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My Car Hates Me

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The Big Bad, The Dragon, and everything with teeth are just outside the character's locked car door, salivating and howling to get in. Naturally, the car will not start. No doubt the character is thinking, "My car hates me."

Note that even if the car is stalled during an earthquake on a burning railroad track with two trains, a tornado, and a nuclear warhead all heading toward the area, the driver will keep turning the ignition key, hitting the gas pedal, and praying, "Please start, please start..." The driver won't try abandoning the car and running for it, even if the danger is slow and distant enough to evade on foot. Chalk it up to either Genre Blindness or being horrifically attached to personal property. Some may even get out only to apply Percussive Maintenance to the hood, which has a higher success rate than you would guess.

A favorite device of the Slasher Movie and Horror in general. A common consequence of driving The Alleged Car. Also see Plot-Sensitive Items. Can be preceded by a Dangerous Key Fumble, if the bad guys are a bit too far away to catch up. Often occurs after engaging in Auto Erotica. For the literal version, when the car is sentient and malevolent, see Sinister Car.

Subtrope of Plot-Driven Breakdown.


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  • Parodied in this Volkswagen ad.
  • ...and in this Chevrolet ad.
  • One auto-part advertisement featured a variation which could be considered "My Car Hates Itself". It features a car sliding downhill on ice, headed toward another parked car. The owner of the parked car races towards his car (in order to move it out of the way), gets inside, and...fails to start it. As a result, the sliding car hits and damages the parked car.
  • John Cleese, known to be desperate for money after being cleaned out by a rapacious ex-wife, has now revamped the famous Fawlty Towers sketch (see below) as an advert for a firm of opticians. He returns to what he thinks is his stubborn car and begins thrashing it with a branch. Only he realises, too late, it's the police car parked up in front...

  • In the Carboniferous swamps episode of Prehistoric Park Reimagined, swamp water ends up somehow getting inside the engines of the rescue team's jeep, causing it to stall right when they need to get it running to go through the time portal and to the safety of the titular park in the future when a lightning strike induced swamp fire is blazing viciously all around them. Fortunately, they manage to get around this by using one of the park's previously rescued sauropods as an improvised tow truck.

