The show's writers, which included Lee David Zlotoff and Dave Ketchum, based MacGyver's inventions on items they found on location, concepts from scientific advisors John Koivula and Jim Green, and real events. The show also offered a monetary prize to people who sent good ideas in to the show. A young fan of the series suggested that MacGyver could patch up a vehicle's radiator by cracking an egg into the radiator. The episode "Bushmaster" was constructed around this trick, and the fan was rewarded. Although staff were appointed to read every letter sent in, few usable ideas were obtained in this way.
Children watching the series imitated MacGyver and tried to replicate the simple devices he created in the show. The creative team behind MacGyver made a point of leaving out crucial elements of the inventions so that children would not be harmed.
Short summaries of all the episodes are in List of MacGyver episodes.
MacGyver places a stick through the trigger of an AK-47 and hangs it from a tree with some string. He then attaches a paper match packet to the string and lights the matches, using them as a time delay. The AK-47 falls to the ground with the stick still attached to the trigger, causing the AK to fire and distract some guards.
He also makes a "Rocket Thruster" by hitting the end of a flare gun with a rock to make the nozzle thinner, launching him and a man he rescues from a mountain. Not only would the thrust produced from a gun of that size be unable to lift the weight of two human beings, flare guns fire projectiles. The more realistic result would be a jam at the end of the gun, much like if you bent the barrel of a normal gun.
When near a deadly laser grid, MacGyver lights a pack of cigarettes to make the lasers visible. He then smashes a pair of binoculars, removing a prism to deflect a laser beam back to the emitter, destroying it.
To help rescue a group of people trapped in a building, he ties a fire hose shut, places it under a girder in the way, and turns on the water. Using the water pressure to lift the girder, he pushes it out of the way.
MacGyver plugs a sulfuric acid leak with chocolate. He states that chocolate contains lactose and sucrose (chemically C12H22O11), which are disaccharides. The acid reacts with the sugars to form elemental carbon and a thick gummy residue. (This has been tested and confirmed by Mythbusters).
MacGyver creates a bomb to open a door using a gelatin cold capsule containing sodium metal, which he then places in a glass container filled with water. When the gelatin dissolves in the water, the sodium reacts violently with the water and causes an explosion which blows a hole in the wall. ("MythBusters" questioned the size of the explosion but verified that pure sodium does cause an exothermic reaction when mixed with water. However, the amount of sodium required to destroy a concrete wall would greatly exceed the size of a cold pill.)
In order to disguise himself, MacGyver rolls up the same map and uses it as a peashooter to distract a woman who was washing some clothes.
To get away from a guard with a gun aimed at him, he wraps the same map around an iron bar to disguise the bar from the guard. He first bats away the gun and then slugs guard in the chest with it.
MacGyver uses the same map again as a makeshift sled to slide down sand dunes to get away from the guards chasing him.
While escaping the guards, one of them shoots a bullet through the side of the balloon he is escaping in. He uses the same map and some duct tape to patch a hole over the balloon fabric and escape.
MacGyver and the people of a village he is protecting create a trap using a bamboo pipe with holes drilled along its length, "fire ash", and "rice alcohol". The fire ash and rice alcohol are ejected through the holes in the pipe by a car exhaust, creating a smoke screen and irritating the eyes of their attackers.
To slow down their attackers, MacGyver places a large tree branch across the access road to the village. Using some cord wrapped around the triggers, he hooks the branch up to some AK-47 assault rifles pointing toward the road at ground level. When the soldiers try to move the branch, they inadvertently pull the cord and the guns shoot out their jeeps' tires.
To bring down a helicopter gunship, MacGyver lassos a metal cable onto one of the helicopter's skids and connects the cable to a jeep's winch. By winding in the winch, he pulls the helicopter to the ground. Note: In real life reeling in a helicopter in flight by one skid would have caused a dynamic rollover and a crash of the helicopter. Additionally, the pilot of the helicopter would have felt the center of gravity of the helicopter change when MacGyver hung on the skid to attach the cable. The amount of lift generated by some helicopters could also possibly be enough to reverse the tables, lifting the jeep into the air instead, provided the cable didn't snap under excessive force.
