Besides your normal kit of emergency and breakdown supplies (basic tool set, water, emergency food, blanket, jumper cables, tire pressure gauge, etc.), it’s nice to know that you also have some handy supplies that can be used to get to the nearest service station, in the event of a flat tire, leaky hose, broken exhaust system, or minor electrical problem.
The following are items that are inexpensive and easy to find at any department store. Best of all, they might save you the long wait for a costly tow. Please keep in mind that these are last-resort temporary fixes meant to get you back to civilization. Use the utmost caution when using any of these techniques.
Duct tape. At the top of the list, duct tape can be a do-it-all for all sorts of automotive predicaments. Wrap it in layers around a leaky radiator hose in a serious pinch to make it to a service station, or use it to insulate or wrap jury-rigged wires.
Cans of aerosol tire sealer/inflater. Yes, these aerosol cans (Fix-A-Flat, for example) really do work in a pinch, if you have the right kind of tire puncture. They seem to work well on smaller leaks, though they won’t help with larger leaks like nail punctures. Just follow the can directions (you’ll need two cans for larger tires), and get the tire fixed as soon as possible, remembering to tell the tire shop that you have used one of these products.
Silicone/epoxy glue. Important pieces falling off your car? Because of its versatility, this type of glue is probably the best overall glue to pack in your car. It works reasonably well on both porous and nonporous surfaces like plastic, rubber, or metal. Use it for mending broken switchgear, reattaching stubborn trim pieces, or sealing cracked taillight or turn signal lenses. Pick a brand that sets quickly.
Fuse variety pack and bulbs. Automotive parts stores — and auto departments at large department stores — sell emergency fuse packs with a variety of commonly used fuse sizes. Also purchase an extra set of bulbs for your vehicle in advance. Just remember to replace the fuse with one of the same amp rating.
Metal coat hanger or baling wire. Tailpipe dragging on the ground with a shower of sparks and horrible scraping? It’s certainly not elegant, but a coat hanger will usually help temporarily get your tailpipe off the ground. With the pliers in your regular tool kit, simply unwrap the hanger, crawl under the car (remember to turn off the engine and set the parking brake on level ground) and find the location of the exhaust clamp that broke. Wrap it around the pipe a few times, looping through where the clamp was and twisting it at the ends. With luck, it will hold up just long enough to make it back to the muffler shop. Baling wire or mechanic’s wire will work quite well, too, but there’s just something admirably MacGyverish in using a coat hanger.
Mini butane torch. These small inexpensive torches have a strong enough flame to heat and help loosen lug nuts, seized bolts, and other parts, while at the same time they’re small enough to safely light emergency flares. It might just make the difference between doing it yourself and having to wait for help. Make sure to use a wrench or pair of pliers, not your fingers, to remove heated metal. Your fingerprints will thank us.
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