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9 Scary Methods That Your Vehicle Can Fail

It’s Halloween, the proper time to speak about issues that hang-out us: like components failures that may trigger us to lose management of our automobiles. Listed below are the scariest car failure modes I can consider.

I’m going to restrict this listing to somewhat-common kinds of mechanical mishaps, since there are far too many sorts of freak accidents that occur like that pickup truck whose cab flew proper off its body a number of weeks in the past.


These “as soon as in a blue moon” accidents aren’t what ought to maintain us all up at evening, anyway; what ought to hang-out our nightmares are the little upkeep oversights that may wreak havoc on our automobiles.

Wheels Coming Off

I’ve talked about ball joint failures many instances earlier than, largely as a result of the thought of it scares the crap out of me. I’ve seen dozens of automobiles lacking wheels on the shoulders of assorted highways, and I do know precisely why.


Signs of failing ball joints—the issues that maintain your wheels related to your automobile—are comparatively delicate contemplating the potential penalties.

I drove a Honda Accord from New Jersey to Michigan some time in the past with that failing ball joint you see within the photograph above. Sure, I might hear a banging noise from the passenger’s aspect wheel effectively, and the steering wheel shook a bit. However whereas I knew these signs might be a giant deal, I doubt the typical individual would have understood how dire the state of affairs was based mostly on a barely shaky steering wheel and a few noise from one of many wheels.

Simply take a look at the underside of the ball in that image above—it was sooo near popping out of that socket, sending the wheel flying off my automobile, and presumably inflicting my automobile to lose management because the rotor floor in opposition to the asphalt.

After all, there are different ways in which wheels can fall off—they’ll crack, and suspension elements can fail—however unhealthy ball joints are often the first explanation for automobile turning right into a three-legged wreck on the aspect of the highway.

Engine Or Differential Seizing

One other one among my nightmares offers with transferring components seizing up, particularly whereas driving at excessive speeds. And such an prevalence is basically not that unlikely, both.


For instance, if, for some cause, you by accident forgot to place your oil’s drain plug again on after a service, or maybe you personal a Volkswagen with an aluminum oil pan which will as effectively be product of glass and also you hit a bump, chances are you’ll by accident run your engine out of oil.

If that occurs, the lubrication holding your rings and bearings from grinding in opposition to different metallic components can be misplaced, and your engine can “lock up,” which might ship your automobile spinning uncontrolled on the freeway.

Admittedly, engines often decelerate and lose energy earlier than locking, so it’s not going you’ll be going 80 mph one second, after which have your pushed wheels lock up the following, nevertheless it’s potential that your motor might seize when you’re transferring at an inexpensive clip, and—particularly for those who’re in gear with the clutch pedal out—your wheels will lock too, and you may be in for a hell of a journey.

Differentials, switch circumstances, and just about any kind of gearbox may also seize up (see video above), particularly if an over-stressed damaged gear tooth will get caught within the mesh between different gears, or if an absence of oil causes a bearing to warmth up and weld itself to a cease.

Dropping Steering

The chance of your steering wheel coming off in your palms like within the video above is slim, however there are different methods your automobile can lose steering.


For one—and that is one I harp on about very often—tie rod ends can fail, particularly if holes in rubber boots permit moisture to infect the grease inside.

The outer tie rod finish connects your steering rack along with your knuckle (which holds your wheel). If a kind of tie rod ends fails, you’ll be unable to regulate the path of one among your wheels, which might be disastrous. Related penalties exist in case your interior tie rod ends—that are protected by rubber bellows—fail.


And it’s not simply tie rod ends that make dropping steering such a scary thought; my greatest concern is my steering intermediate shaft coming aside—that’s the one which connects the wheel to the steering field. Right here’s a take a look at the u-joint that I pray to the heavens won’t ever let go:

This latter bit in regards to the I-shaft might be not an inexpensive concern, however for some cause, it haunts me much more so than the much-more-common tie rod finish failure.

Dropping Brakes

The video above is horrifying, despite the fact that it’s clearly only a demonstration. I feel we’ve all had nightmares about dropping brakes, particularly whereas driving down steep grades.


And whereas it feels like it could by no means occur to you, it completely can. All it takes is a small pinhole in your brake strains, and you’ll lose some—if not all—of your braking potential, particularly in case your park brake doesn’t work.

