Stock Your Toolbox
Mechanics are not the only people who can benefit from having a well-stocked tool box in their vehicles. A good tool kit can save the day in the event of a problem, even if your role consists solely of waving down help. Here's a list of the best basic tools you'll want to have along for the ride:
Basic Hand Tools
- Basic slip joint pliers.
- Wire cutters.
- Slotted screwdrivers in sizes 3/16, 1/4 and 5/16.
- Phillips screwdrivers in sizes #1 and #2.
- Adjustable crescent wrench.
- Locking pliers.
- Spare fuse kit.
- Tire tool or lug wrench.
- Jack, jack handle, and a wheel chuck.
- Tire pressure gauge.
- A sturdy folding knife, such as a pocket knife, which should be sharp, with a four to six inch blade.
- Ice scraper and window squeegee.
- Heavy-duty jumper cables.
Various Handy Liquid and Spray Products
While you may not feel the need to drag all of this stuff around town, it's not a bad idea to have it if you're planning a long drive. Tape this list to the inside of your toolbox lid, adding the products you need whenever you hit the open road.
- Motor oil, one or two quarts of the correct weight for your vehicle.
- Automatic transmission fluid, if applicable.
- Power steering fluid.
- Brake fluid.
- Aerosol foam flat tire repair product, such as Fix-A-Flat(tm).
- Spray lubricant such as WD-40(tm) or Liquid Wrench(tm).
- Radiator sealant.
- One or two sealed gallon bottles of water.
- Stocked and loaded first aid kit.
Of course, the water bottles don't have to be sealed, but it does cut down on leaky accidents. If you use unsealed bottles, dry the tops and wrap a piece of duct tape around them to help stop leaks and spills. Place all of these products in a large plastic storage box with a lid, and they will remain safe and sound in the trunk of your vehicle.
Thinking Outside the Toolbox
Besides the basic list of tools for your vehicle's tool box, here are a few additional handy items you may want to consider:
- A set of hose clamps in various sizes.
- Two flashlights; one large, four-cell (uses four "D" batteries) to keep in the trunk, one small portable flashlight to keep in the vehicle. Some wise drivers keep yet a third flashlight attached to their key chains.
- Road flares or reflectors for nighttime emergencies.
- Clean shop rags or old towels are great for cleaning hands after a repair or engine check. Be sure to promptly remove oil or gasoline-soaked rags from your vehicle as soon as you can dispose of them properly.
- Plastic bags from the grocery store to stash dirty rags, paper, muddy shoes, or trash.
- Spare windshield wiper blades. They don't take up much room and can be a lifesaver in the event of a sudden storm.
- Glass cleaner in a small pump bottle or aerosol can to clean windshields and mirrors.
- Section of newspaper, a small scrap of carpet, or an elderly throw-rug for keeping parts out of the dirt and the dirt off your knees. The newspaper is handy for cleaning glass, too.
- Oil can spout that screws on to a quart-size oil cans.
- A pair of sturdy, flat shoes, such as slip-on tennis shoes, for safety and stability.
- A sturdy bib-type apron or a large, long-sleeved shirt (worn backwards); preferably one made of heavy denim or canvas. Some people even use these aprons or shirts while pumping gas.
- Large plastic camping poncho with hood that folds down into a 4" square. Keep this inside your vehicle.
- Sturdy gloves made for vehicle repairs.
- All-in-one tool, such as a Leatherman(tm), for cutting seat belt straps and breaking window glass. Keep this inside the vehicle.
- Duct tape. But you knew that.
Conduct Quarterly Inspections
At least four times a year, check your battery-operated equipment, such as flashlights or road flashers. Re-stock your first aid kit and check your sprays and liquids to make sure nothing has dried up or expired. Take a look at your rag and newspaper supplies, adding more if necessary. Launder your apron and canvas shoes if you've used them. Inspect your tools, and replace any that are damaged or missing. Consult your master list on the inside of the toolbox to make sure everything is there.
Take Safety Seriously
If, while in the process of "tooling up" you begin to feel you're being a bit paranoid, remember this: it is always better to be over-prepared than to be under-prepared. So, toss that toolbox in the trunk.
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