According to You: The worst place you’ve dropped something
What is it about something slipping out of your hands in the car that just sets you over the edge? After all, it’s a car, not the ocean; the thing you’ve just dropped has likely come to rest mere feet from your person. But inches sure can feel like miles when attempting a rescue mission.
We asked you to share your pain—to tell us about the worst place you dropped something. A bolt, a key, a wedding ring, whatever. The answers to this question weren’t just good, they were fantastic. While everyone here at Hagerty Media feels bad for what you had to go through, we sincerely appreciate your willingness to share the experience with others.
Those defroster vents!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled off dash trim to work on something and wound up dropping the attaching screws down a defroster vent. Even if I could, I’m not going to admit it. Thankfully, we have @Scott to share a great tale about losing keys down these vents.
“Thirty years ago I was riding with my brother in law in his dad’s ‘81 F-150. We made a stop for bbq and in a moment of temporary insanity he casually tossed the keys on the dash … where they proceeded to fall into the passenger side defrost vent. After thirty minutes of attempting to fish the keys out with a section of electric fence wire, we started removing screws. We finally retrieved the keys but (miraculously) ended up with more screws than we’d started with. I guess you can’t hide talent. He never told his dad and Lord knows we both were relieved when his dad traded that truck off.”
Truck Bed…sort of
@Tinkerah reminds us all that a truck bed isn’t necessarily the easiest component of a vehicle to use—especially when you lose something in it:
“How about dropping my wedding ring down the post hole of a pickup bed rail? Had to cut open a rib under the bed to retrieve it. And it wasn’t my truck!”
A series of unfortunate engine events
Hardware and tools spend plenty of time around engines, and the Hagerty Community was full of terrible drops and falls in this regard:
- @Lee: I was adjusting the values on an Alfa Romeo 1750 cc engine, which requires removing the two overhead camshafts, which of course requires removing the timing chain. Of course, don’t ever let that timing chain fall into the oil pan! Which is exactly what I did. It took a while, but I was able to fish out the chain with a long magnet. Never made that mistake again.
- @Bryan: I once dropped a very small nut down the carb on a 1964 289 cid Ford V-8. Couldn’t get it even after taking the carb off. I took all the spark plugs out and spun the engine over with the starter and it shot out and ended up somewhere lost in the basement. Would not recommend that solution, but it worked one time for me.
- @Tom: It happened when replacing the charge tube on my BMW 335i. The barrel on the clamp fell down and landed somewhere on the belly pan under the engine. I had to jack up the car and completely remove the pan (about 20 screws) to get to it.
- @Peter: Two times: First was after staying up all night to reassemble and install my rebuilt 409 cid engine into my 1963 Impala. The last task was to install the distributor and set the initial timing and start it. The distributor hold-down clip fell into the hole where the distributor is installed at the back of the intake manifold. After a few choice words, I calmed down and found my extractor tool (the one with the thumb push button and the four prongs that come out) and carefully removed the clip. I envisioned having to pull the engine and disassemble it to remove the clip. Got lucky but I was not so lucky another time. I dropped a spark plug from the right-hand engine bank into the headers of a friend’s 1970 396 big block Chevelle. I couldn’t see or remove the offending spark plug. “It will drop out while driven” I figured. Instead, a few days later my friend calls and says “My starter shorted out. Apparently there was a spark plug down there from when you changed the plugs last week”. Not good…
- @Gred: A few years back I replaced the V-6 in my wife’s 2004 Nissan Xterra, and I dropped and lost three 14mm sockets! To this day I have never found them.
- @Jeff: Dropped a helicoil into the timing chain area of my daughter’s car. That caused a brief series of “Oh crap!” exclamations. Thankfully, it didn’t fall all the way down and was fairly easily removed with a magnet. I was trying to fix stripped valve cover bolts that were causing a tremendous vacuum and oil leak. The shop that installed it probably used an impact driver and over-torqued well past the 71 in-lbs required.
- @CamaroJoe: Way way back in the ’70s, I was just finishing assembling the Lotus twin cam in my ’73 Jensen Healey and dropped a valve cover bolt onto the head, it was like a pinball machine bouncing around until it found a hole and disappeared. Had to take the whole thing back apart, found it in the water pump. Don’t know how it got there, but maybe that’s why it always ran terribly!
- @GT500Guy: I removed the distributor on the 428 in my 1967 Shelby GT500. The O-ring (or clip) to retain the hex drive shaft from the oil pump to the distributor failed (or wasn’t there). Just as the distributor was about to clear the intake manifold, CLUNK! The shaft fell into the oil pan! You could loosen the oil pan but not remove it completely with the engine installed. Fortunately, I convinced my seven-year-old daughter (the one with the small hands) to reach into the oil pan and retrieve the hex drive shaft.
