This question keeps popping up, and I keep forgetting that I haven't really suggested what is a good idea to keep in the car tool box. Actually, as far as tools go, this is quite deliberate - simply put, it's really difficult to decide what is needed in the car in the way of tools and spares and stuff like that, and to be honest, it depends on what you do and where you are likely to go as to what's most suitable. And reading some of the 'expert' advice, and following their lists, well you'd be driving around with enough stuff to get round North Africa and do a complete rebuild in the middle of the desert.
So, practically. Number one on the list, AA/RAC/Green Flag breakdown cover card. Simple fact, it doesn't matter how well prepared you are, or how good a mechanic you are, at some point you have to say, its easier to wait here, get the car home and fix it there. And break down cover, with a relay option to get your car home will do that, as the first or last resort.
Pay careful heed when you take out cover though. Many policies specifically exclude older cars and or four wheel drive vehicles. I can understand the exclusion for four wheel drive vehicles to some extent, because some high performance vehicles have such sophisticated and expensive transmissions, that an ignorant recovery driver could easily and expensively damage a car. It's no excuse, they should know what they are doing, and take steps like having alerts to thier personel, if they have to recover such a vehicle.
What I feel is a little more incipid, is the exclusion of older vehicles. In some cases it can be vehicles as young as ten or twelve years old. Essentially, they are saying, we want to take money off you, but not if there is a more than low risk of you needing to claim against your policy. AND, the actual risk of a thirty year old, well maintained, occasional use 'Classic' actually breaking down, compared to say a nine year old family hack that has run up moon and back mileage's and generally neglected, is probably quite marked. Point is, they want to limit themselves from that bit of the market where risks aren't easily determined, and they might have to pay out more than they expect.
However, that asside. No point in you getting cover, unless you are sure that it will be honoured. Old car. Four wheel drive - MIGHT get excluded from a standard policy, so make sure that your vehicle IS covered, and get it in writing, before or when you pay for the insurance.
Next - mobile phone. Today, with no guarantee that there's going to be a phone box any where near, and even less likely hood that it will be in working order, and given that with pay and go phones available for under £50, there is little excuse not to have one in the glove box. If you pick wisely, you can actually get one that has a tariff that keeps the phone connected indefinitely, provided its in credit, and so simply; buy, put some minimal credit on it, and bung it into the glove box 'in case'. Just make sure that you get a car charger for it, and check the battery is charged regularly.
Even if you have a mobile 'phone, this is probably not a bad idea. I mean, chances are, that you will have left the car charger in the other car, and not charged it up for two days when you need it most. So, spare in the glove box means you can call for help. Or just let the nearest and dearest what's happened.
Right, so onto practical things, starting with the A-List:-
- Break Down & Relay Insurance card
- Mobile Phone
- Red Reflective Triangle
- Tow Rope
- Jump Leads
- Wheel Brace
OK, well we've done items 1 & 2.
Red Triangle. This is one thing I have had in my car for years and years and years, and NEVER even looked at after opening the packet from the shop, I think that it actually came in a gift set with a set of jump leads, I don't know. It is actually one of those things that I would never have actually thought to put on the essentials list, until one night, on a country lane I came round a corner, saw a red triangle, and slowed down. Just round the corner, at the side of the road was a woman in a broken down car with four kids. If that triangle hadn't have been there, I'd have gone piling round the corner and had to slam on the brakes - OK, I may have been going a bit fast, and I might not have had to swerve, and I could go on all day contemplating the what ifs and probabilities of that triangle making one jot of difference.
Point is, it gave early warning and WHATEVER the 'ifs' it gave one extra chance to avoid an accident. For the sake of a quid, I'd say it was worth it, especially on a Landy which may not have hazard warning lights, or may not have hazards that work.
Plus they are mandatory for you to carry in some countries in Europe. Having one saves that worry, if should you go abroad.
Tow Rope. Myriad of uses. First and Foremost, call some one to come out to you, attach tow rope between two vehicles, and it gets you home. But they are also useful for getting you pulled out of ditches, or muddy holes, or tying things together. A door with a broken catch, or something like that.
Away from the car - even more uses, painter between two people walking in the fog or on dangerous surfaces. Attach a log to one end and throw it to some-one who's fallen in water or down a hole. As a tourniquet, to make a stretcher, whatever. It's rope. A basic technological tool with a thousand uses or more.
Jump leads. Not as many uses as a tow rope, but still many. Primary one, if you can find another vehicle, you can use them to jumps start your car, but after that, you can use them to by pass normal high current cabling, say to the starter motor or from the alternator, and when trying to find an electrical fault, I find that attaching one to the negative lead of the battery means that I can quickly and easily use it as a floating ground point to test for live wires and such.
Jack. Essential for changing a wheel, but also a device for exerting pressure. In the event of an accident, you can use a jack to pry apart mangled metal, and separate two bumper locked cars. Afterwards, the jack can be used to bend body work out of the way of wheels or radiators so as to get it mobile again. I'm not talking about a high lift here, but with a bit of ingenuity, an ordinary jack can be used for basic recovery techniques, lifting a wheel clear of a hole, and with some rope, it is possibly to make a crude lifting or winching device.
Wheel Brace. Along with the jack, essential for changing a wheel. The wheel brace is one of the few things that doesn't have a huge multiplicity of uses. One thing to mention though is that it is only of any use if it will actually get the wheel nuts off. A long tube to increase the handle length can be helpful here, But better still, after getting new tyres, an hour on your own drive, to take the wheels off, and replace them with copper slip behind the flange and on the studs and nuts, and the nuts tightened with the wheel brace you intend to keep in the car, with no handle extension, so that they will come undone again when you need them too, is probably time well spent. Personally, I prefer the 'Standard' type of wheel brace you can get for about a fiver, rather than the telescopic things you get at Halfords. First of all, they are strong enough. If the nuts are so tight that you bend one of these, then that's because they were over tightened on fitting, and you haven't done the copper slip bit. The standard brace is a good way to stop you actually over tightening the nuts in the first place. Next, they don't take up much room. Then, the handle, not having another socket head on the end, can have an extension tube slipped over it.
One useful modification though is to grind a blunt chisel point on the end. About five minutes with an angle grinder, and that gives you a pry bar come chisel. And its just about heavy enough to use as a hammer on the reverse of the socket head. I've actually seen a brace with a crude hammer head welded to the back for exactly that purpose.
Torch. Well, it makes light. In a break down situation, absolutely no good having the parts and tools to effect a fix if you cant see to find out what needs fixing. After that, they can be used for signalling. Always carry one, and check the batteries regularly Personally I don't like these multi function torches that have a strip light, and a main beam and then an amber beacon, and flash functions and heaven knows what else. Basically, because the bigger they are, the more unwieldy they are and so the less likely you are to be able to get them into the cracks and crevices where they are needed. And practically, if you go and set one up behind your car as a warning beacon, what are you going to use to see in and around the car by? Hence the red triangle, and a decent, simple rugged torch. For years I had a cheap four cell water proof thing in the car that served me admirably. I think that it came free with a gallon of oil, but then a set of batteries for it cost twice as much as that, but anyway. The one thing which I do find dead handy, is I have one of those tiny 'Mag-Light' torches, that takes a single AAA battery, and it lives on my key ring. It isn't going to flood the world with light, but it is small enough to get into little gaps in the engine bay, and I can hold in between my teeth to light up what I'm working on if I need two hands. In fact I tend to keep it attached to a small Swiss Army pen-knife, and the two live in my pocket with a hankerchief. But, I'll come back to that later.
