MacGyver Moments: Share Your Stories

So, after a harrowing morning of traffic jams, being re-routed due to accidents and subsequently getting lost, rain and slippery leaves, etc. I finally made it in to work. Late. But alive.

After immediately grabbing and gulping a huge cup of coffee, I searched in my work bag and purse for something to hold back the soggy mess that had become my hairdo only to find nothing. Not a scrunchie, barrette or hair band to save my life.

Not feeling up to another trek through the windy rain to search my car, I braided my hair, twisted it in to a bun, and stuck a bic pen through it to keep it in place.

Not brain surgery, I realized, but effective. Totally forgot I had it in there until I caught a sideways glance in the bathroom mirror a few minutes ago.

And it made me remember other times I’ve had to “macgyver” a solution to fix a fashion emergency: stapling a pant hem on the way to an interview, using a paper clip as a bobby pin on graduation day, using a rubber band to fix a bra strap during an off-site meeting.

I know other people have “macgyvered” stuff for other reasons - and I’d love to hear about it.

What every day items did you use in a non-conventional way to help you fix something in a pinch?

Had a tent pole break on a camping trip, I took a mini-maglite apart and used the body as a pole repair sleeve.

Went on a trip with a friend to pick up his new project car, an old Scout II, from Seattle. It had plenty of things wrong with it, my big contribution was new windshield wipers held on with zipties - lasted for the drive all the way back to SF.

Does ‘grabbing a piece of unused aluminum and bending it into a lockpick’ count? If so, that’s mine.

I attached a windshield wiper with a lollipop.

Does making an alarm clock out of an appliance timer and a vacuum cleaner count?

Freshman year high school, the zipper on my friend’s school bag breaks. The part at the end of the zipper unravels and comes off, so now the zipper can just slide off the end. He’s bitching about having to buy another one, when I grab a paper clip off the floor, stick it through one side of the cloth around the zipper, bend it around and up through the other side, and twist the ends together. Now the zipper can’t slide past the paper clip. He says ‘Holy shit, you Macguyvered it!’. When we graduated senior year he still had that bag, with the same paper clip in it.

First one that comes to mind -went on a boat ride up to Salisbury Md in a Boston Whaler, decided to stop for drinks & brews at a restaurant along the river. To get there we passed under two city bridges, each with inches to spare. Hours & brews later, the tide had come in and we were stuck - by about 4", and it would be at least 6 hours before the tide went down far enough.

Solution? Pulled the plug on th ‘unsinkable’ boat, filled it with a half foot of water and slowly motored out of the area. Once away, hit the pumps and off we went, in search of more beer!

I attached one with a hamburger wrapper. The splines had stripped out of the receiving arm so I used a metalized Wendy’s wrapper to fill the gaps.

While working on a carburetor (that was still bolted to the car) I had removed 2 metering jets and dropped one of them inside. One was larger than the other was and I managed to drop the smaller one in the larger hole. To retrieve it I cut up an aluminum can, rolled it around a pencil to form a springy tube and then ran it down the hole where it grabbed the jet.

To remove a turbocharger from a junkyard car I had to use a long extension from below with a universal joint. I could barely see it and the socket kept popping off the bolt and also the extension. I duct taped the socket to the universal joint and the extension, and then tied string to it from above and secured it so it wouldn’t fall off the bolt. Got underneath the car and simply operated the socket wrench.

To remove a timing belt on a 4 cylinder I needed to lock the crank in order to turn a bolt. To do this I tied a piece of rope to a large screwdriver and inserted it in the transmission site-hole and then wedged it in the starter gear teeth. I was then able to route the rope around the engine and hold it while I turned the bolt.

When installing some wood fence posts I was using a large 1” steel rod to tamp down the earth but it needed a wider end to work properly. I took a scrap piece of 3”x3” oak, drilled a hole in it, cut a slot in the hole, and used an old hose clamp to draw the split hole tight around the rod.

Probably my best effort was the installation of the roof trusses on the garage I built. To get each one on the garage I had extended the top-board on the walls out 2 feet on each end. By doing this it gave me a solid base for the future overhang. But they also served as the mechanism to move the trusses. By putting a ladder under one of the overhangs I was able to lift up the truss and rest it on one end. This was repeated on the opposite wall so the truss hung upside down on the outside of the building. To get it on the inside I lifted the top of the truss and placed it on the ladder and the flipped it over the wall with a long 2x4. After all the trusses were on the inside I spaced 3 of them together (still hanging upside down) and secured them with 4x8’ sheets of plywood. This became a temporary floor to stand on while I raised the first 3 trusses and gave me a platform to anchor everything until they were secured with diagonal bracing.

My father, who was my mechanical mentor, once rescued me when I got stuck in the mud. I had pulled off the road because it was raining and my Pinto’s lights were shorting because water had gotten into the wiring. He took a bumper jack and jacked the entire front end of the car up. We then pushed it off the jack towards the road. Repeated the process in the back until I was able to gain wheel traction and drive away.

If you can’t tell, I like to tinker.

I went to an all-day tailgate as a breastfeeding mom, with the kid at home with my in-laws. I brought my breast pump, but forgot to bring my hands-free pumping bra and nursing cover to cover up while pumping in the car. I was wearing a tight white t-shirt as an undershirt. I grabbed my husband’s Swiss army knife, cut two small slits in the shirt at nipple level (amazingly without slicing one off), put the pump horns inside my open nursing bra and threaded them through the holes in my shirt. With another sweatshirt on top, nobody could see a thing even if they looked inside the car.

Middle of nowhere a hose on my car blew out. My buddy and I stared at it for a while, it’s not like we had a spare and no cars came by, until I spy the pack of gum on my dashboard. We both start chewing while I find an old rag in the trunk. That gum, tied down with a rag held that hose for over a year. Now this was a car form the 60’s, I doubt it would work well today.

