Picture the scene…
You’re driving down a winding country road, wind and rain lashing at your car from all sides.
You squint over the pumping of your windscreen wipers desperately trying to make out the uneven and shadowy terrain in front of you. Suddenly, and without warning something goes wrong with the car.
Perhaps you hear a loud crack, maybe a dull whine. Your poor car starts juddering or maybe there’s a suspicious loss of power.
Whatever it is, it’s bad enough for you to pull up and pop your hazard lights on.
Bathed in their blinking amber glow you desperately fish for your mobile phone to call your roadside recovery provider only to find that you’re without either reception or internet access.
You’re on your own this time…
What do you do?
Okay, so the above is a bit dramatic but nonetheless it’s the nightmare scenario that all motorists dread. While breakdown cover is certainly recommended there’s always a risk that you’ll have to patch things up yourself until you can get the vehicle looked at by a professional.
Fortunately you’d be astonished at how many car problems can be repaired (at least temporarily) at the roadside, by even inexperienced hands provided that you have the right tools and a little common sense.
Here are some essential tools that no car should be without. They could be your lifeline in those nightmare scenarios that all drivers dread but the best drivers are prepared for.
While pre-packaged emergency kits are available we highly recommend assembling your own that is tailored to the specific needs of your car, its history and anything that has previously gone wrong.
While a lot of the pre-packaged kits are good, none are particularly comprehensive.
First the basics
Your vehicle should already come with a wheel jack and locking wheel nuts. If you do not have them (perhaps you got your car used), then it’s worth contacting your manufacturer’s nearest dealer for a replacement.
You should invest in a socket wrench / torque wrench and tyre pressure gauge if you don’t already have them.
Flat tyres are among the most common of roadside repairs and you should have these items in your car at all times.
Assembling your emergency tool kit
First lets address the small stuff.
- A first aid kit is essential to deal with any minor injuries that may occur on the road. Even superficial cuts and bruises should be addressed immediately as you don’t want them to compromise your ability to carry out a repair.
- Most motorists carry a small torch but we recommend a headlamp which will afford you good visibility while allowing you the use of both of your hands.
- If you are in dark and / or rainy conditions then roadside flares are also recommended. In our experience LED rechargeable flares are favourable to the old fashioned magnesium flares.
- Clear plastic sheeting will not only be a godsend if you need to look under the car in wet or muddy conditions but it will also provide you with a temporary repair in the event of a broken window.
- Foam tyre sealant is far from being a comprehensive repair for tyre punctures but it can provide a helpful temporary solution until you can have the tyre replaced.
Finally, we recommend a pair of good rubber or latex gloves (unless you want to spend hours cleaning oil or mud stains out of your interior).
Jump starting solutions
Battery issues will become increasingly common as your car gets older. Even leaving interior lights and headlamps overnight can place a serious drain on your battery.
In most cases a jump start is all you need to set things right, though you should follow it up with a long drive (or at least leaving your engine running for some time) to allow your alternator to charge your battery.
At the very least you should never drive without a set of jumper cables that will enable you to get a jumpstart from an obliging passer-by.
Long jumper cables are recommended as vehicle size or positioning could inhibit a jump start using shorter cables.
If, however, you’re driving in remote rural areas (especially late at night) then you may well be waiting hours for a jump start so it’s recommended that for longer journeys or where you’re likely to be driving in rural areas you carry a portable jump starter.
These are fairly affordable and easy to come by and there are a range to suit virtually any budget. We think very highly of the Stanley jump starter compared at Tool Nerds here. With a portable jump starter you need never depend on the kindness of strangers.
The power of tape
You’d be astonished how vitally important it is to carry a combination of metallic tape and gaffer tape when motoring. These unassuming rolls of tape can get you out of a range of sticky situations.
In the event of a crack or hole in your exhaust, a hasty patch up with metallic tape can prevent the release of dangerous fumes, or even re-attach a wayward exhaust to your chassis, temporarily, until you can get the car to a garage.
Metallic tape is relatively water resistant and can withstand the enormous heat generated by your exhaust.
Similarly, if your windscreen washer jets stop working and the fault is traced to a ruptured washer pipe, a patch using waterproof gaffer tape will allow you to keep driving without loss of washer jet function.
It’s always best to hope for the best and plan for the worst. In some extreme scenarios you may need to forcibly escape your vehicle.
A variety of escape tools are available to facilitate this from “lifehammers” used for breaking windows to the more subtle Resqme.
The latter is recommended for scenarios in which you find your vehicle submerged in water. In these situations you will have approximately two minutes to escape the vehicle. Water pressure will make it difficult to open doors and the water will likely short out electrical windows.
The Resqme is small enough to fit on a keychain yet contains a sharp knife for slicing through seat belts and a spring-loaded hammer for breaking windows.