Breakdowns happen, and they’re especially troublesome when you’re miles away from home and out of cell tower range to call for help. All of those tools sitting in your garage to fix your car won’t do you any good if you’re stranded on the road, so it’s wise to put together an emergency tool kit to keep in your vehicle. The following are among the best tools to keep in your car.
1. Jumper Cables
You never know when you’ll need a battery boost to get your vehicle going or help someone in need. It can be difficult enough to flag down help, but it’s even more frustrating when help arrives and neither of you has jumper cables. Choose cables with 4-gauge or 6-gauge wires that are at least 10 feet long, and make sure a storage bag is included. An alternative tool is a jump starter and power bank, which should allow you to start your vehicle without the assistance of another vehicle. It can also charge your electronic devices.
2. Tire Inflator/Sealer
Whether your car has a regular spare or a donut, keeping it properly inflated ensures that it’s ready when you need it. But if the spare isn’t usable, then what? That’s where a can of tire sealant comes in handy. For most tire problems it creates a permanent seal, helping to maintain tire pressure for the life of your tire. It doesn’t repair blowouts, so keep a spare handy and adequately inflated. Also, keep a tire inflation gauge in your vehicle to verify tire pressure levels.
3. Duct Tape
Is duct tape a tool? You bet it is! Along with a knife for cutting it, duct tape is indispensable for handling temporary repairs, such as a leaking hose, a broken fan belt, or a cracked or hanging body panel. You could even wrap it around your fingers if you’re working near hot surfaces and gloves aren’t available — it’s disposable and cheap so don’t be afraid to get creative.
4. Socket and Screwdriver Set
If a screw or bolt is loose, vibrating or otherwise threatening to come apart, duct tape may not fix it. Instead, turn to your socket and screwdriver set to tighten a loose connection or secure a clamp. Try to keep a variety of sockets, extenders and screwdriver tips on hand so you can deal with any component that comes loose.
Your smartphone’s flashlight does wonders, but why drain energy when a dedicated flashlight will do better? Today’s flashlights feature LED lights for a bright, wide beam. A twist-focus flashlight is ideal for concentrating light in small areas, such as sections of the engine bay. A headlamp or a light with its own stand can be even better, as they free up both hands for the task you’re performing.
6. Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)
Working on a vehicle without safety gear can be dangerous. Work gloves, safety glasses and a dust mask are useful things to have around. You might find ear protection helpful as well.
7. Tools for Winter
Most of the country must deal with frosty windows at some point during the cold months. A combination brush and scraper can remove built-up ice and sweep away snow. If you live where winter conditions prevail, a foldable snow shovel might be useful. A winter emergency kit with hand warmers, a fleece hat and gloves, cable ties, an emergency blanket and a first aid kit is good to have as well.
The Possibilities Are Endless
Your mobile tool kit is limited only by how much you can carry around. If you end up with a duplicate tool, consider throwing it in your vehicle. Other potentially useful items to consider include a tow strap, reflective triangles, a lighter and a fire extinguisher. These tools can enable you to take a practical approach to most emergency situations.
Check the car care tools available on NAPA Online, or trust our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on tools to keep in your car, chat with an expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.