What Was Your First Automotive Mishap?

My first mishap with a car was with my first car, a 1991 Volvo 940 SE, black over tan, with sunroof. I was eighteen, had only been driving a few months due to health issues, but LOVED driving. So much so, on occasion I would get up really early, like before sunrise, to take the car for a ride before school. I remember several instances where I’d sneak the car out about 5:30 (so as not to wake anyone up and ask me why I was doing a damfool thing like going for a drive at 5 AM), go for a ride around town listening to the oldies station, and then head back, get my school crap and head off to Alleman High School.

I need to set the stage. My parents’ home then was built in 1936, with a circle drive, two-car attached garage and a free-standing two-car garage my parents built in about 1996. My car was in the unattached garage, with my father’s old Porsche. A manual door was provided, so that I would open the door, get the car out, put it in park, then close the garage door and drive off. Well one morning in late ’97, I was leaving for school. Unlock garage, open garage door, start car, back car out, then get out and close the garage door. But there was one crucial step missed. I forgot to put the car in park. I closed the door, turned around, then my eyes bugged out like a Tex Avery cartoon character, as the car was reversing away from me, right toward the hedges that ringed the center of the circle drive. Fortunately, the driver’s door was still open. I was able to jump in and hit the brake pedal with my hand just as the rear bumper connected with the hedges and a very loud (to my mortified ears, at any rate) SKKKKKKKKTTTTTTCCCCH! sound.

If I had been a little slower on the draw, it would have gone through one side of the hedge, taken out a birdbath, gone through the OTHER side of the hedge, crossed the outer ring of the driveway, and finally fetched up against our neighbor, Sven’s, fence. And likely woken up the entire block. That would have been swell.

The car and me, circa September 1997.

Fortunately, there was no real damage to either car or hedge other than a few minor scratches on the 940’s bumper-this was the vintage of Volvo where the bumpers were molded in black, and not painted to match. Though my ego was slightly bruised. And as it was pretty early in the morning, there were no witnesses to point and laugh. That was a good car. Nay, a great car. Dad ordered it new and it was his company car. I remember going with him to Lundahl Volvo to pick it up in November of 1990-it was also the first car we had with a cellular telephone installed-a novelty at the time. I drove it all through high school and college, and finally sold it in August 2004. I saw it at a charity auction in early 2010, then in March or so of 2011, it was sitting at a small used car lot in Moline. Hopefully it’s still running around somewhere, but time is not on it’s side; it would be 26 years old now.

Of couse, I’ve had worse things happen to me involving cars since then, but that was the first one. What was yours?

22 Replies to “What Was Your First Automotive Mishap?”

  1. -Nate

    Trying to remember which foolish thing I did with my rusted out ’59 Ford F100 when I was 12 years old in New Hampshire….


  2. Joe

    I was involved in an accident with a funeral procession, to set this up, i was at an intersection, a large van was on my right and the procession was coming from the right, there were large gaps in the procession, i was not aware of said procession, the light turns green, i go, only to be broadsided by a 1973 Olds Cutlass which caved in the door on my handmedown 68 Electra 225 two door, lots of witnesses, the procession recieved the ticket. Many more stories, but this was the first, also was involved with a police chase where the perp robbed a flower store and became involved with police actually discharging weapons at over a hundred mph in a 35, that one ended up with other innocent bystanders either dead or maimed for life, the perps car went airborn over the top of my car and slammed into a big maple tree just after it cut a utility pole off at ten feet in the air, very ugly scene.

    • Rick T.

      Dang. Before reading this, I was going to post about the time as a new driver I put a crease in the back quarterpanel of our car but nevermind!

