What Places Are Notoriously Hard to Reach on Your Car?

A set of TTI headers helped the modern Hemi fit around the steering, starter, and suspension of the 1968 B-body chassis. Mecum

We all have to dig into our vehicles to repair, replace or simply retrieve something at some point. Be it addressing a bad exhaust manifold gasket, failed starter, or your cell phone that slid between the seat and the console, some places are notoriously hard to reach. Sometimes it feels like this was created by design, especially when you need to get something done quickly.

This week’s question should generate many unique stories and relatable tales of painfully difficult things to reach in your vehicle. There are just some places that are so much harder than others, especially on some vehicles. For me, it’s the ritual of doing an oil change on my Lincoln Mark VIII, because I truly hate the filter location.

Even taking this photo was a challenge, but that’s mostly due to the air suspension dropping when parked.Sajeev Mehta

See the Mobil 1 oil filter nestled deep within the engine cradle, further obscured by the anti-roll bar underneath? Granted, I’ve made this job harder for myself, as said bar is a much larger piece from Addco. While access to spin the oil filter off from the block is straightforward, the oil pours down the engine cradle (all around the pictured metal/rubber hose) and collects at the divot in the cradle’s sheetmetal. It’s a mess, especially since there’s another divot which requires careful placement of your oil pan to ensure it catches used oil from both locations.

It’s a hot mess (literally), but I haven’t even discussed the real chore: getting the oil filter between the engine and that Addco bar. The trick is to stick your pointer finger in the oil filter, clamp down with said finger, and pull down hard so it slides past the bar.

I’ve owned this car for over two decades and can change the oil without frustration, but this filter is still “notoriously hard” to reach. So now I shall kick the question back to you:

What places are notoriously hard to reach on your car?


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    BMW 2002 owners who have not relocated their battery to the trunk (or under the rear seat as I did) know the struggle of trying to remove the oil filter with the full size battery in place.

    My cars are not too bad right now. Other than having to remove an intake to change the plugs on the 3.6 most things are easy.

    Now the things from the past were a number things on BMW models. I had a Bavaria that you had to remove the oil filter canister or the sway bar to get to the filter.

    The worst was the 3/4 Ford van with a International diesel the filter was over the crossmember and would run every place. Tranny fluid was filled by the dip stick and it was too far forward from inside and too far back from outside to fill. I had to rig up a hose and funnel to fill it.

    The other issues are plugs. Some in and around any steering shaft can be a problem.

    Many imports I find it difficult to get my arm down and in to reach some things.

    Head bolts on a Ford truck. Often it was easier to jack up the cab to change to head studs so they were not break.

    2002 ford 7.3 it is just amazing with how big that truck is how Compact the engine bay is I’ve had to replace almost every sensor and some of them really require a lot of contortion, but the biggest peeve is the newer cars that make you remove 17 or 21 bolts to access the drain plug. I know That certain manufacturer Porsche don’t ever want you to touch the car and have those unrealistic oil change intervals of 10,000 miles having to remove that under cladding for the oil drain plug access is ridiculous and having to remove that huge air cleaner and part of the intake on the Cayenne to get to the oil filter is Just ridiculous

    It took several years of looking, but I
    A friend took pity on my struggles and found a strap type filter wrench with a double jointed handle that makes removing a 2002 filter a snap. Been working for me since
    about 1983.

    C5 oil sending unit. Keep any car long enough and this will need replaced. On a C5 it’s at the very back, inaccessible without removing the intake manifold .

    Is it as hard as getting to the drain plugs on a Z4? A necessary item if you dont want your top motor to rust out

    I own a 2008 Honda Civic Si as a fun car, literally everything is hard to reach without disassembling 3-4 other things to reach the part you want to work on. Luckily it’s a Honda, so the hood doesn’t come up much for anything other than routine maintenance or planned upgrades.

    Honda Prelude auto transmission dipstick. It was so far down that you had to weave your arm down in. Also the oil filter is right near the converter and burns were too easy.

    I’ve had an ‘85, ‘90 and now a ‘95 Prelude SRV (VTEC Canadian model) you’d never guess lol. Never liked the oil filter being high up on the block below the intake manifold. Oil always dribbles on the driveshaft, maybe a smidge on the exhaust pipe, but the converter is out of harm’s way on my Prelude.

    The starter on my 2009 Civic was a real PIA. The top bolt is extremely difficult to remove/install. That’s the easy part. Getting the starter out and back in the car is almost impossible.