  • In 28 Weeks Later, the protagonists jump into a handy van by the side of the road to outrun an advancing cloud of gas, horde of infected, and friendly troops with misguided orders. Of course, it doesn't start. This prompts one of the characters to sacrifice himself by jumping out and pushing the van to get it rolling, only to choke on the zombie-killing gas and then get incinerated by the flamethrower-wielding troops.
  • Ace Ventura's alleged car in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective in the beginning fail to start which lets the angry dirtbag man he took the missing dog from catch up to smash in his windshield and batter his car.
  • Back to the Future — the moment it becomes critical for the time-traveling DeLorean to start up, it doesn't. There's an elaborate fan theory as to why this is, involving the supposition that the DeLorean's time circuit is being used at another point in time (preventing the one in the "now" from working), but it could also just be Plot Driven Phlebotinum Breakdown. Of course, despite the fact that he was working on a very strict timetable, and failed to get moving as soon as his alarm went off, he still managed to hit the wire at the exact moment lightning struck. To be fair, the movie does establish that there is something wrong with the starter,note  so it isn't as if the car ran perfectly until the very moment the plot needed it to break down. The DeLorean's problems with breaking down were very much Truth in Television. It was also theorized that it was simply the laws of time travel at work to keep time together. Marty wanted to go back to mall earlier to prevent the events of the movie thus far from happening. Since that would further complicate the situation (and have two Delorean's and Marties in the same area at once) the car failed to start until it was too late for him to do so.
  • In Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, the Genre Savvy killer sabotages his victims' cars before starting his attack, including the car of the journalists who really should have seen it coming.
  • Berkshire County: In this case, it's "The Killers' Van Mates Me". When Kylie gets into the intruders' van to drive away, it refuses to start.
  • In Blackenstein, the girl in the dune buggy spends several minutes trying to start said dune buggy, which stubbornly refuses to start: unaware that the monster is approaching her from behind.
  • Bumer: The titular car in the Russian movie ("bumer" being a slang term for BMW) does absolutely nothing but fall victim to one Plot-Driven Breakdown after another.
  • In The Car: Road to Revenge, one of the gang is driving away from the car when his own car stalls on a bridge: leaving him easy prey for the Lazarus.
  • In Cannibal Girls, Cliff and Gloria become stuck in Farnhamville when their car breaks down.
  • Children of Men: This happens when the heroes try to escape the farm. A tense chase then ensues, with the heroes pushing their non-starting car, followed by angry pursuers — on foot.
  • Clown Motel: At one point, the protagonists try to escape from the clowns in the boys' RV. It won't start no matter what, even when surrounded by clowns.
  • Spoofed in Clue. "Why is the car stopped?" "It's frightened."
  • Dark Night of the Scarecrow: When Philby is being stalked around the silos by the killer, he jumps in his car to try to get away, only for the car to refuse to start.
  • Dinosaur Hotel: When Jenny gets into the "danger zone", she gets to her car and tries to start it up. It utterly refuses to do so.
  • Don't Look: When Sebastian, Nicole, and Lorena get to their car, they get in and try to start it up. It doesn't even stutter.
  • Double Indemnity. They've pulled off the perfect crime, the plan's unfolded like clockwork, they hop in the getaway car and exchange a grin of triumph... cue trope. Supposedly inspired by director Billy Wilder trying to drive off the lot during a break in filming the scene.
  • In Duel, David Mann's Plymouth Valiant has the radiator hose decide to break on him going up a hill, allowing his pursuer to catch up to him after boastfully bragging that the trucker "Can't beat me on the grade!"
  • The French-Canadian movie Elvis Gratton spoofs this trope with a literal version of it. It involves a talking limousine which actually insults the titular character.
  • The Empire Strikes Back: The Millennium Falcon flies just fine, but the faster-than-light "hyperdrive" system is unreliable. This first happens because the ship had just completed a series of repairs, apparently with Han and Chewie overlooking something, and the second time happens because there was sabotage at the place where they successfully repaired the hyperdrive. Once R2-D2 manages to find and fix the uncoupled power coupling, it functions perfectly for the duration of the final film.
  • Parodied in Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask. In a segment parodying horror movies, Woody Allen discovers at an inopportune time, "The battery's dead and we're out of gas, oil, and water."
  • In The Evil Dead (1981), the car actually starts when the side-passenger says that she knows it won't start.
  • Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Cameron's piece of shit car (pre-Ferrari).
  • The Gods Must Be Crazy Has a landrover affectionately called "The Antichrist". Needless to say, a lot of bad things happen with it including having no handbrake, no brakes at all, and even being stuck up in a tree.
