Sure, roadside assistance is a nice thing to have but in bad weather or if you’re off the beaten track and away from a cell tower when you run into car trouble, you need to have a car emergency kit at the ready.
Understanding the basics of taking care of your car is essential to prevent problems, like running low on coolant or not even knowing how to open the hood of your car (trust me, I know someone like this!). Prevention is half the battle, but preparedness is the other half.
Car Emergency Kit
Picture it: you’re driving along a side road on a blustery, winter day when you hit a patch of ice just slightly hidden by the blowing snow, spin off the road and right into the ditch. You’re at enough of an angle that there’s no way you’re backing out of that on your own, so you need help. What now?
Or here’s another scenario: you’re parked on a downtown street, it’s very late and you’re battery is dead. What now?
As you consider what you’ll need in your kit, think about these questions:
- Where do you drive? Is it all highway or a lot of side roads? Is it in the city mostly?
- Do you often have other people in your car?
- What kind of vehicle do you drive?
Before you go a long distance in your car, make sure your tire pressure is okay and your windshield washer fluid is topped up. You should also check your oil and coolant levels. Most cars come equipped with a jack and a spare tire, but what else should you have in your trunk?
What should you put in a basic car emergency kit?
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A basic car emergency kit should contain these items, year round:
- Jumper cables
- Triangle reflectors
- A basic first aid kit
- A flashlight and extra batteries OR a wind up model
- Tire pressure gauge
- Bottled water and granola bars – if you are often driving other people in your car, make sure you have enough to go around!
- A blanket – just the standard kind, not the space age material kind!
- Extra windshield washer fluid
The upgraded car emergency kit
If you are on the road a lot or you just want the deluxe model kit, you could add these items:
- Emergency flares – there are newer LED models that are practical.
- A USB cable for charging your cell phone.
- A battery to go with the jumper cables. This can also help you recharge a phone.
- Tire inflator or tire sealant for fixing a flat.
- The deluxe first aid kit that has everything but the kitchen sink in it.
- Extra clothes and shoes. If you get soaked trying to fix your tire, you’ll want to be able to put on something dry.
- A rainproof poncho
- A whistle
- A seatbelt cutter
- A tow rope or chain – if you go into a ditch, a friendly person in a pick up might be able to help you out long before roadside assistance can get to you!
- A small tool kit, including pliers, screwdriver, adjustable wrench.
What’s the weather like where you live?
Depending on the time of year, you’ll need to add different items to your kit. When you go and change your tires from winter to summer and back again? That’s the time to change out your car emergency kit.
With every switch, change out your water bottles. Some studies suggest that plastic water bottles left in hot cars will degrade over time, with chemicals leaching into the water. Better to be safe than sorry, right?
- An ice scraper / snow brush
- A small shovel
- Emergency blankets – this is where the space age material comes in handy!
- Extra antifreeze
- Sand, salt or cat litter: to give you traction if you slid off the road, with the added bonus that it puts weight on the back tires, which can help with traction in the winter.
- An extra pair of winter gloves.
Driving a car is a responsibility, one that you shouldn’t take lightly. Part of that responsibility includes being prepared in the event of an accident or incident.
You might also like how to keep your walkways clear of ice.
Are there items that you have in your car emergency kit that we haven’t listed here?