Summer road trip season is over, but let's be honest. Who really wants to drive around in the summer? The roads are crowded with hordes of fast food-gobbling families packed into unwieldy, road clogging SUVs. Plus it's hot. Blech.
No sir, late fall and earlier winter is the time to hit the road. You'll enjoy crisp weather, pleasant scenery, and stretches of desolation that'll make you wonder if a bunch of those half naked psychos from Mad Max are going to show up in spiky dune buggies.
But when you make tracks, it isn't a bad idea to keep a few things in your car, juuuusst in case something goes wrong and you need to make like a Parking Lot Mechanic and fix something quick and nasty just to make the next checkpoint, so to speak.
This is your emergency tool kit, followed by a few quick repairs you can make.
- Screwdrivers. At least one flathead and one phillips. You can use the flathead as a mini prybar, so it's useful for all sorts of things.
- A crescent wrench. Better yet two: a small one and a larger one.
- A socket set. Get standard, metric, or both, depending upon the make of your vehicle. Japanese, European, and newer American cars use metric, old American iron uses standard, and some of the miserable American heaps from the '80s use both.
- Adjustable pliers. The two position small kind are best, and if you can bring a pair of channel locks, too, so much the better.
- Wire dykes. Indispensable. Don't leave home without ‘em.
- A sharpened pocket knife. Again. Everyone should have one in that little pocket in the left pocket of your jeans that you don't really know what else to do with.
- It's nice to have a hammer and maybe and axe chillin' in the trunk, but we don't have to get too crazy here.
- Baling wire and zip ties. It's important to know when to use one or the other. Baling wire is good for everything that doesn't involve electricity. If you think those loops of wire you just used to reattach the fuel pump harness you ripped off on a bumpy side road might cause a short and turn your car into a ball of flames, better use the wire ties.
- J.B. Weld. This stuff is amazing, and is good for everything from plugging up rust holes to repairing leaks in your intake manifold. Once it hardens, you can sand it into any shape you want.
- Silicone sealant. There are different kinds for different things: Some are for high temperatures, others make good flexible gasket material, and still others form a hard, crusty layer between two parts that need a hard, crusty layer between them.
- Duct tape. You can't fix everything with duct tape, but you can sure as hell try! Plus, a lot of duct tape repairs will hang on for a good while. If you're trying to keep water out of something, electrical tape works better.
- At least one beer can and an old coat hanger or two. C'mon, you had a coupla empties rolling around in the backseat anyway, didn'tya?!
- Tire plugs, a tire plug tool, and tire plug cement. So many people forget about this one, but it's so crucial! If you have this, you can probably fix your tire without having to buy a new one or drive on the donut spare because you didn't bring enough money for a new one. (You should really ditch the donut spare for a full size wheel/tire if it'll fit in your car).
Now that we've gone over tools and materials, here are some of the repairs you can make.
- Perforated exhaust pipes. If the rust isn't too bad, you can patch the holes with epoxy and beer cans and use wire coat hangers to strap the pipes to the bottom of the car. My exhaust pipe was held to the car with coat hangers for almost two years. True story. (Good thing California doesn't require safety inspections.)
- Cracked radiator/heater hoses. You can use beer cans, wrapped in strips of T-shirt or rag, to bind the wound. Then just tie it all up with a couple of hose clamps or some baling wire.
- Leaking gaskets (the easily accessible kind). Those sealants you had the foresight to pack will come in very handy for this. You don't even need a whole gasket in some cases. As long as you can clean all of the oil and grease off of the gasket mating surfaces, you can use a thin layer of gasket-maker or silicone to seal the gap. Don't use too much, though. The excess squeezes out when you tighten parts down, and can get into parts of the car that it shouldn't.
- Falling off exhaust parts. This is what those coat hangers are for (well, that and picking locks and making clips and things). Use a couple of coat hangers in a few different spots to hold up your crumbling exhaust pipe. Then you can use a combination of cans and hose clamps to patch the holes. Good enough for government work!
- We've already told you how to fix an oil pan with J.B. Weld and a penny, and when our normal website is again operational, you can review Mr. Torchinsky's article and learn how to do it yourself.
This list is by no means complete, because with the tool kit listed above, as well as some ingenuity and whatever you find lying around, the list of repairs you can do is practically limitless.
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