He makes all police radios within a one mile (1.6 km) radius malfunction by duct taping an ordinary transistor radio to a pick-pocketed police radio and sends it up in the sky using around twenty balloons.
To save a woman trapped under a heavy dugout canoe, MacGyver wraps a rope around the bottom of it, attaches both fixed ends to the roof of a building, and places a stick in between both parts of the rope. By twisting the stick, he is given a mechanical advantage and is able to slowly lift the canoe up.
As a way to hold off ants for a while, MacGyver makes a flamethrower out of a hose, pipe, and tank of gasoline. He also uses some "kitchen ingredients" as a fuel-thickener to prevent the contraption from simply exploding. (The vagueness about the "kitchen ingredients" that make this possible provides a good example of measures taken by the show's producers and writers to prevent potentially dangerous recreations of the stunts by younger viewers.)
MacGyver and Trumbo make a nitromannite bomb by taking the nitrate from fertilizer and cellulose by mashing plant bark. The ingredients are mixed together, stirred with a drip or two of acid, then placed in a small paint can. MacGyver must walk through the ants to plant the bomb, and so makes a "suit of armor". Though it isn't stated what material he is wearing, it is likely a thick layer of rubber from the plantation applied to cloth. He then blows up the dam, flooding the area and killing a large ant infestation, which saves Trumbo’s plantation. Note that real world physics applying, the ants (or at least a large number of them) would more likely than not float to safety.
MacGyver makes a bomb using fertilizer, starter fluid, foam, and newspaper. He uses these bombs to scare gunmen holding him hostage, and even plants one on a remote-controlled airplane (with olive oil and some cotton as a fuse) to make a flying bomb.
To open the door of a walk-in freezer, MacGyver fills the lock with water and allows it to freeze in the lock. The expansion forces the lock open.
He uses a strand from a fiber optic lamp to bend a security laser sensor, creating enough space for him to crouch through without setting off the alarm.
MacGyver opens a sound activated security lock by filling four glasses partially full of wine at different levels and playing the tones in ascending order.
He escapes from the back of a plane mid flight by attaching a parachute to a car and driving it out the back of the plane, landing safely.
To carry several boxes of explosives leaking nitroglycerin across rocky terrain, MacGyver places the crates on a surface suspended by wagon springs and sand, both of which absorb shock from the terrain and absorb any drops. Along the way, MacGyver's truck stops running, so he fixes the broken throttle tensioner with a spring from a ball point pen.
To put out an oil rig fire, MacGyver sets off a nitroglycerin explosion in order to displace enough oxygen to put out the fire. He mounts a refrigerator on an old jeep as a heat shield, and puts the whole thing on tracks made of metal pipes. By putting the nitroglycerin in a thermos and attaching the thermos to a wire, he is able to get close to the fire while in the jeep, but stay safe from harm. He rigs the wire to drop the thermos above the fire, where it breaks open and explodes.
MacGyver wants to help a friend get out of federal custody to see his mother in the hospital. He finds the car of a federal agent and breaks a pipe, causing the coolant to leak. He then builds a diversion with simulated smoke produced from dry ice, soda and candy causing the evacuation of a federal building. The agents escape in the car with MacGyver's friend, and he follows them in a tow truck he rented and waits for them to flag him down. After hoisting up the agents' car, his friend gets in the truck and they drive away without the agents. While being chased, he drops the towed car from the tow truck as a distraction in the middle of the road.
His friend is captured inside of a drug lord's mansion, and MacGyver comes in to help. He uses a pole and rope to trip the drug lord when going down stairs, and he and his friend run to the attic. To escape from there, he builds a rocket propelled harpoon using cleaning fluid and camphor balls as a propellant launching a cord from a telescope to a tree in order to create a zip line.
In the episode, MacGyver and his grandfather are being tracked by assassins. They are first fired on while in a fishing boat, and they both jump to the edge of a pond. To buy time, Mac attaches two hollow reeds to a log and sets it floating in the water to make it seem like the two are using the reeds as snorkels. When being chased, he makes a blowdart launcher out of a hollow reed and some sharp pieces of wood. He uses a plant that causes temporary paralysis on the wood and blows them at some assassins, knocking them out. As two more enemies drive near MacGyver and his grandpa, he sets up a large branch to fall on their jeep while his grandpa distracts them with a decoy. Mac smears pine pitch on pine cones to make "land mines". He then buries a sack of these mines on the road and throws a flaming cone under the villain's car to make the sack and the car explode.
