By on February 4, 2007

04_crv_23222.jpgYears ago, when I was not yet twenty I drove my brother between my parents’ homes, a distance of five hundred miles each way, with no back-up but a gas card and some loose change. Although the journey passed without incident, it was a nerve-racking experience. My upbringing had taught me that there’s a thin line between farce and tragedy, between going to the ends of the earth and being stranded in the last place on earth.

I absorbed this wisdom during many long-distance family car trips. Various summer vacations saw us driving from Illinois to New England, Florida, and New Orleans. We also moved from Illinois to California and back, and then did the same trip for “fun” three more times.

You might think I’m leading up to a story of mechanical failure and geographical distress. But aside from a cracked radiator hose that required an overnight stay down Florida way, I don’t remember a single example of mechanical failure. But I do remember my parents’ paranoia. They viewed each trip as a kind of necessary gamble: a leap into the great unknown with an inherently suspicious automotive net.

My parents grew up in California, but they attended college in Valparaiso, Indiana. “Valpo” is a small Lutheran college located just west of Notre Dame about 60 miles east of Chicago. At the time, train tickets were a luxury and plane tickets were priced well beyond contemplation.

So they drove to Valpo from their homes in Stockton, California twice a year, for three years. They make the 2000 miles trek (about the same distance as Paris to Moscow, each way) in a collection of beaters, with balding tires (one cheapskate driver went through three (used) spares), no air conditioning and weak heaters.

With that kind of background, it wasn’t surprising that our driving vacations were long on preparation, short on “adventure” and, frequently, room. Road trips ranged from the good (three or four of us in the 6000), to the bad (four in an 80’ Accord hatch), to the ugly (seven in a Ford “Woody” Country Squire later on). 

Despite their travel history, neither of my parents would qualify as “car folk." They were omnivorous car buyers, chasing reliability, value and utility. Although they weren’t the sort to hold a grudge, when it came to cars, their memories were long. My mother would not even look at a Ford because of her Father’s troublesome example back in ‘60’s. Neither went for Chevy after “the Vega incident."

The only real Devil-make-care “car buff” in either family is my first cousin once removed on my maternal side. “Uncle” Gordon grew up riding motorcycles (always BMWs) up and down California. He eventually added cars to his interests– in his own unique fashion. My mother could never quite understand the appeal of having a disassembled 58’ Dodge pickup in your back yard, or why anyone would have three Jaguars at once. 

Gordon indulged in many wide-eyed automotive romances, but the family’s practical gene was still operative. He yanked engines and transmissions on two of his Jags and– sacrilege! — replaced them with Chevy V6’s and autoboxes.  As he explained to my mom, Jaguar’s interiors were to die for, but the running gear showed why England almost lost the War. His V12 cat got to keep its powerplant, and gained a trailer hitch to haul his camper (somewhere, Jeremy Clarkson is vomiting). 

I had my own version of my parents’ paranoia-building experience during my first year in college. I hitched a ride home from a classmate with a Corvette– that had seen better decades. He got me home with a speeding ticket plus a lecture on bald tires. Given how the engine sounded, the ticket was more of a miracle than the fact I got home safely. (Just.) Fortunately, the Vette’ threw a rod before the return trip. 

This may explain my caution during the semester I took our decrepit Escort to college. I drove the arthritic Ford perhaps half-a-dozen times that semester. Partially it was poverty (gas or pizza), partly it was location (go find Kirksville Missouri on the map, then locate “fun” within 100 miles), but mostly it was a suspicion that pushing my luck would leave me stuck in the literal middle of nowhere. 

These days, I’m fortunate to own a Honda CR-V (a vehicle only slightly less reliable than No. 2 pencil). Friends and acquaintances are impressed with my cute ute’s usefulness, but they are often struck speechless at the contents in the “trunk”: blankets, rope, folding shovel, a tire iron and a pile of other gear (I don’t store hardtack in the seat cushions though). They think I’m a little crazy. I just like to think I have a low tolerance for “adventure.”

