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What was the most UNRELIABLE car you've ever owned?
Old 10-04-2015, 03:58 AM   #1
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What was the most UNRELIABLE car you've ever owned?

With the periodic (and fun) car related polls here, thought this could be amusing - in hindsight. I couldn't envision how to do an actual poll that wouldn't be unwieldy. Apologies if you still own that car.

I've never had a terribly unreliable car, but I am still deciding between my two 'disappointing' car purchases.

My Dad had one, a Mercedes E300 (around 1990 IIRC), but all the problems were under warranty (no $). The dealer even called him just before his 3-yr warranty expired to suggest he bring it in to check for any problems. He traded the car in for another brand/marque just as the warranty lapsed, and never looked at Mercedes again. If you've read The Machine That Changed The World, you probably know how wrongheaded Mercedes was about quality ("inspected in" vs built in), I assume it's no longer true.
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Old 10-04-2015, 06:29 AM   #2
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Volvo S80 - second production year. We had previously had a 850 which was a solid, safe, reliable car. Somewhere between the time the 850 was made and the S series started, it's almost as if they decided to to switch their spending from the engineering teams to the design teams. The S80 deviated from the previous boxy lines Volvo was known for and was a really nice looking vehicle - but not so reliable. It was a few years later that the brand was sold to Chinese investors.
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Old 10-04-2015, 07:03 AM   #3
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I made the mistake of thinking that buying a Porsche 944 was a good idea. Relatively inexpensive to buy and the handling was great. The only problem was that I spent twice the purchase price on repairs in the two years I owned it. Leaks, breakdowns, maintenance... Who knew that a water pump would cost 10X what a domestic one did?

Crazy money spent for a glorified VW. I'd love to say it was worth it, but it wasn't. I was giddy the day it drove away.

Thanks for reminding me...😁


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Old 10-04-2015, 07:13 AM   #4
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Jeep Cherokees -- owned one regular and two Grand ones. The models were from the late 90s and early 2000s. The "check engine" light came on every two months or so for each of them, requiring a dealer visit to ensure no horrible things were happening to engine. Each time it was a false alarm and each time the dealer could not explain it. Also, my SO's regular Cherokee (owned during this same era) had the same "check engine" problem, and once the electronics simply died, leaving the Jeep stranded on the side of the highway. Again, the dealer (a dealer different from mine) could not explain these problems.
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Old 10-04-2015, 07:47 AM   #5
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The only one that I had that I'd really call unreliable was the DW first car (she had it when we got married). It was an early 70's Plymouth. It's only real problem was something that was wrong with the ignition system. It was an intermittent problem (hate those). Once or twice a week it just didn't want to start. Sometimes it would take 20 to 30 mins of hitting the starter before it would start. Seems like I changed out everything trying to pin it down. Starter, solenoid, coil, cap, rotor, entire distributor, wiring, battery, etc. Never found the source of the problem and sold the car.
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Old 10-04-2015, 07:52 AM   #6
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Ford E150 van, purchased new and converted. In the first year, the front brakes needed replacement after 8000 miles. Ford, bless their hearts, would not cover repairs. So I'll never buy another Ford. Also Plymouth Grand Voyager, purchased new, but the only thing "grand" about it was how many "grand" it cost me in repairs. When it started blowing smoke after a few years, Chrysler did pay for the valve repair job, due to a known design flaw. But it eventually ended up on one of the "10 worst cars to buy" list.
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Old 10-04-2015, 08:03 AM   #7
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The most unreliable vehicle I ever owned was a 1966 Ford pick up with a transplanted 6 cylinder engine out of a 1963 Ford Fairlane. The one barrel carburetor float would routinely stick, flooding the engine with gas, resulting in the engine dying. Once it died it was pretty hard get it started again.

I was just a stupid kid at the time with no money to get it fixed, so my Band-Aid solution was to carry a short 2 x 4 in the cab of the truck with me. When the engine started to run rough due to the carb float sticking, I would quickly pull over, jump out of the cab with the 2 x 4, throw open the hood and give the carburetor float bowl a good whack. This would normally shake the float loose inside the float bowl and off I would go again. You had to be quick to get float loosened up before the engine died.

That was one unreliable vehicle.
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Old 10-04-2015, 08:05 AM   #8
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My ford winstar was a disaster... $250 every time that blankety blank check engine light came on. Often to find it was nothing..
The DW has never let me forget it either. That car was a disaster.

I will never I say never buy a ford again. My Toyotas have never had a single problem. My Honda (now with daughter @ college) has 109000 miles on it and going strong. Never a problem.


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Old 10-04-2015, 08:06 AM   #9
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'91 Ford Taurus.........among many other problems, 2 transmission overhauls.....fortunately one of them under warranty. Can't believe someone paid us money for that creation in the end.
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Old 10-04-2015, 08:21 AM   #10
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No contest, the 1971 Ford station wagon that my parents "gifted" us with when we were first married. There were two major problems, one self inflicted, the other done to us by an auto shop.

First, while my parents still owned the car, they went through 3 starters on the vehicle. It is not exactly clear why this happened, but somehow they managed to chew up the flywheel during this process. So, home on break from college, Dad, brother and I undertake to change the flywheel. Step 1 - go to cousin Ralph's junkyard and pull a flywheel from another car. Step 2 - the three of us crawl under the car and, using my brother as a jack, lower the transmission. Step 3 - replace the flywheel, close up everything. Step 4- notice 3 spacers/washers left on the ground.