I think that that just about covers the primary bits and pieces. However, what you'll notice is that I've looked at everything not just in terms of what its for but what it might be improvised to do. Multiplicity. That is the key. Ray Mears, eat your heart out.
He might be able to survive in the wilderness with nothing more than a pair of canvas slacks, a pair of boots and a broken razor blade, but for the rest of us, we'd need a bit of help.
So, back to the idea that you don't want to be carrying around a full compliment of 'expedition' equipment and survival rations, and practically, you are highly unlikely to get yourself even near to a life threatening situation.
BUT, you never know. So, to my thinking, the stuff you carry in the car should be as 'useful' as possible, in as many ways as possible, to cover as many possible situations as you CANT possibly think of.
For example, if you have a spare set of points in the car. Brilliant. If your ignition fails, you have the part to correct a fault. But what else good are they? If, on the other hand, you had some wire, some glue, and a jubilee clip, chances are that with a bit of ingenuity, you could make the broken points work for long enough to get you home or somewhere you could fix them properly, BUT, you could also fix a leaking hose or a broken distributor cap, or a hundred and one other things, with the same basic materials. Got the idea?
So onto the B-List.
- Clutch/Brake Fluid
- First Aid Kit.
- 'Quick Fix' Materials
- 'Quick Fix' Tools
- UK Road Atlas / other suitable maps
- Box of Matches
- Rags / towel / Blanket
Oil Water & hydraulic fluid. Together, they are 'top up' materials. OK so you should have checked them before you left, but, chances are you'll forget or be in a hurry one day, so save the hassle of trying to find a garage, sorry petrol station, that has any of this stuff, and not shelf upon shelf of cornflakes, coco pops, tinned rice pudding, etc, right the way to nail files and kids toys, BUT NO STUFFING MOTOR OIL! Keep it in the car, not the garage. Second reason, all well and good being able to fix a leak, but what about replacing whatever has leaked out?
So, Specifically, item by item.
Water. Absolutely critical this one. You cant have enough of the stuff. I'd say that a gallon would be about right. I actually carry about three gallons in four litre pop bottles, the big square ones, as they are a convenient shape, and actually only use about as much room as a 2l pop bottle, but choose a receptacle to suit yourself.
Right, top of the list, you can drink water. So, make sure that what ever water you have in the car is drinkable. That means clean sanitary container, and no pollutants. Screen wash or anti-freeze, keep separate. And don't think, 'Oh, well I'll have one bottle mixed with screen wash and one fresh'. Keep the screen wash as a concentrate, and add it when you use it.
ALL of the water you keep in your car should be fit to drink. Check and change it regularly.
It is incredibly easy to get de-hydrated. More so for children. I think awareness is increasing these days, but hot day, stuck in a traffic jam, crack open the water and give every-one a drink. There are a thousand and one instances where water can save your life, so make sure it is drinkable.
First Aid Kit. I've been thinking about this one, and I have to say, there should be one in EVERY car, just like water. Now, what should be in the kit depends on what kind of injuries you are most likely to encounter, and how much first aid knowledge you have. Nurses, in my experience put together very bad first aid kits, for the simple reason that they include loads of stuff no-one knows how to use, but there is scope I suppose for the situation where you supply the first aid kit for some-one more skilled and knowledgeable to use. I mean, one thing in my first aid kit was a packet of three syringes and a selection of hypodermic needles. There is ABSOLUTELY no way I could give myself, or any-one else for that matter, an injection. I have a fear of needles. BUT, they came as part of the 'Tropical' first aid kit that my doctor recommended I buy, when I went to get my inoculations before travelling to India. I already had a little first aid pouch that I used to carry on the strap of my camera bag, as that went every where with me at the time, but my doctor explained that there were things in the 'tropical' kit that were specific to third world countries. Like water purification tablets, Dioreah pills, and powerful antihistamine for bites and things. But, the syringes were the number one precaution in the pack. Simple reason; AIDS. Rife in third world countries, and at bush medical clinics, lack of resources mean that syringes and needles are used time and time again.
Now, unless you are heading to Africa or such districts, then these things may not be important, but the thought is, it may be worth packing SOME things that are beyond your capability to use.
Other wise, down to the basics. Materials, I find the more basic they are, the more uses they can have. Others might be more convenient, but heck, who cares about convenience when some-ones bleeding?
Plasters. Top of the list. Graze yourself, burn yourself, cut yourself on a bit of glass or whatever. I prefer the kind where you cut the plaster to the size you want from a strip, rather than the ones in a little packet. Three good reasons. First, you can never get the little packets open easily. And almost never when you are bleeding yourself. Second, you could bleed to death while you found a plaster the right size. Then, they fall off. Get the fabric strip and pack a pair of scissors with it. All angles covered.
Cotton Wool. Use as wadding against a wound in place of lint, if you have to. But, dip in water or antiseptic and use to clean a wound. With a matchstick, you can also wrap a bit around the end to make a passable cotton swab. As a material, it can also be used in 'quick fixes' to repair the car.
Lint. Pad a wound. Can be used to make a dressing, or just to apply pressure to a wound to stem bleeding. As with cotton wool, has multitude of other uses.
Gauze. Dressing material. As Lint & cotton wool. Can also be used as a filter. For example, your only supply of water is from a stagnant pool. The top cut off a plastic pop bottle can be substituted for a funnel, the lint wadded into the upturned neck of the bottle, and the water dripped through into the jar made from the bottom of the bottle.
Tape. Many types. Most useful I find is the fabric tape like the stuff they use for plasters, but with out the lint strip in it. Used to wrap things up, secure fasten etc etc etc. Add a little lint, and you can make a substitute plaster. And, if you have a broken wire under the bonnet, you can twist the ends together and use the stuff as a substitute for insulation tape. Conversely, you can, if needs must, use insulation tape or Gaffer tape as you would medical tape.
Tweezers. Main use is removing splinters from flesh. Again, another cross over. They can be used like very fine pliers or pincers as a mechanics tool. Conversely, you can use fine needle nose pliers, as tweezers if needs must. I've actually used a pair of large bull nosed pliers to remove a shard of rusty metal from a lads leg before now.
Rubber Hose. In a first aid kit, there is often a length of latex hose. Its intended use is as a tourniquet. But it does have a lot of other uses. I believe that doctors can set up a donor to patient blood transfusion with nothing more than a bit of latex pipe and a pair of hypodermic needles, for example. But, it can be used to tie things together, perhaps to fasten a split to a broken limb or something like that. On the car, you can use it to splice a broken fuel line, or things like that. So, again, conversely, you might be able to use fuel line to apply a tourniquet. Simple basic material. I suppose, if you had to, your trouser belt, a bungee-cord, even a tie down strap, tow rope, or fan belt could be used.