 

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38 Comments on “Just Because You’re Paranoid Doesn’t Mean You Won’t Get Stranded...”


  • avatar

    I never go on a long road trip without a jumper battery, air compressor or pump and a cell phone.

    A couple of years ago I was forced to add blankets to that list when my mother and I were on our way to Gatlinburg Kentucky from Chicago and ended up spending the night stranded on I-65 in -3F temperatures due to a snow storm 2 days past. Good thing my mother went to the same school of life as your parents and we had blankets plus a full tank of gas for the night.

    I have thrown a pulley between Indy and Louisville, lost a shift linkage in Louisville, and popped a transmission drain bolt near St. Louis. After all that, I can tell you that it’s not paranoia, if you drive enough miles in old enough cars, these things will happen.

    Still, that doesn’t mean that I don’t tolerate adventure, I just don’t consider dying for want of a blanket or an extra battery at the side of the interstate adventure, I call it lack of preparation.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    Maybe blankets are OK for you guys, but for the cold-blooded where I live, only sleeping bags will do. With the amount of additional gear I carry for both myself and my vehicle, an SUV is almost a necessity. I don’t “need” to pull a boat, but every day is potentially a camping trip.

    When this one’s done, it’s going to be replaced by a subie hatch or wagon. I don’t need off-road or truck capabilities, but i’ll be danged if i’m going to reduce my kit for the sake of a sedan.

  • avatar
    buzzliteyear

    I understand being prudent, but having ‘adventures’ on the road make for much better stories than getting there safe, sound and intact.

    Perhaps I’m spoiled by living in California all of my life, but my family and I have been through more automotive mishaps then I care to count. We still tell those tales today!

    Some of the highlights—

    –Driving from California to Ohio (and partway back) dumping cold water on our Mercedes’ starter motor because it wouldn’t start when hot.

    –Throwing a connecting rod in the Sepulveda Pass, using my Swiss Army Knife to remove treasured stereo components from the car, scavaging for plastic bags to carry the components, and walking 3 miles to a friend’s house.

    –The fan shroud severed a transmission cooler line near Big Sur, causing a half-mile long plume of smoke. We got towed into Monterey, then rented a POS Chrysler for a couple of days. The POS really made us appreciate our own car when we got it back.

    —Trying to drive from the SF Bay Area to Reno in driving rain in my friend’s MGB, holding our breath every time the cooling fan circuit flickered on and off.

    —etc., etc., etc.

    Sure, such adventures are a pain in the butt at the time. But they build ‘character’ and give you something to tell your grandchildren.

  • avatar

    Very few cars that are less than five years old are likely to leave you stranded these days.

    During the past quarter members of my panel reported 313 repair issues. Of these, 11 required a tow. One of those was for a tie rod broken while off-roading. Most of the others were for transmission issues, where V6 Hondas from 1999 to 2003 are far from immune. This is with 1300 cars participating.

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

  • avatar
    macarose

    This is on of the main reasons why vigilant maintenance is so important to a car’s longevity.

    Every time I see a violent storm hit the East Coast, there are literally dozens of cars that will dot the shoulders due to nothing more than a lack of maintenance.

    The same is true during the summer time in Georgia. the impound lots for abandoned vehicles will literally have three to five times as many of vehicles due to inadequate cooling systems.

    Some of it makes you wince. This past Saturday there was an early 1990’s BMW 750 il V12, a late 1990’s Mitsubishi Eclipse with all the options (leather sunroof, etc.), and one of my favorite used car values, a late 1990’s Oldsmobile 88.

    All of them were there because the drivers failed to understand how to maintain a car… or… didn’t choose to learn the anbsolute basics of maintaining a vehicle.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Reminds me of my family’s road trips to Oklahoma and Arkansas taking my sisters to college. We drove an old 70’s Volkswagen Bus most of the time. On one trip we blew the motor, and had to spend a week at a campground in Indiana during the 1st week of September. I missed the 1st few days of 2nd grade. There was actually a daily fee to use the pool!

