Keep your vacation running smoothly

9 Auto Road Trip Essentials

by Rich Finzer


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I'm generally not a fan of "list-type" articles, such as "22 Things Never to Ask on a First Date" or "Five Ways to Guarantee You'll Never Get Hired." But, there are times when a list of essentials is a good thing to keep in mind, like when planning an extended road trip. So here's my list of road trip essentials.

Oil: Carrying an extra quart or two of engine oil is always a good idea, especially if your dashboard gauge indicates your engine is running hot or the vehicle's oil pressure begins dropping.

Coolant: For exactly the same reasons you should carry extra oil, a gallon jug of engine coolant is also an absolute must.

Power Steering Fluid: If you've ever listened to the grinding squeal of a vehicle making a turn, then you already know the warning sign of low power steering fluid.

Windshield Washer Fluid: The "free" windshield cleaner reservoir and squeegee at most gas stations is filled with the cheapest windshield washer fluid available, which is then promptly diluted with extra water. Get smart and carry a jug of the "good stuff."

Brake Fluid: I always check my brake fluid before driving out west or down to Florida. If the level seems a bit low, I add some before I leave, but I take the unused portion with me in case I have a problem.

Rags: Adding anything to fluid reservoirs under the hood is always dirty business, so having clean rags saves wear and tear on your digits. Carrying a few prepackaged "washy-wipes" is a good idea, too.

Prepaid Credit Card: On a recent trip to Colorado, I ran dangerously low on gas near the town of Kimball, Nebraska. My prepaid card allowed me to fill my tank at an unattended self-service gas pump without adding another charge to my regular credit card and prevented me from sleeping in my truck in Kimball, Nebraska until other gas stations opened in the morning. For the record, Kimball is a cute little town, but everything closes up very early.

$$$: Not every gas station is equipped to handle credit or debit cards, so a stash of money is a good idea. Cash is nifty stuff. It's accepted everywhere and you don't need ID to use it.

Spare Automotive Fuses: The electrical system in your vehicle is protected by fuses. A fuse kit is inexpensive to acquire. Fuses are child's play to replace, and it beats the daylights out of discovering your wipers won't turn on or your power windows won't function, especially if it begins raining.

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When traveling, I prefer the "road less taken," and my supply of automotive road trip essentials fits conveniently in a single cardboard box. As an Eagle Scout, I learned long ago to "Be Prepared" and to avoid being surprised.


Rich Finzer resides in upstate New York. During his 44 years as a writer, he has published nearly 1,200 newspaper, magazine and Internet articles. His award winning book, Maple on Tap is available from his publisher; Acres USA. His two novels, Taking the Tracks and Julie & Me, are available from Amazon Kindle.

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