Bradley Jando | Wednesday 27th January 2021 4:43pm
Many of us will probably have already been caught short when driving – or, at least us unlucky folks – and there are few things worse than driving on a pitch-black country road, miles from anywhere, and having your headlamps blow or getting a flat tyre. So it’s worth preparing for emergencies. A little time getting familiar with emergency repair techniques now could save you hours at the side of a frosty road.
Here are the top 10 things you need to keep in your car in case of emergencies.
1. A well-stocked first aid kit
While it’s rare to get a cut while driving, having a well-stocked first aid kit handy in your car is a great way to quickly deal with anything that may happen. You’ll usually realise that you need a first aid kit at the time you get an injury, say, changing a flat tyre, so it’s best to get one before becoming injured.
If you own an older vehicle, making sure to have a liquid antiseptic, tissues, plasters, and bandages handy will mean that you’ll be able to thoroughly clean and treat any cuts from rusty parts of your car.
2. Bottle jack, jack stands, and wheel chocks
Getting a flat tyre in a remote location may not just be inconvenient; if you don’t have any phone signal then it may be impossible to call for help.
Having a bottle jack handy is indispensable. They’re relatively inexpensive and learning how to use them will save you a lot of trouble. It’s the difference between spending 20 minutes changing a tyre, or hours waiting for emergency help.
Even though they tend to be rated for lower weight ratings than, say, trolley jacks, bottle jacks are much smaller and more portable than either trolley or scissor jacks – so they don’t take up your entire boot.
Get familiar with suitable jacking points for your vehicle, use quality chocks, and carry suitable jack stands.
3. A suitable torque wrench, breaker bar, and threadlocker
Often the most common emergency is a flat tyre. When that happens, you’ll most likely need to get your vehicle safely on jack stands and change the wheel over. In order to do so, however, you’ll often need a breaker bar. These are long bars with a large socket head that you use to exert a large amount of force on wheel nuts.
Especially on older vehicles, the wheel nuts can be corroded to the bolts, so a breaker bar is one of the easiest ways to remove them.
Now, when you’ve got the new wheel on, you’ll need to tighten the bolts to a certain tightness. If you tighten them too tight then you’re in danger of stripping the bolt thread – or even breaking the bolt – but if you don’t tighten them enough then you’re in danger of them coming loose. Having a good quality threadlocker means that the bolts stay on tightly, won’t rust, and can be removed for future tyre changes.
Now, in order to tighten the wheel nuts correctly, you need to use a torque wrench set to the right torque (tightening force).
Usually, in metric systems, these are measured in terms of Newton Meters (Nm). Different bolts will need to be tightened to different torques depending on the specification of the manufacturer. For example, a Vauxhall Corsa’s wheel nuts need to be tightened to 110 Nm, whereas the nuts for larger vehicles such as Transporter vans or Motorhomes often need to be torqued as high as 180 Nm. Make sure you check the correct option for your model.
4. Your vehicle’s service & repair manuals
Unless you’ve superhumanly memorised all of the correct torque requirements for your vehicle, having the service and repair manuals handy will really help if something goes wrong out on the road.
They often quite clearly run through how to replace parts, how to access areas, which fuses go where, and what torque each bolt needs to be tightened to.
5. A socket wrench and set of car sockets
In case of other problems, you’ll often need a suitable socket wrench and a set of sockets up to 16mm, and sometimes more.
As a torque wrench is a precision tool – and its precision diminishes with each tightening – using it as a wrench is likely to give you false readings quite soon. So getting a socket wrench set that includes both ¼” and ½” drives means you can do the bulk of the tightening with the workhorse ratchet wrench, and then get an accurate tightness reading with your torque wrench.
6. 12v air pump
You may find that your spare tyre has deflated a little while being stored. Driving long distances on improperly inflated tyres can lead to further issues with your hubs, or cause premature wearing on your other tyres.
As such, it’s really important to have a small 12v air pump to hand so that you can simply plug into your car’s 12v socket and inflate any tyres that need inflating – either as you change them or as necessary.
7. Tyre puncture repair kit
If you don’t have a spare wheel, then having a tyre puncture repair kit ready – and knowing how to use it – is going to save you a lot of stress. If you have the right equipment, temporarily repairing a tyre is going to get you safely home and to a professional workshop.
They’re relatively inexpensive and invaluable when you need them.
8. Jump leads
Get yourself some suitable jump leads. They will need to be rated for the size of your battery, as having leads that are too thin may lead to them melting. Jump starting a car pushes a huge amount of power into the battery in a short amount of time, and if your leads can’t handle that then you may be in trouble.
But not having leads at all will likely get you into worse trouble! It’s a relatively simple process with a wide range of YouTube videos out there that can help guide you.
9. A portable battery pack
Often if you break down in remote places, you may also have to contend with low phone battery. Keeping a portable battery pack in your car means that even if you can’t get your car started you’ll be able to have enough power in your phone’s battery to call for help.
10. Spare bulbs
It’s something that’s rarely thought of, but carrying spare bulbs somewhere safe in your car means that if you have a bulb blow on a dark road you only need to swap the bulbs out. It certainly saves waiting in the dark for hours or, worse, having a crash.
If you feel like anything in your vehicle is going to cause an emergency, don’t just prepare for it, help to avoid it by booking an inspection at your local Kwik Fit Centre.
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