Junk In The Trunk

By Chandra Orr

April 3, 2009 5 min read


Pack the right equipment and you'll be ready for anything

Chandra Orr

Creators News Service

Whether embarking on a cross-country trek or just running into town for groceries, it pays to plan ahead. Pack the right junk in your trunk, and you'll be ready for just about anything the road throws at you.

"It's not like it was 20 years ago when you got stranded on the side of the road," said LeeAnn Shattuck, co-owner of Women's Automotive Solutions in Fort Mill, S.C., a consulting and car buying service. "Nowadays everybody has a cell phone, which makes it a little easier. But if the battery dies or you find yourself stranded with no signal, you need to have the right supplies."

In addition to the gear that came with your car -- a properly inflated spare tire, a working jack and the necessary components for changing a tire -- every car should have a basic tool kit, a first aid kit and a few extra essentials.

"Keeping the proper gear in your vehicle can prove invaluable should you become stranded -- jumper cables, a tire pressure gauge, a cell phone charger and the phone number for your emergency roadside assistance service," said Christie Hyde, manager of AAA's Automotive and Traffic Safety Programs.

"No one can plan when unexpected problems will happen, but we can plan to be ready for them when they do," said Steve Porter, a National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence certified master automotive technician and car expert for JustAnswer.com.

Get ready for the unexpected with the following must-haves:

* Night Lights: "A flashlight is one of the most important things you can keep in your trunk," Shattuck said. "It's a safety tool. It can help signal other traffic, it makes it easier for assistance to find you and you can see what you're doing."

Roadside flares and reflective emergency triangles also increase visibility.

"If your car breaks down right around a corner or just over a hill, oncoming cars could run right into you or your vehicle. It is very important to be able to warn oncoming drivers of your situation as soon as possible," Porter said.

* Tire Fix: You've got a spare, but that might not be enough. A can of aerosol tire inflator is a must.

"Flat tires happen to everyone and they can happen even when you have new tires. You should have a can of tire inflator in case your spare has lost air or if you have two flat tires," Porter said.

Porter recommended Fix-A-Flat, which seals small punctures and fills the tire with enough pressure to get you back on the road. Be sure to visit a service station soon after, as it's not a permanent fix. Arrange to have the tire repaired or replaced as soon as possible.

* Extra Fluids: Every trunk should have a bottle of water -- not a dinky little bottle, but at least a gallon-size jug. It's a basic survival need, and it can help heal overheated radiators in a pinch.

"If you have to work on your car out in the heat you will be very thankful for having some extra water on hand," Porter said. An extra quart of motor oil and a gallon of 50/50 cooling mix will also come in handy, Hyde added.

* Duct Tape: You probably won't be able to fix a flat with it, but duct tape has dozens of other practical applications. From temporarily securing a loose bumper to impromptu engine fixes, it may be the hardest working item in your emergency kit.

"Many things can be temporarily repaired with duct tape until you can get to a repair shop," Porter said. "Keep a roll in your trunk and you might be surprised at how much you use it."

* Kid Comforts: "For moms, it helps to keep some games in the car," Shattuck said. "If you break down and have children with you, you have to think of their safety needs and keep them entertained while you're dealing with the situation."

A few small toys, a coloring book and crayons or a simple card game will keep little ones occupied while waiting for assistance. Don't forget to stash a few snacks in case it takes a while for the tow truck to arrive.

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