An emergency while on the road is something we never want to think about. Whether we're just driving down the road, have a lengthy commute to work, or are taking a long trip, an emergency can happen anywhere and at any time. That's why it's best to be prepared.
Having a car emergency kit is crucial for all drivers. It can be the difference between being stranded on the road for hours and getting home within a few minutes. In extreme conditions, it can be the difference between life and death.
To ensure that you're prepared during an emergency, there are certain items that every car emergency kit should be equipped with. Below is a list of the essentials, and of course, you can add to this list as you see fit.
The Top 25 Essentials for a Car Emergency Kit:
1. Flares or hazard triangles: High visibility flares or triangles are always good to have on hand. They help other vehicles see you in case of an emergency or accident. These are something you should never leave home without.
2. Carjack and spare tire: Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Flat tires are one of the most common roadside emergencies, yet you would be surprised how often people don't have a carjack or spare tire to fix one. Also, studies show that up to 60% of drivers don't know how to change a tire, so learning before it's needed is recommended.
3. Can of tire inflator and sealant: If you don't know how to fix a tire or worst-case scenario, there's a problem with your spare, a can of tire inflator and sealant will do the trick in an instant.
4. Tire pressure gauge: Over or underinflated tires are one of the leading causes of a blowout. Having a tire pressure gauge and checking your pressure often helps prevent an emergency before it happens.
5. Jumper cables: It can happen. You walk into a store and forget your lights are on. By the time you walk out again, your car battery is dead. If you have jumper cables, you can find a good Samaritan to give you a quick jump-start and be on your way again.
6. Emergency car battery charger: Imagine a day of hiking, camping, fishing, or anything else in an isolated area. You accidentally leave a dome light on. When you come back, your car battery is dead. While you have jumper cables, there are no cars or people nearby to give you a hand. While a little pricier than other things on this list, a car battery charger can save you hours of frustration.
7. A 5-gallon gas can: Of course vehicles come with gas gages, warning lights, and in some cases, even a count down. So, how do you ever run out of gas? Well, gas gages can break, and sometimes their owners don't know until it's too late. Also, in extreme circumstances, you can find yourself off course of your destination and nowhere near a gas station.
8. Fire extinguisher: While no one likes to think of car accidents, they happen. With those accidents, sometimes fires also arise. Having a fire extinguisher on hand and readily available for use can save lives quickly.
9. A quart of motor oil: While you should check your oil continuously, having a spare quart of motor oil is always a good idea.
10. A gallon of coolant: Coolant can keep your car from overheating in the summer and from freezing up in the winter. Always make sure you have some on hand.
11. Toolkit: A small toolkit full of everyday tools is essential for every car. Often, you can purchase a mechanic's toolkit that will include a tire gauge and electrical tape.
12. Multi-purpose tool: A small Swiss-Army Knife or multi-purpose tool, kept on your keyring, can work in a pinch for a lot of small jobs when needed.
13. Car escape tool: In an accident, safety items like a seatbelt and airbags can become obstacles if you need to get out quickly. That's why having a car escape tool within reach of the driver's seat is imperative. You can use it to cut through a seatbelt or even break a windshield.
14. Flashlight with extra batteries and extra cell battery: Having a breakdown doesn’t always happen during daylight hours. Make sure you have a flashlight with spare batteries. It'll shine some light on what you're doing or illuminate your path if you need to move on foot. Also, always keep a fully-charged cell battery in your car for emergencies.
15. Map: Despite the use of GPS, a map is always good if you're going on a trip or to a rural area. If something happens to your phone or you can't get cell service, having a physical map can get you safely where you need to be.
16. First-aid kit: Whether you're out on a hiking trip, playing at the park with the kids, or camping in the wilderness, having a fully stocked first-aid kit in your car makes sense. Ensure there's a whistle on hand to attract attention in case of an accident or emergency. Also, keep a candle in a deep can along with matches in case you ever need to start a fire.
17. Water: Keep plastic water bottles so they don't freeze, and change them out every 6 months.
18. Nonperishable food: Keep foods such as granola and energy bars, and exchange them every 6 months.
19. Blankets: If your car breaks down in the middle of the winter, you won't be able to rely on the heater working. Keeping blankets in your car ensures you won't freeze if you become stranded for any length of time.
20. Gloves, socks, stocking cap, extra set of clothes: Have a pair of work gloves to do any repair work in. Then, keep warm gloves, socks, a stocking cap, and an extra set of clothes in case of emergency for added warmth and protection.
21. Rain gear: Having a poncho in the vehicle can keep you from getting drenched if you need to do emergency repair work while it's raining.
22. Cat litter or sand: No, there's no intention of making sandcastles here. Non-clumping cat litter or sand can be put down to create more traction when it's snowing. It can also be used after an accident to soak up any harmful liquids that have spilled.
23. Small, foldable shovel: While good to have on hand at any time, this tool is often used in snowy weather to dig out the tires. It can also be used in soft-packed dirt.
24. Ice scraper: If you've lived in the snow, then you already know that an ice scraper is a necessary tool to have in your vehicle. As it snows, snow and ice gets stuck to your windshield, making it impossible to see. An ice scraper will remedy that problem quickly.
25. Tire chains: If you live in the snow, chances are, you already keep these on hand. If you're going on a road trip, and the weather may turn ugly, be prepared with tire chains. Make sure you know how to install them first, otherwise you can ruin your tires and suspension.
Several emergency car kits can be purchased at your nearby retailers, but they won't have everything you need. They will give you a great start, though. From there, you can supplement the necessary items to make the complete kit.
To store the above items, a sturdy cardboard box will do nicely. The last thing you need is the items rolling around, then becoming elusive when you need them most.
Having an emergency car kit means that you're prepared for any situation. Whether you're on your way to work and you get a flat, or you're driving in a desolate area and your car runs out of gas, you'll be ready to fix common car problems on your own. What you can't fix, you'll be prepared to handle safely while waiting for help to arrive.