- @Marc: For me, it happened when adjusting the valve timing on a Fiat Spider. I had the spark plugs out so I didn’t have to work against the engine compression as I manually turned the engine over to move each cam lobe into position to check (and then change the spacer out if need be). When I finished the job and started reassembling everything I consciously decided to leave the spark plugs out just in case I needed to turn the engine over for some reason. Then I dropped one of the last bolts. It bounced once off each cam cover before disappearing down the No. 1 spark plug hole. I walked a mile to the Sears and back to get a magnet on a stick. It was too large to fit into the spark plug hole. I cut it apart to get the magnet out, glued the magnet at the end of an old shoe string, and gently lowered that into the hole. I managed to get the bolt out on my second try. Put the spark plug back in and then finished putting things back together.
- @Tim: This wasn’t me dropping something but the funniest thing I saw dropped and then retrieved was when someone dropped a bolt or small part down the tall fuel injection stacks on a McLaren M8 at the Vancouver Vintage races. I think it was aluminum so the magnets weren’t working. They were trying everything to no avail. A call went out on the PA for a small child who would be able to help – it wasn’t long before a fellow racer brought his 4-year-old daughter over offering her services. Dad held the little girl upside down over the stacks and she reached down and managed to grab the missing piece. There was a big round of applause from the many folks who had gathered to watch!
@Steve managed to drop something that luckily went downstream of the engine, but it still wasn’t easy to retrieve. Well, if it ever was found:
“Working at our Dodge dealership right after high school, I had the heads off a 383 for a valve job with the block still in the car, a big Chrysler. While getting some things ready for reassembly, I managed to drop a socket down one of the exhaust pipes. Hearing it slide 3 or 4 feet down the pipe, no magnet was ever going to make it down that steel pipe. I opted to leave it rather than pull the entire exhaust. I was very surprised the customer never returned complaining about a rattle.”
By the same token, @Bob dropped a piece of hardware into a transmission:
“While restoring my 1929 Model A Town Sedan, I’d finished the engine and chassis. I’d put a “dash” made of a plank on it to start it and move it. For whatever reason I had the top of the transmission off. I was fiddling with something on the wooden dash and dropped a small sheet metal screw. It bounced right into the open trans with a “Ploop.” I fished for it with a flex magnet, drained the trans, used kerosene, then compressed air and zero luck. I even raised one side of the chassis. No screw. I began to wonder if it had actually gone into the transmission, Then a few days later I walked by, looked into the trans and there was the screw. I easily plucked it out with my magnet. To this day if I have a top cover off anything, I put a piece of cardboard on it.”
A “dash” of mystery
This is a companion to the first example of dashboard defroster vents, as dashboards have so many wonderful places to lose hardware:
- @Greg: My daughter liked to help me work on the ‘Cuda. I had her holding a wrench under the dash while I tightened the other side of the firewall in the engine bay. I later discovered that a 7/16-inch combination wrench was missing, and no idea where it could be. Found the wrench 6 years later exactly where she had been holding it under the dash and had simply left it there on the fastener. It had not moved.
- @gerry: I lost an LED light in the instrument panel of my ’66 Mustang, and it took me almost two hours to find it. Turns out it was the last light on the left-hand side of the instrument panel and I found it on top of where the ashtray sits (just above it). Somehow it flew 18 inches across the back of the instrument panel, I was fit to be tied looking for it!
And, of course, losing things isn’t unique to four-wheeled vehicles, right?
- @Rod: I was working as a mechanic at a Honda motorcycle dealership in the 1970s. While changing spark plugs on a CB750—or maybe it was a 500—one of the plugs slid down a cavity in the cylinder head. I tried everything I could think of to get that plug out of there. But I only managed to push it down so far that I couldn’t see or reach it, so I eventually gave up and sent the bike out the door. Never heard another thing about it. I’m sure the bike went to its grave with the extra plug still in the head.
- @Nick: I dropped the key to my ’79 Honda CBX 6-cylinder bike while at a rural private waterski lake back in the day. Easy-peasy right? Just a big shiny key dropped just as I removed it from the ignition? Nope, after an hour of increasingly frantic searching by myself and a friend, I caught a hint of a shiny reflection. The key had fallen precisely between two cooling fins, perfectly on its long edge, hiding itself almost completely.
The stories trapped in the pit
@OLD GUY reminds us all that the pits used in service stations and quick lube facilities hide many secrets:
“I dropped many things in the grease pit in the wash bay of the service station (back when they were service stations) when I worked there in my teens and early 20s. It was a mixture of stagnant water mixed with grease, old oil and dirt. We found a lot of things when we had to clean out the ‘grease trap’ drain!”
The belly of the beast
Heavy-duty pieces of equipment may seem better because of their larger dimensions in which to drop something, but @George tells us otherwise:
“Although not a car, the worst place I have ever dropped a wrench is in the belly of a bull dozer. I had to crawl under with a jack and a wrench to unbolt the pan. Ugh!”
Hagerty Community user @GM shows us all how self-aware we should be when it comes to dropping something:
“The worst for me is I don’t know until I find it…which may be never at this point.”
Isn’t that the truth?