There’s an almost endless number of things that can go wrong when you’re out driving on a long, lonely stretch of road after dark. Of course, plenty of things can go wrong when you’re driving through a busy neighborhood in the middle of the day, but in preparing for a vehicle breakdown, it’s best to plan for Murphy’s Law.
Having a car safety kit stored in your vehicle ensures you won’t be caught unprepared when your tire goes flat, your car battery fails, or you drive over a pothole and damage your car’s tires.
Most car breakdowns occur because of flat tires or faulty batteries. But damage can also occur when you accidentally hit or drive over a curb, or when you drive over obstructions in the road like potholes and debris. In other cases, your car may run out of fuel, the clutch cables or spark plugs may break, or you may have trouble starting the car due to an ignition problem.
Weather conditions can also contribute to roadside emergencies. Heavy snow or ice may cause the car to slip off the road. In milder cases, you may simply need to pull off to the side of the road to put chains on your car’s tires.
Whatever the situation, keeping an emergency kit in your car will allow you to either fix the problem or weather it out until you receive help. Without a kit, you run the risk of being unprepared when your car breaks down; with a kit, you’re prepared for any situation.
So what should you include in your car’s emergency kit? First of all, always keep supplies for changing a spare tire in your car. Specifically, this means a spare tire, jack, and lug wrench. You may also want to include gloves, wheel wedges, flares and reflective triangles, and a flashlight with batteries that work.
In addition to everything you’ll need to change a spare tire, here are the necessities for an emergency car safety kit:
First Aid Kit
At the very least, your first aid kit should include the following:
- Adhesive tape
- Gauze pads
- Aspirin (or similar medication)
- Antiseptic cream or antibiotic ointment
It’s also a good idea to include the following:
- Ace Bandage
- Cotton balls
- Hand sanitizer
- Bug spray
- Safety pins and/or a needle
Additionally, you may need to pack items that are particular to you and/or your family’s needs:
- Saline solution
- Prescription medications
- Children’s pain relievers
In addition to a first aid kit, your car safety kit should include the following:
- Fire extinguisher
- Three reflective warning triangles or road flares
- Tire pressure gauge
- Tire inflator and sealant
- Jumper cables
- Waterproof flashlight with extra working batteries
- Duct tape
- Multi-purpose tool (such as a Swiss Army Knife or Leatherman Tool)
- Tow strap or tow rope strong enough to tow 6,000 lbs.
- Rain poncho
- Bottled water
- Non-perishable snacks (such as granola or protein bars)
- Baby wipes
- One quart of motor oil
- One gallon of coolant
- Paper towels
- Pen and paper
- Cell phone charger
Depending on where you live, what time of year it is, and where you’ll be traveling, you may also want to pack items for weather emergencies:
- Ice scraper
- Snow shovel
- Cat litter (for slippery roads)
- Warm clothes
- Battery-powered fan
You can buy pre-made emergency car kits for anywhere between $18 and $70, but packing a kit yourself allows you to cater it to your individual needs, and ensures you will be more familiar with everything inside. In an emergency, you won’t want to be fumbling through your kit trying to figure out if the object you need is inside and where it is.
Keep your safety kit in the trunk of your car, inside of a clear container with a lid that’s secure. Items inside should be organized so you’ll be able to see and reach them easily. You should also make a list of everything in the kit and tape it to the outside of the container. Finally, be sure to check your kit every so often and replace items that have expired or been used up.