One billion cars is a lot of cars, as if we needed to tell you that. And that's how many cars are on the road around the world. One billion. What are the odds every single one of those cars is making the morning commute to work, or taking the kids to soccer practice, or rolling out to Disney World with the whole family in tow without a hitch? We'll save you the effort of doing some impossible math and say it's not happening. Every day, in every town, on every road around the world, there are some crazy car stories going on. Some of them end in utter destruction like when a sinkhole swallows your SUV whole. Some of them are just baffling, like when you manage to get across town in a car that's held together by whispers and cobwebs. And some are just bad luck heaped on bad luck, like when you somehow blow out a tire, fix it, and then immediately blow out the spare as well.
Where you had a family of possums in your engine or whether your car got stolen and inexplicably filled with pudding, you know a crazy car story when you hear one. Why not check out a few of our specially curated tales and see if you can relate?
A few years back we had to deal with some massive flooding in my area and most of our effort was focused on trying to save the house. We didn't have a garage for the car and honestly didn't give it much of a thought at the time. The water had already gone halfway up the car, so at best we thought it would be something to cover with the insurance company later. Then, as the flood reached its peak, we realized the car had been submerged completely. And when the water receded? Gone. Totally gone. Not swept down the block; gone. We figure it got swept to the river and maybe it's still down there somewhere.
On thin tire
I ran into a guy at college who was willing to check my car over to make sure things were running fine after it seemed like it was running a little awkward but I couldn't figure out the problem. Turns out the tire was so worn through that you could see the metal of the tire rim through the rubber. Safe to say he refused to let me drive the car to Les Schwab for a new tire and forced me to call a tow truck. Still not sure how the tire didn't just blow out.
Camp Crumple Zone
Heard of polymer side panels? You can make a car out of all kinds of materials like steel or aluminum or fancy, space-age plastic polymers. The thing with those polymers is that they are not meant to withstand intense heat by any means. We learned this the hard way over the July Fourth long weekend when we had a big bush party with friends and fireworks and a massive bonfire. People were parking willy nilly and one car was parked a bit too close to that bonfire. Everything looked fine until someone tried to lean on the side panel of the car and oozed right into it, their butt pushing a perfect imprint into the softened plastic.
Duct tape fixes everything
My grandma made the drive up from Knoxville one year after insisting we didn't need to go visit her and she wanted to see America anyway. So she finally shows up about 5 hours late in her little Toyota Corolla and says everything is fine, she just had a spot of trouble on the road but she fixed it herself and the car is fine. My grandma had no technical knowledge whatsoever so we were curious to see what had happened and how she fixed it. Turned out another car clipped her door in a parking lot and took it right off. She put it back up, duct-taped the whole thing down and drove three more states to our house.
We're on a family road trip and we'd been stuck in a traffic jam for a few hours, barely moving more than a mile or two. What else could go wrong? My son puked in the car (everywhere) by Lake Crescent. We stopped by the lake to change him and clean up the car seat. It was the night, raining and cold and windy. My husband was washing clothes in the cold lake. The car smelled horribly bad. We got back on the road and my husband was speeding to try to make up time and get out of this rancid car. The police stopped us to give us a ticket. We were lucky, the officer must have been a dad. He smelled the car and just gave us a warning.
Satan in Ritzville, Washington
I don't know whether this town is cursed or I am, but nothing good happens to me when I go there. I have broken down in or just outside of this town three times in four years. The first time the transaxle broke and my wheels locked up while going 45 trying to speed up on the on-ramp. The next time I caught a flat tire from running over three nails in the parking lot of the restaurant I stopped at. Later, my battery died at a rest stop right outside the town. It's safe to say whenever I am driving through eastern Washington I never stop in Ritzville anymore.
While traveling in Kyrgyzstan, my friends and I rented a car to travel around the country. Traveling along a gravel road that was just opened after the snowy winter, we completed shredded our tire. Thankfully, we had a spare, but the tools provided in the car were not the right size. I tried walking to a nearby farm for help but they had no tools and sent me down the road to another farm. Meanwhile, our friends had flagged down a car whose driver graciously helped us change the tire, and we were on our way. The next day, we were heading out on the same road, cautiously driving to avoid potholes and not 50 yards from the first incident, we shredded another tire. This time we did not have another spare, but we managed to get a call into a service station for help.
One time when I was pregnant, I went to the park and ride after work to pick up my car to the doctor and my car wouldn't start. I was late, stressed out, called my husband who said he'd come and see. He arrived and started the car with no problems. Turns out I just forgot to press the clutch when I started the car. I had driven that car for 3 years before that so I just blamed it on pregnancy brains ... and I missed my appointment.