When his grandfather is grazed with a bullet, MacGyver uses fool's gold (which contains pyrite) and clay to make a natural antibiotic for the wound. The two are followed into an abandoned town by the remaining four assassins, and so they rig up booby traps to harm them. Macgyver's grandfather attaches a string to the curtains of one of the houses, and pulls it to make it look like someone is inside. When some of the assassins see it, they shoot at the window and then enter the house. MacGyver then pours a sack of flour into the room from the roof and drops down a match, causing an explosion that knocks out two enemies. Amidst the smoke, his grandfather puts pine nuts into a fire, causing a sound similar to gunshots. With this distraction, he clubs one of the assassins in the face.
When trapped in a mansion under constant surveillance, MacGyver plugs in a number of electronic appliances and makes a rotary dish out of a bowl and a juicer. The static and radio frequencies generated by these appliances heterodyne the camera and microphone Quail uses to watch them. As a result, Mac and his friends cannot be seen or heard and have a safe room to work in.
MacGyver attaches the torso of a suit of armor onto the top of a food trolley, and then attaches a makeshift motor with a battery pack and an electric whisk. The whisk spins and turns the wheel of the trolley. MacGyver sets the trolley off past a row of hedges to distract an automatic gun that follows movement.
To escape a room with remote-operated machine guns aiming at him, MacGyver creates a smokescreen out of baking soda and vinegar. When traveling towards the power supply room, Mac has Karen set up large pieces of metal and junk as a "warning device" to make noise when Quail comes near. He then proceeds to expose electrical connections and turn off the electricity. Mac also rigs a water pipe to spray a forceful stream of water towards the exposed wires. When Quail is in the right spot, MacGyver sprays the water and thus gives Quail a large electrical shock.
MacGyver helps a girl trying to fish by making her an effective lure out of a chewing gum wrapper. He notes that fish are attracted to shiny things, and attaches the wrapper to her line.
MacGyver uses his belt (which is sewn such that it makes a leather tube) to route water from the drain trap of a sink to a wall plug to short out the electrical system and cause a distraction. He takes all of the springs out of his bed and attach them in lines, making 4 very long springs. Attaching one large spring to each corner of the bed and to the door frame, he effectively has a massive slingshot aimed at the door. When guards come in response to the electrical short, he shoots the bed at them, breaks the door, and knocks them down so that he can escape.
He rigs a car battery, some jumper cables and the picture tube for a television into a crude bomb. It is set up on two chairs behind a door so when the door is opened it pushes one chair back, causing the jumper cables to make contact, and sending the 12 volts from the battery through the picture tube transformer, overloading it and causing the tube to explode.
When being chased by enemies inside of a building, he takes an emergency fire hose and throws it out a window. The men see it and believe he escaped, when in reality he was hiding to buy time.
To distract a guard blocking a building MacGyver is near, he takes a nail and punctures a hole in a car's tire. The guard hears the air escaping and comes to investigate, and MacGyver (who was hiding in the car) kicks the car door open into his face.
In order to distract two more guards inside of the building, MacGyver rigs a trap with rope, some water jugs, and a fire alarm. He ties the rope to the jugs and lifts them above the ceiling (using one of the ceiling beams as a pulley) and keeps the other end of the rope held down with his foot. He then lights a piece of rope on fire, setting off the fire alarm. When guards rush out, MacGyver is seen sitting on stairs and distracts them. While talking, he releases the rope and the water jugs fall on them.
Needing to retrieve from a sewer drain a pen-sized metal case with the antidote that will save his life, MacGyver takes a long iron rod and repeatedly whacks it against a fire hydrant because "the impact will temporarily align the iron molecules." Thus having created a magnet, he fishes the case out of the sewer with the pole.
MacGyver uses a neon tube, inserted into a vacuum-sealed bomb container, as a vacuum to suck up phosphorus powder. He later uses oven cleaner and milk as a chemical base to neutralize the acid in four containers.
MacGyver uses an ultrasonic device to crack the eyeglasses of a would-be assailant. To help bring back memories of a Russian agent he works with, he uses mirrors, a spinning motor, and some cups to somewhat hypnotize her. He later uses two candlestick holders, a floor mat, and an electrical power cord as a makeshift defibrillator to revive a fallen comrade.
MacGyver mixes pesticide, soap flakes and tile cleaner in a hot pan to create a smokescreen distraction in an enemy's apartment. He also pulls a gas pipe off the wall and sprays gas onto a mixture of lard and crystallised oven cleaner which causes a mini explosion to set the fire alarm off in the building. MacGyver climbs aboard a water-tanker truck and uses a plastic tube to route its exhaust fumes to the truck's water tube to create an immiscible liquid. Spraying the liquid onto the road surface he creates a treacherous oil-slick causing the pursuing vehicles to lose control.
When threatened by a militia member he breaks the end seal of a butane bottle, sending it flying into the assailant. The man falls onto the gun he was holding, and inadvertently shoots himself. Later on MacGyver repairs an Afghan family's water pump by resealing the pumping mechanism with a water-resistant fabric.
As Russian soldiers search the family's home for MacGyver, he hides under some hay and ties a rope to a support column of their stable. When a soldier comes to investigate, Mac pulls the rope, causing the roof to fall on the soldier. After taking his gun, MacGyver frees the man instead of killing him. Later when confronted by the soldier, Mac and his friends are let go instead of shot.
While being pursued by a Soviet truck, he crushes it by making a large rock fall on it. To do this, MacGyver pours water on a crack on the rock, puts a wedge in it, and sprays the entire thing with a fire extinguisher. The compressed carbon dioxide cools the water enough to freeze it, causing it to expand. This almost entirely breaks the rock away from the mountain, and when the Soviets come by, Mac simply pushes the wedge to have it crush their car.
The girl who has been taken hostage uses car batteries and some nickel as an arc-welder to cut through bars trapping her in a room. The bars are still much too hot for her to climb through, so MacGyver uses the propellant of a spray can to cool them down.
To track terrorists preparing to launch a missile at a bridge, MacGyver and his friend use radios to triangulate their position. They use the radio in their jeep and the small portable radio as two points of the triangle, but batteries for the portable radio runs out. MacGyver uses wires of two different materials (likely copper and zinc-coated steel) along with a cactus to make a lemon battery. After hooking this up to the radio, they find the frequency the enemies are using to communicate. Next, they use extra wires to add loops to the top of the radio antennas to create directional antennas. By aligning their watches to north and noting the angle the antenna makes when reception is clear, the two are able to locate the enemies.
After finding the enemies, MacGyver and his friend use a shotgun placed next to a car to blow the car up. They take the parabolic headlights and the planar side mirrors off of a Jeep as well as the lens of a binocular. Using the parabola to collect a large amount of light from the sun and focus it to a point, they focus it even more with the lens and aim it at the shotgun. After a short time, the cartridge explodes, hitting the gas tank of the Jeep, blowing it up and knocking out the enemies.
After disarming a missile, MacGyver finds out that there is a second one pointed at a bridge. He gets his friend to fire the missile they stopped at the other one, and use its heat-seeking capabilities to blow them both up in the air.
MacGyver bends the nozzle from a metal bottle pourer to create an animal whistle that blows at supersonic frequencies. He uses this whistle to cause a horse to buck. MacGyver also makes a lie-detector out of a sphygmomanometer, a wire and an alarm clock by placing the wire under the connection of the sphygmomanometer on the arm and running it to the alarm clock's buzzer. He then states that when the man sweats it triggers the alarm.
To successfully pull off his escape, MacGyver tricks a powerful criminal and the warden of the prison. He intrigues the criminal by fixing his stereo, and then identifies the man's Phencyclidine operation. Mac offers to fix the man's refrigerator and make the PCP operation more efficient in return for the ability to see the man he is supposed to free. When seeing his friend, MacGyver is told that the prison cells are bugged. He informs the man of their plan to break out while tricking the warden with plans of a large scale helicopter invasion to rescue them both. To prevent them from being killed, Mac also falsely states that his friend is worth 12 million US dollars, and that they will get the money once free.
While working in the PCP lab, MacGyver takes a concentrated form of it and soaks his jacket's pocket with it. He later has the jacket delivered to his friend, who places the jacket near his cell lock and ignites the PCP. The explosion breaks the lock and lets him run free. MacGyver uses a live compressor power wire from a refrigerator, rigs one wire of it up to a metal wash pan handle, and wraps the other wire around a block of ice. The wire has a bare end exposed, so that when the ice melts, the wire falls on the metal pan, completing the circuit and blowing up PCP drugs. Mac uses a spatula taped to a ceiling fan to mimic the sound of a helicopter flying overhead. He records the sounds on a stolen tape recorder then he has a friend play it over the prison intercom system to simulate an air attack. As the guards are distracted by the sound of helicopters, MacGyver and his friend bust free, and meet up with his acquaintance outside.
To get rid of the armed guards, MacGyver and Pete decide to mildly sedate them. Pete poses as a doctor and breaks into the drug cabinet. He later gives them to a friend working in the cafeteria, who adds the drugs to the guards' drinks.
Later when caught by the guards, MacGyver is determined to prove his innocence by calling Pete to let his captor know that he isn't Piedra. The sole armed guard orders him to put the phone down, and so Mac puts the phone on top of a ruler on a desk. The other end of the ruler sticks over the desk, and MacGyver hits it. The ruler effectively catapulted the phone onto the guard, and so Mac acted quickly to steal his gun.
As laser-wielding robots home in on his body heat, MacGyver creates a fake heat signature by using magnets wrapped in burning paper. He throws one piece of burning paper and magnet at each robot. The magnets stick to the metal of the robots. With each robot "tagged," they home in on each other and destroy one another.
To break into a man's office, he first climbs the elevator shaft to avoid security. When at the door, MacGyver encounters an electronic door lock. He opens up part of the circuit board from outside and uses wire plugged into an outlet to overload the circuit. By doing so, he temporarily unlocks the door.
Mac later finds the man he needs to capture eating lunch with his girlfriend. MacGyver breaks into the girlfriend's car and opens up the car's phone. He attaches a wire linked to the car's locking system to the phone in such a way that hanging up or picking up the phone changes the car lock. When the man MacGyver is looking for enters the car, Mac calls the car phone. After the man hangs up, the doors lock and they are trapped. Only when MacGyver approaches them and tells them how to open it does he take the man into custody.
In order to escape from a room with an armed villain chasing from behind, he locks the door with a metal bar under the doorknob, and to open the opposing door, he fills a pipe with acetylene and places another blocked off pipe in as a projectile. When fired it batters down the door.
While being chased by assassins who want to kill his friends, MacGyver sets up a trick to make the enemies think they killed the target. He sets up two mirrors so that it looks like his friend is facing a window. When the assassins shoot at the mirror, the friend pretends to fall down dead. MacGyver uses rubber cement and a red dye to look like blood around a gunshot wound. When the enemies come to make sure the man is dead, MacGyver uses a comb and some aluminum foil to make the sound of a police siren, scaring them away.
With two hostile men breaking into his friend's house, MacGyver stuns the intruders with a flash from a photoflood bulb, allowing his friend and himself to escape. He takes the battery out of a normal, high-power flashlight and connects one of the wires from the flood light power cord to it. He cuts the other wire in the middle and strips both new ends. He attaches one end to the open terminal on the battery, and then he lays both ends near each other on the ground. He folds two matchbooks into triangles an inch high or so, and lays them near each exposed wire. He rests a metal letter opener on top of the two matchbooks. When the intruders step on the letter opener accidentally, the circuit is closed, and the lights flash.
When blocked by a heavy door with a strong lock, MacGyver destroys the lock by igniting gunpowder inside of it. He pours gunpowder from gun cartridges into a small piece of cloth. He stuffs the wrapped-up powder into the lock and puts one cartridge in after it with the primer end sticking out a little to act as a fuse. He hits the primer with the butt of a gun, exploding the gunpowder and opening the door.
When he needs to throw off some pursuers in the jungle, MacGyver builds a tree-based catapult to throw stones, and puts a light-based fuse on it. First he pulls four flimsy trees together and bends them down to the ground. He routes them under a solid tree branch and ties them together with a thin vine. Then he sets down his friend's rosary to refract sunlight onto the thin vine, creating a fuse. He stakes the thin vine into the ground with a good knot on a pointed stick, and attaches the pockets from his jacket (filled with rocks) to the tree trunks.
MacGyver creates a rocket-propelled flare out of bamboo, fertilizer, matches, a strip of cloth, a small tin can, a thin metal rod, a funnel, and a wooden spoon. The fertilizer has nitrates, which is the explosive. He packs the fertilizer in the bottom of the bamboo, then the matches, then the tin can which is itself packed with the cloth with a strip hanging out. He ties the spoon onto the side of the rocket with the metal rod used as a guide within the bamboo tube. The funnel is attached to the top of the rocket, to contain the explosion. The strip of cloth serves as the fuse, and then matches as the igniter. MacGyver sets the entire apparatus in a fireplace, where he lights the fuse and lets the rocket take off.
MacGyver builds an incubator for eagle eggs with padding from a chair and vegetable oil. He says that "the oil combines with the fibers in the padding to create a low level spontaneous combustion," generating heat.
MacGyver builds a mortar out of a muffler, a small amount of gas, stuffing from a seat cushion, and a steering wheel knob to stop pursuers. He bends the end of the muffler, to contain the explosion, and stuffs seat cushion material into the bent end. He then pours gas on top of that, and finally packs in the steering wheel knob, which serves as the projectile. He pokes a hole in the bent end of the muffler and stuffs in a short length of cushion material, to provide a fuse. He lights it, aims, and shoots the knob at a chasing car.
To stun intruders, MacGyver rigs a circuit to blast a car horn when a door is opened. He connects a car battery to a car horn, with a metallic door handle acting as the switch. When the door is opened, the circuit is closed, the horn sounds, and the intruders are stunned.
MacGyver defuses a bomb by sliding a ticket into the triggering mechanism.
To throw his opponents off balance, MacGyver builds bombs out of swamp gas, bamboo shoots, and mud. MacGyver cuts several bamboo shoots, each just past the natural solid disc that is in bamboo every few feet. The disc, patched with mud, makes one solid end, and the other open end he puts just under the surface of the swamp water. He lets the gas build up inside the shoot for a little while, then caps it off with a wad of mud and a leaf. When he's ready to detonate the bombs, he lights the leaf, and eventually the gas explodes.
MacGyver safely detonates a land mine with a piece of string. The land mine is triggered by a rope which, when pulled on, arms it. When the rope is let loose, the mine goes off. MacGyver catches himself as he arms the land mine, and then ties a piece of string to the rope. He holds the rope taut, walks away from it, and finally lets it go off from a safe distance.
Using parts of a microscope and a drop of water, MacGyver is able to read microfilm. He uses the light from the microscope to backlight the film, and the drop of water is his magnifying glass. The viewing head on this microscope is broken and not used.
MacGyver needs to blow open a locked truck trailer door. He builds a bomb out of an oil can, a pair of pantyhose, an old exhaust pipe, and an old battery. He soaks the pantyhose in oil, which serves as the fuse. He threads that through the exhaust pipe, at the end of which he has packed shavings from the aluminum can. The idea is that "the ferrous oxide and the aluminum shavings should generate enough heat to explode the battery."
To break open a lock, MacGyver exposes it to Freon gas. The Freon comes from the back of a refrigerator, in a crimped pipe. MacGyver opens the pipe, lets the Freon freeze the lock, and is able to break it with a hard push.
With an old, bullet-ridden Jeep his only means of escape, MacGyver must patch up the Jeep's radiator to get it working again. Remarkably, he does the job with nothing but water and egg whites. First he dumps some water in the radiator and jump-starts the Jeep, causing the water to heat up. A few minutes later, he dumps in the egg whites, which the water cooks. Once cooked, the egg whites naturally plug the holes in the radiator, making the Jeep temporarily usable. (This technique was deemed Plausible in an episode of The Discovery Channel's MythBusters.) The trick was suggested by a fan of the series.
MacGyver is being tailed by goons in a car faster than his rail-bound vehicle. He builds a giant, road busting bomb out of gasoline, several types of ammunition, and tear gas. To light it, he rolls up some paper and strikes a piece of metal on the rail he is riding on, causing a spark.
MacGyver creates a bomb out of nitroglycerin tablets and alcohol. He crushes the tablets and mixes in the alcohol, creating a paste. He folds the paste up in two flat napkins and duct tapes the ends. To detonate the bomb, MacGyver throws a nondescript blunt object at it.
MacGyver protects his car with electricity using baling wire to zap soldiers that are trying to force him out of the vehicle. He runs the baling wire from the ignition coil to the frame of the car, and when the two soldiers put their hands on the door handles, he pushes the wire tightly against the frame, shocking them.
MacGyver builds a hot air balloon from scratch to escape from a Soviet search party. The balloon was made of homemade super-glue, old clothes, a parachute, welding equipment, a refrigerator, condoms, and metal box.
MacGyver taps into a phone wire and transfers an SOS-signal. First, he climbs up the pole using a rope and belt around his ankles. Then, he scrapes off the insulation of the phone wire with his knife. Finally, he taps in a message for help with a bracelet using the Morse code alphabet.
MacGyver defuses a bomb set to detonate by tilting a plate of mercury which short-circuits two electrical wires using the heat from short-circuiting two wires from the elevator in order to vaporize the mercury during the last 20 s of the countdown.
MacGyver takes a nearby paint can and secures it under the truck, then uses his Swiss Army knife to ream a hole in the bottom to leave paint splotches as the truck travels to the hideout, to track it's movement.
In order to stop a bomb from detonating in the middle of a street, MacGyver convinces a truck driver to fill up the terrorists' mail van bomb with concrete, limiting the blast of the dynamite.
MacGyver uses an electrical transformer to speed up the manual over-ride of the elevator in order to escape from an infected lab about to self-destruct.
MacGvyer also builds a swinging playpen out of hockey sticks, a rope net, and rope, and fastens a baby's diaper with duct tape.
MacGyver makes an assault using a decoy using rope, matches and a coat on a vine to set a time-delayed simulated "approach". When the hunters start shooting at the decoy, MacGyver shoots one of them using a slingshot made of a flashlight barrel and elastic cords from the jacket to shoot yet another tranquilizer dart.
Trapped in the basement with an exploding furnace, MacGyver and friends built a torpedo using a distiller and a sealed plugged pipe. The plugged pipe was put over the spot where gas was most likely to break out, a brass plate. A support made of two sticks and some rags was used to aim at the stone wall.
In a flashback scene, a young MacGyver disassembles a bicycle and reassembles it as a makeshift cart in order to transport his wounded friend to a road where he can get help.
In a 'current timeline' scene which closely parallels the one above, MacGyver uses phenolphthalein solution mixed with a drain cleaner to simulate blood, in order to create a decoy from two gun wielding teenagers who are chasing his recently wounded friend.
In order for the damaged plane to take off, MacGyver creates a Jet Assisted Take Off (JATO) unit with two Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) called 'Vipers'. He ties the RPGs to the skis of the plane and wires the igniters from the rockets so that they are placed inside the cockpit. The RPGs are ignited by a sharp impact, which in this case is a hammer.
To escape from a plane wreckage that was caved in by an avalanche, MacGyver fills a metal bucket with 75% alcohol barely even one third full, put a gas canister inside and used a plastic string dipped in alcohol as the igniter. After setting the string on fire, the gas can eventually catches on fire and blows to the direction of the gas faucet.
MacGyver sets a trap using rope and a trap door. He makes a loop in the rope and covers the trap door with the rope loop and then a rug. The last convict gets roped when he falls in the trap.
MacGyver makes a blinding smoke launcher out of sticks.
MacGyver rigs a radio-phone to short-circuit by connecting a loose cord inside. Then he used the other radio-phone to remotely short-circuit the phone which distracted the bad guys.
To cross a pit filled with snakes, MacGyver uses the smell of kerosene taken from a nearby torch to repel the snakes by pouring it on his legs and feet.
MacGyver creates a zip line to escape from the roof of a building using a steel shaft from a large TV antenna and a large rope. He ties one end of the rope to the building and throws the other end to Pete Thornton who ties it to the bumper of his van. Pete then gets the driver to move the van forward in order to tighten the line. Meanwhile MacGyver bends the shaft of the TV antenna into the shape of a hook and uses his jacket to protect his hand from the friction, and proceeds to slide down the line with another person (whom he was trying to free from the building).