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Question Of The Day: What’s The Worst You’ve Mangled Yourself While Wrenching?

Question Of The Day: What’s The Worst You’ve Mangled Yourself While Wrenching?

What a freaking day it’s been. Today has been my first attempt at spinning wrenches in honest effort on the rollover Explorer that was drug home as an engine donor for the Great Pumpkin Mustang, and that ode to 1990s soccer mom-mobiles has decided to turn into a bitch. The total count for the day: three scraped knuckles and one that I actually bashed open, a quick bout of rust particles in the eye (and yes, I was wearing safety glasses),  an arm that, simply put, got straight-up mangled by what is left of the windshield during my attempt at removing the mess of glass from the frame, a good bruise on the inside of my leg from where the pry-bar let go as I was trying to force one of the bashed-in doors open, and absolutely nothing to show for my efforts except a half-removed front fender and plenty of simmering anger. And blood…a good amount of blood, too.

If you spin wrenches, no matter if it’s for fun or for work, sooner or later an injury is going to occur, no matter how slight. It’s just the nature of the beast: glass, metal, and force sooner or later equals expletives, Bacitracin and some kind of bandage. The Explorer may have fought hard, but it’s not the worst I’ve endured…the C4 transmission falling out of a Ford Granada and onto my sternum takes that cake. I’ve bloodied my knuckles before, but I wasn’t like a friend of the family who wound up with a broken arm when a spring that still under load became an uncontrolled projectile during what was, honestly, a very sketchy lowering job. I’ve got scars on both arms to the knuckles from random screw-ups. I’ve had U-joint clips spring out and stick into my face. I’ve even had the misfortune to be underneath a car when a jackstand failed…if I had been an adult and not a 13-year-old beanpole, I would’ve been in a serious world of hurt.

So what’s your best injury story from the garage? Did you crush a finger while doing an engine swap? Shock the crap out of yourself while doing power-on checks? Have a wrench slip and crack yourself in the face? We’ve all been there, at the end of the day, with the cold drink and the electrical-tape bandage on, so share your best stories!

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26 thoughts on “Question Of The Day: What’s The Worst You’ve Mangled Yourself While Wrenching?

  1. john t

    yeh… where do I start? my missus thinks I do it on purpose….my right hand (I’m left handed) is a mess of scars and damage. I’ve dropped gearboxes and engines on myself, done endless dumb things…. but heres a few…once tried to put a hood on a car by myself, had towels and stuff on the cowl, hinges up, and balanced the hood in place – I could see the holes lined up and thought, I just need to get one bolt in….woke up around 10 hours later under the front of the car after I got knocked out cold with a hole in my head leaking clear fluid…went inside and slept for about a day on the loungeroom floor…next one, trying to drill a hole in the back of a spotlight with a 1/8″ drill sitting on the driveway – didn’t want to put the spottie face down on the glass as I might scratch it so I put it on my leg…drill skipped and drilled up to the chuck into my leg. I was OK til I looked at the drill to see my leg fat sizzling in the flutes…THEN I passed out. Theres a million more tales of stupidity but you get the idea…

  2. Brendan M

    One of my co-workers had a bad accident in the garage, nine months later he was a dad. That’s an injury that lasts a lifetime.

  3. Gary

    I set my shirt on fire.
    I was under my car grinding weld slag off a frame bracket and suddenly smelled smoke…

  4. DanStokes

    In my 70 years, 65 of them have had various amounts of wrenching (the early years were mostly “helping” a neighbor). So the errors are many and varied but perhaps the worst was work-related. I worked about a year in the heavy equipment world for a BIG contracting company (anyone who has met me knows how silly this is – I’ve never been more than 5’6 1/2″) but there I was. So we were driving track pins out of a big ‘dozer using a B&O (basically a big drift with a sledge hammer-type handle to hold it) and sledge hammer (they were too cheap to buy the hydraulic pusher) so several of us were taking turns standing on the track and swinging the sledge while another guy held the B&O. So I got in a few good hits and the sledge bounced back and caught me in the foot breaking one of the metatarsals. Hurt beyond hurt. Off to the company doctor and an extended weekend at home.

    When I came back on crutches there was no “Sorry dude” or anything like that. I asked an old-timer who was a nice fella and he said that in this business you get a broken bone every few years and no one thinks much about it. I decided I was in the wrong business and moved on shortly thereafter – I’m just not big enough for that work.


  5. orange65

    I have set my shirt on fire a couple of times, cut myself with a grinder a couple of times, but the worst was when wrench slipped and I cut my hand on the frame of a truck. Required stitches. And i passed out from the sight of blood. Feeling queezy right now just thinking about it.

  6. Brent

    I have plenty of scars. Most notably, my index finger on my right hand has been broken, sliced open more times than I can count, fingernails lost, etc.
    I’ve told my wife if it doesn’t make it with me till I die, we have to preserve it somewhere. Its been through a lot!