    The Honda S2000 great car but quirky: the Clutch pedal has a breakable switch on the backside. Car won’t start without it. & Americans cannot FIT in there to change it! Wife paid the Dealer $250 for a big Am. guy to take hours to swap it out when I was away on a trip! Trick is to use sticky tape on a Screwdriver to hold it in place, while you screw the bolt on while you are on your back wedged head in under the steering wheel half in, half out of this very small car. Also I haven’t replaced my slowly leaking Clutch Slave cuz of the same lack of space issue..

    3 Items. First, not my car, but a friend’s car, a 1985 Ford Escort, on which the oil filter was on the back of the engine, against the fire wall. Second, also not my car, but my sisters, changing the driver’s bulb on the headlights. Why you need to remove a cowl to change a bulb is beyond me. Third, and most aggravating, changing the driver’s headlamp bulb on my NC Miata. Look up on the internet how to change it. It’s a normal repair/replacement item! All I can say is, “Mazda, why??” (A Mazda dealer shop even had trouble changing it!)

    I recently had a headlight burn out on my 2011 Jaguar XJ. A simple pull and replace? Not a chance.
    Jack up front end, remove tires. Unscrew inner fender liners from wheel well. Remove bumper cover. Unbolt and remove headlight assembly. Replace bulb (might as well do both…). Reverse process. It took me about two hours.

    Bellhousing bolts on the top third of almost every GM V-8 RWD vehicle I’ve ever owned. Fortunately, one should not have to remove bellhousing bolts very often, but I did have a ’66 Chevelle SS396 that I raced back in the day, and engines and trannies have to come out and go into drag cars more often than street machines. I finally cut an access panel in the trans hump under the dash that was removed to get to those darned things.

    Sajeev – using a “reverse-bagging” technique to get your filter out while containing much of that drip down (imagine something akin to how people pick up their dog’s “business) – I have to do something similar with the filter getting past header tubes and frame rails on my ’66 Pontiac A-body. I generally use just a plain old grocery store bag – loosed the filter and let most of the contents seep into the bag before totally unscrewing it. It takes a little longer – but not really when I factor in how much less time I spend cleaning up oil from all over those “nooks and crannies” like I used to have to do.

    Yes, the bag on the filter is just so simple. Glad you thought of it because I wasn’t about to. I’ll try it soon on my Jeep Patriot.

    Been bagging the upside down oil filter on my 944 Turbo since 1986. You have to move the PS reservoir to unscrew the filter too, then weasel the filter out between the cam/distributor drive and the headlamp motor.

    There was a similar fix from Ford on the ’04 and newer Panther platforms. It’s a plastic drain trough that clips to the p/s lines and drains out over the front of the cross member. I got one from dealership parts department for my early production ’03 Marauder.
    Don’t think the part is available now but should be plenty in the bone yards.

    I drop the rear of the transmission just far enough to allow a swivel socket in a very long extension bar to fit in there.

    1969 Corvette 350 with air conditioning number 2 and 4 spark plugs are next to impossible to access. It’s a little easier now that I have a lift. I can’t imagine accessing these on a big block with air conditioning

    I agree on the spark plugs on my 71 Corvette 350 w/AC, but I have found that loosening the bolts to allow the compressor to swing up and partially out of the way helps. My biggest struggles have been 1) changing the fuel pump, which is wedged between the upper control arm, frame, motor mount and exhaust manifold (just as bad on my non-AC 65 327) and 2) replacing the speedometer driven gear on the 71 with a Turbo 400 – there is little clearance between the trans and the floor pan tunnel, and the trans cross member and exhaust pipe make if very difficult to reach. I will admit it was easier in my 30s than it is now in my 70s.

    I have a ’69 350 as well. Agree on the spark plus. Even worse is getting under the dash to do any work there. Feet up, head down, no room to move and if you need another tool, well you get to climb in out again….

    I have a 1968 Pontiac Firebird, 350 with A/C that I bought in 1975 at 17 for my first car. Next to the top bolts on the mating the transmission to engine I think the most difficult parts to get to are the passenger side rear two spark plugs. It looked like the had never been replace by the first owner. The car had 72,660 miles on it when i purchased it. We had to remove the right from wheel,go through a small opening in the fender near the upper control are and remove the spark plugs by feel (since we couldn’t see them) using a universal socket. Needless to say it then ranv like a V-8 instead of the 6 cylinders that were actually firing.

    My son’s 2007 Civic Si was the same! It was almost impossible to reach the oil filter without crazy contortions and using a leather belt wrapped around the filter and pulled to loosen it enough to remove it.
    My former 2010 Dodge Journey’s battery was hidden behind the left front wheel fender liner. Impossible to access, and expensive when paying someone to do what should be a simple DIY, to replace a bad battery!