At this time it was mutually decided to start the car and see if it ran ok - none of us wanted to repeat steps 1-3. Everything seemed fine. HOWEVER, this was July. In December it became apparent why the spacers were necessary. One cold morning I went out to the car, put it in reverse and backed out of the driveway. Then, when I put the car in drive, NOTHING happened. Hmm? After about 5 minutes, there was a loud "Thunk" from the tranny and everything was normal. So, we drove this car for the next two winters just realizing that it needed a 5-10 minute idle period to warm up before you could go anywhere.

This was also the car that had the mysterious trait of running fine then suddenly belching huge clouds of smoke and/or backfiring and just generally deciding to stop running. You'd be cruising down the highway and, out of no where, you would lose power, the car would stutter, etc. After many weeks and several visits to shops, we finally figured out that the mechanic that had done our tune-up had not fully tightened down the points (remember those) and the timing would drift randomly during operation. However, when one would inspect the points, everything looked and felt fine.

Oh yeah, DW reminds me that this is also the car where the throttle cable broke on a Saturday night in small town upstate NY.

We were so glad to get rid of this machine.
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Old 10-04-2015, 08:25 AM   #11
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All 3 of my American-branded cars were junk before 100K miles (1973 Hornet, 1979 Mustang, 1986 Olds Cutlass Ciera). In the end, something would go wrong every month- it was just a question of what. I'd say the Hornet is the winner, though; I had to add a quart of oil every 5,000 miles.


The first car I ever had which not only survived 100K miles, but 200K, was a Japanese brand I won't name because I got killed on the financing and the buying experience was terrible. I don't want to give them any good publicity.
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Old 10-04-2015, 08:40 AM   #12
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This is an easy question. I bought a Fiat 128 in the early 70s based primarily on an absolutely glowing positive review in Consumer Reports magazine.

Worst mistake I ever made. That dog spent almost as much time in the shop as on the road.

Just one small example: The clutch cable broke so frequently that I developed the practice of carrying a couple of spares, and I could change it in under 15 minutes on the side of the road. That alone astounded some of my passengers!
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Old 10-04-2015, 08:44 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom52 View Post
The most unreliable vehicle I ever owned was a 1966 Ford pick up with a transplanted 6 cylinder engine out of a 1963 Ford Fairlane. The one barrel carburetor float would routinely stick, flooding the engine with gas, resulting in the engine dying. Once it died it was pretty hard get it started again.

I was just a stupid kid at the time with no money to get it fixed, so my Band-Aid solution was to carry a short 2 x 4 in the cab of the truck with me. When the engine started to run rough due to the carb float sticking, I would quickly pull over, jump out of the cab with the 2 x 4, throw open the hood and give the carburetor float bowl a good whack. This would normally shake the float loose inside the float bowl and off I would go again. You had to be quick to get float loosened up before the engine died.

That was one unreliable vehicle.
LOL! My first car was a 1964 Ford pickup with three on the tree and a manual choke. It was chronically hard to start in cold weather. When it wouldn't start I generally had 3 chances to start it by popping the clutch. One rolling down the driveway in reverse and 2 rolling down the hill in front of our house. There were a few times that it spent the day at the bottom of the hill and I would take the school bus. Always made sure to park it on a slope in the winter.
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Old 10-04-2015, 08:47 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by braumeister View Post
This is an easy question. I bought a Fiat 128 in the early 70s based primarily on an absolutely glowing positive review in Consumer Reports magazine.

Worst mistake I ever made. That dog spent almost as much time in the shop as on the road.

Just one small example: The clutch cable broke so frequently that I developed the practice of carrying a couple of spares, and I could change it in under 15 minutes on the side of the road. That alone astounded some of my passengers!
Did I get a ride home from college with you once? An acquaintance had one of these and it was a disaster for him as well. He was very competent with his hands, also. He also was a pioneer in the manufacture of methamphetamines, but that's a different story.
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Old 10-04-2015, 08:48 AM   #15
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Chevy Citation. Left me stranded several times, once in the middle of an intersection.
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Old 10-04-2015, 09:07 AM   #16
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1979 VW Rabbit, bought new. Doggone think would start and run, sometimes 500 miles sometime 50 ft. No warning no reason just did it. Recall the last straw a 8 hour trip Columbia MO. to KC covering 125 miles.
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Old 10-04-2015, 09:15 AM   #17
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1972 Chevy Vega. Actually was on the interstate and downshifted and the stick shift came out of the boot. Total POS and have stayed away from most GM products since since.
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Old 10-04-2015, 09:32 AM   #18
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I had a used 1992 Plymouth Acclaim that was awful. It turned out that the Acclaim had erratic electrical problems that the dealer tried numerous times to fix, unsuccessfully. Consequently, it was not only a money pit, but also it was sort of like the lottery with a 50:50 chance as to whether it would start or not on any given day. The tow truck guy and I were on a first name basis (seriously!).

I was SO glad when I could finally trade it in on another car!
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Old 10-04-2015, 09:32 AM   #19
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Seems as though Ford is taking a beating so far, though hopefully newer Fords are better? I considered a Focus, but went with a Prius on my last purchase.

Our worst cars weren't horrible, between our Volvo 850 (one major AC issue) and our Nissan Maxima (persistent emissions issues). Our Audi TT was reliable, but the cost of routine major maintenance was . When I found out how much the brake job was at 50K miles, I made sure we got rid of it before the next regular brake job.
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Old 10-04-2015, 09:42 AM   #20
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Most of my cars were worn out and broke with some frequency - thought that was normal operation and just the modern equivalent of fixing the covered wagon on the westward ho trip. Worst car (that achieved running status) was a $100 urine yellow AMC Hornet. Loathed that car with a passion. Learned that the alternator required an exciter voltage through the dash light - if the charge light bulb in the dash was burned out the alternator wouldn't work. The automatic transmission was very much like the current crop of CVT transmissions - no driving joy for someone used to standard transmixers.
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