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.

  • Jim Bonham Thanks.
  • Luke42 I just bought a 3-row Tesla Model Y.If Toyota made a similar vehicle, I would have bought that instead. I'm former Prius owner, and would have bought a Prius-like EV if it were available.Toyota hasn't tried to compete with the Model Y. GM made the Bolt EUV, and Ford made the Mach-E. Tesla beat them all fair and square, but Toyota didn't even try.[Shrug]
  • RHD Toyota is trying to hedge their bets, and have something for everyone. They also may be farther behind in developing electric vehicles than they care to admit. Japanese corporations sometimes come up with cutting-edge products, such as the Sony Walkman. Large corporations (and not just Japanese corporations) tend to be like GM, though - too many voices just don't get heard, to the long-term detriment of the entity.
  • Randy in rocklin The Japanese can be so smart and yet so dumb. I'm America-Japanese and they really can be dumb sometimes like their masking paranoia.
  • Bunkie The Flying Flea has a fascinating story and served, inadvertently, to broaden the understanding of aircraft design. The crash described in the article is only part of the tale.