If you plan on driving your classic car farther than a mile or two down the road, make sure you have a full arsenal of tools and spare parts to help you avoid a potential classic car catastrophe. For should you be zipping along in your 1962 Austin-Healey 3000 on a lazy Sunday afternoon, chances are a break down will occur 20 miles from the nearest qualified service center.
You may discover yourself right in front of Elmo’s Garage in East Nowheresville where a haggard old gentleman hobbles out, takes a look at your glinting vehicle and says, “What kind of car is that?” You smile and explain to Elmo that this car is a mint condition 1962 Austin-Healey 3000 which you have painstakingly rebuilt piece by piece. You know every inch of this car and have spent hours under it and in it. You pop upon the hood and discover your alternator belt has frayed and snapped. Tiny gouges in the belt and small round droppings suggest mice have been at play inside your “clean enough to eat off engine” over the winter. Before Elmo can return to his garage and try to find a v-belt which just might fit, you walk confidently to your trunk, reach into a crate, and pull out a brand new v-belt marked alternator. Lugging out your trusty tool box, you quickly slip on the new belt and off you go, leaving poor Elmo still mumbling and rummaging.
Most roadside problems can often be fixed easily and quickly with the right tools. Even if you do have to rely on an Elmo or two, having the right parts on hand will save you time and a headache. Chances are that Elmo doesn’t have an oil filter, air filter or radiator hose to fit your classic car or that special tool needed to remove the oil filter cover.
The following is a list of basic tools and parts needed to keep your car on course. Anyone who owns a car should carry a tool box with the basic necessities it in: screwdrivers, pliers, electrical tape, etc. People with classic and antique cars need a few more items. This list may seem long and you might be wondering if there will be any room left in your trunk at all, but most items are small and can be stored easily with a little organizing.
Lets’ start with the…
- Screwdrivers – regular and phillips, make sure you have long handled and stubbies
- Wrenches – metric, regular, 12″ adjustable, fuel filter, allen
- Pliers – adjustable, needle nose, vice grips, wire cutters
- Sockets – all sizes, spark plug, and a ratchet
- Hack saw – a mini-one
- A hammer of some sorts
- Assorted screws, bolts, washers and nuts
Keep your tool box in a place where it is easily accessible. You should be proud to show off your tool box in front of strangers.
- At least 2 quarts of oil
- One pint of appropriate brake fluid
- Automatic transmission fluid
- Windshield washer fluid
- Hydraulic fluid (if your car requires it)
- And a jug of water
These bottles will all fit in a plastic milk crate which can be shoved to the back of the trunk. Most older cars have large trunks, thank goodness.
- Oil Filter
- Fuel Filter
- All V belts (keep the old ones after you change them and label each one)
- Radiator hoses
- Points and condenser
- Brake pads – front and back
- Spark plugs
These are just the basics. You may want to carry more or less depending on your car. Newer cars only need to carry emergency items such as V-belts and a radiator hose repair kit. You can never carry too much stuff.
- Tire pressure gauge
- Electrical and duct tape
- Flashlight with batteries – keep the batteries in the glove compartment, not in the flashlight
- Clamps of various sizes
- Fuel line hose
- Hose repair kit
- Aerosol flat fixer – only good for small punctures and slow leaks
- Manuals – don’t be afraid to give your manual to a mechanic. They don’t know everything.
- Wheel chocks – if you have to change a tire on a hill
- Inflated spare tire and jack (of course). Make sure you know how to change a tire.
- Fire extinguisher
- Coat hanger or wire – for hanging a muffler or tail pipe
- Spare wiper blades
- Hand cleaner (waterless)
- Paper towels
- Small shovel
- First aid kit
- Credit card (as a last resort)
This list should serve as a guide or remind you of something that your particular car needs. Customize your list any way you see fit.
Belonging to a roadside assistance club is also a good idea. Triple A is known to most people and garages in the US, but some luxury cars have their own exclusive club: Mercedes, Corvette, Mustang etc.
The best way to avoid a breakdown is to keep your car, no matter what year or make, in tip top condition. Regularly inspect the engine and the v-belts; and check the fluid levels, air pressure in the tires, and the lights. For most weekend mechanics, this is second nature. But hopefully, by carrying your own car parts store in your trunk, you will never need a single item. As the saying goes, if you carry an umbrella, it won’t rain.