Alright strap in because I’m going to take you for a ride. Not only did this incident result in being stuck on the side of the road just outside the middle of nowhere in a very desperate situation somewhere in the mountains of Virginia. Me and my friend probably very nearly lost our lives.

So this happened about 10-12 years ago back at the height of the Fast and Furious craze. My good friend desperately wanted a Turbo Mitsubishi Eclipse and had been scouring the local ads, eBay, Auto Trader and anywhere else he could think of. Until one day he struck pay dirt. He found a reasonable mileage Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX (the AWD one) in Indiana right in his price range. The car was completely stock other than some simple aftermarket wheels and otherwise in fantastic original condition. The only problem was that we lived in Virginia.

So the plan was hatched and the seller contacted. We would fly to Indiana on Friday after work and drive the car home. Of course relying on the seller to pick us up from the airport at something like 10pm. Oh and we had to be back in VA no later than 5PM the next day as my sister-in-law was getting married that Saturday.

Well the plan initially went off without a hitch. The seller was a little bit of an odd character and after picking us up took us to a well-lit gas station to look over the car and finalize the deal. We took a cursory glance over all of the important stuff we could check with the meager hand tools that we had brought along and did the deal. Then we stocked up on snacks, energy drinks, and fuel and hit the road somewhere close to midnight.

The overnight portion of the trip was surprisingly uneventful, we took turns driving and kept pounding energy drinks and eating junk food to try and stay awake. And to be honest much of the late night driving was spent at well over the speed limit and occasionally even touching triple digit speeds and throwing the car around the winding mountain roads. That little turbo engine was addicting.

Then not long after the sun came up we were coming through a town in West Virginia and got popped by a state trooper going about 20 over. At first he didn’t know what to make of us as we were quite tired and jittery and hauling ass. He separated us and stuck me in his car (I was driving at the time) and questioned us separately. He apparently thought we were on drugs but after both of us separately explaining the story up until that point he mercifully let us go with a warning. However he told us in no uncertain terms that if any of his buddies down the road catch us speeding again there would be no second warning. Needless to say we behaved ourselves the rest of the way though West Virginia.

Now we were a little bit behind time wise from where we wanted to be, but still doing ok. However we were also a bit shaken up and pinging with adrenaline, so we decided to stop to stretch or legs and give our frazzled nerves a break. So shortly after getting back into Virginia we stopped at a park at with an old historic covered bridge that was just on the Virginia side of the state line. We hung out there for maybe 15 minutes took our first good look at the car in the daylight and took some pictures for posterity. And then that’s where everything went sideways...

After our short hiatus we jumped back in the car feeling a bit refreshed and my friend (bless his heart) decided he was going to leave the parking lot in dramatic fashion by doing a burnout... in a AWD car... Look we were tired ok? But no sooner than he stomped hard on the gas than we heard an awful snap and crunch the car abruptly leaned over to the left and refused to move. After getting out of the car we instantly knew that that something very bad just happened, as the driver’s side front wheel was now firmly lodged in the wheel well and pointed in an unnatural direction.

Some may be familiar enough with Mitsubishi Eclipses to probably already know what just happened. We at the time were not, but were about to become very familiar with lower ball joint failure... here on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere like 5 miles from the nearest town in the mountains of Virginia with no phone reception....

So we gathered together the meager collection of tools (a set of channel lock pliers, a crescent wrench, a couple of screw drivers and some vice grips) that to this day I am still ridicilously grateful that I brought with us, along with the car’s scissor jack and lug wrench and started investigating the issue. We pulled the wheel and found that the nut on the ball joint, which is pressed into the lower control arm and located under the spindle had apparently at some point lost its cotter pin and loosened to the point that when the additional stress was put on it, just stripped out half of the threads on the ball joint and came off. Luckily we were able to find the nut. Also we found out that the axle had separated a the inner joint.

After examining the damage we realized how lucky we were that this didn’t happen while we were hurtling down the interstate in the mountains because that state trooper would probably be scraping us up with a spatula right now. But we also realized we pretty much only had two options. Either find a way to get the car back and moving under its own power or walk several miles to the nearest small town and hope there was someone working on a Saturday morning that could help us out which would later alone prove to be a big enough challenge. So we decided to at least make an attempt at getting the car back together.

First we popped the axle back in it’s joint, somehow we had gotten lucky and it didn’t tear the boot so we were able to get that back together fairly easily. That lower ball joint on the other hand was not easy. But after utilizing every tool we had, a little MacGyver ingenuity ,a large rock, a bunch of swearing, and an inhuman level of patience, we managed to get the front suspension back together. Then as we knew it was only holding on by a few thin threads. we very slowly limped the car into town and stopped at the first car dealership that we came to. That dealership which just happened to be a Chrysler dealer, hoping that their service department work out a miracle... they could not. They jerked us around for about an hour and a half and finally told us we could leave the car there and it might be ready in a few days... apparently they completely missed the part where we’re basically stranded in this little town with very little cash and need to be back in Hampton Roads in a few hours. As my wife had threatened that my death was still not even a valid excuse for missing her Sister’s wedding.

So we then gambled on a long shot since we had no real tools and asked if there was just a parts store in town. We figured it taking many hours to install a new lower control arm with nothing but some channel locks and a vice grip was still preferable to sitting around doing nothing. Luckily they indicated that yes there was an AutoZone down the road so we left their shop and went there. Even knowing it would be basically impossible to install the part should they even have it. So we got to the store and, lo- and-behold they had exactly one Mitsubishi Eclipse driver’s-side-lower-control-arm-with-preinstalled-ball-joint in stock. Plus once we explained our situation they not only gave us full access to all of the tools they had in their store they actually came outside and gave us a hand as workload permitted. Those guys are still the reason why even if it costs a little more I try to shop at AutoZone first. But Finally we were able to get the car properly repaired, and checked out a bunch of other small things for good measure and hit the road.

We eventually made it back with like 10 minutes to spare before the wedding started and my wife didn’t kill me, and to this day I still have the rock that we used to repair the car, even though my buddy got rid of that actual car years ago.