Bandages. Hundreds of uses for bandages, from dressing a wound to splinting a broken bone. There can never be enough bandage in the first aid kit. And yet again, pressed into service, it can be used to effect auto repairs.
Pins. Saftey pins, rubber bands, needles. All useful bits and pieces. Safety pins substitute for buttons in such dire emergency as little Johnny loosing his trouser button just before you go into the church for your Niece's Wedding, to holding a bandage on an arterial wound. Can be used to help dig splinters and shrapnel out of wounds, or un-block wind screen washer jets! Rubber bands. Again, another amazingly useful device, can hold a dressing in place if needs be, or be used to substitute for a broken throttle return spring, or whatever.
Womans Tights. Don't laugh. Its an old truism, that these can be tied to substitute for a broken fan belt. But in the same way, the material is incredibly strong and can be used almost like rope if needs be. Like gauze, it can be used as a filter, or it can be used as part of a dressing.
Aspirin. This is the most basic and least effective pain killer. From a simple head-ache to a gaping wound though, it is better than nothing. Important thing about aspirin, is that I believe it lowers blood pressure or something like that, but give it to some one suffering sun stroke, with plenty of water, and it brings their body temperature down hugely. Hot summer days. Kids out playing on the beach. Absolute essential to have in the car. Stronger pain killers like Paracetamol, you may want to think about as additional to, rather than in replacement for aspirin.
Glucose Tablets. Not essential, but again, dehydration or exposure, or simply exhaustion. A lucazade tablet can wallop a meal load of sugar into the blood stream, and get some-ones circulation working again, or just keep them alert.
Antihistamine cream. Bites, allergies and other reactions. If you have kids, they will find something that wants to bite them or sting them, and this is the best stuff to put on it.
Antiseptic Cream. Actually there are hundreds of types out there now. Old fashioned one was the yellow iodide solution that stung like heck when your mum rubbed it into a cut. Modern ones like 'Savlon' are a bit less tortuous, and you can even get pleasant scented anti-septic sprays these days. Cuts and grazes of all shapes and sizes, where the wound isn't bad enough to warrant a dressing - brilliant. Deeper wounds, where you cant be sure that cleaning is absolutely 100%, use it under a dressing.
Travel Sickness Tablets. Sounds daft, but one day, even if you or your own kids don't get travel sick, there is going to be little Johnny, your youngest's best mate, who gets invited along on an outing, and HE will need one. They also work for mild nausea and sickness not associated with motion.
Dioreah tablets. Again, one of those fail safe additions to the kit. Upset stomach's can send the contents of your gut in both directions at the same time. It could have been a bit of bad crab at that fancy restaurant, or the consequence of drinking some un-sterilised water when you fell in the river. Having a pill to keep things together can make a journey home more comfortable, or, allow you to get yourself or your patient somewhere they can be treated properly.
Note Book & Something to write with. Bit of a side ways one this, but... Imagine that you have been driving along a green lane in some mountainous district, and you come across some injured climber or walker. Now, there is no way that you can effect a rescue of the patient from where he is. Lets say he's in something of a hole. You can use your tow rope to climb down to him, and his companion. You can use your mobile phone to call for mountain rescue. Lets assume the patient had a phone, but it was broken when he fell. He is injured. You are effectively first on the scene. In about twenty five minutes, the mountain rescue people will be here and be able to use their equipment to get a stretcher down and get him out, but he's badly injured, and a helicopter has been put on stand by to come and air lift him to hospital. You, start by noting down the co-ordinates. You ask the patient basic details, like his name, address. Next of kin. If he has any allergies. If he knows his blood group. ANYTHING. The companion is probably in shock, so may be the patient. So you keep talking, and you WRITE IT DOWN. Talking keeps the patient alert, and instils some confidence, because help is at hand and you are nice and calm. You might not be able to do a blind thing, and are probably scared of making his situation worse. So, take notes of what might be important. Take the blokes pulse. See if he can move. Each time, make a note. If you administer any first aid, from cleaning a wound, to giving the bloke an aspirin, or even a cup of water. Write it down, and write down the times. Because, you will have half a dozen people turn up to get him out, and they need to know what you have done, and what you found. And THEN when the helicopter comes, that information needs to go with the patient, and with so many people in the chain, you cant guarantee that that information will travel with the patient - so before you leave him, having told any one who needs to know, what you have recorded, you tear the page from your note book and PIN it to the patient. That way it WILL go with him.
You can also use it to write your shopping list while you wait for the rescue team, or play naughts and crosses to occupy the patients child companion, who is worried, scared and confused. Who knows. Improvise - but give yourself the tools to do it with.
OK, I'm going to stop there with ideas for what might go into a first aid kit. Please don't think that I'm advocating any particular substitution or technique I might have mentioned. I am NOT a qualified medical practitioner or first aider. Simple point I was making is that in an emergency, improvisation is a virtue. If you have the knowledge and the imagination, you can do incredible things with the most rudimentary implements and supplies. Just as an example, medical operation known as a tracheotomy. It is used in instances where the throat has been obstructed and there is no way for the patient to breath. In essence, the surgeon bores a hole in the patients neck, and inserts a small rigid tube through into the wind-pipe, to allow air to enter and exit the lungs before the restriction. In a hospital, a doctor would use a surgical nylon tube and sterilised implements in a sterile environment. But, I heard of an instance I believe has become an urban legend. A group of school children were out on a field trip. A bee landed on one of the children's apples, and the boy bit into it without realising. The bee retaliated by stinging the inside of the child's throat. The boy had an immediate allergic reaction, and the swelling rapidly caused him to start to choke, before blocking his wind pipe. The boy is now choking, and panicking, so the demand for oxygen huge. First aid was administered by, I believe a young man, who was something to do with the expedition, with a basic understanding of first aid, but no expert medical knowledge. He took the boy, lay him down, grabbed a Bic biro from his pocket, threw away the cap and the ink tube to leave hum with the plastic tube. He then hunted to find his pocket knife, which for some reason he didn't have. He asked if any one had a pen knife, but no one did. So unable to make the hole surgically, and knowing that the child would suffocate before any surgery could be performed, he placed the barrel of the biro against the child's wind pipe, placed a handkerchief over the end, then punched it. Thus puncturing a hole in the child's throat, and providing a passage way by which the child could breath. Dont try this at home folks, but take heed of the lesson. The operation was neither skilfully performed nor undertaken in good conditions of sterility. But the boy lived. He could have suffered from infection of the wound, but, heck at least he would have lived a few more hours and have been treated for that properly. And the crude way the operation was done, left the kid with a nasty and permanent scar for life. But he lived to wear it.
Improvisation. Basic materials, a little skill and a lot of imagination. You might never be called upon to save some-ones life, but in a crisis, you would be useful to have around. Think carefully about what might be important and useful to keep in your first aid kit, and think outside the box. What else could you use it for. Which leads us on to......
