Revheads, mechanically-minded readers and true car afficianados beware: this may not be for you.
It's aimed at the other 99 per cent of the population, whose technical knowledge of our vehicle stretches as far as knowing where the petrol goes, and... um, that's about it. We know there ought to be a spare wheel and a jack somewhere under the beach towels in the boot but we've never actually checked. If that sounds like you, read on.
Fortunately, the days are gone when a sound mechanical knowledge of your vehicle was essential before taking to the road. NRMA Membership, regular servicing and reliable engineering allow most of us to get by with minimal know-how.
However, circumstances can still conspire to leave you in a situation where you may have to rely on yourself. Picture this: your car gets a puncture. It's dark, raining hard and the last house was 10km back. If you're alone, the safest option might be to drive to the nearest safety point, regardless of the puncture, and call the NRMA. But if safety is not an issue, what basic equipment do you need to deal with this or other potentially nasty situations?
NRMA's Motoring Advice says you should check you have these items in your car. Some are life-savers. Others are not essential but still highly useful. Simply visit your Repco store, and present your NRMA Membership card at purchase to receive up to 10% discount on a wide range of motoring products.
(Note: this checklist is intended for urban and general country driving only. It is not intended for 4WD expeditions or for journeys into remote areas, where a more substantial toolkit and spare parts are essential.)
First make sure the spare wheel is there. Then check it's roadworthy. Use a tyre gauge to check it's correctly inflated (see Point Three). Check it has a minimum tread depth of 1.5 mm (about the depth of a match-head) where the tyre comes in contact with the road. Make sure there is no abnormal wear or damage such as cracks, bulges or tears.
The salesman assured you it was all there but have you checked? Do you know where it is? You should have a car-jack and a socket wrench or equivalent tool. If you have never changed a wheel before, practise in your garage or street. If you don't know how, have a look at your Owner's Handbook or check out our Tyre care Q&A. Finally, check that you can undo the wheel nuts on each wheel. If not, have your repairer adjust them so you can undo them in an emergency. If you have locking wheelnuts, make sure you have the key.
Incorrect tyre pressure can reduce the life of your tyres and make your vehicle less safe to drive. Check the manufacturer's recommended pressure on the tyre placard in the glovebox, owner's handbook, fuel filler cap or inside the driver's door opening. Many service station gauges are not accurate, so buy your own from a service station or auto accessory shop. Tyre pressure should only be checked when the tyres are cold.
Several uses: for emergency topping up of your radiator or windscreen washer liquid and for drinking on hot days in a breakdown.
First aid kit
A simple first aid kit is essential packing, especially if you have kids. A basic kit should include a first aid manual, bandages, sterile gauze pads and dressings, plasters, antiseptic cream, tweezers, scissors, safety pins and headache tablets. Sterile gloves are also very useful if you are in a position to help an accident victim.
A dry chemical powder extinguisher is best. This type of extinguisher is suited to fires in flammable liquids and electrical fires, and is considered to be the best lightweight general purpose extinguisher. Keep it somewhere easily accessible in a fire - the cabin or boot. Extinguishers are available at auto accessory stores. (Note: fire extinguishers require periodic checking.)
Won't save your life but they're handy for cleaning up if you have to change a tyre or check the oil.
You would be astonished how many motorists call NRMA roadside assistance before checking their location. In the city, try to pinpoint a suburb, street name and nearest major cross-street before calling 13 11 11. In the country, work out the name of the road you're on, the nearest population centre and any landmarks that will help our patrols find you.
You won't find out how important this is until the car breaks down in the dark. Essential for changing a tyre, poking around under the bonnet or even for reading a map at night.
Smearing on the inside of the windscreen can seriously interfere with visibility, especially at night. Keep a cloth or chamois handy.
If your vehicle isn't fitted with an immobiliser, consider fitting one or at least some form of lock or alarm.
Handy for contacting NRMA roadside assistance or the emergency services.
Keep your NRMA Card in your wallet and have your Membership number or vehicle registration number ready when you call 13 11 11.
The best way to beat car trouble is to stop it happening in the first place. NRMA offers a range of vehicle inspections to help identify problems before they arise. Vehicle inspections are especially useful if you are buying or selling a vehicle, if your warranty is nearing its end or to check for repair needs.
We can also provide details of a once-a-month 10-minute check plan to reduce the chance of avoidable breakdowns and can save you money by extending the life of your vehicle's components.
Our Motoring Advice team can advise Members on a host of motoring-related matters, including buying a car, problems with your vehicle and car reviews of the latest models. Call 13 11 22.