Mafia Secrets
The next top 10 items to carry in your cab to get back on the road

By Bryan Martin, contributing writer

Well folks, we had so much good response from last month’s feature of the top 10 items to have in your cab, that we are gonna keep the ball rollin’ and give you the next top 10. Or, should I call it 11 through 20?

Let’s quickly recap the top 10 from last issue:

Spare fuel filters
Can of starting fluid
Hide-a-key
Assorted brass fittings
Spare fan belts
Air governor
12-volt test light
Spare headlight bulb
Gladhand seals
Dial soap (or any other brand)

OK, moving on now.

1Set of jumper cables. For those few times when you reach up, hit the key, and all you get is a “grunt-click-click-click.” If you carry a good, high-quality set of jump start cables, you can generally find someone with another vehicle to hook up to. But drivers usually have no cables, or they have a $9.99 set that is 8 feet long and built for jump-starting a small riding lawnmower. Keep a good heavy set of 15-foot cables onboard and it may save you hours and dollars someday.

2Zip ties. These li’l buggers are handier than a shirt pocket. Great for securing loose wires or dangling hoses up and out of the way of spinning fan blades or hot exhaust piping. Keep a handful of all sizes in the toolbox – small, medium and grande. They have many uses and are cheap, cheap.

3An assortment of nuts, bolts, washers, screws, hose clamps and RTV silicone. You are not always near an AutoZone or hardware store when unforeseen parts break, snap or let go. If you have a respectable assortment of these things in a small toolbox, you can often come up with what you need to patch the ol’ mule back together and roll on to the next shop or repair center.

420-foot log chain and shovel. For that time when you whip into the truck stop and the parking lot “only” has a thin 5-inch layer of snow across it, so you back in, set the brakes, go grab a shower and a meal, and come back out to the truck only to find out your wheels are spinning. That layer of ice under the snow was unforeseen. At least with a small camp shovel, you can scrape and dig your way to traction, or you can grab the chain and see if a nearby freight hauler can give you a tug.

5Engine coolant. I like to keep two gallons of antifreeze in the side box. Most late-model trucks will shut off if they get too low on engine coolant. They have a low coolant sensor that signals the engine ECM to shut the engine off to prevent damage. If you have some antifreeze in the toolbox, you can be rolling again in a matter of minutes. Or, if a heater hose bursts or comes loose, you will have two gallons to get started and you can use the empty jugs to fetch water from a nearby hydrant and top off the system.

6Tape. It doesn’t really matter what kind of tape – electrical tape, duct tape, emergency tape – but we all know there are at least 1,000 uses for this miracle invention. Broken door wing glass, power steering dipstick that keeps popping out, or leaking fuel cap that Mr. DOT writes you up for. Tape is indeed  our friend.

7Spare trailer hose and electric cord. I recommend you keep at least one air hose and a seven-way electric cord, just in case cold weather breaks a hose, or a trailer cord end becomes worn out and won’t make a good connection for the trailer lights. And, we don’t really want to admit it, but there was that one time when we dropped the trailer and forgot to disconnect the hoses. Crap! I sure didn’t think them darn things would s-t-r-e-t-c-h that far. A spare set is real handy on that particular day. How embarrassing; hope nobody saw that.

8Wheel seals. Next time you are at the dealer or the parts house, buy a spare wheel seal for the drive axle and the steer axle. They are likely around $35 to $45 each, but they won’t take up much space and a leaking wheel seal is an out-of-service violation. When you are trucking across rural, desolate parts of the good ol’ USA, you can generally always find a mechanic or garage of sorts that could assist with the seal replacement, but the nearest dealership that sells big rig parts may be 90 miles away. Tell Mr. Mechanic you will supply the seal if he can do the installation labor and help you get through this crisis.

9Air bag. If you have ample room in your tool box or your storage area, keep a spare air bag for the rear suspension. When one of these doggone things blow out because of dry rot or weather cracking, they can pretty much leave you stranded. It is true that you may be able to gather up some of your assorted brass fittings and bypass the blown air bag. But for the time when you told the forklift operator to “go ahead, load 53,000! It’ll be OK” you may want to find Mr. Mechanic one more time and see if he can grab a jack and install your spare air bag.

10Exhaust clamp. How many times have we been trucking along just fine, and all of a sudden the engine noise from under the hood gets way louder? Usually a section of exhaust flex pipe cracks, or a clamp slips and lets two pipes separate, creating a loud and obnoxious exhaust leak. If you have a 5-inch band clamp/seal clamp with you, generally you can scab things back together enough to keep on truckin’ and worry about it when you get back home.

I could go on, and on, and on. But there is only so much space and so much room in our toolboxes, luggage compartments and storage areas. So I understand if some of these suggestions may not be possible for you. (If you do have unlimited space, go ahead and carry a spare alternator, 12-ton hydraulic jack and a block of wood, a hacksaw and a can of aerosol brake cleaner. I just had to include these lifesavers, too.)

Let me re-emphasize, I sincerely hope you pack all this stuff in the truck and your days, weeks and months are so smooth … you never need to use any of it. LL