Someone else’s McGyver moment, but I was there.

I used to work for the Navy. One night in Spain in an old hotel I get into a rather old elevator (about the size of two phone booths) with a Seal, a Marine and a few Navy folks. We knew we were crowding a little but we all wanted to go. It became obvious that we had overloaded when the elevator went past the bottom floor and stopped a couple of feet below the lobby and the doors would open. It was very tight in there and there was nobody around to help. So, the Seal starts pulling the panel off where the buttons are. He looks around in there for a bit and then says to the Marine: “Hey, you always carry a tooth brush don’t you?” Marine hands over toothbrush, Seal pokes around for a minute and the doors pop open. Saved by a toothbrush!

Heh, this reminded me of my own school-bag-related MacGyvering. :stuck_out_tongue:

Back when I was a computer engineering undergraduate, I had a leather satchel/messenger bag type thing that I used to haul my books and my laptop around. I don’t think it was really made for the sheer weight of an engineering curriculum, though, since one morning when I hefted it onto my shoulder, one of the metal clips holding the shoulder strap to the bag violently exploded.

I didn’t want to be late to class, but I also didn’t want to have to haul the thing around just by the handle all day. Fortunately, I had an idea: I opened up my computer case and popped out one of the aluminum expansion slot shields on the back. I had made a point of buying a nice case, so these had the important properties of being 1) heavy-duty and 2) very shiny. As I had hoped, the shield fit quite neatly through the rings on the strap and on the bag, so I shoved it in there, grabbed a pair of pliers, and bent it around a few times. When I was done, it held the strap on very securely, and it didn’t look half bad either! At a glance you could hardly tell it was improvised. I carried that bag for about a year after that before replacing it.

At the parents’ house one holiday season, and it’s raining. I can’t remember what caused it, but water (not rain) had leaked from the kitchen under the living room carpet. The carpet was soaked. We pulled up the carpet and used all our towels sopping up as much water as possible. Normally, you’d just put a fan on it to dry it the rest of the way, but with the rain outside, it was too humid for this to work, and mold was a guarantee.

So, I sacrificed a couple of pairs of pantyhose - filled them up with crystalline kitty litter and tied off the waistband, then stretched the legs out across the damp concrete and rolled the carpet back so both sides were exposed to air. The kitty litter acted as a dessicant and wicked the moisture out of the concrete, and no one had to sweep bits of kitty litter up afterwards.

You are all brilliant!!

I mean that entirely sincerely. Now I can’t wait for something to break.

(No scratch that - I can. Dang it - I’m sure I’ve jinxed myself now.)

Hey! Your username disqualifies you from competition in this category!

A couple.

Old VW bug. The gas pedal pulls a cable that runs back to the carburator and gives it gas. Little nob on the end of the cable. Well the nob broke off and stranded me many miles from no where. It left only a little sharp end of the cable. So I took my small vice grip plyers, locked them onto the last little peice of cable, took off my shoes, and with the plyers between my toes I drove home. Pulling with my foot instead of pushing the pedal.

Not so serious, but we were camping near a very small town in the middle of no where. And while setting up camp we found that the cap to the inflatable air mattress was gone. Going to be a very uncomfortable weekend. So we went to the only little store and wandered around, and I bought a bottle of ketchup, even though the girl friend says we don’t need it.

Got back to camp and sure enough, just as I thought, the cap from the ketchup exactly fit the air mattress. Must have made some points there 'cause we are married now.

I was just thinking of MacGyvering yesterday! And did so. We have a magnolia tree at the foot of the driveway, and it’s November, so it’s shedding its many, many large leaves. Not all at once, no, that would be too easy. So I sweep up what I can, but leaves also get into the yard and side bit where there’s bark mulch. Too much of a pain to rake out and still leave the bark mulch behind.

So I took my broom, a steak knife and some duct tape, and created a “leaf spearer” on the handle end. (Also very handy should anything try to attack me out there. You never know, the deer might get violent…) I wandered around yesterday and speared leaves until it was “full”, then pulled them off and put them in my special garden waste container, and speared some more. I was very proud of my MacGyvered leaf-spearer.

I didn’t ride my old Harley that much, so the points cam tended to rust. This caused the points to close. If the bike died, I would pull over, find a flip tab from an old beer can and use it as a feeler gauge to set the points. If I had to set static timing, I’d stick a piece of cellophane wrapper from a cigarette pack in between the points and bump the engine until I could just pull the wrapper out from between the points.

Mom wanted cream puffs for her birthday dessert. The beaters broke while I was making the pate a choux and I had to finish beating that stiff floury/eggy mess by hand. Later I had to whip some cream and I don’t have the endurance (or a skookum enough whisk) to do it by hand. As it happens the old beaters came with a mini-whisk which could socket into the motor unit and I had a cordless drill kicking about. The cream puffs came out deee-lightfully.

The sole witness didn’t believe anyone else would have come up with that. I thought it was obvious.


These are all wonderful ways to MacGuyver something. Now, these are the wrong ways to do it.

It was the end of the day in high school, and I was in the principal’s office having a “little chat” about smoking in school. The dismissal bell rings, I get up to leave, and the doorknob was slack. I could turn and turn it, but the door would not open. Every sixteen-year-old’s worst nightmare, right? Locked in a tiny room with Mr. B? He didn’t want to be stuck in there with me, either. He banged on the door, called the secretary over to try from the other side, tried to bust it down, even. Then he started getting whiny. This made me really want a cigarette. So I took off one of my shoelaces, tied it to a pencil, slid the pencil under the door and pulled the string up along the doorjamb. Worked like a charm, and he was very lenient with me after that.