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Real Drivers Share Stories Of The Junker Cars That Ruined Their Lives

Cameron EittreimApril 21, 2021

We’ve all got a junker car story from our past. Driving is a privilege, but it’s a privilege that’s also a necessity. A person can’t always afford the best or most reliable new car, and a driver must sometimes gamble with a junker car to get from point A to point B.

Nothing’s worse than being stranded in the middle of traffic, or even breaking down on the way to your destination. These Reddit users shared their stories about the times when junker cars ruined their lives.

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20: An Unwanted Aries

If you’re familiar with the Dodge Aries, then you’ll remember that it was one of the most influential K-Cars of the 1980s. Unfortunately, as time went on the car didn’t age well and the few that are still left are in a junker condition. Reddit user periwinkleluvr told the story of leaving a Dodge Aries in Stockton, California unlocked. “Once I left my 1984 dodge Aries with the windows down, keys in the ignition for 9 hours in a mall parking lot in Stockton, CA. No one stole the damn thing.”

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Not sure if leaving the Aries unlocked was a stroke of luck or sheer desperation. Nevertheless, the thieves didn’t fall for the bait. The Aries had some interesting features such as a 2.6 L Mitsubishi inline four-cylinder engine. But, it wasn’t enough to bring the car into the 21st century and Chrysler phased the K-Cars out.

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19: Door Flew Off

The Honda Civic has a stellar reputation for being a quality car, but that doesn’t mean that age won’t still catch up with the compact car. Reddit user hate_on_cait described a time when her best friend’s hand-me-down Honda lost its door in traffic. “My best friend was given a hand-me-down 1990 Honda Civic by her older brother for her birthday. The passenger side door FELL OFF while doing 75 on the Garden State Parkway. EDIT: This incident occurred in 2009. So the car had a solid 19 years and 3 owners under its belt when she got it.”

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The Honda Civic is generally a reliable vehicle, and then there might have been structural damage to cause this. Nevertheless, the garden state parkway is packed with traffic and this kind of incident could have been deadly.

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18: A Troublesome Cavalier

Compact cars have always been a strong seller for the price-conscious consumer. GM designed the Cavalier to appeal to small-car shoppers. Reddit user DontBeSuchAnAnnHog told the story about a troublesome Chevy Cavalier. “My first car was a 1991 Chevy Cavalier that I bought for $800 cash. The car was a piece of shit but got me around. I probably ended up paying 3x that in maintenance in the 3-4 years I had it. The cooling didn’t work properly in the car, so I had to be especially careful when stressing the engine in the summer (after driving up long hills I’d have to pull over and shut the car down so it could cool).

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“In the winter, it was no problem, because the cold air from outside helped keep it cool. It also had some sort of a leak in the driver’s side door, because I would have a small pool of water where my feet were after a good storm. This was especially bad when this happened in the winter because the damn water would freeze, and it would be like I’m ice skating in my car. “

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17: The Flappy Firebird

Pontiac is a well-known brand that brought us the legendary GTO and Firebird muscle cars. LiberalLioness told the story about the headlight problems with her 1991 Firebird. “I had an old 1992 firebird that had headlights that retracted… in other words, they fold down when you turn them off and pop up when you turn them on. Well I got this car when it was already 13 years old and every time I’d stop the lights would fall and I’d have to hurry and run out of the car and grab them and pull them up as hard as I possibly could so they wouldn’t fall while I was driving lol it’s hilarious now but it sucked back then lmao.”

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I’m sure we always remember to flip up headlights on specific cars like the Firebird. But these headlights were always problematic to live with. You’d have to replace the internal motors or worse, which is why sports cars thankfully changed to a different design.

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16: The Old Taurus

The 1997 Ford Taurus was lamented by the automotive press for its oval design, which was a bit too over the top for the time. Reddit user Drink_Deep told the story of his experience in a 1997 Ford Taurus. “I drove a 1997 Taurus as my first car when I turned 16, at the time it was already 10 years old in 2007. After about 3 years of my brother (twin) and I beat that car to death with constant usage, the transmission (automatic) began to go.

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“It would drop from (d)rive into neutral with no warning or cause WHILE driving. To get it back into drive, you had to not only put it into reverse first but, also engage it and reverse the car for a few feet, then throw it back into drive. This proved difficult on the freeway.”

