You can pack your auto repair toolbox with the best tools that money can buy, but all those fancy gadgets and gizmos won’t do you any good if they’re at home when your vehicle breaks down 30 miles from civilization. Don’t tempt fate: keep basic tools and materials onboard at all times so you can deal with roadside emergencies.
Besides car toolbox filled with the tools you need for quick repairs, be sure to keep the following items on board:
- Rags: Keep a clean, lint-free rag in your vehicle to wipe your oil or transmission dipstick or to clean the inside of your windshield if it clouds up.
- Spare parts: If you replace your spark plugs, save the old ones if they’re not too worn. Carry them in your trunk-compartment toolbox for quick replacements if necessary. The same goes for old air filters and other minor gizmos. A couple of extra nuts, bolts, and screws also are useful to have on hand.
- Emergency parts: Carry a spare set of windshield wiper blades, an extra radiator cap, and extra fuses. If you plan to travel in hot weather in remote regions, top and bottom radiator hoses are a good idea. Although they’re more costly, it’s good to carry extra accessory belts.
- Spare tire: Check your spare tire often. It’s humiliating to find that your spare is flat, just when you have to deal with a flat tire situation.
- Lug wrench: A lug wrench is sometimes provided, along with a jack, on new vehicles. If you buy a lug wrench, get the cross-shaft kind, which gives you more leverage.
- A can of inflator/sealant: This item saves you the trouble of changing a flat on the road. It attaches easily to the valve stem on your flat tire and inflates the tire with goop that temporarily seals the puncture.
- Jumper cables: One of the most common automotive malfunctions is the loss of power to start the engine, either from an old or faulty battery or from leaving the headlights on by mistake. You need this set of cables for any car jump start.
- Snow and ice equipment: If you live in a cold area, carry tire chains or a bag of sand. A small shovel is useful for digging your tires out, and a scraper allows you to clear your windshield of snow and/or ice. A can of de-icer is useful in icy weather.
- Flashlights and reflectors: A flashlight in your glove compartment can help your kids locate dropped toys on the floor of the car, enable you to see under the hood if your vehicle breaks down, and serve as an emergency light for oncoming traffic if you have to stop on the road for repairs.
- First-aid kit: Keep a first-aid kit in your vehicle. Choose one that’s equipped with a variety of bandages, tweezers, surgical tape, antibiotic ointment, something soothing for burns, and a good antiseptic.
- Hand cleaner: Most hand cleaners are basically grease solvents.
- Gloves: Keep a pair of gloves in the vehicle for emergencies. Industrial rubber gloves, available at swimming pool supply stores, aren’t affected by gasoline, solvent, or battery acid.