  • avatar
    Jan Andersson

    My buddy’s boss always keep a bag of tealights and a box of matches in his cars (Mercedes!) Myself, I pay for a type of rescue insurance — wherever I am, they pick me up, even if I’m out of gas. Yes, I have used it once — the starter didn’t work. The guy saw the car, found the problem and started the car, towing not necessary. No, I won’t tell you what brand of Swedish car it was. By the way, here’s the new model (and a lesson in Swedish):

    http://www.automotorsport.se/

  • avatar
    KixStart

    We’ve been stranded on vacation a few times (transmission failure and total brake failure – and I mean TOTAL – foot-to-the-floor – YIKES!)and we’ve been inconvenienced a few other times (damned Ford heater fans!).

    It’s the sort of experience that persuades you to sign up for AAA and to check CR carefully before buying a car.

    And the Boy Scout motto – “Be Prepared” is a sensible one. Warm clothing and sleeping bags are in the car in the winter and we always have a first-aid kit, water and snack or two.

  • avatar
    hondaboy55

    I was born with a predisposition to having charging system problems. The affliction affected my brother as well. We both had mustangs as our first set of wheels, and once every 9 to 16 months they required us to replace the power trio, battery, alternator, and regulator. I was a purist and finally got a set from ford, except for the diehard. My brother got his trio from one of the auto parts giants who would give you a new one for free if the one you got last quarter failed. And they often did. My ford trip fixed my electrical trio problem longer, and more reliably, my brother happily got a new set 3-4 times a year. Once the light came on you would not be driving much longer, and possibly you would have to fix it where you stopped next. My brothers second wheel set was my dad’s old 85 t-bird. One of its trio’s, the alternator, was not the one the auto parts people were informed should be under the hood. In fact, the parts desk at ford did not get the right number, and like the auto-marts of the country always tried to sell him the heavy duty alt., but it would not fit. On that car, once the light came on you had about 2 minutes to get the windows up, pull over and expect the engine and electronic dash to just quit as if a power sucking UFO selected your car to recharge its energizer cell, no bunny with a drum in sight. Often the counter person tried to over ride our past experience and we would have to walk the part in so they could match up the part. Funny we had to do that at ford one time too.

    Once our family moved to hondas, mine was first. My charging system affliction continued, this time with an interesting twist. at 165,000 miles on a drive from NY to Atlanta my squirrel wheel charger’s light came on, and I had nowhere to go, but it was daylight, so I thought if I just shut everything off I could make it to the next city. Well after a while the light went off, no problem I thought, the mustang use to do that, it generally ment I had 30 days till I was walking. Then it came on again miles after going off, so I turned all the electrical stuff off again. I made the rest of the trip, but it was now night, and just as I was getting into town at about 3am I shut stuff off to make it home, and a cop pulled me over, I informed him of the problem and he said I could not drive with no lights, so I parked on a hill for the night. In the morning with no power to do anything with, I rolled and let out the clutch, It started and ran ! I drove the rest of the 40 miles with not enough power to run the speedometer, but I made it.
    I charged the battery at work, and ran it by day, and charged it at night for the rest of the week while I ordered a new alt. from honda and changed it that weekend. Funny thing is that each of our 3 hondas 89,89, and 91 and my brothers 89 also had a life of about 165,000 miles out of the alternators. And on both my 89’s and my wife’s 91 we were able to keep them in service during the week, including headlights for 2 hours a day, and tricklecharge them over night until the weekend when I changed the parts.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    Yeah, I usually have a full compliment of accessories too. to the existing items, I would add a full change of clothes (including shoes), and a heavy jacket during the winter. During college driving back and forth across frozen NY state (in two absurdly reliable japanese autos), I also packed a full size steel shovel, which I used many times. It was damn good at busting up ice, too.

    Now, who´s going to be the first to step up and admit to having MREs in their trunk?

