16 October 2004

Be Prepared With A Tool Kit

Having owned more than a dozen cars, from $100 junkers to Ferraris, I have learned to be prepared. Here I have compiled a list of the minimum tools I require for any trip farther than the local grocery store.

Tools – At least a few tools are required to install the belts and hoses hopefully found in your trunk after reading this story. My favorite is a channel-lock pliers that adapts to a number of different size nuts. Also, pack some humongous screwdrivers, along with regular size ones, to hold car parts apart to get the tension right. Don’t forget a vise grip; you can’t beat the vise-grip’s adjustability on a variety of different car parts.

Fan Belts – The rarer your collector car, the less likely Pep Boys or Auto Zone will have the belts you need. Why depend on the corner auto store when you can be prepared and buy them well before your journey? Make sure to tuck the belts in a plastic bag.

Hoses and coolant – At a minimum, you need the upper hose and lower hose. Before a major trip, give the hoses on the car the squeeze test. If they stay “squeezed,” it means the inner walls have collapsed and you need new ones. Replace them before you leave. Don’t forget coolant and a funnel to refill lost liquids.

Hose clamps – Carry each type and size of hose clamp found on your car, including the screw-on type. You may even decide to attach them to the spare hoses in advance so you won’t have to look for them when a hose bursts on a dark and lonely road.

Radiator cap – Seems like a simple enough device, so how could it fail? Hey, I’ve got news for you – even engines costing $20,000 have been lost to a bad cap. Keep in mind that rare cars won’t be able to pick up this part at the local store.

Spark plugs – If you have a specific brand plug that works well in your car, why not have a spare set already gapped in your trunk? You could even have two sets gapped with different ranges in mind: one for long distances at a set speed and the other for city driving. Make sure to bring a plug wrench, gapper, and a torque wrench.

Flashlight – A battery-operated flashlight will give you light when you are trying to figure out what is going on under your hood. It will also help when you need to install the replacement part you have in your trunk after the car has died on the side of the road. When repairing your car on the side of the road, a flashlight with a beam that can be easily directed on any surface will be a lifesaver.

Scissors Jack – Forget the jack in your car’s trunk that plugs into the car’s bumper. These stock jacks are dangerous and can make the car fall off the jack. A scissors jack can be placed anywhere on a frame member and used to slowly raise the car. Include blocks of wood to stop the wheels from rolling. Be sure you have the jack’s handle so it can be raised.

Spare tire – You’d be surprised how many people buy a car without a spare tire and never replace it. Someday, they will need it. Back when I had a real light I carried two spare wheels and tires, and both came in handy on unpaved backcountry roads.If the car just purchased has a spare tire, make sure it fits when you get the car home. I know from personal experience that it can be a nasty surprise on a cold and rainy night to find out that the spare isn’t for your car.

Reflector triangle – These originated in Europe. They can be set up on the shoulder when the car has to be pulled over to the side of the road to change a tire.They work to warn oncoming motorists the car is in trouble.

Jumper cables – Get the heaviest ones possible. The cheap cables run about $10 for a set, but are likely to break off at the ends the first time you use them. They may also not be able to transfer enough juice between batteries like thicker cables can; a thicker wire will help get enough juice across. Consider using rubber gloves to avoid getting a shock when using the jumper cables.

Flexible wire and wire cutters – Wire can be used to do a temporary fix. I have even used wire to hold my Ferrari’s six carbs open after the throttle cable snapped. Doing this, I could slip the clutch and get back to my mechanic for a more permanent fix.

Towel – Next time someone in your house spills bleach on a towel and ruins it, throw it in your car’s trunk. Grab at least two: one for wiping your hands off on, or for a temporary fix, and the other for the ground. That way, your clothes won’t be ruined on the way to that special event. Paper towels are a good substitute.

Inflation bottle -- I’ve used these with mixed results. They may not always work, but sometimes it’s too dangerous to change a tire where a flat occurs. In these cases, it’s better to use a couple of bottles and quickly get back in the car so it can be driven to a safer place where the tire can be replaced.

Spare bulbs and fuses -- Next time you’re in the auto parts store, buy spare bulbs for the turn signals, taillights, and headlights. Also, consider a fuse assortment. It’s better to have the fuses already with you than to have to hike to a parts store and find them – if they are open.

This article is courtesy of the popular collector car magazine, Old Cars Weekly.

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