Essentials For Road Emergencies On Summer Vacation

Although you can usually just call an auto club to help you with a breakdown, you may be out of range of cell phone service if you answer the call of the wild and travel off the beaten path on your summer vacation.

Even if you are in an area with cell phone accessibility, you may be stuck on the side of a highway for hours waiting for a service representative to arrive.

While you may not be able to completely repair an automotive issue with emergency supplies, you may be able to get a more amenable location than a busy highway in sweltering heat.

Simple emergency supplies for the road

Jumper cables

If your battery is too weak to restart your vehicle, you can use jumper cables for an extra boost. These dual cables have two clamps on each end, which connect to the positive and negative terminals on your auto battery, and the identical terminals of the battery of a kind passerby who is gracious enough to help you to start your vehicle.

There are two important safety considerations when using jumper cables.

  1. Do not touch the positive and negative clamps together or allow the positive cable clamp to touch any metallic surface.
  2. Do not cross the cables when connecting the two batteries together. Positive must connect to positive and negative to negative. There are plus and minus signs on auto batteries, and jumper cables are usually colored black and red to allow for easy connection.

​Coolant and supplies for repairing radiator hoses

Coolant circulates through the engine block to keep the engine from overheating. You may face two scenarios on the road that relate to engine overheating, and both will require adding coolant.

You should bring at least one gallon of the coolant (a 50/50 mix of coolant and water) that is suggested by your vehicle's manufacturer. Bringing a flat head screwdriver, a utility knife, and a roll of pipe/hose repair tape will also help in the event of a burst hose.

The temperature gauge in your vehicle (it has a "C" for cold at one end and an "H" for hot at the other end) should normally rest in the center of the gauge. If it approaches the hot end of the gauge, your vehicle may soon overheat and become disabled.

This can be caused by a variety of issues, but your main concern will be to let the engine cool sufficiently that you can get to a safer and more hospitable area.

You should first check the coolant level in the clear overflow tank beside your engine. If it is low (or empty), you will add coolant, but only when the temperature cools. This is extremely important, because if you remove the pressurized cap from the overflow tank while it is hot, scalding coolant can spray onto your skin and eyes, causing severe burns.

Add enough coolant to reach a point midway between the empty and full marks on the side of the overflow tank.

If you experience a burst radiator hose, the temperature gauge will rise and steam will begin to rise from under the hood of your vehicle. After allowing the vehicle to cool, inspect the damage.

Radiator hoses will often burst at the clamps that hold them in place. Using a flat head screwdriver to loosen the clamp will allow you to cut away the burst portion with a utility knife, reattach the hose, and fill your radiator through the overflow tank with a sufficient amount of coolant to get you to a safer place.

If the burst point is in the middle of a hose, you can wrap pipe wrap tape around the hose, pulling the tape tightly as you wrap it in several layers. You must stretch the end of the pipe wrap tape and press it to the layers of tape, not to the hose. After adding coolant, drive to the nearest safe location.

You should also consider bringing at least 3 quarts of the motor oil that is recommended for your vehicle. In the event of an oil leak, you shouldn't drive the vehicle unless absolutely necessary to avoid major engine damage. 

However, your life is worth more than a vehicle, and if you are in an unsafe area, add oil gradually until the dipstick is in the range between "add" and "fill". If your oil icon on your dash isn't lit (it looks like a red oil can when lit), then the vehicle can be driven to safety. Contact a business, such as Southside Auto Repair, for more information.