'Quick Fix' Materials. Pretty much like a first aid kit for the car really. I've already mentioned the kind of improvisations and crossovers that you have with the first aid kit, but basics of a quick fix kit would contain:-
Fan belt. Err..... This is one of those things. Personally, I reckon that and dedicated, specific spared should be off the list. I mean, if you suspect that your fan belt might break, then why the heck haven't you done something about it? I mean, the water pump and alternator, if in good condition, and the belt properly tensioned, shouldn't give you any cause to believe there is a great risk of failure. So basic maintenance is your first recourse. But failures do occur. OK, so it doesn't take up much room, but you could get away with a pair of lady's tights, that have a multitude of other uses, or one of those emergency replacement ones, that's actually a bit of PVC tubing - again something having other uses. So, I have included the fan belt in this list basically to illustrate that point. I mean there are hundreds of other 'spares' that you could carry, but in a similar manner, how many of them would be needed if you apply a bit of basic maintenance, and how many of them can be fixed or made functional, or by passed all together with more basic materials with a greater multiplicity of uses.
BUT, that said, conventional 'V' belts are becoming less common and a lot of modern vehicles are using toother 'serpantine' belts instead, that are more difficult to 'jury rig' And even with a 'V' belt, took my local motorfactors three days to get one the right length for Bert, not long ago! So, my opinion is swaying, and I can see more justification for carrying a fan-belt, but maintenance SHOULD still be your primary means of saving a break-down.
Just because it's funny, I had a Morris Minor years ago, and it broke down because of a faulty fuel pump. I bought a new replacement, and that burned out too.
Now, the replacement was an electronic one. On the original, the pump was worked by a set of points that made and broke a circuit. The new one did that with a crystal and transistors.
Any way, when the replacement one broke, I was left stranded at the road side, and after a lot of fiddling and faffing about, found the fault and was blindly cursing the motorfactors that had assured me it was a direct replacement, and much more reliable. Not a lot of help to me at the side of the road.
But the 'fix' was that I ripped a speaker wire out from under the floor, cut it into the supply to the pump, and routed it through the joint of the bonnet and then round the windscreen and through the quarter light of the passenger door.
I then drove thirty miles home, with my passenger holding the two bare ends of this bit of bell wire, touching them together to make and break the circuit and pump the fuel through, every time I felt the engine falter as the carburettor float bowl started to empty!
It turned out that I had a dynamo on this car, and that the modern pump wasn't compatible with them - it burned out the diodes and transistors. So, if after the first pump failure I'd decided to carry a spare, it wouldn't have actually done me any good, because within a few miles, that one would have burned out too.
A permanent fix was ultimately found by reconditioning the original pump, but, having observed that each time power was put to the pump it gave a squirt, and with a bit of ingenuity, I Africaneered a get you home fix, with little more than what was already in the car.
Skweezee gasket. I HATE this stuff. Mainly because it gets used in the wrong places at the wrong time by the wrong people. Skweeze Gasket is not a substitute for proper gaskets during maintenance or permanent repair. Its just laziness. Proper gaskets are a lot cheaper, and making your own from gasket paper even cheaper than that, but an ill prepared or lazy mechanic will just reach for the blue gunk, that has no home in any self respecting work shop. In the car it is a totally different story. At the side of the road, you are not particularly bothered with permanence or doing the job right. So here its use is sort of legitimate. You cant possibly carry pre-cut gaskets for every application, nor would it be practical to try and cut a paper gasket from sheet, in the dark and pouring rain at the side of the road. Plus this stuff can be glooped into cracks, crevices and holes to kind of stem the flood, so do things you couldn't do with gasket paper.
lock wire. Lock wire is a very versatile quick fix material. Main thing about it is that it will withstand heat and can take a lot of tension. You can pass electricity through it, and pass it through small holes. Situation where it is useful are things like looping up exhausts where the mounts have broken through, or locking somewhere a split pin has broken free from or had to be ditched during a repair. As a fundamental engineering material, really the stuff's use is as boundless as your imagination.
Cabe Ties. Brilliant invention these things. Hold cables together. But also provided they aren't used any where hot, can be used in a lot of circumstances where lock wire would be awkward or difficult or time consuming. Also, like a Jubilee clip, they can provide pressure, so be used in many of the same ways as a hose clamp.
Jubilee Clips. Clamps hoses tight right? Well yes but it can also be used to exert pressure. Bent out of shape they can be used as a clamp, or to make a joint. Open one out and you have a flat strip that can be used as a wedge or a bracket.
Insulation Tape. Main use is to insulate wires when you make a joint in them. This could be a twist joint, in which case the tape can add strength as well as insulation. But, hundred and one other uses, like celotape for fastening things together or bandaging them up.
Tank Tape (duct tape, gaffer tape, whatever name you know it by). Bit like insulation tape, but broader and reinforced with fabric. Not so great for insulating wires, though you can tear of small bits to do that if you have to, but can be taped over a wider area to bandage things, or hold things together.
Super Glue. Another 1001 use material. Basically as an adhesive, its not one of the strongest, but is very quick and very versatile. One thing it is good for is gluing things to glass. But main use I find in a quick fix pack, is for re attaching bits of plastic, so say the rotor arm had cracked, you'd glue the bits back togther with super glue, then once you had the thing whole again, use araldite around the outside to give the repair strength.
Araldite. One of my favourite adhesives. This stuff is very close to nylon in the material you get when it sets. As a glue, it is reasonably strong, but its main strength is provided from providing fill or build around a joint, rather than in holding the two bits together across a joint. So, when you use it to glue things together, make sure you spread it over a wide area around the joint. I'll give you an example fix using araldite. Broken throttle linkage. The plastic cup that clips to the ball on the arm that works the throttle butterfly has broken. What has happened is that the sleeve that screws onto the rod has split and it keeps pulling out. So, you carefully clean the plastic and the rod. Then you smear a little araldite onto the threaded bit of rod, and push the plastic end back over it. With the two parts in place, you use some cotton and wrap that around and around the split area binding the plastic tight - just one layer of cotton for the second though. Then you smear the whole 'wound' area with araldite before tightly winding another layer of cotton. Smear the araldite over that layer and repeat. After about three layers of cotton, you should have built it up enough to hold. Now leave the araldite to set. Alone, the araldite wouldn't have been able to apply enough pressure to the joint to keep the plastic attached to the metal, and alone the cotton wouldn't have been strong enough, but together, what you actually have is a 'composite' material with the two working together to form a strong joint. Having got the principle of that one, you can apply the same idea to other 'composites', using say cotton cloth, rather than cotton thread, or lint, or cotton wool as the 'matrix' in your araldite composite 'matrix'
Which is bringing in a whole spectrum of new uses for the glue, but, just as an idea, Poly bushes. These tend to be made of polyurethane, which is where their name comes from. That plastic though is in the same family as Nylon, and Araldite. Which means that Araldite can be used to cast artifacts from and is suitable as a bearing or bushing material. So, if you have a hole that needs plugging, mix araldite, and mix into it, say cotton wool. That pads out the volume, so you dont need so much glue, increases the strength, and makes it less runny, so that you can glob it into the hole, and it wont run out. Using nothing more than insulation tape and a bit of paper to make a mould, you can actually cast araldite into small artefacts - say a small bush or spacer or something like that. On an engine I had, I had a steel stud shear in an aluminium casing. Unfortunately it turned out to be a stainless steel stud, and it wouldn't drill out. Getting it out took most of the boss that the stud had screwed into with it. So, Carefully, I filed the remains of the boss flat, with a piece of paper under the file to catch the filings. Then I drilled and tapped deeper into the casing, where the stud would have been, and screwed a new stud into this hole. This left the boss face where the mating part would have rested about 3/4" lower than it was to start with. So, I built the boss back up with washers to get the fight face height, and then embedded them all in araldite to keep them in place and secure, even when the stud was removed. But, to make the araldite a bit less fluid, and increase its volume, when I mixed it, I mixed in the filings I'd collected, to increase the volume and 'match' the two materials. OK - that was a permanent repair, and you aren't going to start drilling and tapping and filing at the side of the road. But, you get the idea about how you can use the stuff. It really is incredibly versatile, if you don't think of it so much as a glue, but as a liquid plastic.