  7. Rog

    When I was thirteen I managed to put a screwdriver through my hand while trying to push a piston pin out of a Honda 50 mini trail. It didn’t hurt went it went through, but because the screwdriver blade went trough the center of the piston pin, and the head of screwdriver couldn’t go through, I was now part of the engine! I can tell you it hurt a lot more pulling it out, than it did going in:)

    1. Donny Chops

      At 70 I have countless battle scars but now I have diabetes too and parts of a diabetic go numb { arms , legs hands } so I don’t even know I’m wounded until I see blood dripping or my wife says how did you get that cut on your head, or leg. Diabetes is not fun.

  8. Scott Liggett

    Amazingly, I have never hurt myself to the point of needing an ER visit….while working on cars. Cuts, burns, etc, are the norm. I have Bloody Knuckle Syndrome. That is where you see your knuckles bleeding, but don’t remember hitting them on anything. Two worse were very painful and bloody.

    First, trying to rebuild a steering box on the car while lying under it with the two left tires up on the curb because dad wouldn’t give up his garage to his son’s project car. Using a 1 lb hammer trying to drive the seal back in with a homemade driver made of a large deep socket. Was getting mad, swung hammer very hard, missed deep socket and hit thumb. I hit it so hard it split down the sides from the knuckle to the tip. Whole neighborhood heard colorful metaphors of the four letter variety.

    Second, I using wire brush on drill cleaning old rusty alternator bracket. I was wearing gloves. But, those wire brushes like to grab those. The wire brush ran off bracket, up my glove then went under it at the wrist cuff, twisting itself into the glove. It was spinning fast enough to take skin off on my wrist, right into the main vein. I bled like I slit my wrists. Two hours and a half roll of paper towels and duct tape later, I finally got the bleeding to stop. Should’ve gone to the ER for that one.

  9. jerry z

    The worse would have been hurting my back a few times lifting transmissions, rears, and engine blocks. Never said I was a rocket scientist!

  10. Weasel1

    Busted knuckle syndrome many times. Worse time was trying to move C6 trans by myself, hands slipped, 3 broken toes. put a real damper on my dancing with the wife for a while


    HAHAHAHAHAHA! Dude, military aircraft maintenace. You’ve seen me walk and try to get out of a chair. The nastiest short term injury was when I smashed the fingers on my right hand installing an engine one night. broke 3 fingers, they were so swolen had to burn holes in my fingernails to relive the pressure. The crane swung too fast as I was holding the sling, smashed my fingers against a magnesium gearbox housing…the pain was terrible and lasted for days.

  12. Loren

    22 y.o., had two weeks off and $400 in cash to spend during the time. First day, pulling the wiring out of under the dash on a wrecked \’68 Camaro conv. I bought for parts, something was stuck so I pulled harder and harder, when it let loose I jammed my little finger into something sharp and half severed the end of it. Had to drive a stick shift to the Emergency with rags around my throbbing hand where they broke two needles sewing across the fingernail as they were having to push so hard (no drill, no glue I guess, incidentally the local anesthesia didn\’t reach there so I had to feel every bit of it). At the end of all that, a bill for $400.

    That Camaro also had bits of someone else\’s skin and hair hanging in the dash/windshield area from the person who had crashed it.

  13. cyclone03

    The set up: I wanted to pre run and break in the stroked 390 for my 68 Mustang so I built a stand to hold the radiator and a box fan for cooling.I also made a stand to hold the engine.Truth be told the engine stand was just a rolling cart with some 2×6″ that the pan rail set on,it was plenty solid for the jod,I put castors on it so it rolled around ( !).

    The day came and I rolled the engine out in the driveway,set up my radiator box,hooked up the fuel and electrics and connected oil pressure and water temp gauges as well as a tack and fuel pressure gauge.
    The only problem was water hoses,mostly the lower radiator hose,FE Fords have a 2 1/4″ inlet on the water pump,my radiator is 1 3/4″ so an adapter of some type was needed. I found a plastic on at the auto parts store and cut and clamped it together and was set.

    I prepped the area for safety with a fire bottle,a 5 gal bucket of water and the garden hose pulled out ,water on ,at the ready.

    Lighted it off set timing and began cam break in.

    All going well,a few water leaks but no problems.

    15 minutes in,temp way up at 220 I walk to the left side of the engine to change the RPM and the lower radiator hose separated at the plastic adapter blasting the hot water on my right calf down into my shoe,oh,I was wearing shorts. I killed the engine then grabbed the hose,the black hose stretched out in the driveway with about 50 ft out in 90deg sunshine,the pain from the engine water masked the pain from the heated water hose. I yelled for my wife to get the ice tray from the freezer,she of course had no idea why and had to 20 question me,finally I got it and dumped it in my 5 gal bucket and started to cool everything down.

    I ended up with a blister from my mid calf down to my ankle on 3/4 of my leg as well as about 6 weeks of pain.

    Honestly I was lucky it didn’t get infected because I didn’t go to a doctor to get it checked.

