A car emergency kit is something smart drivers buy and hope they never have to use. Be safe instead of sorry with these tips for putting together a car emergency kit.
There are a variety of reasons to have an emergency kit for your car or truck.
- The contents of your emergency kit help you focus on your situation and make safe choices.
- It keeps you prepared in case of a breakdown or flat tire when help isn't immediately available.
- An emergency kit makes an extended stay in your vehicle safer and more comfortable
Basic or Well-Stocked
An emergency kit for a car or truck can be as simple as a handful of flares, some bottled water and a flashlight, or as elaborate as a complete first aid kit, blankets, emergency supplies of special medicine and related items. However you choose to stock your kit, every emergency kit should include:
- Road flares for warning oncoming traffic that your vehicle is stopped on the road
- Reflective tape to increase your visibility at night
- A flashlight and spare batteries
- The phone number of an emergency tow service
These items should be considered the bare minimum. A well-stocked emergency kit will also include:
- A container of antifreeze
- One gallon of water
- A can of "fix-a-flat" spray to repair small leaks or punctures long enough to get you to a gas station
- Two quarts of oil
- A large blanket
- Some non-perishable snacks
When your car breaks down and you start looking at your emergency kit, the flares will remind you to stay visible to other drivers. The flashlight, antifreeze and water will remind you to check out your car or truck for problems and the tow truck number reminds you to call in for help.
Using Your Emergency Kit
Most of the items on the list are for mechanical problems with your vehicle. An overheating radiator may need water from your gallon jug to get you to the next gas station. You may need to use antifreeze instead in extreme temperatures. The two quarts of oil are handy for vehicles which are dangerously low. The fix-a-flat aerosol will get you down the road, but you'll still need a new tire the first chance you get.
Before attempting to use any of the other items in your kit, get your flares out and place them in front of and behind your vehicle. Put them far enough away to warn drivers of your presence and give them time to slow down to avoid hitting you. Hundreds of roadside incidents happen in cities all over the country involving vehicles stopped on the side of the road. Give your fellow drivers plenty of early warning.
Winter Weather Emergency Kits
Another item you should include in a cold weather emergency kit is a set of tire chains and a tow chain. The tire chains can be attached to your tires to help you get out of a snowdrift or a section of road that is filled with snow, ice and slush. If you don't have any traction to help you get unstuck, the tire chains can help. If you keep a tow chain in your trunk, any vehicle that has a ball hitch or tow bar can help pull your car or truck free. Otherwise you may have to wait until a tow truck arrives.
If you or someone who frequently travels with you has special medical needs, consider adding a supply of medicine to your emergency kit. Some medications, like insulin, are perishable and you can't store them in the car in the same way as allergy medications and some prescription drugs. If you are able to stash a small supply in your emergency kit, it's a very good idea to do so. Being stranded on the road means being cut off from the usual conveniences and necessities; be prepared for a worst-case scenario and you'll never regret the expense if you find yourself broken down on the side of the road.