How many items on your vintage car or bike cost less than $10, but could leave you stranded someplace? It turns out that there are quite a few, and I thought it would be interesting to list those that I have personally experienced. It would be great to get your additions in the comments, but here they are :

Points:  These critical ignition system components are simple, inexpensive, and wear over time. Not a problem back in the day when every auto parts store stocked them, but try getting a set for your 2002 at the Autozone in western Arkansas. This is enough of a problem that several companies are in the business of providing better performing electronic ignition systems (eg: Pertronix, Crane) that do not wear. However, try finding a Pertronix Ignitor at the Autozone in western Arkansas. Many vintage owners (myself included) carry points in a Ziploc in the toolkit to revert to if the electronics fail. What irony, eh?

Condensor: The partner in crime of the points. Unlike points, they often fail without notice. Same remedy as points, and I have one in the Ziploc.

Bleed Nipple:  These can seize in the caliper or snap off on removal (always a fun time). However, if you need one in a metric size, they may not be around.

Wiper Blade:  I had one of these liberate itself from the wiper stalk. In pouring rain. At night. Thankfully, it did not score the windshield, but try finding a comparable one at the Autozone in western Arkansas. In the rain. At night. I ended up taking the stalk off the passenger side and using the wiper blade.

Spark Plug : I once needed a plug for my 356 which had failed. It turned out to be unavailable at the 2 nearest auto parts places.  I got lucky at the third place which was a NAPA.

Brake Light Bulb: Ok, technically this does not disable the vehicle, but it can be downright dangerous to run around without brake lights. Bulbs of the type you need may have been commonly available once, but there is no guarantee today.

Ignition Key: I had one almost break in half far from home. Fortunately, a friend at the rally had a key blank, and I got one made. A near miss that has me carry a blank on the keyring of that vehicle ever since.

Carburetor Floats: Age and pinholes cause this inexpensive part to fail flooding your carbs and making your bike run like a wounded rhino.

14 Replies to “Ten Dollar Disablers”

  1. Fuses, fuses, fuses. I’m surprised you haven’t experienced this one. The older fuse types are getting harder to find, and I have even seen conversion kits for some vehicles. The key thing is a great point though, I’m heading tothe hardware store :0


  2. Dear Wayne:

    I have gotten in the habit of carrying everything I could possibly need if embarking on a long trip. This includer bulbs, fuses, and a clutch cable. Yet as I write this, I am aware that I do not carry a spare key.

    Fondst regards,
    Jack • reep • Toad
    Twisted Roads

  3. I would add splitpins. I had one break while repacking a wheel bearing with grease. I know they are for insurance, but I was not comfortable driving that car without it. It was a 89 cent disabler…

  4. You said brake light bulbs, but I must add headlight bulbs. The lights on these old cars were not that great to begin with. Substituting a brighter bulb in a pinch can seem like a good idea until it burns up a wiring harness. Ask me how I know….

    Cheers mate

  5. Lots of great suggestions here! My $0.02. On old bike, a clutch and/or brake cable. They can be neatly rolled up and normally can fit inside the headlamp assembly, thereby not taking precious, and often unavailable, storage space. I picked up a great tip from my oldest son. He used to do paintball and they make plastic tubes for carrying spare paintballs. The lid snaps tight and they can carry a lot of ‘stuff’. Inexpensive, compact, and generally weatherproof. They can be stowed in a variety of places.

  6. Gas!! I had some bad gas leave me stranded and pissed ! I went through everything else until I discovered the real cause…. Aaarrrggggghhhh!! Still makes me mad.

  7. More than $10, but I lost a whole wiper arm in pouring rain. It did score the windscreen, so I eventually got a new one. The $5 acorn nut was to blame….I’m better now and can speak about it without twitching…..almost…

    Great Blog.

  8. Dear McManic,

    Very good point, I’ve never been stranded by a fuse since back in the days when cigarette paper could bridge them, but they are an obvious one for this list.


  9. Dear Jack,

    The keything was a scary near miss. On BMW R bikes, you can just borrow a key, but on everything else, you are going nowhere unless you hotwire the thing.


  10. Dear MGA2Z,

    Splitpins are a good one. You need the right size, and I can understand not feeling comfortable at speed with one missing. Thanks for the comment.


  11. Dear Wayne,

    Cables are a great add to this list. You certainly won’t find them at the local Autozone !! Great tip on the paintball containers as well. I will have to look for one.


  12. Dear Barnfinder,

    Easy now, its gonna be ok. Just go to your happy place for a while….;-)


  13. Dear Speedtrap,

    You may want to invite Barnfinder to the next group session 😉 I was lucky with my wiper adventure, but they always happen in the worst downpour !


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