  3. galactagog

    I think I was 5 or 6 years old

    I jumped in behind the wheel of my parents’ piss-yellow landyacht Chrysler while it was parked in our driveway, and pretended to drive it. the girl from 2 doors down got in beside me, both of us perched on the mile-wide bench front seat, not being able to see over the dashboard

    I don’t think I did it…from what I recall she was messing with the wheelmounted shift lever, and I guess it got shifted out of “park”

    Well the neighbour who lived between us, 1 door down, was downhill….past the garden full of cabbage, lettuce, carrots, beets, radishes…past the big barrel we burned trash & stuff in ( I remember my dad stuffing a paper bag wrapped wasps nest in there once, and incinerating them all )….and that neighbour (JOE) had a really nice SKIDOO parked at the side of his property

    well the car started rolling and we careened down the hill, screaming and trying to stop the bloody car….in the end we steamrolled the SKIDOO pretty good. but it stopped the car, so no one got hurt. and JOE was pretty good about the whole thing.

    reprise: Around the same time, with the same piss-yellow Chrysler land yacht: my mom had stopped at McDonalds and I had a Big Mac and a grape juice. On the way home I felt like I was going to be sick, so while we were stopped at a light my mom instructed me to roll the window down, and stick me head out to get some fresh air & avoid messing up the car if I had to puke.

    so I roll down the window and stick my head out, back then I guess I was a good looking kid, and some lady with a stroller was waiting at the light. She gave me a big smile as I stuck my head out ” well, hello there!! ” She was quite attractive. Our eyes met for a moment, just as I regurgitated a broad swath of purple vomit all down the side of that piss-yellow Chrysler

    I can still see her shocked expression

    I also recall that purple swath was a bitch to clean off, after the drive home in the summer heat. and it stank like bile and stomach acid

    “purple rain, purple rain”

    • Mopar4wd

      My brother did the roll down the hill thing when we were little kids. We were camping and he popped the parents Dodge van out of gear and it rolled down the hill into a tree luckily missing a pop up camper with a baby napping inside. I believe he was around 5 as well.

    • lzaffuto

      I had a similar incident and it was all me. I was about 6 or 7 years old and was in my mom’s 1987? Chevy Cavalier station wagon. Mom parks in the front row of the grocery store and runs in to get a loaf of french bread. I decide to play driver and start messing with the stick shift. Well, stickshift got into neutral, and then I let go of the parking brake. The store was at the top of a hill, so the car started rolling down the lot. I pulled the brake back up and opened my door and tried pushing the car back into the spot with one leg out like I’ve seen my dad move cars in the past.. of course I don’t have the strength for it, and meanwhile the car keeps picking up speed rolling down the hill so the safest choice is to get back in, close the door and wait for the inevitable. It amazingly rolled all the way through the lot and into a flat grass field next to the store without hitting any parked cars or any of the many people staring dumbstruck at the spectacle I had caused (but of course none of which tried to help me stop the car). I was fussed at but not punished like I deserved to be as I’m pretty sure my mom would have gotten the riot act from my dad if he knew she left me in the car alone by myself. I never knew she didn’t tell dad, he heard about it the first time when I told my wife about it a few years ago.

      • Jeff

        Wow, you can add me to this list too, didn’t realize it was so common. Was playing “moon rover” in my parents’ VW Type 2 (lime green with a tan top, brown stripes down the side and brown vinyl interior, we called it the mean green lima bean) while we were camping. Accidentally released the parking brake and went rolling down the hill. Fortunately the car hit a tree, causing minimal damage and stopping it from rolling into a gully.

        My first mistake in a car I owned was never checking the oil in my 1983 Honda Prelude and driving it till all the oil was gone, destroying the engine in the process.