Car maintenance is no joke.
When the dealership tells you to change your battery soon, you should listen. We didn't, and the battery died while I was picking up my husband at the airport. We got stuck at the departure lane at the airport at 11 p.m. So, of course, the police came to tell me it's for dropping off only and I need to move, except I couldn't. AAA came an hour later and helped us so it was all good eventually, but we probably annoyed a lot of people by sitting there the whole time.
That car exploded.
It was mid-July and we were on an uncomfortably long road trip that had started about 6 hours earlier. Traffic on the highway was slowing up as we were approaching a city and the heat of the day was oppressive. The slow pace of not-quite-gridlock was bearable thanks to air conditioning until it crapped out. The car was struggling and some dash lights came on. We tried to pull over, but things went from bad to worse in record time. The smell of smoke filled the inside of the car as more spewed from the hood. Four of us got out double-quick and before we could even look, flames took hold. People were honking and pulling to the side as we raced to the shoulder. Within two minutes the entire car was engulfed in flames as we were running for cover.
Sometimes no good deed goes unpunished. Driving a friend and their friends back home to another town about an hour away and it's raining cats and dogs. The road is under maybe two inches of water, or so it seems at first until I hit a massive hidden pothole that takes out both tires on my passenger side. I'm not in the habit of driving with two spare tires so I need to call a tow truck. It's about 11 p.m. on a Friday, not a lot of businesses are open and I've never even been to this town before. I get a truck after waiting for about an hour, and a friend comes to pick me and the rest of my friends up. Not two minutes later we hit a different pothole on the same street, busting two more tires.
Far out safari
As an animal lover, I was pretty stoked to head to a drive-thru safari attraction that shall remain unnamed. They warn you repeatedly to not open your window or door for any reason because you're literally driving through a park with wild lions, rhinos and monkeys. What they don't warn you about but what you need to be aware of is that monkeys love cars, because no one follows that first rule. We see people tossing donuts, peanuts and even bottles of Pepsi out of their windows to these monkeys. Because of that, they happily climb on everyone's car. And if you're the car not throwing out food, then that monkey on your hood can and will angrily smack your windshield and bust your mirror before pooping and peeing all over your car.
That sinking feeling
Potholes are an everyday part of life, and you avoid them as best you can. At least you can see them coming for the most part, though. I wish all I had to deal with was a pothole. I was driving down a street in my neighborhood in my SUV and with literally no warning whatsoever the entire road simply sucked out underneath me, and my car collapsed into a sinkhole. It must have been two feet across and over 10 feet deep. Luckily I wasn't hurt, but I guess groundwater had swept the limestone and everything that the road had been built on and I was the lucky first person to try to drive over the cave it created.
My parents like to remind me that when I was about 6 years old I got it in my head that if I wanted to go to Disneyland I'd just have to go there on my own since they weren't taking me. I'd snagged the keys off the little pegboard next to the door, headed out to the driveway, got in the car, started it like I'd seen my mom do 1,000 times before and promptly drove right into the tree in our backyard.
When I was a kid we'd go visit my grandma and grandpa in Florida every summer. Grandpa had a massive white Lincoln Continental that was like a yacht on wheels. He'd pay me $5 to clean his trunk every time we visited, which was a lot of money to a little kid back in the day and pretty easy money too since his trunk was cleaner than my room by a long shot. One summer as I was cleaning I saw a receipt way in the back but I had to crawl inside the trunk to get it because this thing was the size of a walk-in closet. My foot dinged the trunk on the way in and it dropped shut with me inside. I had to bang on it for a half-hour before anyone found me.
Very off road
My friends and I are pretty big fans of just about anything outdoors. We'd go camping every summer, hiking in the woods or mountains, fishing, swimming, whatever seems like a fun adventure. So a little off-road trip in a Jeep was pretty par for the course. My buddy was driving on this particular trip when we headed up north to do some hiking and camp out for a week. The terrain was unknown to all of us so it was probably more than a little stupid to just go off-road into the great beyond, but that's what we did right up until the Jeep rolled down a rocky embankment face first and got wedged against a tree at a near-perfect 90-degree angle.
Keepin' it cool
My driveway borders my neighbor's property right alongside this giant maple tree. For years, in the summer, instead of pulling all the way into the driveway which extends own my property line, I'd park closer to the road next to this tree because it was fully shaded and kept my car cooler. I'd been doing this for probably 10 years. Then one day I was sitting in my living room watching a movie and barely registering the noise I'd been hearing outside for the better part of the morning, which was the sound of a chain saw. I paid no attention to it at all until I heard the crash. The neighbor had spent all morning cutting this tree down without thinking to ask me to move my car. They didn't bother to cut it in segments and they hadn't anchored it well, so it landed right across the roof of my Audi.
