The car was immaculate. It sat shiny and bright on the side of the road, polished and glinting in the Georgia sunshine. The high-pitched sounds of summer, the scent of wild honeysuckle, the bright blue skies.
Lying in the red dirt, the little girl stares up at underside of the car.
”What’s that?” she asks.

Her dad takes her small hand and guides it to hold the bailing wire in a tight space where only a five year olds hand would ever fit while he tightens it with a pair of pliers.
” It was a muffler until I hit that pothole back there. It’ll do ‘til we get to the next stop for the night and get a mechanic to replace it.”

I don’t know if it was a childhood spent on a farm where rainy days meant pulling weeds and fixing farm equipment or the military that led Dad to always keeping a road kit in the trunk of the car. Probably both. Most of the time when we got orders to transfer to another base we traveled across counties stopping at just about every historical marker I could imagine. Somedays I really miss that.

He is forever a resource to fix things. While spitting on the vapor locked fuel in the gas line got us up and running lickity split: heating little sister’s baby bottle was an unmitigated disaster. Dad set it on the hot engine block and didn’t loosen the cap. Overheated it shattered and milk went all over the engine. Our car smelled like sour milk for months. But it was far and few between that we were ever really left stranded whether or not it was fussy babies, an obstacle in the road or some mechanical failure.

Most cars come with a spare tire; tire jack and a lug wrench. Ours had an odd assortment of items that were surprisingly useful in many situations. There are a number of prepackaged emergency road kits that do a good job of covering all the bases, or if you want to you can assemble one of your own. Here's a basic list:

  • Jumper cables for a dead battery.
  • A flashlight.
  • Duct tape is handy for a short-term repair for broken hoses.
  • For holding hot items and wrestling with stubborn car part, at least two pair of pliers.
  • All purpose epoxy glue. The best kind to get is quick setting. It can be used to fix a broken distributor cap, window crank or the head your sister bites off of your favorite plastic horsey.
  • Spare fuses for electrical systems for when you wear out the horn honking for your sister to get out of the bathroom at the gas station. More importantly the lights, turn signals and the radio. The owner’s manual for the car will usually have a diagram of which fuses control which systems.
  • Both Phillips and flat head screwdrivers to secure any loose screws. And Timeshredder suggests “to include a Robertson screwdriver for us Canucks” too!
  • lj suggests possibly a strip of chocolate block would be useful in your Emergency car kit - it can join broken electrical wires more securely than tape, and takes up about as much space as a screwdriver.
  • Bailing, electrical wire and electrical tape. Bailing wire is great for holding things knocked loose and insulated electrical wire is useful for fixing damaged electrical wire.
  • A extra fan belt. A nylon stocking can substitute in a pinch. Tied tightly on the belts pulleys it can substitute for a broken fan belt for a short period of time.
  • Rope or twine. Don’t use on hot parts of the engine.
  • An extra quart of oil. In case you get low.
  • A tire inflator to temporarily fix a flat tire.
  • A siphon pump in case you run out of gas and need to borrow some from another vehicle.
  • Did you know a gas can, if it’s clean can also be used to fetch water for the radiator?
  • Sometime the battery in cell phones can run down so keep change for the telephone handy to make calls for tow trucks.
  • First make sure you’re in the safest place possible then set out some reflectors and/ or flares to warn other motorists while you work on the car.
  • A Fire Extinguisher. Strong enough to put out a flare.
  • A rubber mallet is great for pounding that small dent your boyfriend leaves from running across the hood of the car you just got for graduation or popping hubcaps on after fixing a flat. It can also be used in conjunction with pocking pliers to bang a stubborn nut or bolt loose.
  • First aid kits are indispensable. Drugstores sell them prepackaged. Make sure to include Band-Aids, gauze pads, germicidal hand wipes, anti bacterial ointment, scissors and tweezers.
  • Depending on the climate you may want to keep a blanket, warm hat and gloves, a windshield scraper, shovel and some sort of traction material like kitty litter or sand in case you get stuck. In the hotter climates keep at least a gallon of drinking water for drinking or if the car overheats.


Auto Emergency Kits:

Essential Winter Emergency Kit Items:

A first aid kit for the road, U.25. (Winter 2003).

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