  • avatar
    cynder

    Driving in Alaska has it’s challenges. It’s often a case of unknown danger, suprise elements (moose) and unexperienced drivers.
    That said, my car apparently has less safety gear than Andrew Dederer: A couple flares, heat packs, windshild washer fluid and some jumper cables. I’m always sure to bring my good coat and gloves too.

  • avatar
    amclint

    Justin, my wife is a food storage nut, we have MREs in our trunk. Along with blankets, and a medium size toolbox to fix dang near anything. I’ve had my share of mechanical issues roadside, luckily we’ve never gotten stranded in the winter. The fold-able shovel is a good idea, I’m going to buy one next trip I make. Not just for snow, I can see many uses for a shovel if I was stranded.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    The most important trunk items for those of us who commute in old beaters:

    Fix-a-flat
    Vice Grips
    Roll of Heavy Solid Wire
    Duct Tape
    4-in-one Screwdriver
    Rags
    Flashlight (Alkaline D-Cells replaced Annually)
    Folding Shovel (Seasonal)

    P.S.
    If I could afford AAA I wouldn’t be driving an old POS :)

  • avatar
    Seth

    Among the many obvious car failures I’m paranoid about, some like fuel pump or a control computer module etc are stealthy… Think about it. Your powertrain might be in great condition but if fuel pump dies, then what good is it?

  • avatar
    Dream 50

    What, nobody has mentioned a tow strap or cable? In snowy Hokkaido it is pretty handy to have something that will pull at least two tons. My locking hub 4wd Toyota Lite Ace is a snow monster despite its puny 14 inch wheels, but there are a lot of opportunities to pull a hapless local out of a snowbank. Although you never know about another’s racial sentiments, I always hope I can rescue a dude who isn’t that keen on foreigners and maybe make him scratch his head once or twice. I once had a guy stuff 1000 yen (about 10 bucks) in my pocket and told me to buy myself some juice.

  • avatar
    Maxwelton

    Only stranding I’ve suffered was through lack of foresight: namely, running out of gas in what for the Northwest passed for a blizzard. I was in my Austin Healey 3000 (My only car, circa 1989) and got stuck with less than half a tank of gas, wearing “business attire” on the floating bridge. For nine hours. My gas went about three hours into the stranding, leaving just a bit for driving to the nearest station.

    I had to go and knock on the window of the guy next to me and ask if I could sit with him in his car, which he was kind enough to do.

    Around midnight (traffic stopped at 15:00) we started moving, but of course I discovered the gas station just off the bridge had shut hours ago.

    I left my car there and hitched a ride with a verifiable crazy person, who drove 15 miles to get to my place, which was only two miles from where we were…stopping to pick up his girlfriend and later getting into a fistfight with another driver before getting me within walking distance of my place.

    Good times!

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    Hi, folks.

    You all spend lots of time keeping supplies in your trunk (and I do too), but what about that one feature that came with your car?

    Have you checked your spare tire’s air pressure recently? You probably should!

  • avatar
    Areitu

    All the sporty cars I’ve ever owned in my short 22 years of life have always teetered on the edge of stranding me someplace. I had a 1986 Corolla GTS that I drove at least 800 miles with a stuck valve. I sold it for a 1991 240SX that eventually shredded its 231,000 mile old timing chain on the way to the shop where I was going to have the noise looked at. Right now the third car is a Miata with what I suspect has a stuck or worn oil relief valve.

    One of my greatest fears is getting stuck someplace where my 7-mile AAA towing won’t get me anywhere. Last time I got stuck, the alternator on the LS400 I was driving had gone out and, unbeknownst to me, the car was running on battery for the three days all the indicator lights had turned on in the dash. It died halfway to the shop I was taking it to.

  • avatar
    confused1096

    I used to live in the middle of nowhere in Northern Nevada. One item that was always in my trunk was a 6 gallon container of drinking water, along with the usual tools, flares, flashlight, trailmix, blankets (the desert gets COLD at night), etc… You could easlily find yourself 50 or more miles from the nearest town, and cell phones were not very common then. Nor did they work in the hinterlands.

