What’s in your emergency kit?
It can happen to anyone at any time: a flat tire, dead battery, or some other crisis causes a vehicle breakdown, leaving you stranded. An active cell phone connection is one way to call for help, provided you are within range. If not, you will need to figure out some other way to summon assistance.
An emergency kit can solve most problems, including a flat tire, dead battery, broken tailpipe, or myriad other challenges. If you do not have a kit or your kit needs replenishment, certain tools or items are must-haves.
Must Haves of an Emergency Kit
Duct tape. This should be a given. Duct tape is the cure-all or bond-all for many problems. A loose bumper, broken tailpipe, or an unstable battery can be held securely in place with duct tape. It is a temporary fix, that is for certain, but it can also help you get back on the road in no time. Also, check out some of these ways duct tape is not used correctly on cars.
Flashlight. A flashlight in the glovebox is another given, but does it work? Also, do you have backup batteries available? Keep a working flashlight in the glove box or center console and the extra batteries in your emergency kit.
Small tool kit. Pliers, sockets, ratchets, screwdrivers, a hammer, and a mallet may come in handy with your breakdown. Some of these items come in a small kit that can reside within your emergency kit.
Tire pressure gauge. Whether it resides in the emergency kit or is kept in the glovebox doesn’t matter. We prefer the most accessible place for a tire pressure gauge to remind us to check the tires at least once monthly.
Utility gloves. Any kind of work you do on your vehicle means donning protection, including utility gloves. Go one step further and include safety goggles, especially if you are working with coolant. Also, a reflective vest comes in handy if your breakdown occurs at night or in another low-visibility situation, such as in fog. You want other drivers to see you and avoid a catastrophe.
Rags, Cables, Fuses
Rags. While gloves are useful for protecting you, rags are useful for handling messes, opening reservoirs, and handling grease. Caution: wait until the coolant temperature is lower before opening anything that is under pressure, including the radiator cap.
Jumper cables. If your battery dies, you could be in for a heap of trouble. That is no fun when the air is cold and the night is long. Keeping a set of six-gauge cables on hand is smart. They should be about 12 feet long. An emergency car battery charger is another option as you can self-charge the vehicle yourself.
Replacement fuses. Blow a fuse and you could lose your lights, HVAC, horn, or some other critical component. Keeping a set of backup fuses on hand is smart – choose at least one of each size as outlined in the owner’s manual or is evident in the fuse box.
Winter gear. Snow or ice may not be common where you live, but for most Americans, it is. An ice scraper and brush combination are essential for clearing frost, sleet, and snow. A folding snow shovel can help dig you out of trouble. A 50-pound bag of kitty litter or sand adds balance to the vehicle and is useful for helping it gain traction when stuck.
Straps, Lights, and First-Aid
Tow strap. If you are stuck in a rut, calling your auto club for help is one way to free your vehicle. Another way is to keep a tow strap handy to get pulled out by another vehicle. Just be careful where you connect it as you may pull off a bumper or crack a light if it is not connected in the right place.
Road flares or warning lights. Signaling other drivers that you are in distress is one concern. Warning them about your breakdown is another matter. Specifically, road flares or warning lights, or triangles have helped drivers for decades. Strategically place them beginning more than 100 feet from your vehicle to warn oncoming motorists. Learn how to properly place emergency triangles.
First-aid kit. Yet another dedicated kit is a first-aid kit. This kit should include bandages, band-aids, scissors, aspirin, alcohol wipes, tweezers, eye dressing, and surgical gloves. Also consider a thermometer, a CPR mask, knife, and emergency mylar blankets. You might not need these items, but if you come upon a wreck, someone else could.
Emergency Kit Considerations
This list is not comprehensive. We also recommend bottled water, coolant, a fire extinguisher, and one or two quarts of oil. What does not fit in the kit can probably sit in a sealed plastic container. Place these items together in your trunk or cargo compartment. Always replenish items as soon as they are used. Finally, check your kit at least twice annually to replace expired items, such as the aspirin included in the first-aid kit.
See Also — How to Get Your Car Ready for Cold Weather