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#215498 - 01/23/11 03:00 AM Re: Emergency car kit recommendation? [Re: Bingley]
Dagny Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/25/08
Posts: 1916
Loc: Washington, DC
Originally Posted By: Bingley

1. Almost everyone includes jumper cables in their car kit. How useful are these actually? It seems to me that in town I can probably get towing service in the time it takes to find another car/driver to help jump the car. (Am I overestimating roadside service?)

Wouldn't a standalone battery jumpstart system work better? Or would that be an overkill? Also, how likely is a car battery to fail?

3. What do you do with tea lights? I will include a flashlight and matches. But it seems that some people include this ancient technology for reasons beyond my ken.



For me, jumper cables are as essential as the spare tire. In fact, I've used jumper cables far more than spare tires. And I've invested in good heavy-duty cables (4-guage) because all cables are not equal. I had a battery jumper that was a total waste of $$$ so no more for me unless I someday hear of one that is proven fabulous. I've never had trouble finding someone to give my car a jump -- plenty of good samaritans around and it's an easy favor.

Road Service -- my experience with AAA has been atrocious. For the past decade I've had road service with GEICO insurance and it usually takes about an hour for help to show up. That's in the middle of DC -- get stuck in a remote area and lotsa of luck getting road service any time soon, and that's if you have a cell signal to call for your road service.

I've run the battery down in my cars probably a dozen times in the past two decades - usually because of leaving an interior light or the headlights on. Extremely cold weather can take out an old weak battery (one of my Miatas at the end of a 5-year battery's life). I once killed the car battery because of recharging my Blackberry while camping. Another camper came to the rescue then.

Tea lights can help start a campfire, as well as provide some light. I have 9-hour UCO emergency candles in my car.


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#215510 - 01/23/11 04:11 AM Re: Emergency car kit recommendation? [Re: Bingley]
Richlacal Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 02/11/10
Posts: 778
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Tealight candles can Warm you up,Also!

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#215532 - 01/23/11 05:43 PM Re: Emergency car kit recommendation? [Re: Bingley]
chaosmagnet Offline
Sheriff
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/03/09
Posts: 3410
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: Bingley
1. Almost everyone includes jumper cables in their car kit. How useful are these actually? It seems to me that in town I can probably get towing service in the time it takes to find another car/driver to help jump the car. (Am I overestimating roadside service?) Away from town, it would be a long wait before someone stops to help. Wouldn't a standalone battery jumpstart system work better? Or would that be an overkill? Also, how likely is a car battery to fail? I have ever seen this in movies. (Of course, I don't think I actually know anyone who carries a kit in their car, much less go through the trouble of putting together one's own kit, so maybe this is all a preparation exercise.)


I've used my jumper cables to help others at least two dozen times, and to help myself at least twice. I'd say they're essential. Tow services can get overloaded easily in a big storm.

Recently I've started carrying a standalone battery jumpstart system that includes a worklight and a compressor. But the jumper cables stay in the car.

Quote:
2. Some people have both towing ropes and chains in the kit. On another forum I found people advising against using chains or ropes with metal attachments. If they snap in half while towing, the metal bits could do serious damage to the car body and anyone standing in the way. So why do some people have both in their kit? What are the chains used for?


Are you sure these are tow chains and not tire chains?

Quote:
3. What do you do with tea lights? I will include a flashlight and matches. But it seems that some people include this ancient technology for reasons beyond my ken.


They produce more heat than most flashlights. With shelter that stops the wind a single candle can make a significant difference.



Edited by chaosmagnet (01/23/11 05:45 PM)

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#215533 - 01/23/11 06:08 PM Re: Emergency car kit recommendation? [Re: Bingley]
Eric Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 09/09/06
Posts: 323
Loc: Iowa
#1 - Jumper cables-usefullness varies a lot depending on circumstances including the quality of the cables, your knowledge, and where the battery decides to die. I have 16' very heavy duty cables (00 gauge) and use them about once or twice a year, usually to help someone else. Waiting for a tow truck / roadside service in the middle of a snow storm is no fun. I also have a standalone battery but that only works if your car battery is a bit low. If your battery is on its last legs a portable jumper just can't provide enough amps.