  • avatar
    ash78

    A couple things not yet mentioned, regardless of whether you’re an urbanite commuter or Yukon wanderer: A piece of plywood or two, stored under the trunk mat. You never know when crappy OEM jacks are going to have trouble finding purchase on mud, sand, gravel, or grass. Slide some plywood under there and you can distribute the footprint a lot better.

    If you’ve got the space, a gallon of water, maybe a purifier, some carb-rich foods (like Clif bars), and you can pre-sort little packets of protein powder to mix in the water. The stuff lasts for years and is the best source of protein by weight. MRE are great, but I like to think about stuff you can eat while constantly walking to get help. Stop and you might freeze, especially if you’re perspiring.

    And I agree that you should forget blankets in favor of sleeping bags. In addition, a silver emergency blanket fold up to pocket sized and when used in tandem with a bag, you can make it through just about any temps.

  • avatar

    I must have driven across the country 8-10 times between 1970-1974. The only problem I remember was that on the first trip, my ’62 Falcon had to ahve the carb rebuilt in Salt Lake City.

    Much later, in the late ’80s and early ’90s I drove my ’77 Corolla between DC and MA (about 500 miles) and DC to NYC on numerous occasions without incident (No AC).

    I do remember when the 1950 Studebaker got an aneurism in the tire going from Palo Alto to Cambridge in ’57, but I don’t remember any problems on either trip x the country in the ’57 Chevy, in ’60 and ’61. And I used to hear the story every now and then of how, the summer of ’56, we got laid up for two days on the way from Seattle to LA in some tiny town in Oregon where the local gas station lightened my parents’ wallet by what is probably about a G in today’s dollar. The complaint was pinging. It started again as soon as we started up again.

    When I rode a bicycle x the country in ’75, I carried a spare tire, spare tube, spare pedals, spare cables, and ample tools–the pedals because I had once broken a pedal axle, and I figured that could get us laid up for a few days because bicycle shops were scarce in parts of the west. I got a loud clicking the day we reached Havre, Montana. I pulled and greased the bottom bracket at Alvin’s Lawnmower Shop (I needed tools I didn’t have to do that). The next day, we started up, and the clicking started up. I took one of gthe pedals off, and put one of the spares on, and it ceased. We all (3 of us) had to change rear tires after about 2000 miles. I had no flats, though.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    OK here is what you need.

    1. Reliable car.
    2. Cell Phone
    3. GPS
    4. AAA
    5. Don’t drive in the sticks

    I have yet to be stuck for more than 2 hours in my 20 years of driving.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    A lot depends on your location/environment. Alaska is much different than populated areas.

    Everyone’s covered the basics: Good spare/jack, cell phone, cables, shovel, bottled H20. My experience is that MRE’s get funny after a few freeze/thaw cycles. A concealed handgun is a nice option if the laws where you drive allow it.

    Weather issues should dictate stored clothing, but good boots and socks are a must.

    I’m doing a trip later today from Buffalo south to the PA line. Snow sqaulls are floating around – some areas have 2+ feet – and it’s very windy. One plus is that the local media’s panic-style weather forcasting keeps a lot of sheeple (with poor driving skills) off the road.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    Steve: “Don’t drive in the sticks”? Even if by that you just meant “stay on the interstates” That would keep you out of the most scenic and interesting parts of the US. The Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, the Red Rock country of Utah, most of Western Colorado, virtually all of Wyoming and Montana, not to mention huge swaths of California, Arizona and the PNW are in “the sticks.” If I couldn’t drive in those areas I’d get rid of my car and just ride a bus to work.