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15: A Troubling Junker Corolla

Few cars have managed to keep the stellar reputation the Toyota Corolla has. But every once in a while you’ll come across a serious lemon. Reddit user BurningUpASun512 had this problem with his 1994 Corolla. “My first car was a 94 corolla. I was driving to school one day (I believe I was a junior in college) and stopped to get gas first since it was around a 45-minute commute. I filled up my tank and as I went to put the car into drive, my gearshift wouldn’t move.

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“There’s a little reset button near the gearshift that will let you put it into drive, but then my brake lights wouldn’t work. So my parents had to come to help me push my car from in front of the gas pump. Happened again 2 weeks later in front of the same gas pump. They hate me there. Then about a year later, I was driving down the highway in the middle of a thunderstorm and I realize my dashboard lights are really low. My battery died in the middle of the highway. Couldn’t wait to sell that thing.”

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14: The Cursed Blazer

Classic off-roaders are getting harder to come by and the 1997 Chevrolet Blazer was a capable vehicle. Reddit user yinznat told the story of his misfortunes with a Blazer that was inherited. “Cue me getting a new fuel pump from a junkyard, siphoning an ENTIRE TANK OF GAS out of the Blazer, and changing the fuel pump in the yard. This process did not go well, and it was the single most frustrating thing I’d ever done. I reassembled the behemoth, put the gas back in, and went to fire it up.

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“I had my grandfather come down and check out my work, everything seemed correct. Turns out, there is about a 1.25 cent fuse in the box that controls the fuel pump. There wasn’t anything wrong with the previous one. I’d spent several days covered in a gas, belly full of gas, laying in the damn yard of my grandparent’s house changing a fuel pump in a piece of garbage vehicle for ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. The best part is that the fuel gauge no longer worked. I ran out of gas twice before I drove the thing straight to the scrap yard and ended up walking away with $200 for it. I watched them tear it to shreds and never felt better in my life.”

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13: The Good Old Rambler Junker

AMC is often an understated car company from the past and the Rambler is an iconic American sedan. Reddit user yellowstone14 told the story of an interesting transmission quirk. “My mom had a Rambler. (I’m old.) Among other oddities, it used to pop out of gear going up a hill if there was too much load on the transmission. And then you would have to roll down to the bottom of the hill was steep, because you couldn’t get it to stay in gear from a standing start on a steep hill.

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“However, the best (or worst) thing that happened was one day on the highway when the front passenger side wheel assembly simply came off and went rolling down the road ahead of us.” Needless to say, these are childhood memories that are worth reminiscing about.

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12: The Trusty Junker Mazda Truck

Mazda’s B-Series pickup truck was for a long time a sales success here in America. Reddit user msmouse05 told the story of hers. “This is more of a good luck story, but my first truck was a 1989 Mazda B2600i 4×4 Cab Plus. Anyway, I had over 200k miles on it and as I turned onto my road it completely died but not before getting into the perfect position to coast right into the driveway of a neighbor.

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“So off the road for other drivers and plenty of room to check it out. Turned out the computer on board died and the cost of replacing it was the same as the truck. So, that was the end of her.” We can see that the B-Series was a great reliable little truck, comparable to the most popular models on the market.

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11: Leaky Junker Sentra Headlights

Quality problems with the Nissan Sentra have been rampant since the earliest days of the car. Reddit user red weasel told the story of a weird quirk in the taillight design. “I had the red taillight assemblies on a 1989 Nissan Sentra fill up with water, and couldn’t keep it from happening despite applying an enormous amount of RTV rubber sealant. The dealer and various garages all wanted ridiculous amounts of money to replace the assemblies and refused to drill holes through the red lens (as I would simply have done) because “[that’s] illegal,” apparently because it would produce a non-red (i.e. white) spot on the tail light.

Photo Credit: Nissan

“So I took it home and drilled holes through the red lenses myself, simply taking care to drill at an angle upward, so that from the back one still saw the only red light. Problem solved, never got stopped for illegal taillights or anything.”

