Bloggers Share Their Worst Driving Stories


From breaking down at a set of traffic lights to finding yourself stuck in the world’s longest tailback – every motorist has a driving horror story they’d rather forget. No matter how experienced a driver you are or how often you maintain your car, sometimes fate intervenes on the road, and you’re left wondering how you got into such a mess.

We’ve all had a head-in-hands, ‘WHY NOW?!’ moment while driving, so don’t be ashamed if you’ve ever accidentally left your lights on, scraped an alloy on a kerb, or forgot to top up the tank – because it really does happen to the best of us.

To prove you’re not the only one that’s ever got into a sticky situation at the wheel, we’ve been speaking to a handful of car bloggers about their own motoring misfortunes.

Jaguar XJS sports car parked at the side of a street at night. The Jaguar XJ-S or XJS lateris a luxury grand tourer sports car produced by British manufacturer Jaguar from 1976 to 1996.
``The worst car purchase I've ever made``

Buying a used car is pretty safe these days. As long as you check out the vehicle’s service history and buy from a reputable dealer, there’s every chance you’ll get plenty of happy, breakdown-free miles out of a used car.

But that’s not to say that things always go smoothly when buying used. In fact, for Niall Julian of Take to the Road, things couldn’t have gone much worse:

Last year, I picked up a very tidy 1998 Jaguar XJ8. It was in good condition. Plus, it had a nice 3.2 V8, which ticked a lot of boxes. However, just a couple of months after getting it, a coolant leak started a chain of events that lead to my worst ever experience with a car.

I went to use the XJ8 one day, only to be greeted by a low coolant warning on the dash – not good! Sure enough, there was a damp spot on the ground near the radiator. With a genuine Jaguar radiator not available at the time, my local garage fitted a used replacement.

A few days after that, I dropped some friends at the airport. On the way back, the temperature gauge suddenly spiked, followed by hesitation from the gearbox. I got a low coolant warning again and pulled in on the side of the motorway – not an easy task when you’re stuck in the middle of new smart motorway roadworks!

My stricken Jag was recovered to a services car park, where the breakdown technician carried out some tests. He found coolant in the head, which meant head gasket failure –pretty disastrous on an XJ8. I was looking at close to £2,000 in parts alone. That wasn’t fun knowledge, especially when it took me eight hours to get home after the breakdown. A month later, after tortuous negotiations with the dealer, the XJ8 was taken away. It was officially the worst car purchase I’ve ever made.

Lesson:

While it’s impossible to know when your car’s cooling system will develop a leak, getting in the habit of checking the coolant/antifreeze level regularly will reduce the risk of getting in a situation like Niall’s. And, when it comes to buying a used car, follow the tips and advice in our buying guide.

Most breakdowns occur because of a flat battery, overheating engine or tyre blowout, but sometimes weirder things can happen at the wheel that can take you completely by surprise – and often in the most difficult of circumstances.

“The Golf was performing well – until the headlights turned into candles”

This was certainly the case for Ben Quirk, journalist and writer at Planet Auto. Behind the wheel of an Mk2 Golf GTI, Ben experienced a mechanical fault that was totally unfamiliar, and seriously dangerous given the circumstances:

It was the Winter Solstice. Annabelle, another journalist at Planet Auto, was accompanying me in one of our classic hot hatches – a Mk2 Golf GTI 16v. It was dark, and we were driving somewhere near Stonehenge, 280 miles from our destination in the Lake District. We weren’t familiar with the roads, and it was driving rain.

The Golf was performing admirably – that is until our headlamps changed from full beams to what seemed like candlelight. Now, this was a desolate road, with few other cars and little-to-no signal on our phones to call for help. The only option we had was to slow down and wait for a vehicle to come up behind us and overtake, so that we could follow it to a safe place to pull over and check out the problem.

A little background about our car: it was a 1991 Golf GTI with full stainless exhaust, uprated Koni dampers, H&R Springs, Recaro Racing bucket seats, and some tuned parts. Basically, it was no slouch.

So, the car overtook, only for us to realise that it was a Porsche 911 Turbo. Following this for a short distance was great, until the Porsche decided that it didn’t like having a Golf following it.

Our only course of action was to floor it after the 911, which only made the lead car accelerate faster and start cornering like something out of a movie. We were able to stick to the Porsche like glue on the corners, but on the straights, it was a different matter. I’ve never hoped for so many bends, but eventually, we came to a long stretch, and bye bye 911.

We pulled over and waited for a more sedate car to follow, and were able to carry on our journey. Remarkably, after that, the rain stopped and the car’s lights returned to normal.

Lesson:

Ben’s experience is pretty niche, but there are a couple of things to learn from it. We’d never recommend driving without headlights, but if you have to, maybe follow a car that’s easier to keep up with. Also, make sure your car is serviced regularly so that small faults, like malfunctioning headlights, are spotted before they can cause more serious problems.

While traffic jams and tailbacks can be annoying, they’re bearable when you’re in a car with plenty of mod cons to keep you comfortable and entertained. But what happens when you don’t have the luxuries that we all take for granted these days, like air con for example?

Caterham Seven car
“Basically, the car was trying to cook me in traffic”

Paul Hadley of Motor Verso is someone who’s experienced first-hand the misery of being stuck in a traffic jam in a car that’s just not suited to that kind of environment. Here, he fills us in on the time he was stuck on London’s M25 in the world’s least traffic-jam-friendly car:

One of the worst drives I’ve ever experienced happened while I was collecting a Caterham 7 from Surrey and driving it 125 miles on the motorway to Birmingham. It had fixed carbon fibre bucket seats, sports suspension and it was the hottest day of the year. My first hour or so with the car was sitting on the M25 in dense traffic, stopping and starting.

I had the roof down, there was no air con, and heat was soaking into the cramped cabin from the engine and from the exhaust running up the driver’s side of the car. Basically, it felt like the car was trying to cook me in the traffic. I was literally sweating through my shirt. It was ridiculous, and there was nowhere to pull off the motorway to try and cool down.

The first opportunity I got, I pulled into the services for a break, a drink and to put the roof back on for some shade. Even without the traffic, the rest of the journey home on the motorway was still very warm, noisy and uncomfortable. It’s safe to say that the Caterham 7 isn’t really meant to be used for summer day commutes around the M25 – lesson learned.

Lesson:

Even in a normal car that’s equipped with air conditioning, traffic jams can be horrible, and you never know when you might get stuck in a really bad one. That’s why you should always drive prepared, carrying things like water and snacks in case you end up in a huge tailback. Read our guide on essential items to keep in your car.

We hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about other people’s worst driving stories. Whatever life throws at you out on the road, you can trust in Holts’ DIY car maintenance products to get you out of trouble. Our emergency car care range, which includes Tyreweld and Bradex Easy Start, is designed to get you back on the road following a breakdown. Find out more by visiting the Holts homepage today.