16A wire. Basic material, again. 16A is a good 'weight' because its light enough to be flexed into most places, and has a high enough current rating that it shouldn't melt. If you have to fix something with a 30A or 45A load, then, as a temporary fix, its acceptable to use two or three strands of wire, to share the load. But remember the speaker bell wire. Probably has about a 5A rating, and if you have a stereo, and need wire, rob it out to effect a fix on another system, if needs be. Getting home is more important than listening to music, right?
Scotch Locks. Another convenience I don't like much. These things are a plastic block with a metal blade in it. Metal blade has two 'V' shapes in it that line up with grooves in the plastic. Idea is that you can lie a wire into one groove, then the end of a wire into the other. Press the two halves of the block together, and in so doing, press the metal blade through the insulation of the two wires and make an electrical bridge between them. They are often included in kits for stereos or accessories so that you can piggyback into the existing wiring. The reason I don't particularly like them is that the contact they make isn't all that great. Inside the car they are OK ish, but eventually the pvc insulation on the wire relaxes and gives a poor contact between the wire and the bridge. Outside the car, moisture gets in very quickly and corrodes the bridge leading to a poor contact. I'm old fashioned. I like to make a proper soldered splice. But, for a fast fix, a scotch lock can be used to splice in a new section of wire to bypass a section of circuit or remake one, reasonably quickly and easily.
Male/Female Combi Crimp terminals. Basically the standard Lucar type crimp connector. But, you have two types, male and female. Males are just a plain flat blade, and females have the curly edges that wrap around the flat spade. Combi's have a female spade, but the middle section is extended, and folded back on itself, so that there's a male spade lying parallel to the female. These are dead useful. I have a similar feeling about crimp connectors as I do to scotch locks, and whenever I can, I still actually make a solder joint on them - but at the side of the road, that can wait. Thing about them is that the spade will fit switch terminals and connectors, and connectors on things like temperature senders, starter motor solenoids, fan thermostats and stuff like that. Having a Combi, gives you three chances - you can attach to a male blade, a female blade, or use one to connect two wires to the same termination.
Elastic Bands. Some over lap with cable ties and maybe jubilee clips here. But an elastic band can be quite useful. Basically as a tension spring, you can use one to substitute for a throttle return spring, or to hold something in place, like a waggling indicator stalk, or a speedo drive cable.
WD 40. This is a 'Water Dispersant' - NOT a penetrating oil or lubricant. But it is useful. Drowned distributor from wading, a ford or merely hard prolonged driving rain? Wipe out with a cloth, and squirt with WD40, inside & out. Can be squirted into the carburettor as a passable 'Easy Start', and makes a useful degreasing to clean parts before gluing, or fixing, or just get the worst oil off your hands before driving off.
Bic Biro. On its own, you can write with it. That gives it a hundred useful purposes. If you have some masking tape, you can write on it to label wires or things like that during fault finding. You can make notes with it, or do sums. Point is quite useful too. A lot of digital clocks or electrical gadgets have ball point 'reset' switches that need a pen point to press them. And there are lots of places on a car where a 'stylus' implement can be used to get into a tight gap and check things or move small things. You can actually set Top Dead Centre, so that you can set the static timing using a ball point pen. Simply remove the spark plug for number one cylinder, insert ball point and with it resting on the piston crown turn the engine over by hand and with your finger on the top of the biro and rock the crank back wards and forwards through the point where you feel the pen stop going up and start going down. We've done the tracheotomy one already, but other uses for the biro that I've found are many. Favourite one is to cut the tube down then to put a slot in one side so that I can slide it over a control cable to extend the outer cable and compensate for the inner being rather stretched. The biro tube isn't really strong enough, and it wont last, but its usually strong enough to get you home. Another one I've done with it is repair a split fuel line. I've cut the split section out, then pushed the ends over the ends of the biro barrel to replace the missing bit of pipe and make a suitable union. As it was over the top of the engine, and in a warm place, though, i did use cable ties to pull the hose and the biro away from the engine as best I could.
OK, onto the next sub section:- 'Quick Fix' Tools.
Pretty much as with everything else here, the basic concept is as much versatility and functionality as possible, with minimum mass and volume. So, things like Hub nut spanners shouldn't be in there. What I tent to carry, is something like the following:-
Swiss Army Pen-Knife. Don't leave home without it. I actually only have one with about six blades or something like that. Its one of the 'classic' ones. Basically big blade small blade, bottle opener, can opener, corkscrew and a thing for getting stones out of horses hooves. Tooth pick and tincy pliers in the top, and it has enough to be useful, without being bulky enough for you to not want to carry it in your pocket. And don't think that there is a substitute. Over the years I have NEVER come across a multifunction folding pen knife that can hold a sharp edge like a proper Victorinox pen-knife. I lucked onto a cheap Chinese one once that wasn't bad, but eventually went on the pivots, but that was a fluke I think.
Stanley Knife/Scalpel. Actually I prefer the cheap disposable break off blade type. A Large on and a small one. The advantage of the break off blade is that you first can quickly and easily get a sharp edge and point back on the bit of blade you actually cut with. Second is that you can flick the full length of the blade out and use it as a full sized knife if you want. In some cases, like cutting radiator hoses, this can substitute for a saw.
Saws. A saw is a useful addition. I don't rate the ones that are like a handle you put a hack saw blade in, they are neither one thing nor the other. A small 'Junior' hacksaw takes up not a lot of space and can be quite handy for things like hoses or cutting metal. Better, is a full sized hack saw, but it isn't increasing functionality much over a Junior version as far as quick fixes go. BUT, if you have a couple of wood blades for one, then you can use it to cut branches from trees. OK - well, if you are stuck in a hole, cutting some brush wood can give you packing as a substitute for bridging ladders. And in a survival situation, you can cut wood to build a shelter or make a fire. Might even be good enough with a bit of work to help clear a fallen tree blocking your route.
Screw Drivers. Tempting here to carry the multi bit ones. Trouble is access, getting them into tight spaces. For the extra volume, I don't think that its really worth it. Small cross head, Medium Cross head, Small Plain, Large Plain. Four tools.
