Financial Advice

Buy & Own a Car


Five Car Tools That Will Prepare You For Anything

When you cruise into a life of car ownership, it’s easy to prepare yourself for all the joys to come – family road trips, carpool karaoke, the feeling of absolute freedom. But even with a ride that’s fresh off the factory line, it’s essential to prepare yourself for the headaches of car ownership too. Why? Because on-the-road inconveniences happen (no matter how good of a driver you are). Luckily, you don’t have to go to Mechanic School to bring a dead battery back to life or diagnose that dreaded check engine light. Just keep a few simple tools on board, and you’ll have the power to get yourself – and fellow drivers – out of just about any pinch. Behold UFCU’s five trusted car tools for whatever life you want to live.

1. Portable Jump Starter

In the event of a battery failure, most drivers turn to their standard set of jumper cables. But when no one’s around to give you a jump, a battery powered jump starter can save the day. Let’s say you accidentally leave your interior light on overnight. Or maybe you’re stranded in an empty parking lot in the middle of nowhere. This rechargeable tool works just like jumper cables, but enables you to juice up your own battery without relying on another vehicle. Portable jump starters are relatively compact and affordable and are available at any auto parts store. So you can get back to the adventure ahead with minimal time, money, and effort.

2. Air Compressor

Central Texas is notorious for our fickle weather. One day its 90° and sunny outside and the next it’s 45° and rainy! And when temperatures drop that drastically, so does your tire pressure. But instead of waiting in line for the air pump at your neighborhood gas station, why not fill up your tires on your own terms? Get a portable air compressor that will fit snug in your trunk, plug ‘er right into your car’s cigarette lighter, and inflate. Even if you find yourself with a flat, this tool can give you the boost you need to reach the nearest service center. Plus, your air compressor may come in mighty handy year-round as you fill whatever air mattresses, basketballs and pool floats come your way.

3. Code Reader

Nothing makes a car owner’s stomach turn like the glow of a dashboard maintenance light. Before you panic about a pricy repair, though, consider DIYing your diagnostic with a code reader. This hand-held device fits nicely in your glove box and plugs into your car’s computer to scan for trouble codes (look for the port under your steering wheel). When you use the scanner, you can look up its trouble codes online and get a better idea of what’s going on with your vehicle. In some cases, you might find that nothing is wrong at all. In others, the issue could be as simple as a loose gas cap. Either way, a little code reader love could save you big bucks at the mechanic.

4. Kitty Litter

Central Texans aren’t exactly accustomed to extreme winter driving conditions. But it’s good to know how to brave the elements and keep your passengers safe in case you ever find yourself in a snowy situation. During holiday travels or otherwise, pack a big bag of (non-clumping) kitty litter in your trunk. If your car is stuck in the snow or feels too slick on an icy road, you can sprinkle some cat litter under your tires for more traction. It might sound silly now, but the litter will absorb excess moisture around your tires, helping them grip to the road. The heavy bag in your trunk will also help you gain better traction by weighing down the back of your vehicle. Now there’s a pro tip even dog lovers can appreciate.

5. Paper Maps

With mobile mapping services and traffic apps dominating car navigation, smart technology has made the journey from Point A to Point B infinitely easier. But what happens when your phone battery dies, your app freezes, or your service cuts out? Well, you either lose all hope, or you turn back time with actual paper maps (no, seriously). Every Central Texas glove box needs comprehensive foldout maps of the Lone Star State and our neighboring states (bonus points for a full-on atlas). That way, if your beloved smart device or car GPS ever crashes, you can safely and confidently reach your destination in true old-school style. Just please y’all... hone up on your map-reading skills before you hit the highway. We know it’s been a minute.

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UFCU does not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability, and/or accuracy of the information contained within this article. Any action or inaction you take upon the information contained within this article is strictly at your own risk.