Across Town or Country, You Should Pack These Spare Parts
Photography by Afshin Behnia, Josh Clason, and Revere Jones for Petrolicious
The clutch began to feel odd, the shifting labored. It was negligible at first, but gradually worsened over the next fifty miles. There was obviously a problem. I had logged a couple thousand miles since replacing the clutch disc, pressure plate, throw out bearing, rear oil seal, and had had the flywheel surfaced. Being in a remote area, I started imagining the terrible fates that my clutch might have suffered.
I pulled into the next rest stop expecting to find a thick layer of oil under the back of my ’69 Volkswagen Beetle, but nothing. I checked the level and it was fine…. so I jacked the car up, slid my spare tire underneath as a safety measure, and crawled under the car to check the clutch adjustment. There it was! The frayed end of the clutch cable was down to a few strands and stretching. Ok, so had I also ordered a new clutch cable when I did the previous work but the existing cable seemed good and I opted to leave it alone. Fortunately, I had put the new cable in my trunk bag along with the other spare parts. After a few minutes of growling at myself for not having changed that cable when everything was apart I had the new one in and was on my way.
So let’s begin the discussion of what spare parts to carry in our vintage cars, obviously we can’t plan for every possible failure but a few well-chosen items can easily make a difference. I do know some folks that will go so far as carrying a spare head gasket for a car that’s prone to overheating. The older and more esoteric our vintage cars are the less likely that a national chain auto parts store in the next town will stock even basic items for it, let alone be able to find your car in their computer system.
Fuses, first on the list! Especially important if you have an older German car that uses the ‘bullet’ fuses.
Bulbs, the most probable item that will fail on any car vintage or otherwise, keeping several brake, turn indicator and headlight bulbs in your car can help avoid equipment violation discussions with the local constabulary.
Points and condenser, yes, I have had points fail on the road and was really very happy that I was in the habit of tossing the one I previously taken off the car at tune up time in the glove box, Now I just carry a new set of points and condenser.
Distributor cap and rotor, it’s just easier to carry these than reliably find them on the road, with the exception of anything that’s powered by a small block Chevy motor, and you can always tuck the points, condenser and rotor into the cap and keep them all neatly in its box.
Coil, it’s never a bad thing to have on longer trips. If you drive a six-volt car, you should definitely carry a spare. The big name auto parts stores will probably not have one in stock.
Spark plugs, just one is all you really need to carry. I generally keep one from a previous set. I’ve experienced both the electrode failing and a spark plug working itself loose and falling out. That extra plug or two in your bag will get you home. If your car tends to foul one or two plugs carry a couple new plugs already gapped, or maybe the full set you will install at the next tune up.
Belts, one of each of your cars belts. Have you added A/C, Power steering or a different alternator? The auto parts store isn’t going to be able to look that up in their system.
Hoses, you replaced them just last year. Or was it the year before? You should check them as you do your travel prep, but consider spares on longer journeys even if its just having a length of the correct diameter hose that you can cut to fit.
Lug nut or lug bolt, lose or strip one and you will be glad you had a spare, besides they don’t take up much space.
Clutch cable, some just are not available at the local name brand auto parts stores anymore.
Accelerator cable, have you changed your carb setup and need a non-standard cable? This is even more reason to have a spare with you.
Relays, if you’re fortunate enough to have a car with multiples of the same relay carry one, otherwise a couple specific relays, such as fuel pump and lighting relays.
Injector, questionable and an item you will probably not need but given the age of some of our older Fuel injected cars one in your bag will get you back to civilization. At least carry any necessary seals for the injectors on the off chance that you have to clean one.
Hose clamps, zip ties, safety wire, a small selection of these items are always a good thing to have in your bag, I always try to have several hose clamps sized for my fuel lines and maybe one for the coolant hoses. Stainless steel safety wire can temporarily replace things like a broken rubber exhaust hanger.
Tape, good electrical tape and duct tape, also my secret for tape is real gaffers tape it’s a cloth tape and if you remove it within several weeks it won’t leave a mess like duct tape will. Gaffers tape is available at any of the major professional photography retail sites.
Nuts, bolts, washers, etc, A zip-lock baggie with a handful of assorted small hardware such as washers and cotter pins. I always like to have some of the nuts that hold the intake and exhaust manifolds in that baggie.
Hand cleaner, rags, a tube of the waterless hand cleaner and a couple of shop towels, you don’t want to drive that beauty with greasy hands!
This is far from a complete list but rather a place to initiate the process of assembling what extra parts you might carry with you. Always consider the length and location of your trip. For example, I have driven to Anchorage, Alaska and back from Los Angeles several times and while the larger towns and cities along the way will have good supplies there are several hundred desolate miles between them. On those drives I have a well-stocked parts bag very specific to the vehicle I’m driving.