If your car breaks down in or near a thriving metropolis, getting helps may be as easy as dialing your roadside assistance provider and enduring a short wait. But if you're on a long road trip that takes you through miles and miles of nothing, the cavalry may be a long time in coming to the rescue. Here are four fluids you'll be relieved to have with you when you've got to handle an automotive crisis in a desolate area:
- "50/50" Antifreeze - If your temperature gauge is reading sky-high, your radiator may be critically low on antifreeze, forcing you to pull over immediately before you sustain permanent engine damage. If you're lucky, however, the antifreeze level may have simply been on the low side, to begin with, or you may only have a very slow leak in one of the lines. Are you within a few miles of the next town? If so, a gallon of antifreeze may be sufficient to get you to a garage for the necessary radiator repair. Purchase "50/50" antifreeze (antifreeze pre-diluted with water in a 50/50 balance), and you won't have to carry a separate half-gallon of distilled water to cut the fluid's strength before adding it to the radiator.
- Motor Oil - You cross-country road trip is halfway done, and your car performed beautifully to get you to your destination -- but now you find that your oil level is below the acceptable level. If the oil on the engine dipstick is in the "Add" zone and you're in the middle of nowhere, you'll be glad you brought along a quart of oil of the same viscosity rating as whatever's still in the engine. Why carry only quart? Very rarely would a car burn more than a quart of oil in a few thousand miles of driving, so that one quart should see you home again easily. Overfilling your oil reservoir can be worse, because the crankshaft's operation may whip the excess oil into a froth that can't properly lubricate the engine parts.
- Windshield Fluids - If you try to wipe some obstruction to your vision off your windshield, only to find that there's no wiper fluid issuing from the wiper nozzles, you'll achieve nothing but some fresh scratches in the glass. Even if you topped off the wiper fluid reservoir before hitting the road, a leaky fluid line or clogged nozzle could easily sabotage this system for keeping your windshield clean. Your wiper mechanisms might also fail on you. That's why you should carry a gallon of wiper fluid in your vehicle, along with a squeegee for removing dirt and excess fluid. If you're traveling through cold climates, make sure your wiper fluid can de-ice the windshield as well.
- Personal Fluids - Your car isn't the only machine that requires fluid replacement from time to time -- your body may suffer a breakdown of its own if it doesn't have access to water while you're stranded on the road, especially if your travels take you through arid desert. Most adults require two liters of water a day to maintain optimal physical function, so make room in your car for multiple bottles or jugs of drinking water. Your body needs nutrients too, so consider stocking up on pre-mixed shakes. These products contain not only water but also a balance of carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Even if you find yourself waiting all day for roadside assistance to visit your remote site, at least you won't die of hunger or thirst.
A few smart preparations can make those long, challenging drives less intimidating to set out on -- and less frightening when things go wrong. So pack those fluids alongside your other essentials, and have yourself a safer, smoother trip!