybe the added weight caused it?), bottomed out all the time, and just finally died. I didn’t like the car to start with, but my attempt to improve it just made it so much worse.

James Carson
James Carson
23 days ago

Depending on which side of the preserve a classic fence you are on, objectively all or none.

Dudeoutwest
Dudeoutwest
23 days ago

I made a BMW K75 worse by installing the entire Luftmeister catalog on it. Cams, valves, you name it, I bought it and installed it. Instead of having a bike with a nice broad torque spread and great mileage, I created a peaky bike that got terrible mileage.

I made it into the opposite of what a good touring bike should be and kinda destroyed it to the point that I bought a Honda VFR and toured on that instead.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
23 days ago
Reply to  Dudeoutwest

That reminds me of the Motocross-style slipper clutch on my old KX250. For some reason I thought the clutch would be amazing for trail riding as well as track use, but what I ended up with was a clutch that you had to rev to use with a really narrow engagement point – you either stalled it or you left riding a wheelie. It was kind of nice on a track where the surface was a bit more loose, but it was generally awful on trails. Unfortunately, almost all of my riding was on trails, so I ended up hating that bike and sold it to someone who rode it on tracks exclusively and loved it.

Myk El
Myk El
23 days ago

No, not really. I did some work on my very, very first car that basically was wasting a shitload of money for bad results, but it didn’t make it worse.

Cayde-6
Cayde-6
23 days ago

Have You Ever Accidentally Made Your Car Worse?

The authors here could probably fill an entire week’s quota of Herb-mandated slideshows at The Old Site with this question alone

Dudeoutwest
Dudeoutwest
23 days ago
Reply to  Cayde-6

They mostly repost YouTube and TikTok links these days with some “commentary” laden with snark. If YouTube, TikTok, Insta and Twitter went away, they’d run out of content, it seems.

Vb9594
Vb9594
23 days ago

This is the only way I wrench, apparently.

Eric W
Eric W
23 days ago

Fancy new clear distributor cap for my Bosch 009, great until the center contact fell out and killed the condenser too in the middle of nowhere. Ah youth.

Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
23 days ago

Indeed I have. I had a 1978 Chevy Nova with a 305 and a 2 barrel with a bad choke. Instead of replacing the choke or just installing a manual cable, I listened to some friends of mine who told me “just put a four-barrel on it. You’ll get more power, AND better gas mileage!”

Nope.

I got a smashed finger changing out the intake, an engine that bogged down every time I tried to accelerate, and 11 miles per gallon. Eventually someone older and wiser was able to help me tune the big-ass Quadrajet so it would run right, but it soured me on the car and I ended up selling it soon after.

Clark B
Clark B
23 days ago

I didn’t necessarily do it, but I knew what I was getting myself into when I bought it. The previous owner of my Sportwagen lowered it, but only replaced the springs, keeping the factory shocks. It looked so damn good, sitting about 1.5 inches lower than stock. I figured it would need shocks at some point, and now it does. Around town it’s fine, but it gets bouncy over larger bumps on the highway, and it doesn’t feel as flat in the corners as it did four years ago, when I bought it. Oh, and I had to replace all the endlinks front and back, because the lowered stance blows out the stock ones. And the aftermarket rear sway bar. The previous owner used the wrong one and it was rubbing the plastic fuel filler pipe.

I also got 235s instead of 225s for tires. It wasn’t an issue with the Goodyears I used to have, but the Continentals stick out just enough that they ever so slightly rub when I hit a particularly large bump. So now, I need to fit new shocks, and possibly have the rear fenders rolled out a little bit. While I have replaced shocks and springs on a VW based on that platform before, I’m not looking forward to doing it again, especially since this car spent a few years in New York and is just a touch rusty. I think I’m going to bite the bullet and have the shop that built my dad and I’s track car do the job for me. I’d hate to break a bolt or something and get drawn into a miserable process. And the guys at that shop are probably some of the best, if not the best, suspension folks in the area.

Ben
Ben
23 days ago

Nothing too terrible, but when I took apart the driver’s seat in my Corvette to replace the bushings that always degrade to black goo, I apparently used the wrong kind of grease on the rails and now it squeals every time I move the seat. I haven’t bothered to redo it though because I don’t actually move the seat that often.

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