#2 - ropes, straps, chains. Tow ropes and straps are much more convenient and safer than chains for the average motorist. They can break but are a lot less dangerous than broken cables or chains. The metal hooks are needed on the straps/ropes so you can hook up without abrading (weakening) the material too much. I have both a tow strap and a chain for each vehicle but only put the chain in when I anticipate needing extra reach or strength. Once you have tension on a chain it doesn't "give" (well for practical purposes) unlike the straps which have a lot of elastic give in them. One bad (i.e. dangerous) use for a chain is to "pop" a car out of a snow drift. You can do it with a cable but the stretch really reduces the amount of instant force delivered to the car on the other end while a chain will go from zero to full force. I drive a jeep and securing the chain safely inside the cabin is a challenge so it is a matter of balancing risks. Again, I probably only use the tow straps every other year or so and the chain less often - but when I need it, I need it.

For both of these items, they are only useful if you are willing and able to use them. That includes understanding the risks since I have seen people seriously hurt trying to jumpstart a car or pull something.

- Eric





Edited by Eric (01/23/11 06:12 PM)
Edit Reason: clarity
_________________________
You are never beaten until you admit it. - - General George S. Patton


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#215545 - 01/23/11 10:16 PM Re: Emergency car kit recommendation? [Re: Bingley]
Eugene Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/26/02
Posts: 2845
If your battery is in good shape and just run down from leaving something on (and I'm still amazed that some modern cars from brands that supposedly paid attention to even the smallest details don't have any kind of anti rundown protection) then one of those jump start kits will work, but if you have a battery that is having issues or very cold weather then they are seldom powerful enough. Jumper cables can get you started in those situations.
I've seen jumper cables used to work around a failing started solenoid as well.

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#215559 - 01/24/11 02:16 AM Re: Emergency car kit recommendation? [Re: Eric]
Bingley Online   content
Veteran

Registered: 02/27/08
Posts: 1430
It's wonderful that you guys are willing to help me put together my toys^H^H^H^Hemergency car kit. I went out today and this is what I got:
  • 16' 6 gauge 500 amp jumper cable
  • 30 yards of duct tape
  • 60' of electrical tape
  • 40" bungee cord x 2
  • 60 second epoxy (w/ mixing spout so it's not all messy), 1250 psi - is this too little?
  • WD-40 "pen"
  • work gloves with leather palm
  • tea candles
  • 11' cable ties
  • rags

I will add:
  • handheld flashlight
  • headlamp
  • standalone torch - am I overdoing the lights?
  • batteries
  • tire gauge
  • mini air compressor - recommendation?
  • first aid kit
  • blanket
  • poncho
  • baby wipes
  • one of those triangle caution signs
  • orange vest with reflector strips
  • knife
  • ice scraper
  • help sign
  • food & water
  • power inverter (how many watts? I might have to power a laptop)
  • fuses (once I figure out what I need)
  • tow strap -- will 5,000 lbs do or will I need 10,000 lbs for a small SUV?
  • Glock e-trench tool
  • rescue tool -- probably that hammer thing, and I'll tape it under the seat
  • ice scraper
  • bag (1800 cubic inches). Not sure whether I can fit everything in. May have to split into stuff I need and stuff the car needs.

Now, I'm not sure of the following things
  • Road flares vs. magnetic strobe that you can mount on top of the car. Do I need both?
  • Tools. I home-improve and repair my computers, which often results in repairing both the home and the computers some more, but I have no experience fixing cars. What sort of tools will I need? I found the standard list of screw drivers, plier, wrench, etc. But these guys vary a bit.
  • An even bigger question is how I can gain the knowledge to use them. As Eric points out, some of these items are useless without that knowledge. Are there manuals, or "automotive first aid" classes?

I'm trying not to have too much stuff in the kit, but the list just grows by itself...

Thanks again for your input!

Da Bing

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#215561 - 01/24/11 03:14 AM Re: Emergency car kit recommendation? [Re: Bingley]
Eric Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 09/09/06
Posts: 323
Loc: Iowa
Manuals are available at most parts stores (Autozone, CarQuest, NAPA to name a few). I like Chiltons Manuals but Haynes are pretty good too. These will have more information than you will probably need and assume a certain level of comfort with things automotive. I'd be willing there is an intro "auto repair for dummies" book at your local library or book store.

On the lights - personally I don't think it is possible to overdue there but my wife might have a different opinion. Each of my cars has at least 3 lights stashed around.

Towing - typical not huge SUVs have Gross Vehicle Weights under 6000 lbs and towing capacities around the same. Check your manual for your GVW and get a strap with at least that much capability. I always aim a bit higher but keep in mind my comments about lights as you read this. smile

Air compressor - lots of choices, I've had good luck with craftsman.