Pliers. Number one essential here, but what type, and what size? Well, the standard genral purpose set contains a pair of medium bull nose pliers, a mediup pair of pin nose pliers, and a pair of side cutters. That works for me. With a saw, and a scalpel, and a swiss army penknife, though, given that both pin nose and bull nose pliers will usually have a guillotine blade, may be omitted if space is at a premium. Wiring or Crimping Pliers. We've included scotch locks and crimp connectors, so logically, these should be needed. Bit 50/50, actually, An effective crimp on a crimp connector can be made with a pair of ordinary pliers. So, decide on whether you have the space for them.
Mole / Vice Grips. These can be handy. They have the ability to act as a big pair of pliers, a clamp, or even a spanner. Trouble is they do none of those things well. That said, they are versatile enough that they are worth carrying. But remember their limitations, because used badly they can give you endless opportunities to hurt yourself. Which is the last thing you need when you are frustrated at having broken down to start with.
Test Pen. Electrics are almost impossible to diagnose with out some form of volt meter and a way of testing continuity. Fancy multi-meters may be a bit bulky, expensive and fragile to lug about in the 'quick fix' kit. So a test pen is an ideal alternative. Most are a bit 'gadgety', but if they have a 0-16v scale, you can test for live wires, and alternator output, and even your battery. With a Continuity indicator, they can be used to trace wiring, and with an HT induction coil and bulb, they can help you find problems in the ignition. Actually, about 90% of the electric testing you might want to do with a multi meter could be done with a test pen. I have one that has a small torch in it too. Worth while. You can substitute for them though. A lot of the time you don't actually need to know precise voltages. If you were to rob out an indicator bulb, and hang a pair of wires off it, one to ground and one to whatever you wanted to test, if it lit up, you have volts. If it lights up nice and bright, you have enough volts. If the filament merely goes cherry and you get nothing more, then you don't have enough volts.And if you get nothing at all, then you either have incredibly small volts, or none at all.
Similarly, for continuity, all you need to do is put a battery in series with the bulb. A square 9v battery like you get in smoke alarms will light an indicator bulb, but probably easier is to use your torch. Find the switch, set it to the 'OFF' position, and connect two wires, one to either contact in the switch, so that when you touch their free ends together, they bridge the switch. Now, using those two flying leads, you can see if you have continuity between two points by touching those wires to the points and seeing if the torch lights up. Spanners. I don't actually carry ANY spanners with me. Well, not quite, I know that I have a 17/14mm spanner in the dash board, and that there is normally a 13mm a 1/2" and a 7/16" in there too. The metric 17/14 is actually there as a key to undo the locking nut that holds the tail gate of my bike trailer up. 13mm similarly is used as a key for battery terminals And the 7/16 & 1/2" spanners are just used so often I normally forget to put them away! Err, yes, well. Basic thing here is that spanners take up a lot of space and add a lot of weight, and to be useful, you really need two sets - one on the nut one on the bolt. Possible I suppose to get by with an adjustable or carry socket sets, but.... Fundamentally, the limit of what you can actually fix with spanners means that you are going a bit beyond the 'Quick Fix' and really you are looking at things that maintenance should have prevented, or things that perhaps you shouldn't be thinking about trying to fix at the side of the road. At the end of the day, I guess that it's a judgement call on your part, and that at least a small and medium adjustable might not be a bad idea - but as they are very quick to round out fasteners, they could just as easily make a fix more difficult as effect a fix, especially on a Land Rover where nuts and bolts tend to be pretty stubborn. Basically, you are at the point where you are looking to carry a 'full' tool kit in the car - so if you put the spanners in, do you also throw in all the rest of your work shop tools, because after the spanners, there's not usually much else in a hobby tool box. About the only one I do advise is a Plug spanner so that you can take the spark plugs out. That can tell you a lot about what an engines doing. After that, I dont know, your call. A couple of commonly used sizes, or a whole set, and then where do you stop?
And I think that that is about it. You could include a hammer, but you can substitute the back of the wheel brace, a rock a brick of a chunk of wood if needs be. And you might ask about things like files or emery paper and things like that. A bit like spanners its a bit of a judgement call, and how far do you go? Personally, a few odds of emery or the sand paper of the side of a box of matches, and a saw blade or Stanley knife blade, and you can get by. So, the conclusion is ultimately, like the first aid kit, use your desecration, and decide what would be worth while for you, remembering that this is for 'Quick Fixes', not major opperations.
So , onward.
UK Road Atlas / other suitable maps. What the point is there to having a car if you don't know where you are going? OK, so for short journeys in your local area where you probably know the geography well, its not going to be all that useful. But, set of on longer runs and having something to guide you can be a real boon. I used to have a great little AA road atlas in a hard cover that covered al of the UK road network down to a reasonably good resolution that I could pick out small hamlets and settlements, showed sites of interest and most back lanes and tracks. If you are stuck in a traffic jam on the motorway, pull the darn thing out and study it. Find another route. It might not be any quicker, but al least it wont be as boring! Place you've gone to not so interesting as you thought? Find somewhere else. Maps let you find where you are, and how to get somewhere else, without having to try and navigate like a blind mouse in a maze. Now, OS maps, are, frankly, brilliant. I don't think that there is anything that can give you more detail or better resolution. But the trouble is they aren't all that convenient to use, and largely, they can give you TOO MUCH detail, when driving.
A good UK atlas is the core tool. Hard back, so that it doesn't get ripped when its stuffed under the seat or thrown in the boot. And about A4 size, maybe a tad bigger, but NOT 'JUMBO'. Those things are the size of a broad sheet news paper and bloomin awkward. Passenger sat with one on their lap might have a nice big area to look at, and be able to see things nice and easily, but they are either going to be holding it up blocking half the windscreen, or holding it down, so that you cant get to the gear lever, and possibly even indicator stalks. Standard size is fine. After that, it can be helpful to add OS maps of the areas you are interested in, or 'tourist maps' or guide 'maps'. They are all useful and can often give information you wont find in the road atlas. But keep them organised. There is nothing worse than a navigator getting into a tangle with a map, while the driver shouts "But Which Way". Stop, untangle them and get it sorted. Just a useful nugget. Tourist Information centres and points. Often in motorway services, or Little Chef type places. The leaflet racks are a mine of information, with places to go and things to do, and maps of how to get to them, or even suggested tours taking in certain attractions. They are worth collecting, but you need to review them and keep them tidily, other wise you'll end up with twenty leaflets for the same thing all cluttering up your cubby box, and the one for the thing you were interested in, on the floor, soaked in mud, and ripped to pieces. I have an old brief case, and I keep the 'non immediate' maps in. From City A-Z's to OS maps and all the pamphlets we pick up along the way. Periodically, it gets brought in, and the leaflets reviewed, when we want an idea of a family day out of holiday. Oh, and last note: Computer based Satalite Navigation may now be cheap enough that it can be fitted to mid range cars almost as standard, and there may be a hundred route planners and place finders on computer programs and the internet. Just remember, Maps don't need batteries. (But hey - if you print a route map or location map, you can use it as a book mark in your Road Atlas, and have the best of both worlds)
Compass. Now this sort of goes with the maps. A lot of people kind of complain that a compass is too difficult to work, but I don't understand that, its a dial its needle always points the same direction, what's so difficult? And in this country, at least, with in general, pretty good route marking on sign posts, the usefulness can be limited. But, they don't take up much room. And can stop you going round in endless circles when you are lost. Personally I favour the water filled Sylva type, and again, the old fashioned ones that don't need batteries.
