Auto Emergency Kit

It is important to keep an emergency kit in your vehicle at all times.

All Year Items

  • Cell phone. This is probably the most important item in your kit.
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Blankets and/or sleeping bags
  • Lighter and waterproof matches
  • Non-perishable food. Try to have items on hand, such as high-energy protein bars or a nut and raisin trail mix
  • First Aid Kit
  • Spare tire and tools to change a flat tire
  • Jumper cables
  • Warning devices, such as flares or reflective triangles
  • Compass and atlas/map in case GPS is not available or working
  • Necessary medication
  • Plastic bag for sanitation
  • Small tool kit that includes such items as pliers, wrench, screwdriver, pocket knife
  • Extra quart of oil
  • Emergency cash (about $20)
  • Emergency contact list in the event that you are unable to provide that information
  • Empty gas can

Winter Items

Ready.gov suggests the following items be included in your winter emergency kit:

  • Shovel
  • Windshield scraper and small broom
  • Flashlight
  • Battery powered radio and extra batteries
  • Cell phone car charger
  • Water (an empty coffee can and votive candles can be used for melting snow for water)
  • Snack food
  • Matches
  • Extra hats, socks and mittens
  • Blankets
  • First aid kit with pocket knife
  • Necessary medications
  • Tow chain or rope/strap
  • Road salt and sand or cat litter, which can be placed under your tires for better traction
  • Booster cables
  • Emergency flares
  • Fluorescent distress flag

Summer Items

  • Engine coolant
  • Sunscreen for body and lips
  • Sunglasses and a hat
  • Bottled water
  • Plastic trash bags for wind protection
  • Hand cleaner. Dishwashing liquid works well, as it contains a degreaser.

Sources:

Ready.gov

http://www.geminicarcare.com

http://www.smogcheck.ca.gov/

 

Auto Maintenance

Keeping up with your auto maintenance will save you money and time. Car maintenance should be viewed as an investment because proper care can extend the life of your automobile and can keep down repair costs. Each season has its own set of hazards. The following is a list of checks to perform monthly, seasonally, and annually to help ensure smooth roads ahead.

Monthly Checks

  • Check battery cables, clamps, and terminals.
  • Check the following levels; and add the recommended fluids as necessary:
    • Oil;
    • Engine coolant;
    • Brake fluid;
    • Power steering fluid;
    • Clutch reservoir; and
    • Windshield washer fluid reservoir.
  • Check belts for tension, cracks or wear.
  • Check hoses for leaks, cracks or wear.
  • Inspect the engine and under the car for any leaks.
  • Check the pressure on all tires, including the spare.
  • Inspect the tread depth. The tread should be at least as deep as the head of a penny (at least 2/32″ remaining tread).
  • Inspect tires for uneven wear or any object that could cause a puncture.

Seasonal Checklists

Summer Checks

  • Check that the air conditioning is in good working condition and that the refrigerants are fully charged.
  • Check the coolant levels of the antifreeze. Make sure the hoses are in good condition, not soft or brittle.
  • Test the battery load for weakness by using a voltage regulator. Ensure the battery is at proper operating levels and that battery terminals are clean and in good condition and cables are secure.
  • Inspect brake pads for wear and that brake fluid is at the proper level.
  • Ensure exhaust system is free from leaks or holes.
  • Check all headlights, taillights and brake lights. Make sure they are all in good working order.
  • Consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual for recommendations about how often the oil should be changed. Typically, it should be changed every 3,000 miles. Also, make sure that you are using the correct weight of oil for the season.

Winter Checks

  • Flush and refill the radiator according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
    • A quality repair shop has a tool that can check your car’s antifreeze protection.
    • This service should include replacing the pressure cap and adding antifreeze if necessary.
  • Replace dry and cracked wiper blades and top off the wiper fluid.
    • Do not use water.
    • Check wiper blades before the first storm of the season by turning them on and making sure they evenly wipe the windshield.
  • Have your battery tested, especially if it’s near the end of its warranty.
    • Inspect the battery cables for corrosion, cracks, and dirt.
  • Have brakes checked by a licensed adjuster.
  • Test lights to make sure they work, especially brake lights and turn signals. Properly functioning lights are crucial for driving in winter fog.
  • Check the heater and defroster. You may want to have a professional inspect the entire heating system, as well as belts and hoses.
  • Inspect the belts and hoses for cracks, soft spots, or bulges.
    • If you find a problem, have the hose or belt replaced.
  • Have your car checked by a qualified technician if the check engine light is on.
  • Try to keep your tank at least half full, particularly when driving at night, in bad weather, or long distances.
  • If you carry a cell phone for emergencies, make sure its battery is fully charged.

Annual Checks

  • ‰Inspect brake linings, and replace them if necessary.
  • Replace all air filters. ‰
  • Replace all fuel filters. ‰
  • Flush radiator and heater core. ‰
  • Replace antifreeze.
  • ‰Have front-end alignment checked and corrected if needed. ‰
  • Replace windshield wiper blades. ‰
  • Clean crankcase breather cap. ‰
  • Tighten bolts on engine manifolds. ‰
  • Have automatic transmission bands adjusted if possible. ‰
  • Adjust valve clearance, if required on your car. ‰
  • Check to see if it is time for a major tune up, including the following: ‰
    • Replacement of the plugs, filters, and points. ‰
    • Adjustments to the carburetor, ignition system, and pollution-control equipment.

Sources:

http://www.geminicarcare.com

http://www.smogcheck.ca.gov/

 

Auto Theft Prevention

Every 46 seconds, a motor vehicle is stolen in the United States. That’s roughly 1,879 cars stolen per day or 685,835 per year. The tips below can help safeguard your car from becoming part of the statistic. Some are obvious and others are not. Be proactive in protecting your vehicle from theft by considering the following:

  • Lock It Up – Close all windows, including sunroof, lock the vehicle and take your keys with you.
  • Use Your Garage – If you have one, use it. Don’t forget to lock your vehicle in the garage, too.
  • Leave a Trail – Drop your business card or address information inside your vehicle doors. Should your car be stolen this can help identify you.
  • Sound an Alarm – Considering having audio alarms installed on your vehicle if they don’t come standard.
  • Hidden Key – Do not hide a spare set of keys on your vehicle. Thieves know all the hiding places.
  • Protect Your Identity – Remove any important documents that contain personal information, like a bank statement or credit card bill, from your vehicle.
  • Strategic Parking – When parking on the street, park your vehicle somewhere well-lit with plenty of pedestrian traffic.
  • Turn It Off – Never leave your car running while unattended.
  • Remove Registration – Take your registration or title out of your vehicle.  If your vehicle is stolen this makes it harder for the thief to dispose of it.
  • Towed Away – Always use your emergency brake and turn your wheels toward the curb when parked. This makes towing your vehicle more difficult for thieves.

Sources:

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration—Vehicle Theft Protection: What Consumers Should Know

The Authority: 50 Tips for Auto Theft Protection

Insurance Information Institute 

Car Safety Tips, Advice and More