It’s Wednesday night. You’ve felt like crap all day, spent an hour waiting to see a doctor at the local urgent care clinic, and just stepped out into the night to finally think about getting some dinner. It’s 8PM, you’re sick, you’re tired, and you still feel like crap. And now your headlights aren’t working? C’mon!
If that sounds like a particularly detailed description, it should. This happened to me earlier this week.
I panicked a little bit. Not gonna lie. A handful of busy, surface street miles stood between me and home, and I still needed to stop at the 24-hour pharmacy to pick up prescriptions on the way. What a mess.
It’s times like this I’m glad I’m a gearhead. Less than five minutes later, I had confirmed all lighting fuses – engine bay and under-dash – were intact. None of the fusible links had popped. It had to be a relay, but which one?
As I was testing the factory alarm, which flashes the lights and honks when the door is unlocked through the window – and also did not work, I remembered I had an electrical spares kit in the center console.
My good friend John Toybreaker up in Colorado had sent me a little plastic baggie full of spare fuses, fusible links, and a jumper wire last year, telling me I should, “Keep it in the glovebox or something. One day, you’ll need it, and it will save your butt.” Boy, was he right.
Having *very carefully* driven to the pharmacy without headlights, I opened up my spares kit to see if there was something in it which would, indeed, save my butt. Unfortunately, my problem was I’d smoked the headlight relay and didn’t have any relays in the kit. I got my meds and did the last two dark miles home with the hazards flashing.
[Note: I’d also like to thank another good friend, Michael Rodarte, for being available by phone to reassure me I wasn’t overlooking something simple.]
The next day, I went out to the garage, grabbed two replacements for the suspect relay from the parts bin – one for the repair, and one for my electrical spares kit. I also grabbed a spare for the other type of relay in the car. It took me longer to pop the hood and walk to the relay panel than it did to make this repair. Had I had these relays in the car with me the other night, I would have been set.
Here’s a picture of the two relays side-by-side. You can see the melty plastic and slight purple tinge on the blades of the dead relay. It also smells like fresh plastic (might be good to remember).
Build an Electrical Spares Kit For Your Car
One day, you’ll need it. And it will save your butt. Here’s what I have in mine:
- an assortment of spare fuses of various amperages
- spare fusible links for all amperages
- spare relays of each type
- simple jumper lead
If you’ve got a serious electrical problem, you’re probably still screwed, but for those late nights when you’re on your own without the toolbox and something relatively minor comes up, having this little baggie in the console or glovebox could be the difference between getting a ticket, getting another ride on the flatbed, or just getting on with it.
- Do you carry an electrical spares kit?
- What other spares kits would you recommend?