Box of Matches. Start a fire, Sterilise a needle. Make a tooth pick. Use as a mixing stick for araldite. Sand-paper on the side to clean points or spark plugs. A bit of card board to wedge something. Or use the empty box to keep the spider that bit little Johnny in, so that you can show the Doctor and they will know what anti-dote to give him.
Rags / towel / Blanket. Rags, help you keep things clean, like your hands or the dipstick. Also, soaked in fuel they can be used to start a fire. Or soaked in water to apply a cold compress. Following the theme, simple basic multi-functional material. Like Wise a towel. Wipe windscreens with it, dry hands or hair on it, whatever. Blanket. Spread it out and sit on it, hang it over a branch to make a crude shelter. Wrap it around yourself to keep warm. And you can rip these items up to make medical dressings, or make a rope or anything of that nature, depending on your needs, and inginuity.
Which about wraps it up. A-List is the primary stuff to worry about. B-List is the stuff that needs a bit of thinking about, but covers the bulk of any worry. So what about a C-List?
Well, this is wandering off much more, into areas of your own interest or concern.
I mean, if you are keen to go off roading, then packing more specific recovery gear may be worth while, like a high lift jack, more rope, shackles, snatch blocks, ground anchors, bridging ladders and wot not.
If you are going off on week end camping trips, then things like a Primus stove, electric cool box, that type of thing may be more important. If you are intending to do some long distance touring, then it might be worth thinking about some more specific and dedicated tools and spares, so that you could effect more than just a temporary fix, either at the side of the road, or in a local garage or friendly local's drive way. But, I suppose that the place to start is with some of the kind of things advertised in the magazines or 'gift' catalogues, or on offer on the shelves at Halfords.
Fire Extinguisher. OK. I have two views on these. First, the sort that is practical to carry in a car is small, and ineffectual on anything serious. I once had a diesel powered compressor catch fire, on a site I was working at. The fire extinguisher in the cab of the truck was pointed at it early on, and released, covering the engine block in powder and choking us with the dust, but not doing anything to stop the fire. As it got hotter and started melting out the seals leaking oil onto the floor, that then caught fire, another powder extinguisher damped the flames enough on the floor to get the bloke who'd been trying to shut the thing down out and away. But within seconds the area was engulfed again, and we were rapidly shovelling building sand at the area, and that just about kept the fire at bay until the fire brigade arrived. So, realistically, If you have a 'runaway'. Get out, get clear, and stay clear, because you are NOT going to put out a diesel engine fire with a two and a half pound powder extinguisher. And a water filled one would have made the situation worse.
I think that they might just about be enough to stem or quell an under dash electrical fire, but my instinct is, for get it, get out and get help.
And then I have another experience. A friend of mine bought a very powerful high performance car, that he then had tuned to the hilt, in a no expense spared kind of way, to make almost a touring car racer for the road. Aware that he had more than doubled the fuel line pressure, and not got the plumbed in, under bonnet fire extinguisher systems of the racers, he fitted a hand held fire extinguisher to the dash board.
And then he rolled the thing. OK, bit silly, bit stupid, but here's the rub. He ran off the road, and flipped it as he went through a hedge. The car was absolutely trashed, and he spent three days unconscious in hospital with severe concussion. Air bag had deployed, seat belts had kept him in the seat, roof hadn't collapsed.
The fire extinguisher had come loose during the impact and hit him on the head!
Ridiculously, as feared, the fuel line had ruptured during the accident, and a LOT of fuel had spilled, but, the systems had shut down and prevented it being sprayed, and most of what had dripped out had merely dripped out of the fuel filler vents under gravity, and according to the rescue team - 'posed very little real danger'.
So, for the space and weight - I don't think that they have an awful lot of real usefulness. BUT, if you do feel that one would give you piece of mind, fine. Just make sure that you get a suitable type, like powder, or CO2, that is as large as you reasonably can practically fit, and when you install it, make sure that it is mounted somewhere very safe and very secure, and yet still easy to get to.
Escape Tool. This thing, from memory is like a little orange toffee hammer, with pointed head, and a stanley knife blade in a hook in the handle. The idea is that if you are in a crashed car, you can use the hook and blade to slice yourself out of the seat belt, then use the hammer to break the wind screen, so that you can get out. Likewise, it works so that you can get another occupant of the car out, or even get into and get at the occupants of a crashed car, from the out side. For the space and weight, this could, I guess be quite a useful little widget. BUT, provided you have a wheel brace, or a brick and a penknife or stanley knife, you could as easily improvise.
Ration Pack. Some-times you find emergency ration packs offered. Usually they have something like a big sheet of alumninumised polythene like they wrap marathon runners in after a race, along with a sachet of glucose drink, and then perhaps some high glucose 'energy bar' and maybe some salty biscuits full of minerals. The idea is to treat some-one suffering from exposure or exhaustion, straight away.
Other kits might just contain a bar of Kendal Mint Cake and some dried fruit or something. The kind of food that keeps indefinitely.
Either way, whether you buy a kit or put something together yourself, it doesn't really matter. Basic idea is to have some kind of stores of quickly ingested sugar food that can be immediately available.
I tend to keep about four or five bags of mints and wine gums in the cubby box. It's not intended as an emergency 'Ration', its more so that I can give the kids a quick sugar boost in the car so that they don't get crabby, cooped up on a long run. But, it would suffice in a 'situation'.
I also tend to keep a few cans of that 'Red-Bull' type drink. I actually discovered the stuff after a very long and hot trial competition on my motorbike. The course had been laid out to be a bit too challenging, and about 2/3 of the entrants retired with exhaustion or fatigue before the event ended. The rest of us wobbled and weaved our way around, racking up more and more penalty points until the end, where upon we were so dehydrated and exhausted that we could hardly stand, let along ride a motorbike where mountain goats would fear to tread.
I was handed a can of that stuff and told 'Drink'. And it was astonishing. I'd drunk about three litres of water, and it had done nothing but bloat me. But that stuff, blimey. It really did quench my thirst, rehydrate me, and actually gave my body the energy to start absorbing all the water I'd already drunk. And it woke me up and made me alert.
So, having sung the stuffs praises, because I know that it CAN work; here's the warning. The stuff contains about a weeks supply of caffeine and other powerful stimulants. It is nasty stuff, and can do dire things to your kidneys if used to excess. And that is a real worry, because the stuff is pumped as being good for you, to highly active, extreme sport kind of people who think that they are really fit and health conciouse. But it can kill.
More worryingly, the stuff is offered as a substitute for sleep. Rave Music Clubbers have been drinking the stuff for ages to 'keep them going' in pretty much the way that mods took bennies in the sixties and Disco Divas took anphetamines in the seventies and eighties.
