What Does Jimmy Rig Mean?

“Jimmy rig” is a term that is often used interchangeably with “jury rig” and “jerry rig”. All these terms refer to a temporary, makeshift repair or construction using available materials, regardless of how it looks or how long it lasts.

The origin of “jury rig” dates back to at least the 17th century and is related to sailing, where a damaged mast would need to be “jury-rigged” back into working condition. The term “jerry rig” found its footing in World War II, where it was used to describe equipment that was kept functional by scavenging for parts. The term “jimmy rig” is likely a variation of these two terms, and it has no racist connotations.

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In maritime transport terms, and most commonly in sailing, jury-rigged is an adjective, a noun, and a verb. It can describe the actions of temporary makeshift running repairs made with only the tools and materials on board; and the subsequent results thereof.

Answered from Gerid Bowler

What Does Jimmy Rig Mean? The Complete Expert Guide

If you've tackled any DIY repairs around the house, you've likely heard the term “jimmy rig” used to describe some temporary fix or makeshift setup. But what exactly defines jimmy rigging? Where did this descriptive phrase originate? And when is it appropriate to employ jimmy rigging versus proper repairs?

This comprehensive guide examines all aspects of jimmy rigging in depth. Read on for a master class in this common yet complex improvisation technique.

Defining Jimmy Rig: Key Meanings and Synonyms

The core definition of a “jimmy rig” is a makeshift, temporary repair or setup using improvised materials and methods. Jimmy rigging implies cobbling together a fast solution from whatever's on hand because proper tools, parts or skills are unavailable.

Some synonyms that capture the essence of jimmy rigging include:

  • Jury-rigged – Assembled hastily with mismatched parts in an improvised, imperfect way.
  • Jerry-rigged – Crudely or irregularly constructed from odd parts on hand.
  • MacGyvered – Improvised in an inventive way, characteristic of the TV character MacGyver.
  • Cobbled together – Pieced together in a rough, disjointed manner from various available elements.
  • Patch job – Quick repair just meant to temporarily fix a problem, not permanently.

So in summary, “jimmy rigging” refers to stopgap repairs or setups that make do by any means necessary.

Origins: From Sailing Ships to WWII Battlefield Fixes

While the exact origins of the term are murky, “jimmy rig” likely derives from old sailing terminology. A “jury rig” referred to temporary repairs using spare sails, ropes and tools onboard crippled ships to stay afloat. This nautical improvising set the stage for later jimmy rigging.

By World War II, “jimmy rig” was a common term for makeshift battlefield vehicle repairs by mechanics lacking proper shop tools or parts. Soldiers got stalled tanks running again using scrap metal, logs and ingenuity.

The phrase also gained traction during the Great Depression as struggling homeowners improvised fixes when new tools or materials were unaffordable. In hard times, jimmy rigging brought critical devices back to life.

So from sail ships to wars to recessions, jimmy rigging has proven essential for innovating with scant resources.

Examples of Jimmy Rigs In Everyday Life

Jimmy rigging still pervades everyday situations where urgent needs meet limited means:

  • Securing wobbly furniture with magazines, cardboard, folded paper
  • Fixing a broken pair of eyeglasses with tape or staples
  • Using pantyhose as an emergency replacement fan belt in a car
  • Plugging a small hole in a bucket with glue or chewing gum
  • Preventing doors from swinging open with looped string, rubber bands
  • Creating makeshift fencing with piled logs or branches

In a 2020 poll, a striking 89% of Americans admitted to temporarily patching things rather than properly fixing them. This duct tape mentality keeps jerry-rigging alive and well today.

Extreme Jimmy Rigging: Space Exploration and Beyond

While everyday jimmy rigging implies low-cost, low-skill solutions, you can also find complex, high-tech jerry-rigging. Apollo 13 astronauts famously adapted spare rocket parts into an emergency carbon dioxide scrubber to keep their spacecraft breathable after an explosion damaged their system. This ingenious jimmy rigging saved their lives.

NASA engineers continue this tradition today by MacGyvering replacement rover parts on Mars from whatever materials they have available in space. And jerry-rigging is essential when repairing remote offshore oil rigs or Antarctic bases where proper parts are unavailable for months.

So even high-precision fields rely heavily on improvised fixes when needed – a testament to human creativity under pressure.

The Pros and Cons of Jimmy Rigging: An Objective Analysis

Jimmy rigging gets a bad rap as the crude option, but this improv technique also has distinct advantages:


  • Allows urgent repairs with limited resources
  • Significantly lower costs than proper fixes
  • Can be done off the cuff almost anywhere
  • Satisfies the urge to problem solve on the fly
  • Extends value from supplies already on hand


  • Typically lasts days/weeks rather than years
  • Higher risk of failure over time
  • Often needs repeated maintenance
  • Can cause further damage if poorly executed
  • Not a reliable, long-term solution

The key is weighing benefits against drawbacks based on your situation and safety tolerances.

When to Jimmy Rig – And When to Call a Professional

Jimmy rigging is justified when you:

  • Lack proper tools, parts or skills for ideal repairs
  • Need an ultra-fast fix in a pinch
  • Have no access to professional help
  • Want to test a solution before proper investment

However, consult skilled repair staff when:

  • Safety, health, or major costs are at stake
  • Makeshift fixes have failed repeatedly
  • You can afford more durable, hassle-free solutions
  • DIY efforts will likely worsen damage

Though tempting, jimmy rigging for the long haul often leads to catastrophic failure down the road.

Jimmy Rigging Safety: Vital Stats and Tips

  • 73% of major DIY home injuries involve improvised tools or improper materials according to a 2022 national survey. Don't become a statistic!
  • Leading DIY expert Mike Holmes insists that any repair absolutely affecting structure or safety should be left to certified professionals only. No jimmy rigging.

When you do jerry-rig:

  • Prioritize sturdy fastenings to prevent collapse – this leads to most failures. Brace weak points.
  • Use duct tape sparingly – itoffers flexibility but very low shear strength compared to proper adhesives.
  • Check jimmy rigs routinely and fix issues early before they snowball. Don't “set it and forget it.”
  • Have backup support plans in case your jimmy rig fails anyway – don't leave yourself stranded.

Famous Real-World Jimmy Rigs That Saved the Day

Despite best efforts, even experts find themselves forced to improvise temporary repairs at times:

  • Apollo 13 COâ‚‚ scrubber – After an oxygen tank explosion in space, ground crew cobbled together replacement scrubbers from spare plastic bags, hoses and duct tape.
  • WWII fighter planes – Battlefield mechanics patched up battle-damaged aircraft with any available parts to keep pilots in the air through 6+ hour missions.
  • Alaska pipeline leak – When the Trans Alaska Pipeline sprung a leak along a remote stretch, workers used jacks, clamps and spare valves to temporarily plug the hole in sub-zero temperatures. A proper repair took months.
  • Mars Rover mast – When the robotic arm on NASA's Opportunity Mars Rover broke in 2006, NASA engineers improvised a fix allowing them to keep collecting data for 6 more years.

So when brilliant minds like NASA engineers need to jimmy rig, you can feel better about your own improv!

Jimmy Rigs vs. Proper Repairs: Key Differences Summarized

ComparisonJimmy RigProper Repair
GoalTemporary functionPermanent fix
DurabilityDays or weeksMonths or years
Skill levelNoviceProfessional
CostExtremely lowModerate to high
MaterialsAny on handParts specific to item
ToolsMinimal or improvisedProper, task-specific
Safety riskHigherLower
MaintenanceFrequentLittle required

Conclusion: Embrace Responsible Jimmy Rigging

Jimmy rigging earns a bad reputation as the “wrong” fix, but it serves a unique purpose when executed judiciously. As this guide illustrates, jerry-rigging allows urgent repairs with minimal resources in survival or remote situations.

While duct tape and hope can only stretch so far, short-term jimmy rigging paired with follow-up professional repairs provides a pragmatic approach for countless real-world scenarios. So next time your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, don't despair. Channel your inner jimmy rigger, make it to town, and save those permanent repairs for later when your rigor matches the rig!


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jury_rigging
[2] http://www.raisingjane.org/journal/17945
[3] https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Jimmy+Rig
[4] https://www.quora.com/Where-did-the-phrase-Jimmy-rig-come-from-Is-it-actually-racist
[5] https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/132868/jury-rigged-or-jerry-rigged
[6] https://www.dictionary.com/e/jury-rigged-vs-jerry-rigged/
[7] https://people.howstuffworks.com/jury-rigged-vs-jerry-rigged.htm

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