  • In Gone in 60 Seconds (2000) the main character is recklessly driving a Shelby GT500 (nicknamed Eleanor), performing insane stunts and crazy maneuvers in order to get the police off his tail. He eventually manages to do so, and hides in an empty road. But just as a cop car shows up and he wants to inconspicuously get away, he accidentally breaks a sideview mirror and Eleanor's engine dies. He repeatedly tries to start it up (attracting the cop's attention), and when he eventually does the chase resumes with renewed vigor. In the same movie, after the original Eleanor gets destroyed, the main character's friends give him a (mostly) restored Eleanor as a present. He drives off with it, but as the screen fades out we hear the engine die again...
  • Grandmother's Farm: When the three girls Khalid met at the convenience store earlier in the movie run into him on the road that night, they take note of how creepy he looks in that moment. They try to drive away, but the car doesn't start until one of them goes with him.
  • Gremlins (1984) had a beat up Volkswagen that wouldn't start at an inopportune time. Since he wasn't parked long enough for any Gremlins to screw with his car, you have to wonder why Billy didn't just leave the engine running.
  • The Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets film has a straighter example than the book (see below). When Harry and Ron are trying to escape the spiders, the Ford Anglia's flying gear happens to be jammed until Ron manages to unjam it at the last moment.
  • Hatched: At one point, Jocelyn, Mark, and Caitlyn come to a dead end while trying to escape in a car, forcing them to stop. They decide to turn around, but find that the car won't start when they try to get it to go.
  • One of the few generally funny moments in High School Musical 2 is a Hilarious Outtake where Sharpay's golf cart breaks down as she and Troy are about to drive off for the next hole. Troy gets out and has to push, setting off the cart's alarm. The clip ends with Troy telling Sharpay to "put it (in) forward", which she complies.
  • In Husk, Chris steals the only working vehicle on the farm and attempts to escape. However, when he crashes into one of the scarecrow poles, the truck stalls and refuses to start again.
  • In I Saw What You Did, Libby jumps in her mother's car and tries to escape Steve, but the car refuses to start.
  • Into the Night: Inverted. Insomniac Jeff Goldblum, who drove to the airport after finding his wife in flagrante delicto, has decided to go back home, but he can't get his car started. Enter Michelle Pfeiffer, being chased by Iranian diamond smugglers. She jumps into his car and tells him to go — and the car starts right up!
  • Jack's van in Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer stalls out every time, including when the creatures are coming after him.
  • Jurassic Prey: After robbing a bank, Andy, Sparks, and Ed try to make a getaway in their car, but it refuses to start. Luckily for them, Jackie and her car are nearby, so they carjack her.
  • Kidnapping, Caucasian Style: Edik's ambulance in the Soviet comedy is, in the (translated) words of the driver, an "asthmatic vacuum cleaner." Hopefully, it doesn't have these kinds of problems when there's a medical emergency...
  • In Killdozer!, Dutch's jeep stalls directly in the path of the oncoming bulldozer.
  • Kruel: Zigzagged. When Jo and Ben get back into Ben's car, Ben starts it up, and it works on the first try. However, when they see Willie approaching them with some kind of weapon, the car refuses to start until Willie smashes one of its windows.
  • La Cité de la peur: Spoofed hilariously in the beginning of the French comedy. The hero of the painfully bad movie-within-the-movie is chased by Red the Communist serial-killer and runs to his car, produces a gigantic keyring and goes on to try all of them (including big old-school door keys). The camera zooms out as the killer approaches and the viewer discovers... it's a convertible. Once in, he proceeds to plug in the radio, the A/C, the phone and the fax machine before trying the ignition, and the car waits the appropriate amount of time before starting off at the last possible second. Red ends up being run over and sent in a pool of gasoline twice.
  • Lemon Tree Passage: When Jordan stops his car to search for Oscar, he then finds it will not start again. The next morning, after their terrifying night in the bush, it starts fine.
  • The Love Bug: All of the movies at some point have Herbie refusing to start after the main character insults the car, and of course is right when they are about to race.
  • Subverted in the monster movie parody Monster! (1999) when Genre Savvy hero Lloyd piles into the car with his frantic girlfriend Jill to escape the monster, which is literally right on top of them. Lloyd turns the key in the ignition twice to no avail; finally, he holds up a finger for pause and announces "Wait for it." The monster punches a claw through the hood of the car. Lloyd tries the ignition again — it works! "Got it," Lloyd declares brightly, and stomps on the gas.
  • The Mummy Returns: Rick's car hates Jonathan. He tries to start it when he hears fighting so that when Rick, Evie and Ardeth emerge from the British Museum they can all get away, but instead the key snaps off in the ignition and Jonathan has to steal a double decker bus.
  • Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight: After the policeman is killed by the surviving twin, Zosia climbs into the driver's seat of the police car and tries starting it up. It takes several tries before it finally starts.
  • Likewise in Octopussy. The villains have successfully planted an atomic bomb set to go off on a timer and need to swiftly get out of the blast zone only to have an Oh, Crap! reaction when their car fails to start. It does start on the second try though.
  • One Night in October: At night, Marcos, Kate, Britnee, and Charlie are trying to fix their car. After tinkering in the engine, Marcos has the girls start the car. All it does is struggle.
    Britnee: Well, Marcos, your car has managed to fuck all of us.
  • Out of Sight: Jack Foley was arrested shortly after robbing a bank because his getaway car wouldn't start.
