Thursday, November 18, 2010

Working on a Car Emergency Kit

I've been looking at several lists for what to include in a car emergency kit to ensure I've got my bases covered. Some lists include items that make absolutely no sense to me.

For example, a couple of lists include a gallon of window washer fluid on the basis that winter driving uses more. However, I'm thinking why don't they check the reservoir once a month or every weekend or every few days depending on how much is used and keep the fluid at home instead of waiting until they run out to refill and taking up valuable trunk space that would be better used for a gallon of drinking water for a car survival kit?

Then, three lists have recommendations for oil: a pint, a quart, two quarts. What's going on with vehicles that they're saying to carry oil? None of the lists explain. And a PINT??? What's with that? The add mark on a car's dipstick means you're a quart low. Also, I've only seen oil sold by the quart except for motorcycles. Yes, the author is American.

On the other hand, one list recommends spare headlight bulbs because "several European countries require them." Another recommended spare headlight bulbs and the tools to make the change. I think spare bulbs are a good idea for those who drive long distances at night as I've done at times, as long as the entire headlamp doesn't have to be replaced and realigned. According to my owner's guide, mine needs only a bulb. I still need to look at the car to see how easy it would be for me to do myself and what tools it would take because I've never done it before.

Spare fuses are another good idea and are very easy to replace. I had to install a heavy-duty fuse on my last car for the taillights to work when I was pulling a trailer with a small sailboat that I used to have and was surprised at how simple it was. I didn't even get my hands dirty. When I checked my owner's manual for this car, I learned that I already have three spare fuses. Unfortunately, I'm puzzled by one being 5 amp and there's no 5 amp fuse being used that it could replace. Very odd. Anyway, I'm planning to buy three other fuses so I have a complete set.

Another list recommended a plastic bag for storing the funnel all the lists recommend after it's used. I think that's a good idea and will get a zip bag for the gas siphon, too, or maybe store both together in one bag.

Another item is water. One list specified enough drinking water for the occupants for a 24-hour period and the radiator while others simply listed "water." I used to get a gallon jug for the car only when I was going to drive across a desert. Starting in 2006, that changed to 2-3 gallons at all times because a lot of tap water doesn't taste good to me anymore. Now that I do road trips with a Space Saver Brita pitcher, I don't need bottled water for normal drinking but will probably keep a gallon or two anyway for my car survival kit.

Other items I'm not sure about are things like plastic cable/zip ties, clamps, tape to seal hose leaks, light sticks, and a bag of sand or cat litter.

Lacking explanations for the zip ties, I think they'd melt from the heat of the engine.

Then, I always take my car in before a road trip to have an oil & filter change and to have the belts, hoses, and clamps checked. Plus, I have my AAA membership.

As for the light sticks, along with the car's hazard lights, I already have a Mini Maglite LED flashlight, flares, and the UCO candle lantern that's part of my cool weather hiking pack that doubles as part of my car survival kit. However, since light sticks aren't battery-operated, aren't fire hazards, don't cost much, and are small enough that the room they'll take up is negligible, I'm more likely to keep a couple on hand for my car emergency and car survival kits than get the other things I'm not sure about.

Finally, I used to carry a bag of cat litter, but when it didn't work and I ended up using a malfunctioning telephone answering machine to get traction, I quit carrying it. After that, it was the tow rope and helpful strangers with their vehicles that got me out of stuck spots. Once, my wheels spun in mud when I parked off the side of a road to watch a bicycle race in another town and once it was in sand down on Padre Island. Both times, others did the same thing but didn't get stuck. Only me. Huh.

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