I used to drive a mid-'80s blue Ford Tempo. The most forgettable car I ever had, but it was good on gas and it worked. One day I was at the grocery store getting whatever. I headed out to the parking lot and it was gone. Stolen. A Ford Tempo. I was absolutely stunned. The cops told me they'd look for it of course but to not hold out much hope. I was all set to be riding a bike for the rest of the summer and then two days later I got a call from the police. They found my car on the other side of town but it was not in good shape. I went to see what that meant, and the front end was smashed in but the entire back seat was covered in chocolate pudding.
My grandfather was something of a hoarder and liked to collect all kinds of junk. Old radios, spoons from the four corners of the globe, first-edition books, there was no real rhyme or reason to any of it. After he passed away he left everything he had to my sister and me, his only surviving relatives besides our mother. Sorting through it all seemed overwhelming at first, but it was incredible in the end. In the barn behind the house, which I had always assumed was full of junk, we found a 1971 Chevy Camaro, a 1965 Ford Mustang and a 1956 Jaguar XK-140 all under tarps and in nearly perfect condition.
Highs and lows
My parents were never really in a position financially to get me a car when I was a kid but they did help me out. I worked for two years at Burger King and saved up a few thousand dollars and my parents kicked in a couple more so I could get my first car. It was a Honda Civic, just a few years old, and in great condition. I absolutely loved it. The third day I had it, I parked it on the street across from a friend's house. I was there for about an hour playing video games when his mom came in and asked us if we were deaf. We turned the volume down, heard the sound of sirens and ran outside in time to watch the fire department smash my windows so they could run a line to the fire hydrant I'd blocked.
GPS = Got Problems Steering
My aunt and I were heading to some guy's house to get a dog he was selling. She'd found an ad on Craigslist and was really excited to get this little purebred Newfoundland pup and I was just along to keep her company for the drive. He lived out of town but he gave us the address and we put it in the GPS and headed out. About 10 minutes from where it said his house was supposed to be, my aunt and I were just chatting and she was following the directions and the GPS said to take a right turn, so we take a right turn and end up half sunk in a pond.
My buddy used to give me rides to class back when we were in college every once in a while in this early '80s model I don't know what. It was a boat of a car and it was ugly but a ride's a ride. I remember buckling into this thing and just wobbling like I was on a Tilt-a-Whirl the whole time because apparently one of the bolts holding the passenger seat down was missing. So one day I figured maybe I could fix it and lifted the floor mat. That was a mistake. The floor was riddled with massive rust holes, you could see the driveway. I'd been riding mere inches from falling through to the road for months.
A little engine hiss
I was working in a garage years ago and this guy brings in his car for an oil change, nothing particularly out of the ordinary. So I'm about to get to work and I hear this sound coming from around the engine block, sort of a clicking. The key's not in the ignition, the car is just sitting there, I can't figure it out. I start poking around and hear it a couple more times until I finally get a bead on where I think it's coming from. I go in for a closer look, just in time to see a coiled-up rattlesnake giving me the stink eye. Needless to say, I backed off pretty quick and called in some outside help.
This is not about my car but a coworker's van that we used to drive to job sites for some construction work. He had gotten into it pretty badly with his now-ex and they were going at each other tooth and nail because he'd cheated on her. So he picked me up for work one Monday morning and the van absolutely reeked like low tide on a hot day, just revolting. Seems she'd gotten into it after work on Friday and hidden a bunch of fish in the door panels, in the upholstery, the air vents, all over the place for revenge.
Leave a note
One day after work I headed out to the parking lot and saw just a massive dent in the driver's side door of my car. There was a note on the windshield but all it said was, "Sorry but it doesn't look so bad." I worked at a fairly busy office building and we had cameras in the lot so I checked with security, they ran the tape, and it turned out that my boss was the one who backed into my car as he was pulling out. He denied it at first until I mentioned the tape, then he went to his "doesn't look so bad" story. I ended up taking it over his head. Wish I could say he got fired, but they just gave him a reprimand.
How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!
Get smarter every day! Subscribe & get 1 quiz every week.
Playing quizzes is free! We send trivia questions and personality tests every week to your inbox. By clicking "Sign Up" you are agreeing to our
and confirming that you are 13 years old or over.