That is one thing that occurs up north in areas the place there’s plenty of salt on the roads. Not almost sufficient automobile house owners get down within the dust, slide underneath their automobiles, and examine their brake strains. I did simply that a number of months in the past, and right here’s what I discovered:

It wasn’t that unhealthy (I gave it a squish to see how scaley that rust was), however after a number of winters, that line might change into a significant drawback.


I’ve received all kinds gremlins in my automobiles, particularly my Jeep Cherokee, whose alternator over-charges its battery for some cause (I feel there’s a problem with a corroded wire someplace).


However simply because my automobile was a junker, doesn’t imply your automobile received’t have electrical issues. My dad used to drive a 2005 Saturn Vue, whose flip sign stalk really went up in smoke in the future whereas driving (that is apparently a reasonably widespread concern on Theta-platform GM merchandise). Between that, and the video above displaying a Durango up in flames, it’s clear gremlins is usually a large deal on any automobile.

My greatest fireplace concern, although—much more so than a rusty gasoline line or electrical gremlins—is transmission fluid, which is famend for bursting into flames if it hits a scorching floor like an exhaust manifold. I’m at all times apprehensive that I’ll overfill my transmission, and ATF will spew out of my dipstick tube and onto my manifold.

Add to that the truth that, in case your automobile has a carburetor, it provides an entire different bag of fireside issues to the sport (I actually have caught two carburetors on fireplace in my lifetime, and I’m certain that quantity will solely go up), and also you’ll perceive why I maintain a fireplace extinguisher in my automobiles.

Suspension Or Axle Failures

Rust is a bastard. It’ll knock out your brake strains, and it will possibly severely compromise the structural integrity of your automobile. If these compromises happen close to main suspension part—management arms, entrance cradles, observe bar mounts, and many others.—you may hit a bump and utterly lose management of your automobile.


Rusted subframes appear to be an enormous drawback the place I stay close to Detroit. And contemplating that the subframe holds the engine, trans, and full driveline to the remainder of the physique, that’s one thing to take critically. Simply take a look at this nastiness:

Different points are shock mounts. Right here’s one from a reasonably current Ford Escape:

One other look:

What’s worse than a nasty shock mount, although, is a nasty spring mount, as its in command of suspending your physique above your wheels. Simply take a look at the large gap on this Jeep’s body:

I almost purchased that Jeep, too. If I’d have hit a bump, there’s an opportunity the spring would have poked up by the physique, and the wheel would have wedged itself in opposition to the wheel effectively, inflicting the automobile to spin uncontrolled.


So, rust is a giant deal, however so are axle failures and put on in issues like observe bars.

A failed c-clip axle can really trigger you to utterly lose a wheel (see video above), and a again observe bar could cause horrible dying wobble, which is able to make staying in your lane extraordinarily troublesome.

Carbon Monoxide

Publicity to an excessive amount of carbon monoxide can kill you, and since carbon monoxide is a byproduct of your engine’s combustion response, it’s essential that your exhaust system is in fine condition to channel these dangerous gases away from the cabin.


However, as I’m certain everybody has seen, exhaust pipes—particularly within the salt-belt—are often the primary components to succumb to rust, partially, as a result of warmth catalyzes the response. You’ll discover rusty exhaust pipes littering the edges of highways throughout the American north and northeast.

Actually, just lately, a police officer reportedly suffered nerve harm from carbon monoxide publicity in a Ford Explorer. This concern is to not be taken calmly.


Don’t purchase low-cost tires. I did, and once I hit a small piece of metallic, my tire popped. Fortunately, I used to be solely driving about 35 mph, or this might have been unhealthy. Very unhealthy.


This one’s not a lot a mechanical failure, bit if we’re speaking about scary issues that may trigger us to lose management of our automobiles, we have now to say hacking, which—with the ever-increasing variety of computer systems permitting automobiles to change into increasingly automated— has been making the information fairly a bit previously few years.


After all, it is very important differentiate between mechanical tampering, which is what lots of these “hacking” movies actually reveal, and precise distant or wi-fi hacking, which isn’t actually a factor and is extremely tougher to tug off. For now. However it’s a scary thought in many individuals’s minds, particularly as automobiles change into extra automated.

So these are the scariest comparatively widespread (sans the hacking one, which I simply threw in for a bit of additional Halloween fear-mongering) automotive failures. The excellent news is, you might be able to forestall these failures studying my article about how to verify your automobile is protected to drive.

The unhealthy information is, I mentioned “might be able to.” Benefit from the drive to your Halloween celebration tonight. I’m certain it will likely be high-quality.

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