    Depends on the car

    On the 65 Impala… not much

    72 F350… same story… not much

    74 Vette – anything in the dash, behind the engine, or over top of the transmission. PS pump was hard to reach until I relocated alternator to the passenger side

    90 Allante – anything between the firewall and engine

    94 Blazer – not much

    12 Beemer – haven’t had to do much with mine… but for others… early 2000s 3 Series underside of the intake manifold is a mess, and everything important is down there. Later years they seem to have cleaned things up. Removal of the air cleaner generally gives good access.

    Mine doesn’t exactly get a lot of miles, so that’s one feat I haven’t tried yet. I know folks with TPI Camaros back in the day used to tell me they took the tires off and did them through the wheel wells

    Agree with the ’65 Impala with a small block anyway. I could sit in the engine compartment on work on it and replacing the clutch only took a couple of hours with the car on jack stands.

    The difference between a difficult job and an easy one is often the right tool. A poor design on an oil filter is one thing but bolts in tough places are often a matter of swivel sockets.

    Same on spark plugs. That one tool can change many things.

    I agree on that. Recently I was going to pull the plugs on my I/O boat with a 302 Ford engine. No combination of spark plug sockets, extensions, or universal joints I owned would let me get a wrench on those plugs. A friend turned me on to a 5/8th-inch sparkplug socket and after a quick trip to AutoZone to get one it was quite easy to remove and install those plugs.

    On a Z32 Nissan 300ZX, that would be everything other than the dipstick.

    It is the epitome of 10 gallons of “stuff” in a 5 gallon bucket. Literal oragami how they fit it all under the hood.

    I hear ya. That plus anything around the v12 engine is difficult to get at. Replacing the cam cover gaskets involves removing the fuel rail, injectors, intake manifolds, and a bunch or other stuff. Dropping the transmission pan requires removing the trans mount and disconnecting the exhaust pipes.

    Porsche 928 shifter linkage bushings and springs . left the springs out finally after two days of struggle works fine

    Hardest Job I had was on my wife’s 2005 Corvette. Had to replace the mode door on the air conditioning system. Took out the complete dash assembly down to the fire wall then had to go under the hood and remove the intake manifold to get to the heater and ac hoses. Took me about five days , but then I am retired so time was not an issue!

    Two Volvo issues – heater fan motor 140/240 ’73-’93. Hard, but harder by the book. Rocker shafts on the PRV V-6. Best way is to cut holes in the firewall and change from inside the cabin. Stupid.

    The blower fan on these cars is legendary (the joke is the engineers built the car around the blower box). Mine never failed but multiple forum posts indicated it was far faster to just sawz-all the housing open then glue it back together.

    But the crank position sensor on my 1991 manual 240? It took multiple 1/4″ extensions and u-joints to even get a socket on the retaining bolt, which came out easily enough, but the sensor itself would not budge and there’s zero space in there between the firewall and the block to pry on anything. If you ever have the engine or trans out, change this thing proactively (it turned out my misfire was bad plug wires, not the CPS) if your car has one.

    I agree. I have a NA and I still wonder if it`s easier by removing the front passenger wheel. There is no easy way.

    Add a remote filter, then it is on the firewall where you can reach it! my NA has a cold side supercharger, so that was the only choice!

    I did the first oil change on my NB (2001) after I bought it in 2014. Been to a mechanic friend (with smaller hands!) every time since!

    My father-in-law had an early seventies Ford truck with a 390. The passenger rear spark plug was physically impossible to remove, without somehow removing the inner fender or dropping the drivetrain, disconnecting the motor mounts, and jacking up the engine. This was in the mid-eighties and I don’t think it had been changed since new.

    Any car made in the last 20 years has limited access under the bonnet.

    It’s as if the manufacturers want the owner out of the “loop”. The ideal loop is Maker Dealer Bank. The owner mucks up the whole process. That’s why there’s a cover over the entire engine now. Check the fluids, close the hood, shut up and enjoy the product.

    My SO’s ’08 Avenger, case in point. A leaky oil sending unit. The computer told me. A diagram showed what appeared to be an easy reach from underneath, on the side of the block between oil pan and exhaust manifold.

    Up on jackstands, I could plainly see the $35 leaking unit, and fit a short socket over it. But that’s all the tool that would fit, and there was no way to loosen it. Advice from rubberneckers resulted in more frustration. A Rube Goldberg series of wobblies, extensions, even vice grips was futile.

    I determined it was no job for a shade tree mechanic. I called my wrench of choice. He could fit me in the next day, but would have to charge me about $50 labor for the time and he laughed after looking at the diagram.

    Both he and his assistant spent an hour getting the sending uniti out. He had never seen such a poorly designed access. But then, given it’s Chrysler branding, it figured.

    That’s why I drive old cars made the last century and easily accessible for the shade-tree wrench.

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