CHANDAN BASU MALLIK, Kolkata: Well, the lockdown in the country has been extended, cars, 2-wheelers, public transportation is off the street and there’s some solace from the daily cacophony that we have been used to before the coronavirus pandemic.
A lot of people have been forced to cancel their holidays as air, train and public transport is off the grid. Hopefully, such services will be restored in a phased manner in the coming months and people with resume normal daily routines. And a lot would like to plan a break from the regimented lifestyle that they are enduring now.
This is also a good time to prepare your car or SUV for a vacation. Here’s a list of some essentials that might be considered for safety and convenience of the passengers and driver.
Most of new cars sold these days are factory fitted with tubeless tyres. The transition from tube to tubeless tyres was made due to several considerations. Tubeless tyres weigh less, thus reducing unsprung weight of the vehicle and this helps in fuel efficiency and contributes to lesser emissions.
The second advantage is that in case of a puncture, the rate of deflation of these tyres is less so the internal or structural damage is much less. We all know that running a vehicle with low air pressure can also cause serious damage to tubed tyres.
Whether a puncture, slow valve leak or long periods of non-use (like now due to coronavirus lockdown), periodical topping up is required.
Despite the leak, one can still run the car by topping up air in the tyre using a compressor.
Many portable models are available now and are powered by the vehicle’s 12v battery. They can be connected to the battery directly or cigarette lighter socket or auxiliary socket (if in the car).
Depending on capacity of the compressor, it will take 3-10 minutes to fill up. Most machines come with gauges which give approximate readings. The compressors weigh from 1.5kg to 3.0kg and are of compact design for ease of carrying and storage in the boot of the car. Since portable compressors have multiple usages, better to invest in a heavy duty one. Also one-time or refillable compressed air spray cans are available.
12v compressor Rs1,800 onwards
Compressed air cans Rs 250
Tyre puncture kit
If your vehicle is kitted with modern tubeless tyres, then one advantage is that if it there is a puncture, you don’t have to be distressed and be hassled as help is on hand. Even before you head to a tyre shop for repairs, there are both temporary and permanent solutions available.
For all practical reasons, depending on damage, a tubeless tyre can be fixed without removing the tyre from the rim.
For temporary fixes, one needs a set of cutting pliers, a smoothening tool, puncture repair strips, puncture strip insertion tool and a knife/blade.
The second option is what professional repairers or the motorsports industry uses — a liquid sealant. The liquid virtually makes the tyre puncture-proof. Generally, the sealant is replaced every 6 months or so and is done by removing tyre valve core.
When a sharp object cuts through or damages the tyre, the latex-like flexible sealant oozes through it and plugs the puncture. It can be very handy when you are off-roading or travelling through long highway stretches.
Temporary strips pack: Rs 130 -250
Sealant liquid: Rs 450- 800
Most cars are supplied with simple mechanical scissor jacks of various capacities so one would ask why do I need an extra one? Well in this day and age of GooglePlay and Android apps, people want results fast with minimum effort!
This is why portable hydraulic jacks are so popular. Hydraulic jacks come in various shapes and sizes, easy to use and gets the job done quick. Acknowledged as the most versatile tool to lift a car, the hydraulic bottle jacks are compact, easy to use and they come in a vast range of lift capacities. The usual sizes for automotive use range between 2.0-12.0 tons. For a small hatchbacks or sedans, a 3.0-ton is a good point to start with, while SUVS/CUVs could use 5.0-ton capacity jacks.
The second type which is preferred by professionals, DIY enthusiasts is the floor jack. These jacks are leverage type and have wheels which assist to get them in position. A removal long handle makes raising and lowering a breeze. Height wise, they are shorter than the bottle jacks and hence good for vehicles with low ground clearance. These tools are bulky and not great for tossing in the boot of a car!
And if you are an off-roading enthusiast, then there’s a special type of jack — the high lift type. A high-lift jack provides maximum lift even on uneven ground. Some high-end manufacturers also offer 12v electric hydraulic jacks.
