Thursday, June 23, 2011

Back Road Techniques

Emergency Equipment for your MINI

Even if you’re never going to be more than a few miles from home, but especially if you’re venturing out on longer tours, you should equip your MINI with some basic emergency equipment. Put it in the glove compartment or in one of the rear stowage areas and leave it there. Check to make sure that everything is in place whenever you head out on the highway. Your emergency stash should include the following:

Never leave home without your cell phone and buy a charger for it that you can leave in the car all the time so you never have to worry about being low on power. Subscribing to an emergency road service such as available through most major auto insurance companies and having their telephone number in the car will take care of most emergencies.

A major credit card and a telephone credit card are also absolute necessities so that you can pay for a tow or emergency repairs, and make a phone call in rural areas where you can’t get cell phone service. In addition, tuck some money in five dollar bills and some quarters for the phone in an envelope in the glove compartment. Cash money may be all that’s accepted if you need to have your chains installed or convince a tow truck driver to help you out.

A flashlight is essential for many applications. One of those emergency lights that can plug into your car’s power source, plus a handheld flashlight that can be used to check a map, wave at oncoming traffic, or shine into the engine compartment are both good pieces of equipment to have. To protect yourself if you break down in high-traffic situations, you should also have some highway flares or tripod reflectors that can be placed behind the car to warn oncoming drivers of your presence. Any major hardware store or auto supply store will stock a neat kit with these kinds of supplies for your car.

A tire repair kit in a pressurized can, and a 12-volt tire inflator should also be part of your emergency kit. These kits are easy to find in catalogs, hardware, or auto supply stores. Incidentally, if you do get a flat tire on any heavily-traveled highway or road, don’t attempt to repair the flat on the shoulder. Instead, drive to the next exit and get completely out of traffic before attempting a repair.

You should have a small notebook, a pen or pencil, and an accident check list tucked in your glove compartment. In case of an accident, you’ll need to get the name, address, driver’s license number, tag number, and insurance contact information for any other drivers involved with you in an accident, as well as the names, addresses, and phone numbers of witnesses. Keeping a small disposable camera in the glove compartment also is a good idea so you can shoot pictures of the accident scene and the cars involved for use if any legal or insurance claims later arise.

You should also carry a good plastic flashlight and spare batteries to use in dark corners or under the car, as well as for after-dark emergencies. An emergency light that plugs into the power socket is nice, but might not work if your battery goes flat.

Even in high summer, a blanket is a useful piece of emergency equipment, and in winter weather it is critical. You can lay on it to check under the car, wrap up in it to keep yourself warm, or rig a shelter to keep off the sun.

If you’re going to be driving outside of urban areas, and especially if you’re driving in very hot or very cold conditions, a gallon of water that can be used for drinking or put in the radiator is worth having in the car. A day’s worth of calories for every passenger in the form of high-protein energy bars is worth tucking in. Even if you’re not stranded, hunger or thirst can ruin an otherwise nice trip.

Even if you are a complete klutz at auto repairs, having a set of basic tools and some emergency repair supplies. tucked in a plastic or canvas tool kit, can be a good idea. At the very least, combination pliers, a lineman’s wire-cutting pliers, a flat-head and a cross-head screwdriver, a medium-size combination wrench, a coil of repair wire, a roll of duct tape, and a roll of electrical tape can be very useful. With these few tools, you—or a helpful good Samaritan with some mechanical ability—can make a variety of stopgap repairs that will at least get you off the highway and to the next point where you can get cellphone service to call for emergency assistance.

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