Our Two Cents: The strangest thing cars taught us

Aaron McKenzie

This installment of Our Two Cents takes the Hagerty Media team to a place that might be embarrassing for some, but clearly not for us. We take our job seriously, and learning is just part of the process. So here’s the question: What is the strangest thing you have learned thanks to cars?

Water can be too pure to drink

Spotless = Mineral-less? California Car Cover Co

Editor Kyle Smith’s answer is actually a good reminder for many of us that not all water is good for the human body:

“For me it is the fact that you can purify water to the point it is unsafe to drink. De-ionized (DI) water is a great thing to have in the garage for rinsing parts that come out of the ultrasonic cleaner since DI water leaves no residue or deposits due to how pure it is. My lovely wife who procured said water for me also warned me not to drink it because it will literally pull the minerals out of my body. I would have never known that if it weren’t for trying efficiently clean carburetors.”

Toyota copied my thumb

Uncanny resemblance. Stefan Lombard

Managing Editor Stefan Lombard clearly was in for a surprise when he sat in this car. Too bad he didn’t copyright the design of his thumb; this could have been a rather profitable moment!

“While riding in a 2009 Toyota Camry, I learned that the window button looks an awful lot like my right thumb, which is broad and stubby because I got the tip of it cut off doing stupid things when I was 5.”

Spark is fire?

Larry Webster

Our own Larry Webster chimed in with a synonym for an ignition system issue that none of us ever heard of before:

“How about learning new vocabulary, not just a single word? I once stopped to help a broken down motorist and when I asked the guy what’s the problem, he yelled ‘Fire’s out!’

I had to ask a few more times before I figured out that the engine had no spark.”

A car made me cooler

Ford Heritage Vault

Steven Cole Smith, Special Projects Editor, reminds us that a car can change you. A lot about you, to be exact:

“In high school, I learned the power of trading a Volkswagen Beetle for a Ford Mustang Mach 1. My posture was straighter, my nose smaller, my hair silkier, my jokes funnier—and my grades were worse. There’s always a tradeoff. But it was worth it.”

Just because it looks aerodynamic…

Countach 1971 Geneva Debut car

Editor-at-Large Aaron Robinson likely had his heart broken when he learned that some of the icons of high-performance motoring were actually pretty terrible in a wind tunnel.

“The mind reels, but I have to say that it was weird learning that cars that appear aerodynamic by being low and dagger shaped (Lamborghini Countach, Corvette, multiple Ferraris) are actually aerodynamic bricks, while dopey bulbous vehicles like the Toyota Prius slip easily through the wind.

Mother Nature is a terrible judge of beauty; note that all the cars that run in the LMP classes at Le Mans are uniformly hideous while being hugely aero efficient, while the spectacular Jaguar D-types, Porsche 917s, and Ferrari 330s from a much earlier age are just really bad lifting bodies. If they were really serious about reviving racing, they would ban wind tunnels.”

Plans are overrated, go with the flow

Porsche Classic 911 restoration 9

Editor-at-Large Sam Smith wants you to see the forest for the trees, to see that your estimations aren’t necessarily your reality:

“Don’t underestimate. Hell, don’t overestimate. For that matter, maybe don’t estimate, period, just go with the flow and hope for the best. Nothing you start ever ends as you expect. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. No project, friendship, or job is ever entirely predictable—and if it seems that way, you probably weren’t paying enough attention.

It’s a funky little trap, the delusion that experience generally translates into an ability to see the future. But you never fully realize what a given moment, person, purchase, or experience has given you until years later. All you can do is be optimistic, hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and keep slugging.”

You are not unique

Getty Images/Westend61

No, that’s not his nihilism rearing its ugly head; rather, Editor Nathan Petroelje is letting you know that the problem you might be facing is very likely not the first of its kind—cars or otherwise.

“This might sound stupid. Probably. That thing that you’re trying to fix on your car, no matter how strange and improbable it may feel to you, has likely happened to someone else. If you’re lucky, they documented exactly what to do, on exactly the car you are about to do it on. If you’re mildly lucky, there’s a documented process to fix it on a car very similar to yours.

Struggling in silence with a problem is very, very rarely the right choice.

And that extends far beyond the garage. You’d be surprised what some folks can relate to, if you simply offer them the chance to do so. Empathy is a powerful thing. Facing your flaws is a very brave thing to do. Asking for help from a community—other car owners, your friends at the golf course, your family—is pretty much always going to produce a better result quicker. “

It’s not impossible, you’re just doing it wrong

Try harder and they will interchange. Sajeev Mehta

One of the strangest things I learned thanks to the years of restomodding Fox Body Fords is that just about anything is possible. The only problem is that you may not be the right person to make it happen. Either you seek out that special someone (as it were) or you learn the information/skills necessary to accomplish the task. This can also involve ridiculous amounts of money, but the car hobby isn’t about making money for many of us. Sometimes the experience of “making it happen” is paramount. And I certainly don’t mind the occasional bank hemorrhage to accomplish something I truly want for Project Valentino.