  4. Watchseeker

    This isn’t my first incident, but it’s probably my most amusing…
    I grew up an Air Force brat, in the early 80’s we were stationed in upstate New York. This particular air base had an off road area a well as a bunch of dirt roads that were great fun to hoon on. At the time I was driving a beater, ’74 two-door Corolla wagon. It had a broken leaf spring, the passenger door wouldn’t open, the drivers window wouldn’t go down, it had huge holes in the floorboard, and when driven straight, the car was actually about 5 degrees crooked. Your basic beater of the era. But, it was RWD and had a new clutch so you could kind of slide the rear end out on these dirt roads.
    I used to routinely load 4 of my buddies in the car and go drive like a madman. One day, I came sliding around a corner only to come face to face with an armored personnel vehicle. The driver of the APV stuck his head out of the window and flagged me to stop. When I stop the car, the back of the APV opens up and a half dozen guys hop out of the back dressed in full combat gear complete with black face! The immediately surround my car and start looking it over. The driver of the APV asks me for my ID and proceeds to question me: “Are you TSGT Suchnsuchs kid?” “Yes sir, I am.” “What are you doing out here?” “Just having a little fun driving around sir.” “It looked like you lost control of your vehicle, did you lose control of your vehicle?” “No sir, I was under complete control of my vehicle at all times sir” “Do you realize that this is a restricted space and you’re not supposed to be out here?” “oh shit, I mean, no sir, I did not realize that I’m not allowed out here.” The entire time this conversation is taking place, these SP’s have me surrounded, I can’t go anywhere or do anything, and to top it off, one of my buddies starts crying like a little girl afraid of what his dad is going to do to him when he get’s home.
    Fortunately, the driver of the APV was a good guy. He ended up telling me to get my ass home and never go back there again or he would have to tell my dad.
    Needless to say, we never went back. However, we did harass my crying friend until we weren’t friends anymore.

  5. Disinterested-Observer

    Most of the bad stuff happened between 16 and 21, but the first one happened at 14. After getting much deserved grief from my parents for all the harm I done, I finally happened to meet one of my dad’s childhood friends when I was 18. While we were visiting with him, the guy turns to my dad and says, shaking his head, “Between me, so-and-so, you and your brother (my uncle) we must have wrecked 300 cars.” My dad just stared daggers at him, like “Don’t talk about that in front of the boy!”

  6. Bigtruckseriesreview

    My friend called me because his battery died and he needed a jump.

    I came with my 2007 S-class and gave him a jump start.

    THE IDIOT knew nothing about cars.

    He took the cables off his battery and then let them touch each other.


    My car shut down.

    Had to go to Mercedes and drop like $500 to get a new PCM and some other stuff.

  7. galactagog

    ha, funny stories all….well maybe not the $500 S class fix 🙁

    reminds me of the time my uncle needed to get a urine sample to the doctor…but he lost the little cup they gave him

    being a bit of an alcoholic, he used an empty micky bottle instead, as he had a few of them laying around

    on the way to the Dr, he stopped to pick something up at the store.

    when he came back out to the the car, someone had stolen the mickey from the front seat….

    just desserts, I guess

      • -Nate

        Sounds like my old business partner when I was much younger~ being from NYC it was always very important to him to steal from others, take your lunch, try to push up on your Lady, steal things from your car etc.

        Anyways, at the shop we had one of those soda machines that dispensed glass bottles of Pepsi and I always used and empty one as a brake bleeder bottle, left a bit of vacuum hose in it for safety reasons .

        I left it on the desk once in the middle of Summer and walked out to the lot for some reason, by the time I got back he was sputtering and choking, mad as a hornet because he’d thought he’d chug down my cold drink whilst my back was turned…..

        Talk about just deserts .

        I cannot imagine anyone grabbing as dirty wet with brake fluid on the outside old bottle with a _HOSE_ looped in the mouth and taking a sip much less a chug but greed overcomes common sense I guess .


  8. nightfly

    It wasn’t exactly a mishap, but when I first started out I knew nothin’ about nothin’ about cars. (I now know next-to-nothing.) So when I got myself my first-ever car in ’93, I fell for a too-good-to-be-true deal: $700 for a 1980 Honda Prelude. The car, to put it charitably, needed work; the fact was revealed to me at the end of the first month I owned it, when the engine threw a piston upon startup.

    But for those four weeks, man did I enjoy the hell out of that little car. Still miss it.

  9. Rod Jones

    In 1973 I was headed north on the Seward Hwy driving my 1968 VW squareback headed home to my house in Anchorage AK when a drunk doctor in a Jeep Wagoneer swerved head on into my lane. I headed for the ditch but he still hit me just behind the drivers door and drove right through the car killing the girl sitting behind me, fracturing my pelvis and knocking my girlfriends front teeth out. They initially thought I was dead and headed to the hospital in Anchorage with my girlfriend and the boyfriend of the girl who was killed. Later when the troopers discovered that I was still breathing another ambulance came and took me to the hospital where I stayed for two weeks before the doctors would release me. To this day I have no memory of the crash or the hospital stay. I had been driving since 1968 and that was the first incident of any kind that I had with a vehicle.

    • -Nate

      @Rod ;

      Glad you made it through ! .

      People who know my background always ask me why I’m so cheerful and upbeat ~ it’s because I’ve seen and know so many like you who’ve had it ever so much worse .


      • Rod Jones

        Thanks. Since then Ive managed to survive crab fishing in the Bering Sea and Colon cancer. Im not sure how many more lives Ive got left.

  10. Nick D

    I got a rented 15 passenger Chevy Express stuck in a downtown Toronto parking garage when I was 20. Six of us went north for Spring Break sophomore year of college because we (i) had no money and (ii) a few were already on deferrals for underage drinking and didn’t want to exacerbate the problem. We rented a minivan, but the rental office was out of Freestars and handed us the keys to a substantially more expensive vehicle.

    We were in Toronto for a few days of the booze cruise up the 401 and were staying at the atrocious Bond Place hotel. In one room. With 2 twin beds and NO extra space. We found a really cheap garage on the outside of downtown without an attendant and drove in because we fit beneath the height barrier.

    The stretched wheelbase, however, wasn’t accounted for when we descended down the ramp to the lower parking deck. SCREECH. Rather than back it out, everyone but me got out and stood on the back bumper. The van made it onto the lower parking deck where we left it for two days, then we repeated this process to get it out, but ended up having to deflate the rear tires (still no attendant, but there were a few horrified onlookers).

    The roof wasn’t in the best shape, but fortunately a Chevy dealer had the exact color of red touch up paint on hand. We brushed off the concrete, painted over the worst of the streaks, and went on our way. At the border, the US CBP officer asked why we had RED LIGHT EXPRESS in handwritten signs on the back window and what the hell happened to the top of the car. He laughed and waived us through after arguing with us about how our university basketball team would be immediately knocked out of the NCAA tournament.

    We took the van back back at night. The rental return checker couldn’t have been less interested in the van’s condition, let alone motivated enough to climb up to check the roof, so I’ll call that a freebie.

  11. dukeisduke

    It was fairly minor. I was a senior in high school, and I’d been driving my first car, a ’75 Vega hatchback, for a little over two months. I was in North Dallas, running some errand (hey, it was 40 years ago, so I don’t remember what it was), driving on LBJ Freeway, when the timing belt broke. The 140 was a non-interference engine, so the car basically just died, and rolled to a stop.

    I got out and opened the hood, looked around, and the popped the upper cover off (it was plastic), noticed some slack in the belt, then grabbed it and pulled it out like a snake. Well there’s your problem!

    I walked across the service road and up an embankment to a nearby Texaco station; they had the car towed over there, and replaced the belt. IIRC, the bill was $50 or $60, and the car was ready the next day. I got a ride to pick up the car, paid the bill, drove down the entrance ramp onto LBJ, and promptly rear-ended a van, when traffic stopped suddenly.

    Fortunately the damage wasn’t too bad. The cooling slots (the ’74 and ’75 had what they called “cooling slots”, a body-colored pot metal casting, for a grille) were pushed down and flat, instead of being pointy, and the headlights were pointed down and in, like it was cross-eyed. It completely missed the bumper, so it was okay.

    I drove it like that for a couple of weeks before putting it in the body shop, and the total bill for repairs was around $400.


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