Like the weather, driving is seldom predictable. Too often drivers find themselves stranded on the side of the road due to an issue that could have easily been prevented or resolved had they had the right kit in their car.
Whether you are driving long distance or just to work and back, these essential items will ensure you are kept safe, comfortable and prepared.
Colin Morgan, an experienced traveller and car retailer shares his essentials list.
Most cars come with a spare tyre and tyre jack, but always check that these tools are in fact in your car and that the spare is inflated sufficiently before travelling anywhere. If you don’t know how to use the kit or how to change a tyre, ask someone you trust to show you. Be sure to get a spanner toolkit to keep in the car as well. A tyre repair kit or puncture plugs, as well as a mini air compressor that connects to your car’s 12V adapter that can inflate your flat tyre quickly, will go a long way if you find yourself stuck in the middle of nowhere. Keep a tyre pressure gauge with you so that you are able to check if your tyres are at the correct pressure.
Don’t just assume these are in your car, make sure. Jumper cables don’t only help you if your battery dies but can also help someone else who might be stuck. If you aren’t comfortable using jumper cables, you could rather invest in a portable battery charger which should get you enough charge to get to a replacement centre.
Spare switches for fuse box:
If an electrical component of the car stops working, the easiest to check and fix is the fuse box. You will need to know where this box is located and which fuses your car requires.
Your car’s manual:
Keep this somewhere like the cubby hole to refer to when you are not sure what a warning light means or where to find something like the fuse box.
Multipurpose utility tool:
You can’t keep an entire toolbox in your car so a Swiss Army knife or a Leatherman is a better option.
Tow strap or tow rope:
If you have broken down and the only way to get to a garage is to be towed, you will need a tow rope.
First aid kit:
You can assemble one yourself or buy one already assembled for you. Ensure your kit includes things like latex gloves if you have to assist in an accident, plasters, adhesive tape, gauze pads, Panado, antiseptic wipes, antiseptic cream or ointment, and anything else that’s relevant to your health.
If you are stranded alone in a remote area you will want something to protect yourself with.
This is something that is compulsory to have in your car in South Africa. It increases your car’s visibility to other motorists when you are broken down.
Torch / flashlight:
These come in handy if you need to check an engine’s nooks and crannies or to provide light for other motorists if you have broken down in the dark.
Pre-paid charged and ready cheapie cellphone
You should always have your phone on you as well as a phone charger but, for those real emergencies, keep a hidden phone somewhere.
R100 emergency cash
This will come in handy if you run out of fuel and are nowhere near an ATM, fuel station or you need to offer payment for help.
If you break down in the dark or need to help with another accident, it’s important to be visible.
Even if you never drink and drive, you might not realise that even the day after heavy drinking you can be over the limit. Check your alcohol content with a portable breathalyser. The concentration of any alcohol in any specimen of breath exhaled by a person should be less than 0,38mg per 1000ml.
Keep emergency numbers in a safe place, especially for insurance companies and emergency services.
Comfort and Long-Distance Travelling
Bottle of water and non-perishable snacks
1 litre of water will keep you hydrated if needed as well fix an overheating car. The snacks will come in handy if you are stuck for a long period of time.
Headache, anti-nausea and anti-diarrhoea tablets
On the long winding road, there is a high probability that someone will get car sick. It’s always a good idea to keep headache, anti-nausea and anti-diarrhoea tablets nearby – just in case.
A warm blanket
A blanket will keep you warm in the event you are stuck in the cold waiting for help.
A raincoat will come in handy if you’re stuck changing a tyre in the rain.
Tissues and/or hand paper towel and hand sanitizer
A spare bottle of coolant
In case of overheating, keep an extra bottle of coolant on hand when travelling long distances. Especially if you’re not going to be near a petrol station for a while.
A fire extinguisher
Keep a small fire extinguisher in the car. A fire can happen at any time and you need to be prepared for it.
This might seem old school, but just in case your phone dies or your GPS stops working, you will want to be able to refer to a map.
And last but not least, your driver’s licence. This should be with you at all times when driving. If you are caught without it, you will be fined up to R1 000.