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10: The Chevy Junker

Box-style Chevy trucks are a dime a dozen, and these old trucks are often passed down as gifts. Reddit user kinfolk told a story about a good laugh that he got one summer. “My friend in high school (around 2003) had purchased his first vehicle, a 1982 Chevy pickup truck. It was a clunker, but it was awesome all the same. We were cruising around town one day and while stopped at a stoplight he says “Watch this, I’m gonna gun it and see how fast I can get to 30.

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“The light turns green and we steadily pick up speed and he says “oh yeah! 0-30 in under 5 seconds!” So I reply “How fast from 0-60?!” He says “I don’t know, haven’t gotten there yet :(” Best damn laugh of the entire summer.”

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9: A Classic Junker Battleship

Ah, the ’65 Chevy Biscayne, a brick of the car that was instrumental in pioneering the golden era. Reddit user Yellowstone14 told a story about a classic Chevy. “I had a 65 Chevy Biscayne – it was a monster, but it only had a six-cylinder, with an auto transmission – and no power brakes. You had to stand on the pedal to get that battleship to slow down. Fortunately, with the six, there was little danger of rapid acceleration. And the back window seal was shot, so it leaked, which meant the back seat was always moldy.

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“But the best part was that the tie rod ends were shot, and the steering rack was worn out, so the car wouldn’t track in a straight line. You had to constantly adjust the wheel back and forth or the car would just wander into the ditch or the other lane. I bought it for $250 at the beginning of the summer, spent $50 for a new muffler, and sold it for $200 when summer was over. On the plus side, while the back seat was moldy, the front had a bench seat, and that thing was huge.”

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8: Junker Oldsmobile Delta 88

There was a time when Oldsmobile dominated the passenger car market, and the Delta 88 was at the pinnacle. Kevstev told a unique story about his experience with the car. “My first car was a 1986 Oldsmobile Delta 88. This was a luxury car at the time, and had a talking voice in it like Knight Rider, telling you your keys were in the ignition, the headlights are on, etc. So this car had tons of sensors and bells and whistles that all eventually broke.

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“There were two particularly fun things it would say- One was “Your brakes are not operating. Pullover to the side of the road immediately and test your brakes.” It also tended to overheat, so this leads to fun times in summer where I would be blasting the heat to cool the engine down while the voice would be yelling “The engine is overheating” over and over. That car broke down so much over the two summers I drove it that I worked it out and I could have leased a corvette on how much I spent on repairs. Why I kept putting another few hundred into it, is something I don’t understand today.”

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7: Third-Gen Junker F-Body Firebird

Pony cars revolutionized the way that we approached enjoying our automobiles. The Firebird was one of the pioneering pony cars in the industry. Hepna told the story of his 1986 5Spd Firebird model. “I owned a 1986 Pontiac firebird 5 speed that I had purchased for 1800$ and only had 54k original miles on it. Little to my understanding it sat outside for a while and being young and naive I didn’t think much of it. Whilst driving down a backcountry road I was revving the 8 cyl. big blockage throttle body stuck open spraying full throttle and without me doing anything!

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“At this point, I am in panic mode and try to step on the brakes as I’m climbing in speed. The brakes helped none and if I took it out of gear I was afraid the engine would blow. Now I’m doing around 95 in a forty and I turn the ignition off but the engine was still “dieseling” (I was told it does this when there is a lot of fuel in the carb.) so I was still climbing a bit in speed. I pull the handbrake and press down on the brake peddle ad hard as possible and with tires squealing it started to slow.”

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6: 1986 Honda Accord College Cruiser

How many college students have the Honda Accord been a trusted mode of transportation for? A lot, which is what Reddit user merkidemis told. “My family bought a 1986 Honda Accord for my brother to use in college. It had all the normal traits that old cars come with: manual everything, various rust spots, horrible suspension, and an AC that when turned on did nothing but turn a little light on. After he graduated and got a new car, it passed to me, and after I used it, it passed to my sister.

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“Another particularly annoying downside was that the little pulls on the inside for the locks would break. And the external locks would freeze over or get stuck somehow. By the time my sister got it, you had to go in through the passenger side door and crawl over the center console. Also, rear passengers could only enter on the driver’s side: 3 of the 4 lock pulls were broken, and simply pulling on the handle wouldn’t open the door. Plus, no power locks, of course.”