  • The entire plot of the film Premonition was that a woman was living a week of time in mixed-up order and that at some point during the week her husband dies. His death eventually ends up being caused by a mix of her actions (distracting him) and by him being too stupid to get out of the car with an out-of-control semi barreling down the road toward his stalled car.
  • In P2, Angela's BMW doesn't start when she tries to make it home on Christmas Eve evening. Justified, in that it's implied that her stalker sabotaged it so Angela would be stuck in the parking garage to serve as his Captive Date.
  • In Poltergeist II: The Other Side when the father is cursing his car, Taylor tells him that his car is literally angry at him and refuses to work properly because of that. This of course leads to a dramatic situation when the family is trying to escape.
  • In The Princess Diaries, the emergency brake in the main character's car comes right off in her hand. Naturally, this is as she's going up a hill in San Fransisco. It makes you wonder why she decided to use the same car again when she had to rush out to the climatic ball, as it predictably stalls and won't start again. Though it isn't a life threatening situation, if she didn't announce her ascension to the throne at that time, she would lose her crown and someone else would take over. The car was established as a piece of shit even before all of this, though.
  • Quicksand: Dan's jalopy, which has already been established as unreliable, throws a main bearing just as he and Helen are starting their Run for the Border.
  • Rainbow Valley: This John Wayne western manages to pull this off with just one automobile in a movie full of horses. As a posse heads off under the mistaken impression that John Wayne is working for the bad guys his car-owning friend receives a telegram with the news that he's actually undercover. The car won't start so he ends up hitching it to a team of horses.
  • Ratatouille: Happens to the health inspector when the rats come after him. By the time the car does start, the rats have swarmed all over it.
  • In Reincarnation (2005) this happens to the truck driver's own truck right before he meets his fate.
  • Ripper: Letter from Hell: The jeep carrying Jason, Eddie and Chantel breaks down halfway up the mountain to fix the satellite; at night, during a storm, with a Jack the Ripoff on the loose. Possibly the result of Vehicular Sabotage.
  • Sleepwalkers: Tanya can't get the car to start when trying to escape from the monsters. It's implied she's so focused on the car she doesn't even see The Cavalry save the day.
  • The Super Mario Bros. Movie: The Mario Brothers get a call for a plumbing gig, only to find their van stubbornly refuses to start. Mario gives up and proceeds to leg it to the location, showing off his Le Parkour skills while Luigi clumsily follows behind.
  • Tales of Halloween: In "Grim Grinning Ghost", Lynn's car (which has already been described as 'a piece of crap') stalls out when she has stop suddenly on her drive home, and refuses to start again, forcing her to walk the rest of the way home. On her walk, Lynn becomes convinced that something is following her.
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day: John Connor's motorcycle fails to start while trying to escape from the T-1000 until it eventually gets going and he makes his escape.
  • Subverted in Sin City. When the Yellow Bastard kidnaps Nancy for the final time, her finicky car, which only Nancy can keep running, dies on him along the way, which gives Hartigan enough time to find and save her. Naturally, Nancy had pretended to not know why the car had died.
  • At the end of The Stoning of Soraya M., when the journalist tries to flee the village, his car breaks down in the middle of the road. He manages to restart it Just in Time before the mob arrives.
  • Happens to two cops who try to escape the title creature in Tarantula!. This is especially strange given it was a (then) brand new 1955 car.
  • In Tremors 3: Back to Perfection, Desert Jack has a switch in his jeep that he uses to deliberately invoke this trope to make his Graboid safaris more exciting.
  • Trick or Treats: When Linda gets into a jeep to try and escape from Malcolm, she tries to start it up to drive away. No matter how many times she turns the key, the car will not start. Malcolm manages to break into the jeep, thus forcing her out.
  • Inverted as part of the symbolism in Tucker & Dale vs. Evil—when college kid Chad finally goes from crazy but functional to just plain crazy, the hillbillies he insists are crazed murderers frantically try to start their car while he comes towards them with an axe.
  • Varsity Blood: When Robin attempts to start Bubba's truck, it won't start. She abandons the truck as the killer approaches, only for them to climb in and start it immediately.
  • The Widow (2020): While the rescuers are trying to get the van started at one point, it utterly refuses to for a good while.
  • The Wild Geese. After being abandoned by their employer in enemy territory, the mercenaries help themselves to some local army trucks to drive to safety. Unfortunately one of them breaks down in the middle of a bridge just as a ground-attack aircraft armed with napalm spots them. Things quickly go From Bad to Worse.
  • In Wild Tales, Diego's Audi gets a flat tyre at the worst possible time and place. And while the wheel falling off is entirely Diego's fault, it sill happens at the worst possible moment. And when the airbag deploys, it fails to deflate, leaving him pinned inside the car.
  • The Windmill Massacre: After Jennifer forces the bus to stop, Abe is unable to start it again, stranding the tourists near the haunted mill. This is actually a deliberate ploy by Abe to herd the travellers to the mill.

