Piston Slap: Prudent Tool Packing or Junk in the Trunk?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap prudent tool packing or junk in the trunk

K.P. writes:

Hi Sajeev,

It’s the time of year to start tossing out little-used items so we can get more to replace them. One place I’m looking at is the car. I recall my stash of trunk tools back in the dinosaur years while driving the kind of cars I could afford then:

  1. Duct tape for interior tears, dropped ceiling linings, fixing plastic over windows that dropped off tracks, etc
  2. Pack of “L’eggs” panty hose as temporary water pump belt
  3. Wire clothes hanger as spare exhaust pipe clamp or antenna
  4. Can of WD-40
  5. Long Craftsman slot screwdriver to pop off distributor cap, prying tires, etc
  6. Lug wrench and two-foot pipe as lever (also as protection device)
  7. Couple of flashlights with huge 6V batteries
  8. Visegrips as combination wrench, hammer, and spare window crank for when your little brother yanks the handles off
  9. Bottle radiator leak stop
  10. Tire repair kit with rubber plugs
  11. Blankets and food in winter (since without cell phones it could be a while until rescue)

It’s been years since I’ve thrown a belt or had a flat tire, which makes me think it’s time to update what I keep on hand in the car on cross-country trips. What’s prudent nowadays?

Sajeev answers:

Let’s assume you are no longer driving the unnamed vehicle referenced here, instead driving its modern counterpart: a clean sled with enough age/mileage for extended warranty exemption. Now some answers:

  1. KEEP: needed in a pinch. Will duct tape work on damaged, flapping bumper covers and lower chassis covers?
  2. TRASH: carry a spare serpentine belt. Install a new one, trunk the old one?
  3. TRASH: considering external antennas are less common and exhaust systems last longer these days (even in the rust belt?)…
  4. KEEP: always a good idea if wrenching on a rusty undercarriage.
  5. KEEP: who knows what will need extra leverage at times!
  6. KEEP: many factory wrenches (collapsible ones) cannot hold a candle to a proper 4-pointed wrench with a leverage pipe.
  7. TRASH: time for cheap (or free with coupon) LED eye catchers from Harbor Freight.
  8. KEEP: window crank tool aside, I am down with such a multipurpose tool in one’s cargo area.
  9. TRASH: not worth clogging an older, weaker heater core to save a radiator. Radiators are still easy(ish) to replace, heater cores are now buried deep inside complicated dashboards!
  10. KEEP: good idea, especially when a new set of tires are out of the budget. Or maybe a can of fix-a-flat?
  11. KEEP: cell phone reception is limited, still necessary in many parts of the country.

I will add a few items I keep in my vehicles:

  1. Phone charging cable(s) and a 12V cigarette lighter USB adapter if not so equipped, but not the leather-wrapped one.
  2. 1/2 Drive wrench for the belt tensioner to change a serpentine belt, or is that just an old Ford thing?
  3. 1-gallon gas jug. (Get a bigger one and fill it up if your travels go farther than mine.)
  4. Cheapy socket set, no worries if it gets stolen.
  5. Cheapy multipurpose tool, same idea as #4.
  6. Philips head screwdriver to match your blade screwdriver.
  7. Silicone repair tape for busted hoses.
  8. Jumper cables, preferably thicker gauge units.
  9. Hand towel, sometimes with pumice-based hand cleaner.

Now off to you, oh dear Best and Brightest.

[Image: Shutterstock user Multirole designer]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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2 of 79 comments
  • Brandloyalty Brandloyalty on Mar 03, 2018

    Sheesh, where I live we're supposed to keep an earthquake survival kit in the car all the time, and a winter survival kit half the year. How many people would die from all that stuff flying around in crashes?

  • Eddy Currents Eddy Currents on Apr 01, 2018

    I'm waiting on details on the 4-pointed wrench.

  • FreedMike Good looking vehicle. Expensive, though...
  • FreedMike The world should rebel against this by buying nothing but the sedan version. (They won't, because crossover...)
  • Lou_BC " GMC Canyon sales during the second quarter of 2023 kept Big Red’s midsize pickup last in its segment when ranked by sales volume. The Toyota Tacoma continued to command the top spot, while also being the only model to be in the green with a 14 percent bump to 63,262 units year-over-year, representing nearly half of all segment deliveries. The  Chevy Colorado (see running  Chevy Colorado sales), the Canyon’s corporate cousin, placed second with a 12 percent dip to 19,909 units. The Nissan Frontier took third with a 17 percent slide to 17,213 units, followed by the Jeep Gladiator in fourth with a 34 percent drop to 13,751 units. The  Ford Ranger (see running  Ford Ranger sales) took fifth with a 22 percent decline to 12,618 units. The GMC Canyon (see running  GMC Canyon sales) finished out the short list with an 11 percent slip to 6,708 units"
  • 2ACL If you weren't throwing away your Mercedes after the warranty expired, this will fix that. This is an overly complex answer to the AMG question I don't think will endure the test of time.
  • Kwik_Shift Looks like what a redesigned Nissan Murano would be. I believe Murano is done.