Inverter - My computer uses an 85W power adapter. Max capacity on most older "cigarette lighters" is ball park 150-180 watts. Newer "power ports" are often good for a bit more than 220 watts. I would probably go 150 watts.

For tools it really is a matter of what you are comfortable handling on the road. My Dad and Grandpa were mechanics so I carry a lot of tools and supplies. With modern cars the failure rate is a lot lower and so is your ability to fix things on the road.

Here is a link to my tool list in a recent topic discussing Winter Car kits. Good thread to look through, especially bacpacjac's list of supplies several posts above mine.

In addition to fuses etc., I also like to carry oil and transmission fluid in the car. Sears/Craftsman has some hard plastic "truck boxes" that are just about perfect for this.

-Eric
_________________________
You are never beaten until you admit it. - - General George S. Patton


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#215562 - 01/24/11 03:17 AM Re: Emergency car kit recommendation? [Re: Bingley]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7326
Loc: southern Cal
I wouldn't bother with a Glock trenching tool; they are needlessly expensive and function no better than a short shovel from the hardware store costing much less - there was an extensive thread on shovels for cars not too long ago.

Get lithium batteries for any lights you will leave in the car. They will hold their power much better than alkalines and won't leak.

Do you have the owner'smanual for your car? That is a good starting point for both repairs and tools you will need. The manual will also tell what fuses to get.
_________________________
Geezer in Chief

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#215583 - 01/24/11 08:19 AM Re: Emergency car kit recommendation? [Re: Bingley]
MostlyHarmless Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 06/03/09
Posts: 982
Loc: Norway
Originally Posted By: Bingley

1. Almost everyone includes jumper cables in their car kit. How useful are these actually?


If a car is driven short distances (< 15 minutes), the battery will almost never have the chance to replenish what was used during startup. In winter you also add power hungry accessory like rear window heating and the ventilation fan running at full blast.

So, many cars won't have their battery at full capacity. Then you add the effect of low temperatures and the effect of the battery being slightly worn-out.... Suddenly, when it gets cold enough, there simply isn't enough juice to start the engine.

Even with the best of batteries it only takes a two year old to fiddle with the interior lights and the battery is totally drained the next day. My daughter did just that to our inlaw's old Mercedes diesel last Easter. Three days later, the "jump-start-kit" would have been totally useless trying to pre-heat and start that big close-to-vintage diesel engine. With jumper cables it was just standard routine and a walk in the park.

Originally Posted By: Bingley

2. If they snap in half while towing, the metal bits could do serious damage to the car body and anyone standing in the way. So why do some people have both in their kit? What are the chains used for?


Any rope, wire or sling subject to load is LETHAL. STAY CLEAR! Metal bits or no metal bits, those things KILL if they snap.

Keep everyone out of the danger zone when trying to pull someone out of a ditch.

Originally Posted By: Bingley

3. What do you do with tea lights? I will include a flashlight and matches. But it seems that some people include this ancient technology for reasons beyond my ken.


Tea lights were probably a necessity before the invention of dim, close-to-everlasting LED lights. (You should have at least one LED light with a low output, super long run time mode).

Today, they still provide coziness and a tiny bit of warmth. Inside a bivy bag, they're surprisingly effective as a heat source. Not great, but way better than nothing. In a car, I'd disregard the tiny heat output as insignificant except as a convenient way to make your can of sardines lukewarm.

But don't underestimate the positive effect on morale that a few romantic candles can give you smile

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#215589 - 01/24/11 10:35 AM Re: Emergency car kit recommendation? [Re: MostlyHarmless]
Byrd_Huntr Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 01/28/10
Posts: 1174
Loc: MN, Land O' Lakes & Rivers ...
Originally Posted By: MostlyHarmless
Originally Posted By: Bingley

[quote=Bingley]
2. If they snap in half while towing, the metal bits could do serious damage to the car body and anyone standing in the way. So why do some people have both in their kit? What are the chains used for?


Any rope, wire or sling subject to load is LETHAL. STAY CLEAR! Metal bits or no metal bits, those things KILL if they snap.

Keep everyone out of the danger zone when trying to pull someone out of a ditch.



It is recommended that whenever a rope, strap or cable is used to pull a vehicle out of mud etc in an emergency situation, that a blanket or canvas tarp is thrown over the cable 'clothesline fashion' before it is under full load. If the cable/rope breaks, the blanket 'catches' it. Extreme caution is still needed of course.
_________________________
The man got the powr but the byrd got the wyng

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