When they start offering it to drivers, as a 'pick me up' - then it is getting dangerous. Yes, it gives you a boost, if your blood sugar level is low, and your hydration levels low, and your levels of alertness reduced because of a period of high activity 'work out' like a cycle race or a five mile run, then it will help bring you back up. But if the problem is not that you have burned all of your blood sugars and stuff very quickly, you have burned them off at the normal rate, and are merely inattentive and worn out because of a long period of moderate activity, then the boost this stuff gives you is trying to over drive your system, not fill in a gap. Which means that you will try and use more, to get more effect, and you will try and use it for longer, because its effects wear off faster - in short, its working against you, not for you.
Now, in a Trials Competition, I will take a six pack of them with me, and I will try and ration myself. If it is a really hot, hard event, I'll have one can after each 'lap', of which there are usually four - but that's it. Other wise I'll try to only use one after maybe the first lap, and then one when I finish. And I wont use them other wise.
If we go green laning, they will be in the cubby box, and typically, I can look forward to perhaps sixteen hours driving in a day. If I need to, I will have one before we set off home on the return leg at the end of the day. The driving through the day on the rough stuff will have been more than normally exhausting, so it will make up sor a bit of a dip in blood sugars and stuff. And it's better to take it early and get a boost so that it can stimulate my body into converting the picnic lunch into useful energy now, than to wait until I'm drowsy at the wheel, and the kids are all dozed off in the back, and then hope that it will wake me up.
Any way - that's my cautious approach to the things, I do know people who drink them like pop. But, as part of the 'Ration Pack' I have something that I know I could give to some-one in a 'situation'.
So, you can put together things like this to keep in the car dedicated to the eventuality of an 'emergency', or you can just be selective about what you put in the car for day to day use, that can have the same effect. I mean, rather than just having sweets or drinks for the journey, keeping a nominal supply in there and topping it up as used.
GPS. Now on the 'B-List', we had a compas, and it's usefulness was a bit in question. GPS is another matter. A compass points north. A GPS, even the most rudimentary one, will tell you what your absolute location is, as a map reference, along with the direction you are facing. This makes it a little bit more useful.
More sophisticated systems can tell you where you are, where you were, and where you want to get to, and the most sophisticated systems will even tell you the best way to get from where you are now, to where you want to be.
This is not an emergency tool. This is a very helpful thing for finding your way around. How useful, I guess comes down to you, and how often you go and find new places.
Thing about them, at the moment at least, is that they are expensive, and the technology is progressing at such a rate that obsolescence is guaranteed very quickly.
Silly thing is that the entry level price of GPS systems doesn't seem to be coming down, but what you can expect to get for your money is leaping ahead rapidly. For me, at the moment, this has meant that I have been reluctant to hand over any money for one. If I wait until next year, I should be able to get something far better for the same money.
And for the use I would get from it, it is not hugely useful or essential. To you though it might be.
Stove & Kettle. Not something that leaps instantly to mind, worth thinking about. I HATE half warm, tasteless coffee from a thermosflask, and tea is even worse. Even the BEST thermos's struggle to keep drinks hot for more than about for or five hours, so the solution is a kettle to make fresh drinks as required. In my case I have one of those little travel kettles that plug into the cigarette lighter. I will say this now, they are pretty useless, and take about half an hour to biol one decent mug full of water, and unless the engine is running, flatten the battery. I was actually given the one I use at the moment, after I'd mentioned that the one that my Granddad bequeathed to me when he retired as a travelling service manager had broken. That one was about as bad, but you could only get half a cup of water in it, so it did boil a bit quicker. Better than nothing though. One day I will get round to getting a Primus stove and metal kettle, which is what I recommend, but at least the electric one is relatively convenient. And think about the survival and medical implications that having a mechanism for heating water offers. I'd give this accessory a 'well worth thought' rating. And a Primus a 'Worth the Money' rating.
Portable Fridge. Well, those little electric cool boxes are now under £50. Practically, they aren't going to freeze anything in a hurry. Bit of a luxuary, but a nice on, and I suppose, it could be useful in a situation.
Portable Radio. Yes, OK, you probably have a stereo in the dash board, but still. A small, and they can now be incredibly small, portable radio is very useful. First of all you can take it away from the car, so if you have gone for a walk or whatever, you can still check the football results, or more importantly the weather reports. In some places, even in this country, the weather can turn incredibly quickly, and radio reports are your first warning. And if you are stranded, listening to a radio broadcast can do a lot to distract you and help keep you from slipping into a state of despair. Note that I say radio though. Beauty of a radio is that it is small compact and needs no 'media', and because it is basically just amplifying a signal from the air, it doesn't have the same power consumption as say a cassette player that has to drive the tape through the rollers and over the heads before amplifying the noise. This means that the batteries are a lot less likely to go flat on you.
Two Way Radio. PMR or CB or even amateur Radio. I've actually already written a section on this specifically, but as a useful 'emergency tool'? Personally I think that in the UK, at least, its a bit limited. Amateur radio is probably the most powerful, and in some parts of the world they have a two way radio infrastructure so that you can contact emergency services or authorities with it. I also believe that where amateur radio is more common, there is also the possibility to use it as a radio beacon for rescue services to use detection equipment to find you. In the UK and Europe and probably a lot of North America, I suspect that this is probably only in existence for marine or aviation radio. However. I suppose that with CB or PMR radio, that there does exist the possibility of transmitting to some-one outside of your situation who can summons help on your behalf, although I wouldn't want to bank on such an event. If you have two PMR's or walkie talkies, though, you do have the ability to split a party and stay in contact, so in managing a situation they may have some value.
So, rounding up, I could probably go on for ever trying to think of stuff that you might want to think about having in the car, from knives and forks to umbrellas, to fishing stools. And I mention those off the top of my head, merely since they have been things that I have kept as permanent equipment in my car before now.
I think that what we have come down to is the point where your life style really determines what else you carry, or what accessories you choose. The thing to think about is to consider if what you choose to carry has any 'secondary' or 'emergency' applications, and that comes back to this idea of improvisation.
A few last thoughts. Recovery Equipment. This probably ought to be a topic in its own right, and we've covered a bit of it already. Off-Roading, they are always harping on about what recovery equipment you should have and the minimum you should venture off road with.
And a LOT of people think that a winch is the be all and end all of their recovery worries. Personally I disagree, and warn against such assumption. And old woodwork teacher I once had told me that power tools were fine, but if you didn't know how to use a hand saw or a hand drill or what ever, giving you the powered equivalent just meant you could foul up faster. Lot of truth in that. And remember they built the pyramids with little more than sand, rope and a LOT of ingenuity. In South America, the Incas and Aztecs didn't even have the benefit of the wheel, and they left huge city structures. If ancient man could shift ten ton blocks of stone huge over such great distances and to such heady heights as that, it must be a pretty poor show if modern man cant get a Land Rover out of a muddy puddle.
So ultimately, the number one piece of equipment to pack is your head. Common sense, imagination, a little knowledge, a bit of ingenuity, and you can do incredible things, with whatever you have to hand.