    Living out West and growing up taking long road trips, I’ve always been amazed that there are people out there who don’t carry jumper cables in their cars. I started carrying a sleeping bag in the car when I started commuting regularly between Denver and Laramie, WY, since the overnight temps can easily drop into the below-zero range in Winter. Sleeping bag, flashlight, first aid kit, jumper cables and a functioning spare are, IMO, the minimum equipment that should be in any vehicle in the snow belt (and for those in the sun belt the only thing to delete would be the sleeping bag, replaced with a sturdy blanket.) Water is a bit problematic because it’s bulky, prone to freezing, can leak if the container is damaged and will eventually become unpalatable if left in plastic containers too long. I don’t carry water on a daily basis but any excursion outside the city limits always means bringing water (a wooden crate with 4 1 gal plastic water bottles is a good solution and easier to store & use than a big 4 or 5 gallon water can.)

    As for not being able to afford AAA, might want to check with your insurance company. Many of them offer roadside assistance packages that will be rolled into your insurance costs for only a buck or two per month. About the only thing you don’t get is the free maps.

    Finally, re: spare tires, before departing on a long trip, it’s not only prudent to check to see that the spare has air, it’s also a good idea to practice changing a tire on a warm afternoon in your driveway so you’ll know where the neccessary equipment is and how it works. You don’t want to be learning how to change the tire, or worse yet, discovering that you don’t have a tire iron, in a snowstorm at 10pm. FWIW I once bought a brand new Ford truck (Ranger) and when conducting a post-delivery inventory, I discovered that it did not have the jack handle which would have made it impossible to change a tire. When I pointed this out to the dealer, they simply went to an (unsold) Ranger on the same lot, pulled the jack handle out and handed it to me, which pretty much explained how mine went missing.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    I’m all for adventure. But if you can’t afford 4 decent tires, you shouldn’t be driving. Your life is worth more than the cost of a bus ticket.

  • avatar
    ash78

    One more thing: The crap that passes for lug wrenches these days is usually nothing more than a slightly offset, single-end wrench. Those things are hell when you are dealing with lug nuts in freezing temps that were torqued to 120lb-ft by Jiffy Lube.

    Get a folding “X-style” lug wrench from Walmart for $8. They are MUCH better and far quicker than the stock version in most cars. And those will fit into roughly the same space as the OE version.

  • avatar
    kowsnofskia

    I’ve found some unique stuff that’s saved my butt a couple of times on the road:

    -Full complement of fluids (coolant, oil, brake fluid, tranny fluid, windshield washer fluid, etc.)

    -Two sets of jumper cables, including one that recharges your battery by plugging into your cigarette lighter.

    -A little plastic “wheel chuck” ramp I found at an RV store. When your jacking a car up, you’re always told to “chuck” the wheel diagonally opposite to the one you’re lifting up. I used to carry a rock to do this, but this is lighter and more effective.

    -Big, bright flashlight, with a spare dry cell.

    -2 cans of Fix-a-Flat.

    -Folding shovel.

    -Wool blanket.

    -“Emergency kit” with first-aid kit, flares, space blanket, warning signs, etc.

    -Small amount of food.

    -Leatherman multi-tool, plus a larger set of pliers, an adjustable wrench, a couple of larger screwdrivers, etc.

    -Duct tape.

    The plywood someone else suggested is a really good idea, and the duct tape is more useful than you could possibly imagine. A professor of mine once blew a radiator hose on a long trip, but he wrapped it up with duct tape and refilled his radiator. The duct tape held for the rest of the trip and another 5000 or so miles! He ultimately sold the car with the duct-taped hose still in action.

  • avatar
    moto

    Those who rely exclusively on insurance and cell phones must really lead a high-stress life.

    I keep a good array of safety items and tools in my poor abused car, and 99% of the time i use them to help out some poor sap by the side of the road who is trying in vain to hail help with a cell phone. Sure, networks sound great, but there’s a big chunk of the world that just doesn’t respond instantly to electronic gadgets. Sometimes if you aren’t mechanically inclined, the best tool to keep in the back of your car is a good pair of walking shoes and a local map.

    On a late evening on the way from Montreal and NYC when my head gasket decided to give up, with no shop open and no cell phone coverage, I was sure happy to meet friendly locals. They woke up the local towing company, got my car to a dealer and me to a hotel near the dealer. Thanks to good old-fashioned upstate NY hospitality!!!

