The motoring public has come a long way since 1886, the year the first car powered by an internal combustion engine was invented by Karl Benz.

But try telling that to any motorist today whose vehicle has stalled or malfunctioned, or been submerged in engine-deep floods, and this fact holds as much meaning as a car manual to a donkey.

Our species may have been behind the wheel for nearly 130 years, but oftentimes, when we encounter the most fundamental of driving troubles, it always feels like we just learned to drive an hour ago, and everything that’s happening in the cockpit is so new that we’re caught unawares.

As someone who has been driving for decades and logged in tens of thousands of kilometers, I’m quite familiar with that sickening feeling of a blown tire, or an engine that won’t start for one reason or another.

I had to learn the hard way how to get out of those dicey situations. And I admit, my blood pressure still spikes the same direction as the overheating temperature gauge of my car. My own fuse still blows up when my car’s fuse conks out. And when I experience a tire blowout, I’m still caught flatfooted.

But after the initial shock of finding out that my car has been acting up, experience has taught me to collect my composure and use the tools I have at hand. And there lies the difference between a day filled with driving pleasure, or a day marred by driving horrors.

Car troubles will come your way, no matter how new or expensive your ride is. It’s the materials you have at hand that will most likely steer you away from deeper trouble.

Here are over 10 items experience has taught me to always keep in my car:

1.) Fluids and oils. My car trunk always has a 1.5-liter soda bottle filled with water. That water will eventually be used to cool a raging hot radiator, enough to get you to the nearest service station for further assistance.

Other fluids essential to have are engine oil, brake fluid and power steering fluid. Keep these fluids tightly capped or sealed (or make sure these are leak-proof).

2.) A pair of gloves (industrial rubber gloves) or at least five pieces of rags.

You need these when you have to handle overheated radiator caps, or when you need to check the oil levels.

And after handling greasy, oily stuff, you need to wipe your dirty, slippery hands so you can safely hold the steering wheel.

3.) Alcohol (not the beverage, dummy, but the disinfectant) and a hand cleaner. Some dirt and grime are just too hard to wipe away with rags. That’s when you’ll need the supercleaning powers of alcohol (preferably ethyl).

4.) A mobile phone containing emergency hotlines.  Need I explain this further? It’s also equally important to bring along cell phone chargers that can be plugged into the lighter socket, or a powerbank in case your car’s electrical power system conks out.

It would also be handy to save Automobile Association Philippines’ (AAP) hotline number (7230808) on your phone. AAP offers free emergency services for its members, while nonmembers pay a reasonable fee for roadside assistance.

Another important number that should be on your phone’s quick dial menu is 117, the government’s nationwide hotline for police, medical and motorist assistance.

Check out as well if your vehicle’s dealership offers roadside and emergency assistance. For instance, as part of the Yojin3 package, Mazda Philippines has an available 24/7 hotline (6878595) for emergency roadside assistance and concierge service, available the whole year round for three years from the date of your vehicle purchase.

Some Toyota and Honda dealers also offer roadside assistance in one form or another. Honda Cars Kalookan Inc. offers roadside assistance with free 18-point check up, and diagnostic system check up through (0908) 8695687, (0917) 5246632, and (0922) 8346632.

Nissan Philippines Inc.’s Nissan Customer Assistance Center, a concierge facility, provides 24/7 emergency roadside assistance and valet service. Call 4036593 or (0927) 6009557).

5.) Jumper cables. It’s the exact equivalent of that electrical gadget shocking a human’s heart back to life. For one of the most common car malfunctions (loss of electrical power), either due to an old or faulty battery or from inadvertently leaving the headlights on overnight, the jumper cable saves the day.

Auto repair expert Deanna Sclar suggests that if your owner’s manual indicates that you can “jump a start” without harming your onboard computer, you can wait for roadside assistance or a nearby garage to come and bail you out; or if you’re in a safe, well-populated area, you can stop a passing vehicle, whip out your jumper cable, attach it, and in seconds, jump a start from the Good Samaritan’s vehicle to your own.

Recently, car enthusiast Mike Black asked his friends in social media where he could find the best jumper cables. He shared his friends’ responses with this author: “The best feedback I got was to get jumper cables sold at True Value; pricey at P4,000, but of high quality.”

6.) Flashlights and reflectors. Again, this is a no-brainer. But do make sure to keep the flashlight batteries fresh (or if it’s a rechargeable one, always on full charge). Just to be sure, always bring an extra set of brand new batteries, still inside the packaging so you’ll know it’s still unused. A flashlight with a red blinker is best for working on a dark highway.

Reflectorized vests are more important than you think, and is a must when you or your passengers need to venture out on the road during emergencies. Reflectorized early warning devices or triangles are also essential, making your stalled vehicle visible for oncoming motorists, and gives them ample time and distance to react.

7.) Cash. I’m not referring to cash inside your wallet or purse, but cash actually stashed inside the glove compartment of your car. P500, broken down into P50 or P20 bills, would be enough to pay for “contingencies” during emergencies (e.g., when paying the street boys who pushed your stalled or flooded car to the side, or when a service station attendant is extra helpful).

The cash could also be a lifesaver for any other member of your family who uses your vehicle and finds himself or herself without money in tight fixes.

8.) First aid kit. The human takes precedence over the car, of course. So keep a first-aid kit in your vehicle at all times. Choose one that’s equipped with a variety of bandages, tweezers, surgical tape, antibiotic ointment, ointment for burns and a good antiseptic.

First-aid kits are readily available at drugstores. It would also be important to tape your own medical condition (blood type, maintenance medications, allergies, etc.) prominently on the kit bag, just in case.

9.) Emergency spare parts. Often, car troubles stem from a simple malfunctioning part that could be easily replaced, if only you had the replacement part at the moment. So, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to bring along an extra set of windshield wiper blades, a radiator cap and fuses.

“If traveling in remote regions, top and bottom radiator hoses might be a good idea [to bring],” says Sclar. She also suggests that motorists should carry extra accessory belts, too. “Though they’d be more costly, responding emergency road services may not be able to replace these parts, and if the parts you need aren’t available in the area, you’ll have them on hand when you reach a repair facility.”

10.) Other important items. Sclar also recommends that we bring: a lug wrench (to remove the wheel or lug nuts when you change a tire);  a can of inflator/sealant; old but still usable spark plugs and air filters; a couple of extra nuts, bolts and screws (in case you lose the ones you have, or strip them accidentally); duct tape and electrical tape, a sharp knife and scissors, a disposable camera (or your mobile phone cam) for collecting evidence for insurance claims if you’re involved in an accident, and a fire extinguisher.

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