  14. Chevy Hatin' Mad Geordie

    Took WAY too much LSD way back when and walked into the garage and started talking to all my favourite cars that were all gleaming and sparkly then BANG!

    I was hit by a car as I was actually standing in the middle of the road.

    The funny thing was that I didn’t actually have a garage or even a car back then…

  15. Davey

    In my work environment it’s not officially a project until I’ve set myself on fire and bled on it. Both of which I do with alarming regularity.

    The 2 I’ll share:
    I was climbing out of the back of my Scout project (which is up on a drive on hoist). My foot misses the ledge and I start a slow agonizing fall/ roll under the Scout. As I am frantically grasping at edges and “anything” to stop the inevitable I can feel the pads of my fingers get torn off my right hand. I fall to the ground slamming the edge of the hoist into my kidney and trashing my whole left side. That one hurt for months

    Air power riveting tool. The tail of the rivet isn’t being ejected properly. After clearing the mechanism about 15 times I skip the step where you unplug the air from the tool. As I’m fumbling about with the cover off of the action area I fire the mechanism. The piston takes the pad off of my left thump and crushes it. It left me with a postage stamp sized flap of thumb pad, still attached in one corner. The nail was crushed and the bone exposed. I wrapped it in gauze, taped it up and hoped for the best. Surprise surprise… it actually healed… sort of

  16. Roger

    The worst? Many, many years ago (yea, I’m old) I was changing out a bad u-joint in my father’s ’81 AMC Concord using a cheap old Chinese deepwell socket and a hammer, and resting the driveshaft on a brick. Not too smart. Well, I’m hammering away on that u-joint and it just didn’t want to move so I did what any sane person would do… I got a bigger hammer. One hard swing with that mini sledge hammer and that cheapo socket shatter into several pieces and my left index finger then took the brunt of the impact, pretty much shattering it. Every time I look at my oddly shaped left index finger I think about that day…

  17. Rock On

    I have had a few emergency room visits courtesy of my cars, but nothing to compare to some of the above stories. My buddy on the other hand was installing big block coil springs on the front of his 69 Chevelle when the spring let loose from the spring compressor. Hit him dead center in the forehead and knocked him out. You could see the outline of the coil spring on his forehead for a good three months afterwards.

  18. Joe Jolly

    I have 40 years of wrenching and 9 7/8 fingers to show for it. I have twice touched a spinning fan blade with a digit, one left me with a broken thumb, no thumbnail and 7 stitches. The most painful? I was working on an FMX transmission linkage arm and punched the edge of the case when the wrench slipped. It didn’t completely sever the tendon right then, the tendon broke when I bent my finger to show the boss what I had done. That was my maximum 10 of 10 pain scale moment..Did I ever tell you about the time a strand of clutch cable wire went through the palm of my hand and came out the other side??

  19. Gump

    Have smashed my fingers many times with hammers and various heavy things. My dad whacked my hand dead center with a mallet while it was on the back of the diff housing of his dragster while we were lining it up with the chassis mount. The worst was a cup brush on a grinder take a divot out of my face while knocking the old rusty yellow paint off my car. Caught an edge on the inner fender, and there went a nice square of skin off my cheek. Worst part is I was still in high school, so I had a week of jokes at my expense. Luckily it did not scar which I owe to whatever ointment I immediately put on then used until it healed.

  20. j dwyer

    a friend of mine was attempting to pick a lug nut from the socket on his air gun when he hit the trigger and cranked the nut over his first knuckle then his buddy reversed it and took it off

  21. Spanners

    You guys are gold !

    I feel alot less like I’m accident prone after some of these stories.
    Usually I’m into the first aid box as often as I am the refridgerator and the staff at the local medical centre feel like family.
    Often the remedy though is to ‘TAKE A CEMENT PILL AND HARDEN UP” and the scars say “REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED LAST TIME DUMBASS”

    Could easily write a novel of injuries but a few memorable ones include:
    Having a radiator tank rupure steaming all the skin off my face and neck, Spontaneous combustion of myself while welding, Welding cherries falling into my ear and various other body openings, Slipping on a bench grinder chewing the nails and tops off a couple of fingers, Hood dropping closed crushing my fingers and trapping me against the side of the car (that was a Houdini experience), Dropped impact gun taking out a tooth and splitting my lips open while being whipped by the angry snake airline after the hose tail let go, Car tipping over onto my torso (Freaken Chitty China Jackstands), Numerous metal splinters in the eye (Now I Just Dig Them Out Myself With A Needle), A few loose clothing grinder rodeo’s, its endless…..Ahhh good times, good times.

    The DUMBEST thing however would probably be RUNNING MYSELF OVER when I went to unjamb a shifter linkage on a FWD crapbox while it was still running, That day wasn’t so fun.

    STILL FEEL LUCKY THOUGH when I hear stories about exploding grinding discs shredding a lung apart, getting trapped in a burning service pit or blowing limbs off welding on tanks.

    The older I get the safer I have become. Sometimes personal saftey is viewed as lame or inconvenient, but its more inconvenent to be dead.

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