Prepare Yourself for Car Breakdowns or Winter Crises

Out of all of the areas of life – transportation and car ownership is one of the areas where there are no compromises to improve the health of our environment, unless you count choosing a fuel efficient vehicle, or a hybrid as a true ‘improvement.’  Out of all the compact cars I test drove and read about, the Honda Fit seemed to be the most fuel efficient non-hybrid available.  If I was in a more stable point in my life, I would definitely consider hybrids, but as the increased parts cost can be really high (my friend just had a $1,000 bill to fix a part of their Prius brakes system!), I decided that something like the Honda Fit non-hybrid is better for me.  The Honda Fit averages 35 miles to the gallon, driving in the city and highway.

Up until this point, I always had a car that was older than 10 years.  Because older cars are prone to having more problems, and because I am a single woman now without a husband or boyfriend or girlfriend who is knowledgeable about cars to help me out i a pinch, I’ve had to learn how to best deal with car issues by myself.  Read more about what I’ve learned about how to be an adult and own a car, in this post: How to Be an Adult.  In the list below I share what I’ve found helpful to keep in my car.

Out of all of the problems I’ve had with my car, the most frequent have been locking my keys in the car, and leaving my lights on and thus, needing a jump. Having jumper cables was key in getting myself out of this recurring pickle.  These TOPDC cables are 4 gauge.

If you don’t have roadside assistance, or if you max out your three free events per year with Triple A, there are a few other things you might want to have on hand.  The second thing I like to have is this Gorilla lug nut wrench with 2 sockets (actually there are 4 socket sizes – double ended).  I’m not the strongest person, and if I really want to be able to change a tire by myself, it is much easier with this tool.  I couldn’t get some of the lug nuts off with the standard wrench that came with the car.
Other things like this Powerbuilt Pro Tech ratchet comes in handy if you need to replace your battery.  If you are visiting an auto parts store, chances are you can get someone to help you replace the battery, but if you are out on the roadside, and don’t want to pay for a tow, it is a good idea to have a ratchet AS WELL AS the two sockets sizes you need to take off the nuts holding the battery in place.  I needed a 10″ extension bar to do this with my old car, but with the Honda fit, the battery is extremely accessible, and no extension bar is needed.  Take a look under your hood!  I recommend buying the two sockets you need at Lowe’s.  This ratchet has 72 teeth, is quick-release, and has a good finish which should last.
If your car didn’t come with a jack, this Hi-Lift Steel Jack is a good one that will jack up any car – small compacts to trucks and jeeps.

If your car isn’t new, having X-Treme Silicone Rubber Self Fusing tape can really come in handy.  I’ve been in a situation in which a tube under the hood blew a hole, and having the ability to tape that up (and more safely with this kind of tape) could mean you get to continue driving just long enough to get to the repair shop or auto parts store, avoiding a tow charge.  

If you live in more rural area, especially if you have snowstorms, etc, it’s always a good idea to have an emergency flag, like this one from Orion.  It can help people see you in a ditch, or in the snow.

And while you’re waiting and it’s freezing outside, or you’re trying to shovel your way out, make sure you always keep a pair of winter boots, socks and gloves in the car.

And then of course a shovel.  Usually Ace Hardware has short shovels for cars in the winter season, or there are two below.  When looking for a shovel, keep in mind that although you are not buying a conventional snow shovel, you still want a square tip to maximize your effort, and a ‘D’ handle seems like it would be nice to have, or at least a ‘T.’  If you need traction, try to grab some sticks and line them up in front of your tires, or if you have carpet or rubber mats, turn them upside down and use those as traction.

It might seem a little out there, but I also like having this exit tool that can break a car window, in case you ever get trapped, or in case someone else is trapped in another car.  It clips to your seat belt, and is easy to use.  IT also has a blade to cut your seat belt quickly.Last but not least, don’t forget to keep a roll in the car – you never know when you’re going to need it! 😉  I buy one of the two following biodegradable brands:

  • Emerald (byproduct of sugar-making process, from sugar cane).  BPA-free. A  byproduct of the sugar-making process that would be thrown away, bagasse is used to make toilet paper, paper towels, plates, napkins… Sugar cane is world’s #1 crop, and one of most readily available non-tree fibers.
  • Who Gives a Crap (Recycled or Bamboo).  You get $10 off, and I get $10 off, if  you use the following link:

Final tip: especially if you have a hatchback car like the Honda Fit, it is a good idea to buy a black bag to keep this stuff in.  A black-colored bag will hopefully blend in with the fabric of your interior, especially at night, decreasing the chance of a break-in. Make it as invisible as you can.  I shopped at Walmart for a bag, and found that the women’s accessories section had a simple black canvas bag that seemed way more durable and was way more pleasant to touch than the plastic-y bags in the gym bag section.  It was slightly cheaper as well.  Zip it up – you’re ready to be an adult who owns a vehicle!

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