Hydraulic bottle jacks 2 tonne: Rs 1,000 onwards
Hydraulic floor jacks: Rs 2,000 onwards
High lift jacks: Rs 7,500 onwards
12v electric hydraulic jacks 4.5 tonne: Rs 37,000 onwards
Most new cars are supplied with a basic toolkit comprising of a wheel nut opener, a screwdriver and a couple of wrenches. But when you need more than that and need to keep them in an organised manner, then a dedicated tool box should be your numero uno consideration. After all, you don’t want to lose your precious tools or waste time searching for them.
Tool boxes come in various shapes and sizes. They are made of metal or moulded plastic. The most basic metal one can be a box with a lid, or with multiple compartments. Again, you have a wide choice of merchandise ranging from DIY portable to workshop grade tool boxes. And depending on the individual’s preferences one can choose the exact box. There are many branded and non-branded products available. If you are not looking for a portable type, then a table top model is recommended. Table top boxes come with lockable drawers and are very good for arranging tools. The bigger ones come with castors and various configurations. Also remember, some tool boxes are sold with tools from the supplier like socket wrenches or set of screwdrivers.
Small plastic tool box: Rs650 — Rs1,700
Service tool box 3/5 compartment Rs 1,100 onwards
For summer picnics, outings or long drives there’s nothing like having the pleasure of a cool beverage as a thirst quencher! A cool box therefore becomes part of an essential travel kit especially in summers unless you want to frequently stop and buy it from vendors.
Cool boxes, like essentials come in various shapes and capacities from a basic thermocole lidded box to a sophisticated powered one. And the latest product to be added is the cool bag.
Some innovative manufacturers are also offering portable fridges that are powered by either 110/220AC or 12V DC. To operate the former in your car, you will require a 12DC to 110/220AC rectifier converter module (sold separately).
One great advantage of cool boxes is that not only they cool but keep food or beverages warm too. The good one can cools to up to 20°C below ambient temperature – to max -2°C. Some electrically operated ones are offered with warming function. Robust built in efficiently insulated hard case with fabric cover, some come with exterior pockets and padded shoulder strap. Capacities can range and for a family car a 24 litres capacity cool box is recommended. Mini fridges offered by Coleman and Igloo are rated as among the best in the industry.
Also a recently introduced new product is waterproof ice bag insulated cooler portable backpack.
Thermocole ice box: Rs 200 onwards
Dual use 8L ice box: Rs 3,300
12v DC 4-litre Cool Box: Rs 5,000, 20-litre Rs 18,000
Insulated cooler portable backpack: Rs 1,500
Mini fridge: Rs 3,5oo-125
Bin bags are usually associated with garbage or trash. With the government’s focus on “Swach Bharat”, bin bags are now playing a key role in keeping the environment clean and away from pollution and eyesores. Apart from the plastic bin bags that are available in shops, for cars there are specially designed ones. Although, a low-key item it is surprising how this product segment has become innovative and interesting. Can you believe that there are even smart trash cans with AI management systems! Apart from the disposable bin bags, most of the trash can holders are reusable and it is recommended to line them with trash bags.
Pack of domestic bin bags: From Rs 25
Auto motion sensor rubbish waste bins 11l-15L: Rs 2,500-Rs 3,500
Hanging 2-litre plastic cans: Rs 1,700
Round trash can with pop up lid: Rs 680
Seat back collapsable bag bin: Rs 1,200
Metal trash can: Rs 1,000
PU leather back seat trash bin: Rs 400-1,400
Dustbin rubbish basket organiser with trash bag: Rs 1,400
Now, this piece of equipment is usually for SUVs that go off-road or cars that need to be towed in case of breakdowns. A winch, tow chain and hooks can be used together or separately depending on the job in hand. For normal car users, a tow chain is advisable as an emergency accessory in the car. It can be folded and kept in the spare wheel bay with ease. For serious off-roaders, a winch is a must. Most cars have towing points built in and aftermarket or factory-approved kits are available as options for those who don’t have them or want to upgrade their vehicle’s towing capacities. A typical tow kit recommended for car users would be an approved woven type 2-3 tonne tow rope with hooks at both ends.
