Trip Preparation

Graeme Cooper Automotive experts are frequently asked what spares to take on an extended trip. While we certainly could compile a list and supply a kit of the most likely components, there are too many well-documented stories of trips being undertaken with loads of spare parts, only to have the one item for which no part is carried being the cause of a major problem. Additionally, consideration must be given to the tools needed and the mechanical (and increasingly the electronic) knowledge and skill of the driver or crew. The simple question is “where do you stop”?
There is no substitute for a professional pre-trip inspection. A really competent mechanic with extensive experience of the marque will have the specialist knowledge of what to look for on each vehicle type and model.
By identifying when components and systems have failed, or are nearing the end of their effective life, they can be replaced and/or spares provided, thus eliminating many potential problems that otherwise might occur.

Common spares & back-up equipment

Of course, there will always be “common sense” items to carry – mostly those that could fail or be damaged regardless of how well the vehicle is prepared in advance. The following list is by no means complete, but covers most of the basics:

Spare battery: Any battery more than 12 months old is suspect and the workshop should change it before you depart. Either way, a spare is cheap insurance

Air filter: An essential item if you will be driving on dirt/gravel or sand

Oil filter: Depending upon the planned length of the trip, an oil change will be highly desirable and having the correct filter will make things much easier

Fuel filters: Blockages are not as uncommon as many believe, best to be prepared

Silicone “rescue” tape can be used successfully to repair radiator hoses and this will save having to carry all the various hoses that could potentially fail.  However, the workshop will inspect the hoses and change any that are defective.

Set of fan belts: Ditto

Spare rims & tyres. Anyone going far from home and/or your regular tyre service should seriously consider carrying TWO spare (full size) wheels. Never assume some rural tyre service will carry your size and brand

Tyre repair kit. Might be overkill if carrying two spare wheels but for serious off-road travel, having a repair kit (and knowing how to use it) can literally save lives.

Engine & gear oil: Take whatever grade your vehicle needs

Transmission & brake fluid: Ditto

Water: As much as you can carry safely

Radiator sealer

Fuses

Headlamp & other bulb replacements

Brake pads

Tyre inner tubes

Virtually all tyres are now fitted without inner tubes but this does not mean they should be considered obsolete. Also, unless you have owned the vehicle for a considerable time, it is entirely possible that a previous owner had one or more tyres fitted with tubes to overcome the problem of a sightly damaged rim or a cracked tyre wall and so on.

In an extreme case where you are forced to effect a repair yourself, a tube might be your lifeline. This is not as silly as it might sound. It will not be the first time that TWO punctures occur on a bad stretch of country gravel road when you only have ONE spare. In country like that, it is wise to be prepared for the worst and just having repair plugs may not be enough.

Even if you are not that far from a town when a problem occurs, the local tyre dealer may not carry your brand or size of tyre, so unless the damage is beyond any repair, having an inner tube handy might save you having to purchase a different brand of tyre just to keep you mobile.  Constant 4WD vehicles must NOT have different sized tyres so you may be forced to change all four – an expensive fix when there may be a cheaper solution. A patch and an inner tube will probably get you home, or at least to a dealer who can match the other tyres already on the vehicle.

A final note about valves. It is now standard to use those round plastic covers over the valve stem and they do NOT have the tool requires to remove and replace a valve. Most auto-accessory shops sell valve tools or you may be able to buy or scrounge one from a friendly tyre dealer to carry in your tool kit. Like many tools, you may never need to use it, but if you do, virtually no other tool will do the job!