When you get in your car to hit the road, you’re probably not thinking “Am I prepared in case of an accident or roadside emergency?” Spending the night in your car because it broke down on a deserted road or waiting for a tow truck in sub-zero temperatures is no one’s idea of a good time. Make sure you’re prepared for unexpected events by keeping an emergency car kit in your trunk.
Most major hardware stores carry basic emergency car kits. Another option is making your own; you can personalize it and it’ll probably include more items for a fraction of the cost. Including the right tools in your kit may also keep you from having to call a tow truck, saving you time and money.
Once you’ve put together your car kit, just throw it in your trunk and you’re good to go! Safety tip: Remember to always let at least one person know if you’re taking a long trip in your car.
Emergency car kit essentials
- A first aid kit including bandages, gauze, scissors and antiseptic solution
- Road flares, a warning light and a whistle to let other drivers know you’re in trouble and/or blocking a part of the road
- Tow straps to pull your car out of a ditch or snowbank (with the help of a good Samaritan!)
- A fire extinguisher in the event of a vehicle fire
- Flashlight (with spare batteries), wind-up lamp or head lamp to help you see in the dark or check under the hood
- Booster cables or a booster battery to revive your battery or help out another driver
- Charging cable (if you have an electric vehicle)
- Multi-purpose pliers or an adjustable wrench
- Tire compressor and sealant
- Tire jack (hydraulic is best) and spare tire
Vehicle body damage
- Duct tape or cable ties to stabilize any loose or hanging parts
- Gloves to keep your hands from freezing
- A change of clothes and shoes/boots to keep you warm
- Emergency blanket – it could save your life if you’re stuck on a very cold night
- Candle and lighter to generate heat inside your car
- Car shovel and snowbrush in case you get stuck in the snow
- Non-perishable food items (like granola bars) and bottles of water
Communication and directions
- Spare phone battery and charger
- Maps or GPS
What to do if your car breaks down
First and foremost, pull over on the side of the road. Make sure you’re in a safe spot and that your car is visible to passing drivers. If you can’t move your car to the side of the road, turn on your emergency lights.
Try to determine what the problem is. If it’s a flat tire, do not attempt to change it unless you have the right tools and you know what you’re doing.
If it’s a mechanical issue, call a tow truck. If your car is still under warranty, you may be covered for roadside assistance. If not, we recommend signing up for a roadside assistance service so that you’re covered in the event of a breakdown.
Remember that being prepared with the right equipment can really help you out if you’re in a jam. Drive safely!