Winter time travel, is your vehicle prepared?

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November 24, 2008

This week I am told is the biggest travel week of the year. Everyone is thinking of going “Over the river and through the woods to Grandmothers house we go….” But what happens if your iron sleigh doesn’t know the way? Or worse yet breaks down on the way there? Are you prepared to spend a few hours in your vehicle or worse yet a few days? Could you make some emergency repairs to your vehicle if need be? What do you need? How can you be better prepared? As with most of my articles, I want you to think about what you think is most important to you and your needs because it varies depending on your needs and where you live. For example, here in Northwestern Pennsylvania, a good warm blanket is much, much more important than it would be down in Florida this time of year.

But, I can talk about what I personally do, and have, and it will at least give you a starting point. But most people think I go way, way over board on being prepared in my truck! So don’t feel you have to carry around all the junk that I do. In fact, I bet I could increase my gas mileage by a mile or so per gallon if I took half the stuff out! But, let’s get started.

First off, in my truck I carry some fresh water in bottles or half gallon milk jugs, just something for if I get thirsty. Then I have a gallon of mixed antifreeze, a bag of sand or kitty litter (PLEASE NOT USED!), jumper cables, and, to be honest, a Craftsman 101 piece tool kit with two sets of extra wrenches (one S.A.E and one Metric), an extra metric 3/8 and 1/4 inch socket sets, several extra wrenches, vise grip pliers (assorted sizes), screw drivers, and misc. other tools! As well as some extra parts and supplies like: extra wipers, hose clamps, nuts, bolts, duct tape, starting fluid, WD-40, extra oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, extra marker and turn signal lights, at least one extra jack, Jumper cables, at least 3 different ice scrapers, flares, reflectors, Cell Phone, Matches, wood saw, hatchet, blankets, air compressor, a 4 way lug nut wrench, spare fuses, paper maps, “The Next Exit”, extra glasses, ropes, wire, bungie cords, ratcheting straps, a couple of small first aid kits, cervical collar or two, compass, tire repair and plug kit, and, as my kids tell me, probably a partridge in a pear tree! Now if you can’t see a use for any of these items then you probably don’t need them. For example, the sand or kitty litter are used for weight and/or to be put under the wheels for traction where I am at.

All this is probably overkill (OK I KNOW it is overkill, but it is a four door truck, and it has so many places to store stuff in it and has a cap over the bed too to keep stuff safe)! Besides that, when one of your friends breaks down and he says “Darn I lost the 10 mm bolt that holds the alternator on,” it is so cool to crawl in the back of the truck and say “Do you need that in fine or coarse thread”???

But what I put in my girl friend and/or my son’s vehicle is a little more easily managed for most of you. For them, I like to have: FIRST a Cell Phone to call for help, an old one with a charger can still call 911 for help. Then a small multipurpose tool kit from somewhere like Walmart or similar with a small collection of common SAE and Metric tools, duct tape, spare fuses, a quart of oil, gallon of antifreeze, small first aid kit, some water, fire starting supplies, some flares or reflectors, JUMPER CABLES and the plug in the cigarette lighter air compressor and a sleeping bag or blankets. Good maps and/or a GPS unit is must for them, too. To me, that is a minimum kit for going anywhere in a vehicle especially in the winter.

What would I add to my truck… right now all I can think about is a Shovel! I can remember a hunting trip with my step father (who has some physical handicaps) where we thought we were just going through a snow drift. What had happened was that the snow plow had not been able to get through the road and the “small drift” was about 6 feet deep at one end. Where we stopped and sunk in, it was only 2 feet deep, but that is plenty deep enough to get a Dodge 1/2 ton 4 wheel drive pick up truck stuck and I do mean stuck. Two Hours later using only a row boat oar left in the truck from summer fishing season I managed to shovel us out, or as my step father said “Row us out”.

What do I think is the single most important piece of equipment that I take along? The Jumper cables, and I make sure everyone gets a very good set of them, too. You don’t have to buy an 80 dollar set that are 30 feet long, but a good set costs more than 10 dollars and is longer than 6 or 8 feet. I also think the Anti freeze is very important. In the middle of winter, you can’t put water in your radiator, and you also can’t run it without some sort of coolant. While it may be just my bad luck, I seem to have as many problems with radiators in the winter as I do in the summer. And Duct tape will fix, at least temporarily, almost any hose from leaking if you can clean and dry it off. And….. oh wait, we are getting back to my truck again.

Think about what you may need, depending on your location and skills, and then pack up a small box (or like me a large tool box in the bed of the truck!) of supplies. Then, just in case you have some problems going through the “white and Drifting snow” on the way to Grandmother house, you will be better prepared.

Your Obedient Servant,

Gary Smith, Jr.

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  1. Gary Smith, Jr.

    Good one Drew, to be honest my truck is a 2004 Dodge crew cab with the 5.7 liter Hemi and a 2007 Jayco 232 Hybrid camper. So neither of them are really that old. But for many years I had old vehicles and was used to working on them myself. So these days I still like to be prepared. And it Mostly (LOL) doesn’t take me that long to find anything! I also forgot I have a 25 foot 3/8 chain for towing people out of ditches and some tow straps!

    Your Obedient Servant,

    Gary Smith, Jr.

  2. Drew Mueller


    Do you carry Cheezits and Doritos for people who like to watch you get into your kit? Seriously, all this sounds good, but how old is your rig?

  3. Linda Gillespie

    My husband says he has everything you mentioned except for the air compressor. He plans on taking all this stuff with us plus who knows what else when we go full time next year. He plans on being well prepared. He has everything bagged and tagged when we hit the road.