  • avatar
    kowsnofskia

    And a cell phone, with a AAA account.

  • avatar
    webebob

    with a few moments of advance planning, rental cars in any town can be had for $25 or less per day. All are usually 1 year old or less and have less than 25K showing. When I came back to the states for R&R i’d use them and drive cross country, absolutely no problems. Budget didn’t mind if I racked up 5600 miles in two weeks – $250 rental. Whats a mechanic charge nowadays, $60/hour?

    Now I use rentals for long trips simply to keep the miles down on my personal cars. Get and go, never look under the hood and leave the adventure to authors of “zen and the art of carburetor adjustment”

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    I live in the middle of everything in philadelphia, and I do expertly maintain my car (well, not actually ME, haha). I carry a snow and ics scraper, a pint of oil.

    And, like kowsnofskia, a cell phone and AAA.

    thats it.

  • avatar
    ash78

    If you use fix-a-flat, don’t plan on getting the tire repaired!

    Most leaks are slow, so a compressor is a wise decision. Usually you can just bump the tire up to about 5psi over recommended and just drive to safety before it becomes dangerous again.

    That is, I can’t think of a situation where fix-a-flat really does anything except render your tire irreparable.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    There’s only one reason I can accept for having a cell phone in an automobile: if it breaks down, you can call for help, if what you have with you, other than a few tools and a safety kit (flares, materials to wrap up any leaks from the human body, jumper cables, electrical tape and a flashlight) aren’t sufficient. My own personal crock – ’72 Volvo 142E – is something I wouldn’t consider taking on a long drive anymore, without a cell phone (or a pocket full of quarters to call a towing company, friend and/or take the bus home). There are just too many pieces of electrical equipment that need replacing; and trouble-shooting by the side of the road is dicey, if that means the side of a freeway at rush hour.

    When I drive from where I live – Seattle – down to Portland, Oregon and back (distance of approximately 300 miles, round trip), I try to always take the aforementioned safety kit with me; even when I am driving a new vehicle (for evaluation). I don’t travel with a sidearm, but I wouldn’t begrudge anyone that does (such as probably a lot of long-distance haul truckers). The same thing is true, as when Emerson once said, sometime in the 19th Century, “Great men, great nations, have not been boasters and buffoons, but perceivers of the terror of life, and have manned themselves to face it.”

  • avatar
    nino

    OK here is what you need.

    1. Reliable car.
    2. Cell Phone
    3. GPS
    4. AAA
    5. Don’t drive in the sticks

    And CASH!

  • avatar
    Jan Andersson

    The only thing you need is a reliable car, right?
    And a reliable map.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    I have taken several 2000 mile round trips in my 88 528e to carouse with fellow E-28ers Memorial day week end. The Borman6 currently has 340k miles on it. I pack a 16X18x6 bin of spare parts, a few tools and various car juices. Other than a few fuses and electrical terminals, it has been just for peace of mind.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    These stories are why people buy Toyota Camrys. Everybody above the age of 40 has had a domestic completely break down on them somewhere several hundred miles from anywhere. Then they bought a Toyota after running out of domestic makers to curse at, and never had this happen again, so they bought Toyotas for the rest of thier life.

  • avatar
    Pete

    Last year I was offered a job in the California high desert. I loaded my ’75 Dodge crewcab with all of my worldly goods(books,stereo equipment,clothes) and set out from South Jersey. 2900 miles and 4 days later the cummins turbo diesel equipped Dodge chugged into Ridgecrest, CA. Other than various bits vibrating off at 70 mph, the truck was a trooper. BTW, I shipped my Road Runner. The thought of hauling it on an open trailer cross country, left me cold.

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  • Inside Looking Out: The collapse of once proud Russian space program is another example of how well that system works.
  • MGS1995: Back, sometime in the aughts my brother had a Chevy 2500 with the 8.1 and what he called the Allison...

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