Cars have become more reliable than ever in the last decade, but there is always going to be something to break and leave you stranded. Breaking down on the side of the road is one of the quickest ways to ruin your day, but if you try to limp home, you can often cause more harm than good. Most people think “If I can just make it to the next exit then I will be fine,” but this is rarely the case and can result in more damage to your vehicle. Avoid these situations by keeping these items in your car.
Your thermostat is the single most common point of failure in the cooling system. Automotive thermostats live in a very hostile environment. They are constantly submerged and go through more heat cycles than any other part of your engine, so this should not be surprising. Keep an extra thermostat and some RTV gasket maker along with some water. You can add anti-freeze later if you do not have any on hand, but don’t leave straight water in your system for too long. It can freeze, and it absolutely will corrode your cooling system.
If you get a flat and don’t have a spare, then you may be tempted to limp on the wheel to get to the next exit, but resist this temptation. Doing so will warp your wheels and shred your tires. Then your $10 plug repair turns into several hundred for a new wheel and tire. Avoid canned aerosol tire repair systems, these make actual repairs more difficult and can throw the weight of your tires off.
No matter what kind of car you have, it has a belt. It may be as simple as a V-belt, or it could be a complex serpentine belt, but either way, when it breaks, and it will, it will leave you stranded. Most people never think of their belts during their daily commute, but in modern cars with complex serpentine belts, everything in your vehicle relies on that one belt. Your water pump, alternator, power steering, and air conditioning all run off of one belt. If it breaks, your car will not even start, plus, you will have no power steering when you are getting to the side of the road. Preventative maintenance is best here but always carry a spare, just in case.