Seven essential items to have in your car on a road trip
What to keep in a properly stocked breakdown bag in post-lockdown journeys
The Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us how unpredictable life can be and how disasters, both natural and mechanical, may loom around every corner.
After the lockdown many people will be itching to explore the wide open world and embark on road trips. Modern vehicles are far more reliable than they used to be and scenes of cars stranded on the side of the road, bonnet open and smoke rising from the engine, are much less prevalent than back in grandad’s day.
But in the spirit of being prepared for the unexpected, here are seven essential items you should have in your car for a road trip:
PORTABLE BATTERY CHARGER
It’s always a good idea to have battery jumper cables handy, but if there’s no other vehicle around to connect them to, the Powerjump is a great little gadget that will get your car started in a jiffy.
The compact 6000 mAh device can not only jump-start your car but also doubles as a powerbank to charge smartphones. It works on engines up to 3.0l in size and is able to start a car about three times on a full charge.
The saying goes: “If you can’t fix it with duct tape, you’re not using enough duct tape”. For decades this heavy duty tape has been an invaluable part of a self-respecting motorsport mechanic’s equipment list, serving as a quick-fix for damaged bodywork from the bump and grind of racing.
It’s not just for motor racing though, and this handyman’s secret weapon is a must-have for those you-never-know moments. Duct tape was even used on the moon by Apollo 17 astronauts to improvise a repair to a damaged fender on their lunar rover.
With much the same fix-all philosophy as duct tape, cable ties are light and strong plastic fasteners with multiple uses, including preventing hubcaps from falling off a moving vehicle. They’re also very handy around the campsite if you’re caravanning or camping.
It won’t turn you into a roadside mechanic, but a multitool such as a Swiss army knife or a Leatherman with screwdrivers and pliers can deal with assorted handyman tasks — even if it’s just to snip cable ties.
TYRE REPAIR KIT (AND INFLATOR)
Rule #1 is to always have a (properly inflated) spare tyre and tyre-changing tools in your car. But some spare tyres are the skinny “Marie biscuit” types that are safe to drive up to a maximum speed of 80km/h and are an emergency measure to get you home. They aren’t very practical on a long road trip, which is where a tyre repair kit comes in useful to deal with punctures.
For small holes the aerosol-type seal-and-inflate products like Holts Tyreweld are quick and easy. A sticky-plug kit is effective for repairing larger holes.
To inflate tyres (also handy when tyres have been deflated for off-roading in soft sand) an electric compressor which plugs into the car’s 12V socket does the trick.
Stock a first-aid kit with everything you need to address an emergency. These include adhesive plasters, gauze pads for treating wounds, safety pins for closing bandages, antibiotic ointment, antihistamine for allergic reactions, antiseptic wipes to sanitise your hands, painkillers and saline solution for eye washing or cleaning wounds.
In a breakdown, arranging a tow truck is the preferred option especially if you’re an AA member or have roadside assistance cover. But there are situations where getting a tow from a fellow traveller might be required, especially if you’re going off the beaten path.
In this case, ensure that the rope isn’t longer than the legally required 3.5m, and that the ignition is switched on in the towed car to ensure the steering wheel doesn’t lock.
It all sounds like a lot to carry, eating into your already overstretched holiday luggage space, but all the items listed fit into a rucksack-sized bag.
One final tip: ensure this breakdown bag is easily accessible in the boot when packing for a road trip. You don’t want to be unloading luggage on the side of the road looking for it.