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5: 1974 Jeep CJ

Where do we start with the Jeep brand; it’s an iconic part of the automotive industry. The ’80s were a developing time for the Jeep brand as we know it today. Reddit user SiliconReverb told the story of a Jeep CJ that he still owns to this day. “Still occasionally drive my first car, a 1974 jeep CJ. It looked pretty bad on a good day but very fun to drive. No power steering or brakes, and a manual transmission. The day a new relay was installed so I didn’t have to continually move the turn signal up and down by hand was a day well remembered as a great improvement in driving ease.

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“While in high school someone broke into it, went through everything leaving on the floor, took nothing, and left a brochure with a new stereo circled on the passenger seat. On one particularly cold day in February 2007, the plastic window developed a crack; while trying to fix it with tape, the entire driver-side window shattered. The car may be able to go faster, but I will not try it. Still get terrified thinking about what happened the first, and only, time. One day driving home from college on the highway doing 70, the engine stopped responding to my control.”

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4: 1971 Junker Toyota Land Cruiser

Few sport utility vehicles have managed to be as iconic as the Land Cruiser has. This is why the SUV still commands a high price today. Reddit user red weasel told the story of growing up with a Land Cruiser. “My family had the Car From Hell when I was a teenager. It was a 1971 Toyota Land Cruiser, station-wagon model — sort of the same shape as today’s SUVs, only smaller in general scale. (They still make ’em today, but now they’re like regular cars, all upholstered and with bucket seats and stuff; back in my day, the only upholstery was the bench-seat cushions themselves, and maybe a little padding on the ceiling; the doors, dashboard, floors, etc. were plain (okay, painted) metal.

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“For its time it was a big, beefy, powerful vehicle, one of the very few of its kind in the Eastern US. It was always a thrill to see “another Toyota” driving down the road. It was a great vehicle for many years, and took us across the continent and back several times, including four-wheeling over some of the most forbidding territory in the country, but my parents never liked to replace a car so we drove it until 1981, and by then it had seen better days.”

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3: 1983 Mercury Lynx

Ford has long done platform sharing between vehicles and the Mercury Lynx was an example of this. Sharing components with the Escort the Lynx was marketed as a luxury appointed version. Reddit user reddog71 told the story of his Lynx. “It was a 1983 Mercury Lynx station wagon... Color-wise, it would have been tan if it had merely been painted — but instead, it had that fake woodgrain paneling that had been thought extinct since the Brady Bunch went off the air in the mid-70s.

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“I’d have been embarrassed had I not been waiting upwards of six years for a car of my own. Never was “beggars can’t be choosers” more true. Unfortunately, it had bad engine problems. Just braking to a stop, allowing the engine to “rev down” to “idle,” was enough to make it stall. I had it in the shop six times in the first five weeks I owned it, and I don’t remember that they ever got it fixed; a friend of mine who worked friends into science fiction stories even wrote a quick vignette about me getting it back from the dealer in a possessed, evil, homicidal and carnivorous state. “

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2: Junker VW Jetta Diesel Wagon

At the start of the 1990s, times were tough for the Volkswagen brand. Quality had slipped to all-time lowers and the brand was no longer known as the “people’s” car. Reddit user Spit29 told the story of his 1992 VW Jetta. “1992 Diesel Volkswagen Jetta. The only way to get the defrost to work was to make a sharp left turn and turn the fans on full at the same time. It would then be good until you turned the air off. Turned out to be a broken pulley. Still drive it today.”

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Diesel variations of the Jetta have always been sort of a niche product. The cars are known for being durable little tanks in cold weather. Otherwise, these cars are known for being unreliable and the parts can be difficult to come by.

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1: 1988 Toyota Corolla Junker

The 1980s Corolla models were some of the best-selling vehicles for Toyota. Putting the brand on the map as a quality automaker. Reddit user Toyosport81 told a story about his friend. “One of my friends had a POS – 1988 Toyota Corolla sedan – and one day we packed that thing full of 5 people. The suspension wasn’t very good so when he would go over railroad tracks all of us in the back would jump off the seat and come back down hard – making the back of his car slam into the tracks. He hated it. We loved it because he got so mad haha.

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This story just goes to show you how Corolla has managed to cultivate a reputation. Most first-time drivers have owned a Corolla at one point or another. The car offers a stellar amount of quality for the price, although many of this generation Corolla have entered the junkyards.

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