2 Tonne heavy duty car towing strap with hooks: Rs 250 — Rs 1,500
Towing rope loop type: Rs 150 onwards
Towing rope steel cable type: Rs 200 onwards
4 Tonne Towing strap with steel lock hooks: Rs 2,000
Unless you own a luxury or ultra luxury car you will have to get this essential kit, especially if there’s a bunch of kids around. With kids around who will occupy the rear seats, they will want to have their goodies like an iPad or Tablet in place without question along with their beverage holders and other knickknacks. The all-in-one solution to keep all this in one place is the backseat organiser.
These organisers can be as simple as a net bag to hold a bottle, mobile phone or as elaborate with multiple pocket storage, USB points for phones, iPad holder pocket, special pockets for pens, mesh pockets among others. Usually, they are offered with adjustable straps for universal use for most of cars or SUVs.
Some back seat organisers are insulated with options for storing beverages cans or bottles. Some even come with foldable trays. Roughly organisers are 22-24inches tall and 14-15inches wide and cane be made of leatherette or synthetic materials like textured vinyl or polyurethane. Usually, the material used is washable and easy to clean.
Net holder: Rs 250-300
Multi-feature organiser (with foldable table tray, tablet holder): Rs 2,000-2,500
Emergency light with blinker
When do you need an emergency light if travelling in a car? Obviously when a situation demands it — be it a flat tyre at night, bad weather, a mechanical problem or to find something lost. These portable rechargeable battery powered lights with blinkers also serve as warning lights for other motorists if there’s a problem on the road.
Again, various models are available ranging from basic to exotic. By exotic we refer to lamps with additional features dimmable outputs, USB phone charging points or powerbank . For the same purpose there are also now available high intensity torches/flashlighs with multiple functions.
Among the most popular ones are the advanced camping hurricane types which can be set for various outputs.
For SUV users, special multifunction portable lights with remote also now available. The prices vary on features and battery pack specifications.
High powered flashlight searchlight: Rs 1,500-2,500
Multifunction flashlight searchlight with strobe: Rs 1,200-2,500
LED searchlight with remote control: Rs 7,000 -12,000
Another useful product for beverage addicts who would like to keep their coffee or tea hot while on the move. These look like mini flasks and are powered either via USB or 12v DC. The 12v DC draws its power from the cigarette lighter socket. Some of the advanced ones also come with built in powerbanks and phone charging sockets.
For babies, mothers need not worry on how to keep milk warm as milk warmers are available. These are made of elastic thermal insulation material and offer uniform heat preservation. With safety in mind, the high quality ones also come with temperature gauge and automatic overheat protection function.
Insulated food basket: Rs 1,800- 2,400
Cane food basket: Rs 2,200-2,500
Food baskets are used mostly for picnic drives. Usually boxy in shape and made out of cane, they will hold picnic essentials like dry food, breads, baguettes, dry cakes, biscuits, fruits, yogurt, and beverages. Some also have dedicated storage spaces for cutlery, cups, napkins and plates.
This product will store but will not offer any extra function like keeping food warm.
For that, an insulated food basket does the job but it has a limitation that it will keep food warm up to a limited few hours only. Well, to prolong, it needs to be kept in a continuous warm environment. Luckily, such a product is available in the form of electrically powered travel food warmers. For cars they are powered by either 110v AC (some SUVs provide this outlet) or 12V DC. In principle, they are built with good thermal insulation and washability.
Cane food basket: Rs 3,500
Insulated food basket: Rs 1,600
12V electric food basket: Rs 1,500-9,500
Disclaimer: Prices are indicative and may vary from vendor to vendor