Picture this: You’re driving in a remote part of the country, enjoying the beautiful nature view; there’s not a gas station or store for miles. Then, suddenly, the unexpected happens: either your car’s hood starts smoking or a tire blows. What are you going to do? Are you prepared for this to happen? Especially on a long road trip, you should be! Here’s a few critical tips on how to do a quick, temporary repair so that you can get back on the road, get to where you need to go, and then get your car fixed for good. Enjoy and let me know your comments or questions!
BUILD A TOOL KIT
One of the first steps is to have a tool kit built and in the car, so that in any emergency, you have a basic kit ready to go. There are a few ways you can go about building your kit. First, there are pre-made “all-in-one” kits already for this very purpose. You can find these kits at the automotive section of any major supermarket, such as Wal-Mart, or at an automotive store, such as NAPA or Advance Auto Parts, etc. Or, you can build your own from scratch. One item I personally carry in my kit and recommend to any motorist is: a good LED flashlight. LED flashlights are good because compared to a conventional (incandescent bulb) flashlight, they are so much more efficient in their output, the batteries will literally last forever, usually. If you can get one that has anti-roll edges, or better yet, a headlamp, for it’s hands-free ability, which will surely come in handy working around the vehicle during nighttime. Duct tape ALWAYS has a use, especially in an emergency road-side situation, where it may be used to temporarily secure things together, seal ruptured hoses, etc. Have a good length of rope, at least 50 foot, with a good test capability, around 100lbs. Have road flares, they usually come in packs of 5 or more, and are great one-time use, high-visibility safety signals that will serve you well in a situation where you must park close to the road. Lay them out no closer than 100ft to the back of your vehicle (and don’t forget to turn on your emergency flashers!) so that other motorists will have plenty of time to react and avoid your vehicle. Ensure your spare tire is full of air. A quick note on spare “donut” tires: they are only rated at slower speeds and usually need higher pressures to sustain the car’s weight. The sidewall should have the tire pressure. Always consult your car’s owner manual on specifics, but it is good common-sense to replace the “donut” tire at the earliest opportunity. If you have a full-size spare tire, great! That tire is, of course, good as any of your other three full-size tires, but still replace that back-up one so you’ll be “good-to-go” in case of the next emergency. Have a good vehicle jack. Most cars will come with a compact one already, usually in the trunk, underneath the lift-up liner. Ensure it’s well greased and not seized-up, so that you can actually use it on the road. Most cars also come with a lug nut wrench, alongside the compact jack. Make sure it fits your wheels’ lugs, which is critical if you bought your car used and the previous owner put rims/other-than-original wheels on the vehicle! Having a pair of gloves will come in handy, especially working on hot components. Have a notepad and pen, so you can jot down information, if needed. A Gerber/Leatherman or similar brand multi-tool will definitely come in handy, they usually have 15 or more tools in a small package, smaller than your fist, so they make great additions to any emergency kit. Battery jumper cables are a must. If you buy longer ones, 15 foot or longer; that will just help you out when you get in a spot where a 6 foot jumper cord wouldn’t reach the vehicle providing assistance.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT!
Now, you’ve got your kit, what’s next? Like they say, “practice makes perfect!” I would suggest to, if you have NEVER done it before, practice changing your vehicle’s tires. What I personally do every other oil change (which I also do myself) is rotate my car tires. Experts say to do this every other oil change or about 7,500 miles per tire rotation. This practice not only saves you money from having to go a servicing center to do a simple task, but gives you practice so that in a worst case scenario (i.e, dark night with heavy rain) you are proficient in changing car’s tire with the spare. Know how to properly jump your vehicle’s battery, so that you don’t fry the car’s electronics, which can definitely happen if done improperly.
So, quick re-cap: Step 1 is to build an emergency kit. Have:
A good LED flashlight
Length of strong rope
Spare tire with full air
Notepad and pen
Battery jumper cables
Items I strongly recommend and carry myself are: 750 Amp battery jumper with tire-inflator, USB charger, and flashlight. This invaluable multi-tool always comes in handy, because, depending on your vehicle, it is usually enough to jump your car battery without another vehicle to provide a jump (TIP: higher the Amp rating will mean ability to jump bigger batteries, such as light trucks, etc). Also, it has a tire-inflator, USB charger for your phone or similar electronics, and a handy work light. Depending on season, snow chains, warm spare jacket, and a bottle of water would also be a good idea.