That said, it’s getting harder and harder to find qualified people to accomplish your task(s), but they still exist. Even if you don’t work with them, just talking to them helps you achieve your goal. (That and instructional videos online; they are priceless these days!)

So now we throw the question to members of the Hagerty Community: What is the strangest thing you have learned thanks to cars?




Check out the Hagerty Media homepage so you don’t miss a single story, or better yet, bookmark it. To get our best stories delivered right to your inbox, subscribe to our newsletters

Click below for more about
Read next Up next: 1978 Buick LeSabre Custom: When Coupes Ruled


    This came a while back (probably my teen-age years, which is why it seems so obvious now) but the people you end up trying to impress with you car, aren’t the people you *think* you’re going to impress with your car. Girls, for one. I was shocked (well, teenage me was shocked) to find out that a clean, functional, well-kept car will go much, much further towards impressing the vast majority of the fairer sex than some ridiculous muscle/turner/exotic car will. Doesn’t apply universally, of course, especially given the demographic cross-section of the HDC, but it rang true more often than not.

    Or at least those girls that were impressed by the “ridiculous muscle/turner/exotic car” were most probably not girls you really wanted to spend your fortune on/life with. Ask me how I know (well, actually, don’t – but consider that I’m twice married and see if you can figure it out)…🙄

    Part of me always wanted the car that would wow the girls. Part of me always wanted the car that would wow me, and that part has historically won

    Aerodynamics is a funny thing. The submarine folks say that a body of revolution (think blimp shaped) is the most efficient form underwater. I imagine the same largely holds true for air, but I imagine that compressability thing throws a monkey wrench in the works. The internet is loaded with wind tunnel tests that prove pickups with the tailgate up are more aerodynamic than down which tends to be contrary to common sense

    Not so in all instances. I could drive my 76 Ranchero with a 351 2bbl from SoCal to Kingman Az with the tailgate down & get around 25 mpg. Less than a full tank. Started out once coming back & forgot to put the gate down & in less than 100 miles sucked down a quarter tank & then realized what was happening

    Doctor here—deionized water is safe to drink as long as you have a normal diet. If you are electrolyte deficient, it may pull some electrolytes out of you but probably not enough to matter. Now, not sure why you would want to drink DI water!

    Thank you for clarifying. I can only imagine my lovely wife is just assuming I am an idiot (rightfully so) and keeping me on the safe side.

    I recently was fixing up a 2005 Mazda 3 for my granddaughter and had something happen that really makes me scratch my head. I had completed an oil change and had put the required amount of oil in. I checked the dip stick and it was barely showing on the stick. Huh! There wasn’t any sign that the stick,tube or anything else had been damaged or altered. The car was on level cement floor in my garage. Not believing what I was seeing I checked it again and it was right on the full mark. What gives here? This wasn’t some one time fluke as it does it every time that it has sat for a period of time IE: overnight. I’ve been working on cars every since I was a teenager and I’m into my 70’s have never encountered something like this. I guess it goes to show that cars can through you some curve balls even when you are a well seasoned wrench handler.
    Would love to hear a plausible explanation for this as it has really piqued my curiosity. My guess it has something to do with surface tension but no data to prove it.

    Maybe all the oil hadn’t trickled down into the pan because the oil you put in was still cold? Oil pans fill quicker otherwise…but to be honest that’s all I got and I am stumped.

    The thing is I checked it the next day after it had sat all night and it did the same thing. If I checked it after driving the car it would read properly the 1st time. It only happen after it sets for some time and the engine is cold. Pretty Strange!!!

    Another doctor here. The other doctor was correct. Deionized water won’t do any harm, but too much fresh water can dilute your blood electrolytes (like sodium), tap water included. Here in Tucson, we have the opposite problem: you turn on the tap slowly so that the unbelievably hard water doesn’t crack the porcelain (a mild exaggeration). I drove a 2-stroke SAAB in my teen years; never impressed a girl, but impressed the heck out of me and still does.

    60s era Mopars had lugs that tightened in opposite directions from one side to the other. Don’t ask me how i learned this.

    One things cars have taught me. It’s not the most complicated thing gone wrong. Our minds seem to wander to worst solutions to problems. Usually simple solutions effective repairs. No fear. Keep it simple!!

    Nathan Petroelje said it for me.
    I had a GF with a 1982? Rabbit. After spending over a cold hour troubleshooting it, I found water in the fuel pump relay (What?).
    The next day I wrote up the experience on the Internet newsgroup rec.vw, I was surprised by the number of responses that told me to clean the drain holes of the tray below the windshield wipers.
    Water, or melted snow that couldn’t drain out would work it’s way under the windshield and drip behind the dashboard onto the you guessed it.

    What have cars taught me? That slow and steady might win the race. That electricity is as mysterious as it appears. That standing back after a detailed visual examination can yield better results. That patience is indeed a virtue. That the fact that it went together in the first place is no guarantee that it will go back together again. That carburettors are as complicated as they appear to be. That most often humility is the better course and that someone qualified has a skill that could make life better, usually probably will. That craftsmanship is to be admired. Finally, that Youtube is my friend.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *