Stephen King, being a former cocaine addict, later admitted that he was "coked out of my mind" the entire time he was making this picture and often didn't know what he was doing. He remarked that he'd like to try directing again someday, this time sober.
The "Dixie Boy" truck stop was a set constructed 10 miles outside of Wilmington, North Carolina. It was convincing enough that several truckers tried to stop in, and eventually the producers had to put announcements in local papers saying that the "Dixie Boy" was just a movie set.
While shooting the scene where the steamroller rampages across the baseball diamond, Stephen King requested that the SFX department place a bag of fake blood near the dummy of a young player who would be run over by it. The desired effect would be that a smear of blood would appear on the steamroller and be re-smeared on the grass over and over, like a printing press. While filming the scene, however, the bag of blood exploded too soon and sprayed everywhere, making it appear as if the boy's head had also exploded. King was thrilled with the results, but censors demanded the shot be cut.
About a year after the movie was released the Green Goblin truck was taken to Silent Rick's Towing and Salvage in Wilmington, NC. The jaw, lower teeth, tongue and tops of the ears were gone and what was left was burnt severely. John Allison of Wilmington, NC saw it there and purchased it. He later had to sell it and Tim Shockey of Piketon, Ohio purchased it February 19, 1987. Tim displayed it in his video store, Uncle Jim's Videoland in Waverly, Ohio for several years till he sold the business. He moved it to his back yard for about 20 years. It was then moved into his garage and he started restoring it in 2011. Tim spent 2 years, nights and weekends restoring the head. March 16, 2013. Tim travels across the USA and Canada taking it to horror & comic cons.
An accident occurred on July 31, 1985 during shooting in a suburb of Wilmington, North Carolina where a radio-controlled lawnmower used in a scene went out of control and struck a block of wood used as a camera support, shooting out wood splinters which injured the director of photography Armando Nannuzzi; as a result, he lost his right eye. Nannuzzi sued Stephen King on February 18, 1987 for $18 million in damages. The suit was settled out of court.
In the movie trailer, Stephen King said he decided to direct the film himself after writing several because he wanted to see Stephen King done right. "If you want it done right, you have to do it yourself."
The original scripted ending had the Dixie Boy survivors deal with one last obstacle before escaping, a machine gun mounted coast guard boat. There was also to be one last shot of the city of Wilmington being destroyed by the machines (rumoured to have been done via a matte painting).
Several of the radio-controlled trucks used for the Dixie Boy siege broke down throughout filming, which delayed production as every time a truck would break down and get repaired, another truck would also break down.
While filming the scene where the ice cream truck flips over the stunt didn't go according to plan. A telephone-pole size beam of wood was placed inside so it would flip end over end but it only flipped once and slid on its roof, right into the camera. Gene Poole, dolly grip on the film, pulled the cameraman out of the way at the last second. -Subsequently, Poole's name is listed on one of the time cards when Bill is putting his card back after being told by Bubba that he must work more hours than he is going to get paid for.
Stephen King is a huge fan of AC/DC and when he got to meet them he asked them if they would provide music for this movie. He also offered the band a role in the film but AC/DC declined stating they are not actors and do not appear in this movie at all, despite claims of a scene of them on a boat which is not true at all. The band agreed to do the soundtrack after Stephen King sung "Ain't no fun waiting round to be a millionaire" from the bands 1976 Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap album. King sang the entire thing from start to finish and the band laughingly agreed that if he was such a fan they would do it for him. AC/DC preform all but two songs featured in the film, and the entire 1987 album "Who Made Who" is the soundtrack to this movie. AC/DC wrote a new track called Who Made Who, and various instrumentals aka: score music. Only two of the instrumentals appear on the album. The rest of the songs are from previous AC/DC albums and also contains a slightly edited version of Sink The Pink. The movie also features two unreleased mixes of previously released songs. One being a more rawer version of You Shook Me All Night Long and the vocals cut out of For Those About To Rock, heard only in the movie, not on the album. At the time of the release many music stores had no idea the album Who Made Who was a compilation soundtrack for this movie, and many mislabeled the album as an AC/DC greatest hits. limited pressings of the album did feature a small print and the movies logo stating it was the soundtrack to Stephen Kings Maximum Overdrive but was later removed from future pressings.
In Maximum Overdrive they talk about going to an island named Haven where there are no cars. In 2010 on Syfy a TV show called Haven premiered like, Maximum Overdrive, it too is based on Kings work and in the season 2 episode "Love Machine" cars and boats are seen coming to life attacking humans much like they did in Maximum Overdrive.
Despite the plot which says that all machines in the world come alive and begin killing people, Camp and the Curtis' cars never becomes sentient. Even Hendershot's car, identifiable by the license plate BUBBA stamped on it, never comes alive itself and (along with nearly all of the other cars in the truck stop parking lot and in other scenes) remains sedate throughout the entire movie.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was to have originally released the film (along with Manhunter (1986)), as the last two films of a deal between producer Dino De Laurentiis and the studio. After DeLaurentiis bought Embassy Pictures and renamed it DeLaurentiis Entertainment Group, he chose to distribute the film himself and the last two films in the deal didn't happen until the 1990s.
The title of the film is referenced in The Simpsons: Maximum Homerdrive (1999), in which Homer Simpson takes over a truck driver's delivery and finds out that his truck is controlled by an on board computer. Yeardley Smith, who plays Connie in the film, is the voice of Lisa Simpson in the show.
In the film, the Earth passes through the comet's tail on June 19, 1987. On June 19, 1999, King would be hit, and nearly killed by a distracted truck driver. The number 19 has been prominent in his writing for most of his career.
In the game room of DIXIE BOY truck stop, they had a Bally Night Rider pinball game, and a Williams Pokerino (also had a few video games: A Cinematronics Star Castle, Atari Tempest Cocktail and a Konami Time Pilot '84 in a Stern cabinet). Fairly early on in the movie, the Night Rider playfield glass smashes itself, and very late in the movie, for a split second, you can see the games being plowed into by a semi truck.
Among the product's names used on the tractor trailers that are controlled by the comet are Happy Toys (the Green Goblin truck), a My-T Tast-T ice cream truck,Miller Brewing Co, BIC Lighters, JOB Rolling Papers, Dutch Boy Imported Tobacco, Thurston Motor Lines Inc, Bridgestone Motorsport, Worsely Transport, Ryder, Zeke's Trash and Waste Removal, and a Liquid Oxygen tanker.
When Duncan is filling the Green Goblin truck before he gets diesel in his eyes you can seen the CB antennas still moving and exhaust still coming from the stacks as if the motor was still running even though Handy was already in the Dixie Boy.
In some of the close up shots of Curtis and Connie's car you can see the roll cage for the stunts, for example when Connie jumps in the drivers seat you can see that it's normal but after the chase scene when the Mack truck explodes when they stop to take a quick breath and he yells at Connie you can see the roll cage around the drivers door.