  • In Stephen King's Cujo, mom and son are trapped for several days on a yard in a Ford Pinto by the eponymous dog. Justified because, well... it's a Ford Pinto. They're (un)lucky the car got them there in the first place, (they went there to get it fixed) and it's surprising the dog jumping on the back of the thing didn't cause it to explode. As King himself owned a Ford Pinto at one time, the choice of car is probably a Take That! at Ford.
  • Needful Things: Later called back, as one of the characters ends up next to the same house where the events of Cujo happened. Then she thinks she hears a dog growling. Then she thinks she sees glowing red eyes to match the growling. Then her car won't start. Then, as whatever it is starts moving towards her...the car finally starts and she gets away. Phew.
  • In Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files novels, Wizard Harry Dresden drives an old beat up VW Beetle, choosing it for its simple and rugged nature so that it won't be overly hexed by his magic-ness. However that doesn't stop him from getting troped by this one very often, usually at the most inopportune of times.
    • Half the time it is other beings hating his car, like Mold Demons...
  • The legendary turquoise Ford Anglia from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was actually a very faithful (flying) automobile indeed (from staying airborne much longer than it was used to, to saving Harry and Ron's necks from a swarm of hungry Acromantulas). It did, however, happen to lose steam at the most unfortunate time- when Ron and Harry were positioned right above the Whomping Willow.
  • Gervase Fen's car, Lily Christine III, is prone to breaking down just when Fen really needs her — for example, when he has to rush across town to prevent a murder.
  • How to Survive a Horror Movie subverts this by saying that while your car's engine will initially turn over repeatedly when you first try to start it, once your attacker starts pounding on the windows it will start right up without a problem. Played straight, however, if you ever decide to take a detour on a road trip, upon which your car will break down in some middle-of-nowhere Town with a Dark Secret.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Miss Brooks' Alleged Car in Our Miss Brooks. It's almost always in the shop. In fact, the number of episodes (on either radio and television) where she gets to drive her car can be counted on one hand; namely "Game At Clay City", "Who's Going Where", "Four Leaf Clover", "Brooks' New Car" and "Head of the State Board of Education".
  • Pie in the Sky: The kidnapping victim in "Passion Fruit Fool" makes a very creditable escape attempt, right up to the point where she tries to drive off in her abductor's car and it fails to start. As he recaptures her, he tells her that the ignition's dodgy and it won't start unless you turn the key just right.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • In "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" (first aired February 4th, 1960, perhaps the earliest instance of this trope on TV), an entire neighborhood loses its power, cars as well as electricity. When one guy's car does start running, everyone assumes he's guilty of something.
    • In "A Thing About Machines", Bartlett Finchley is chased by his car, which corrals him to his pool and pushes him in. He quickly sinks to the bottom and drowns.
    • In "You Drive", Oliver Pope is distracted while driving and kills a young neighborhood boy named Timmy Danbers in a hit-and-run accident. His car soon begins to behave strangely, honking its horn and turning on its lights by itself. When Oliver's wife Lilian later attempts to drive it, the car drives itself to the scene of the accident. The car eventually tries to run Oliver down but stops at the last moment. It then opens its passenger door, instructing Oliver to get in, and drives him to the police station so that he can confess.
  • In the Fawlty Towers episode "Gourmet Night", Basil shows not only that his car hates him, but he hates his car in return and promptly gives it a damn good thrashing. This scene won the series a BAFTA award. They tried it with branches of varying size, until they found the funniest one.
  • Arrived at serendipitously in an episode of Seinfeld. After the characters spend the entire episode looking for their car in a mall parking garage, the intended ending was for them to just find the car and drive off. No one was happy with it, but none of them could think of a better ending. Then they actually shot the scene, and the car wouldn't start. Everyone knew they had found their better ending. The reason the car wouldn't start was it had a dead battery, so they just let the scene run after the actors got in the car (you can see Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jason Alexander cracking up in the backseat).
  • Subverted in the Firefly episode "Jaynestown". Wash can't seem to get Serenity up in the air when the crew needs to make a quick getaway, until Inara walks into the cockpit and asks if there's a problem, when Wash gears up to yell at her-and the engines finally turn over. Subverted because there was a legitimate reason it wouldn't start; the magistrate had a landlock put on Serenity to keep Jayne hanging around long enough to bring him to "justice", and it finally started when the magistrate's son put a call into port to lift the landlocked-Inara's pep talk about what really makes a man made more of a man out of him than losing his virginity ever could, and he says so. His father actually backs out of the room, baffled and angrily mute, unable to fathom that his own son might object to the way he runs his mud farm.
  • In Doctor Who, this has happened to the TARDIS at least once. She's not the most reliable of ships, and has been known to sulk.
  • Mitch Hedburg references it in one of his shows - "I'd be a terrible mechanic. If someone told me their car didn't start, I'd say 'Maybe you're being followed by a crazy killer!'"
  • Parodied in the 'Audition Tape' short which ended Stephen Colbert's WHCA speech. Colbert reaches the car, with Helen Thomas in hot -well, gradual pursuit, but is so terrified that he repeatedly fumbles the keys (in an exaggerated fashion) until he finally realizes the keys have a remote lock. Once he's in the car, He again fumbles the keys to get them in the ignition. However once he does, the car starts first time. He does however wait in the car engine running. He screams for a while, then backs out of the spot. Then stops for some more screaming. Then finally he drives out.
  • In Primeval the presence of dinosaurs causes ignitions to fail.
  • Top Gear
    • Discussed by name on during a news segment in which, hilariously, Jeremy brought up astrology in relation to car ownership:
      Clarkson : Pisceans like a bit of a blub, and there's nothing guaranteed to get the blubbing going like — "It's broken down again, it hates me!" It doesn't hate you, it's just an Alfa!
    • Also occurs on their trip through the US deep south, when they need to get away from a gas station after their deliberate attempts to offend the locals prove excessively successful.
    • In South America the trio travels along the Yungas Road aka El Camino de la Muerte — the Road of Death. A dead battery caused by a non-functional alternator means that James May has to swap batteries with Richard Hammond (who's alternator is one of the few things on his car that does work), strap a pair of torches/flashlights to the front since using the headlights drains the battery too fast and follow Hammond so closely their bumpers are almost touching. Genuinely terrifying.
    • Also happens regularly in their Cheap Car Challenges.
  • In an episode of ER, as Doug is driving to a benefit that he doesn't want to attend, his car suddenly blows a tire. Suddenly, the trope is subverted as this results in a young boy coming to him for help in saving his trapped brother, in one of the show's best episodes.
  • It's pretty much a Running Gag that the cast and crew of Destination Truth are simply incapable of using a vehicle without having it break down or otherwise run into trouble. Pretty much every vehicle they've used on screen over the course of multiple seasons has had these troubles. They've lampshaded it recently, as it's now fairly common to hear somebody say "Can't we just get a car that works? Just once?"
  • The RV in Breaking Bad causes its share of problems for Walt. In one episode toward the end of Season 4 Walt and Jesse are reminiscing about it, and it's explicitly pointed out that the only reason they had that particular RV because it was the only one they could afford at the start; after the first couple of cooks they had money and could have bought a much more reliable vehicle but didn't due to "inertia".
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway? had a Running Gag in the "Sound Effects" gamenote : Every time Colin tried to start his car, Ryan would make sounds of the engine failing; as soon as Colin got out to look, Ryan would mime the car driving off without him. Which prompted Colin to chase it down on foot.
    • Variations include The Wild West-themed game with Colin's horse doing the same, and the Star Wars-themed game where Jedi Colin used the Force to stop his ship.
  • Blake's 7. In "Bounty", our heroes rescue a Fan of the Past who owns a vintage motor car, which has to be crank-started. A guard is actually able to run up and order them out at gunpoint. Fortunately there's only one of them and he's overpowered.
  • A variant occurs in the Jessie episode "The Whining": Zuri's race car driver costume includes an electric race car her size, and the tires end up breaking off when she and Luke try to flee a pair of Creepy Twins. (Granted, Luke adding extra weight to the car probably didn't help in that regard.)
  • Black Mirror. The episode "Metalhead" (which draws inspiration from horror films, but with Killer Robot Dogs instead of zombies) has a variation where someone is desperately trying to hack into the computer of an Automated Vehicle before the Dog catches up with him. He succeeds, only for the Dog to chase him down and kill him, then hack into the vehicle so it can be used to chase the protagonist as well. The protagonist plays the trope straight when she's able to evade the Dog and get to a car, only to find out it's run out of fuel. Unfortunately the battery is still working and turns on the car radio, drawing the Dog to her.
  • Schmigadoon!: At the start of season 2, Josh and Melissa's fancy Audi fails outside the magical town of Schmicago. When they try to flee a crime scene, the car won't start, and they find the leprechaun beseeching them to stay in Schmicago once more.

  • The narrator in the song ''Two Ton Paperweight'' by Psychostick is under the impression this is the case ("You never get me very far, when you decide driving to the store is a mortal sin"), and assures that, like in Fawlty Towers, the feeling is indeed mutual ("I guess I'm just a little angry, but for some reason getting stranded kinda chafes my hide").
  • Referenced in "Stuck In A Movie!" by The Aquabats!:
    Coming after you, and it's getting dark
    You fumble with your keys, and your car won't start
  • Brazilian example: Raimundos, "Eu Quero Ver o Oco" is about the bad experiences of the narrator with cars - a line goes "My hatred for automotives started early, when I trapped my fingers in the door of an Opalão".
  • The song "Sabbatical With Options" by hip-hop producer Prefuse 73, featuring rapper Aesop Rock, has a short middle section where Aesop pleads with his car:
    1985 Dodge Aries hand-me-down freebie piece-of-fucked-with-shit with the fucking yellow plates, you are going to start for me... Do NOT do this to me today. Look, man, have been a very good car to me, okay? I'm going to point you in one direction, all you have to do it go - Look, I'm not even going to steer, man, please!
  • Adam Sandler sings about this in the song "Ode to my Car", complaining about how the car that is so busted up that it barely runs a few feet.
  • The Offspring's "Bad Habit" is a song about an Ax-Crazy guy who Drives Like Crazy with a gun on his hand. The singer said he was inspired by his old Chevette that "wasn't really able to reach freeway speeds" and thus left him with feelings of revenge.

  • Within the Wires: When Cliodhna tries to flee the house in episode 9, her car doesn't start.

    Tabletop Games 
  • East Texas University: One of the possible Used Car Glitches is "Hard to Crank", which means the driver has to make a Driving roll to start the car whenever time is of the essence - "just like in every horror flick ever made."

    Theme Parks 
  • The ride based on The Walking Dead at Thorpe Park has a section where the roller coaster cars stop on the track and the ‘driver’ tries frantically to restart the ‘engine’ as zombies claw at the windows alongside the track.

    Video Games 
  • Exmortis 2: In the Point and Click game, there's a mini game of this trope. The player must find the keys to start a car in the back yard of a building while the clouds of Exmotis approach him.
  • EuroTruckSimulator does this if your truck is seriously damaged leading to repetitive false start noises and it could go forever or until it finally starts for the 10th time.
  • Dead Rising: The intro scene features a young mother and child attempting to start their car, to find themselves surrounded by zombies and their car hates them.
  • In the ending sequence of Campfire Legends: The Hookman the main character's boyfriend's car wouldn't start until right after the titular villain grabbed the door handle with his hook-hand.
  • The short game COME ON! COME ON! COME ON! revolves around this trope. The player manages to escape from the Two Minute Killer to their friend's car but needs to go through a series of steps to get it started. Take too long, and the killer gets you.
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda: The mission "Out of Gas" has this happen to the Nomad. In the middle of a desert, miles from help. And funnily enough, Ryder can't get the Tempest to just come pick the team up because it too is also not working (seems the engineer managed to break something in the middle of maintenance). Then it turns out the Nomad has been fried by an EMP made by a local scavenger... who saw one look at Ryder's crew and realized he was outgunned, so he graciously offers the means to undo that in exchange for not being killed.

    Web Animation 
  • The G Mod Idiot Box: Parodied in the beginning of Episode 7, where a viewer of DasBoSchitt's videos is pursued by #1 for not reading the video description. He makes a mad dash towards his car and tries to escape in it, but the engine naturally won't start. The trope is then taken to ridiculous levels when the frightened man tries to unlock the front door to his house and operate the home telephone within by attempting to crank them up as with any other car, only to fail each time complete with engine sounds.
  • Mystery Skulls Animated: The group's van breaks down on Arthur twice at inopportune moments. Once in front of a haunted mansion causing Vivi and Mystery to glare at him and them to enter the place which hosted a ghost that deeply wants to kill him. The next time on the highway while being chased by the same ghost in a haunted semi-truck. Both times it is actually caused by the ghost but Arthur doesn't know this.

  • Loserz: Eric's car is an especially bad case. See here.
    Eric: Aah! It's got a gun!
  • In Freefall, Sam's spaceship quite literally hates him. It hasn't refused to start when he needs to escape, but it's certainly found other ways to make its displeasure clear.

    Web Video 
  • CinemaSins refers to this as the "car won't start cliche." In one variant (where the car did start, but couldn't go for other similarly arbitrary reasons) it's expanded to the "car decides to screw the hero in the moment he or she needs it most cliche."

    Western Animation 
  • The Ur-Example is in the Private Snafu short Fighting Tools. Witch has Snafu get out smarted and out gunned by a German Nazi all because he was carless with his weapons and he ends up having trouble starting his jeep because he let his battery run down before getting blown up.
    • German Nazi: So like all careless gents he ends up behind fence.
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode Joker's Favor Charlie Collins, average Gothamite, is on his way home after a particularly bad day. When someone cuts him off in traffic, he snaps, flooring the gas to catch up and bump aggressively into the side of the offending station wagon, cussing out the driver. He finds, much to his consternation, that The Joker is at the wheel, and he just insulted perhaps the most dangerously insane criminal alive. When he tries to make a run for it, swerving off the highway onto side streets and smashing through a wooden fence, steam pours from the hood of his car and it groans to a stop on a dirt road in the middle of the woods, forcing him to try to escape on foot.
  • Reboot: A Running Gag is that Bob likes his car, but his car does not like him. Many times he would spy some oncoming peril, leap in and curse as it noisily failed to start. And when he finally does break down and get himself a new mode of transportation, it's nearly immediately destroyed and he's back to his old unreliable car. His car finally was destroyed in the third season, and he finally had it replaced with a semi-reliable one. note 
  • On The Simpsons episode "The Lemon of Troy", when the Springfielders need to escape from the Shelbyville impound lot, Flanders is unable to start the RV. Turns out Homer was draining the battery by cooking roast chicken.
  • While The Penguins of Madagascar's car is usually pretty nifty, in "Driven To The Brink" Rico accidentally trashes it and hastily rebuilds it on his own. Afterwards, it literally hates him, to the point of actively trying to kill him. It was really a mistake in Rico's reconstruction, but Rico became convinced that the car was sentient.
  • Danger Mouse's car, the Mark III, develops a mind of its own and turns on him in "What A Three-Point Turn-Up For The Book." When DM finally gains an upper hand, he discovers that the motor had been altered with the workings of Colonel K's washing machine.
  • Invoked in Total Drama. The episode "Hook, Line, and Screamer" opens with the campers watching a cheesy horror movie where a teenage couple fails to escape from a chainsaw-wielding Serial Killer because their car won't start.
    Leshawna: Yo, fool couple! Stop making out and START THE CAR! (throws popcorn at the screen)
    Izzy: They're gonna be chainsaw sushi! Hahaha!
    Owen: Great Canadian cheese! Now the car won't start!
  • In the King of the Hill episode "Chasing Bobby", Hank's truck is at the end of its life, but he refuses to buy a new one because of the memories associated with it and keeps trying to repair it, with little success. While driving back from a truck dealership (which he had been lead to believe was a mechanic), it stalls on train tracks. While working on the starter to get it to start, a train is approaching, so he frantically tries to start it, which it does, only to immediately die. Hank jumps out and tries to signal for the train to stop, which it can't do in time and crashes into his truck.

    Real Life 
  • On February 15, 2011, US Special Agent Jaime Zapata was driving through a particularly dangerous area of Mexico when he was ambushed by a heavily armed gang. This should not have been too much of a problem because he was driving a specially armoured Chevy Suburban capable of withstanding anything short of an RPG, and the ambushers only had AK47s, but when he stopped the car and put it in park the car helpfully unlocked its doors. Zapata was killed and his fellow agent seriously injured.
  • There was a popular trick in the Eastern Bloc during the Communist times, to make sure the cars (or heavy machinery) start during the nastiest winters in the wilderness. Keep a pot in the trunk, drain the coolant (usually straight water, when not even antifreeze will work) when you expect freezing temps overnight. Cut a few branches of wood in the morning, light a fire, heat the water to near-boiling temp and pour it directly into the radiator cap. The pre-heated engine always started this way. It proved quite useful during the harsh winters on the Eastern Front. Soviet military later built directly into the engine bays small gasoline-powered heaters to heat the coolant and oil before the engine started.


Video Example(s):


The Gmod Idiot Box: Ep.7 intro

In mockery of the people who don't read the descriptions of videos and ask the music names, a fan gets attacked by #1 for asking the name of the music in the credits. He tries to escape in the car, but it doesn't start. Later it gets taken to absurd levels when the *door* and the *phone* end up not working in time, complete with the engine start sounds, leaving the fan at the mercy of #1.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / MyCarHatesMe

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