Question: I'm buying a new car soon and want to know what things I should put in the trunk of the car. How about safety items like a flashlight, blanket, flares?
Answer: The answer depends a lot on where you drive and what emergencies you want to survive. I have a particular set of things I keep, though other people have their own ideas of what's best to carry.
First, I keep a good pair of hiking boots in my trunk and at least 2 quarts of water. The thing I worry about is an earthquake that would leave me stranded 20 or more miles from my home or office. The thought of having to walk through broken concrete and shattered glass in casual or dress shoes seems insane to me. It's even worse for women.
Storing a couple of candy bars also make sense, though I doubt anybody is going to starve to death in Southern California. I always carry a couple of ponchos, because I'd hate to walk in a cold rain very far. A spare sweat shirt makes more sense to me than a blanket, unless you're going to be up at high elevation in the mountains.
A cellphone has become an essential safety item and now most motorists carry one. If you have mechanical problems, an accident or a health emergency, a cell is invaluable.
And a spare $5 bill and an ashtray full of quarters often come in handy.
I know people who carry a lot of other stuff, such as matches, tools, emergency food, first-aid kits, fire extinguishers and products that seal and inflate flat tires.
The vast majority of people will almost never use this stuff. Having a first-aid kit is great for a cut finger but not much use in a serious medical emergency. I have never needed a flare, though a flashlight can be versatile.
Q: I purchased a 2004 BMW 325i convertible. All the documents and all the dealer information say that the synthetic oil should not be changed till about 12,000 miles.
In fact, the warranty service will not allow dealers' service technicians to change it until then, when the dashboard computer tells them that it is ready for an oil change.
I sure worry about going that many miles without an oil change, synthetic or not. Would you advise changing it sooner at my own expense?
A: Oil changes are a real hassle, something that must be done typically three, four or five times a year. So every manufacturer is trying to persuade buyers to go longer because of improving oil formulations. BMW's 12,000-mile interval is among the longest.
The synthetic oil will not wear out in 12,000 miles, and no doubt BMW's idea is that the long pauses between oil changes allow the lubricant to help the engine parts seat properly.
So I would not go against BMW's recommendation. But there is nothing wrong with performing more frequent oil changes after the break-in period.
You might consider having your engine oil analyzed after the second or third oil change to make sure the engine is wearing properly.
Oil analysis can determine whether iron, nickel and chrome, among other metals worn from your engine, are represented in the appropriate amount in your oil.