By Charles Plueddeman of MSN Autos
Many of today’s new cars have the latest gizmos for comfort, navigation and safety, but no car is
4really equipped until there are two basic staples in the glove box: a flashlight and a tire-pressure gauge. These are the first two of 17 items that drivers should have in their cars at all times for safety, for convenience and for the day the gizmos let them down. How many of these items are in your vehicle right now? Let’s take a look.
A big aluminum Maglite used to be the favored flashlight to carry (good enough for police work, good enough for everyday citizens), but now there arecompact LED flashlights that are really bright and don’t take up much space in the glove box. It’s a help that you can hold one in your teeth when you need both hands to change a tire or open a fuse box on a dark night. An LED headlamp is a great alternative, and a set of spare batteries is always a good idea.
Keep an air gauge in the center console as a reminder to check each tire once a month. Low tire pressure can cause dangerous blowouts, and tires underinflated by only 6 pounds per square inch can reduce fuel economy by 5 percent and reduce tread life by 25 percent. Your car’s specified tire pressure is posted on a sticker in the driver’s side door frame. It’s normal for tires to lose a pound or two of pressure a month.
For those minor injuries that don’t require dialing 911, a few bandages, gauze, tape, disinfectant, tweezers and ibuprofen are handy for handling minor cuts and scrapes on the road, especially if you are traveling with kids. Medication for motion sickness is another thoughtful addition.
If you buy a used car and the owner’s manual is missing, order a replacement through a dealer. One of these days you might need it to identify a blown fuse, figure out how to reset the clock or know where to place the jack when you get a flat tire.
If you buy a used car, check to make sure that all the components of the jack and other tools you need to change a flat tire are actually in the car and haven’t been misplaced by the previous owner. There are usually tire-changing directions in the owner’s manual or on a sticker near where the spare tire is stowed. There is a spare tire, right? Make sure that is properly inflated.
A replacement for old-fashioned flares, a set oftriangle warning reflectors fold and pack into a box that will fit in the trunk or spare-tire compartment of most vehicles. Whether it is day or night, professional truckers place them 10 feet, 100 feet and 200 feet behind a rig to give following traffic plenty of notice of a disabled truck. You should do the same if you get a flat or are forced to pull over, especially when there’s not much shoulder on the road.
You should carry a good multi-tool that is equipped with at least a knife, pliers, screwdriver tips and scissors that can cut wire or slice a blown radiator hose, tighten a loose clamp or tweeze out a tiny fuse. If you also have duct tape and a little imagination you can now handle almost any emergency. A pair of vice grips and an adjustable wrench also are great additions to a car’s basic tool kit.
A set of spare fuses and the tool used to pull them from the fuse block will cost only a few dollars, and with them you can fix common electrical issues. For example, it’s not unusual for the windshield-wiper fuse to blow if the blades are frozen to the windshield. Check the owner’s manual or ask your mechanic to find out what style and size fuses you should carry as spares.
Some day you will turn the ignition key and hear — nothing. A dead battery is not a disaster if you have a set of jumper cables and a friend to call, or if a friendly driver happens by. Your owner’s manual will have instructions on how to use the cables to start your vehicle without harming the electronics or — more importantly — hurting yourself.
A big roll of duct tape can mend a lot of things and solve a lot of problems. You can use duct tape and a sheet of plastic to cover a broken window, for example. A roll of self-fusing silicone Rescue Tape is another great choice. Able to withstand pressure to 700 psi and temperature to 500 degrees, it can patch a blown radiator hose or even secure a dangling tail pipe.