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Basic Items to Get You Back on the Road Quickly

A roadside emergency can happen at any time, whether your car is new or old. A range of problems can cause it, from a tire failure or mechanical breakdown to running out of fuel. At best, it’s an annoyance; at worst, it can compromise your safety. Being prepared with a basic emergency kit can increase your safety, reduce stress, and help you get back on the road faster.

Even if you have roadside-assistance coverage or an automobile-club membership with roadside assistance, you usually need access to a phone in order to contact them and you may have to wait on the side of the road for an hour or more before help arrives. That’s why we recommend that drivers carry certain items in their vehicle, even if it only gets used for every day, around-town driving. This basic kit can be supplemented with additional items if you go on a long-distance trip or have to deal with winter weather conditions.

It’s also important to make periodic checks on the equipment to ensure it’s in working order—that the spare tire is properly inflated, batteries are not discharged, first-aid supplies are current, water is fresh, and food is dry. In addition, be familiar with how each tool works, from the cellular phone to the jack, before you need to use it in an emergency.

Basic Car Emergency Kit

This kit is intended to aid you in getting help, signaling your car’s presence to other motorists, and tackling simple challenges. Keep these items in a bag or in your trunk:

  • Battery-powered radio, flashlight, and extra batteries
  • Blanket
  • Booster cables
  • Bottled water and nonperishable high-energy foods such as granola bars, raisins, and peanut butter
  • Fire extinguisher (5-lb., A-B-C type)
  • First-aid kit and manual
  • Maps, shovel, flares
  • Tire repair kit and pump
  • Spare tire, fuses
  • Cellular phone
  • Warning light, hazard triangle, or flares
  • Tire gauge
  • Jack and lug wrench
  • Foam tire sealant or a portable compressor and plug kit
  • Jumper cables or a portable battery booster
  • Flashlight
  • Gloves, hand cleaner, and clean rags
  • Auto-club card or roadside-assistance number
  • Disposable flash camera
  • Pen and pad of paper

This can come in handy for a range of uses, from leaving a note on the windshield should you have to leave your car to jotting down information after an accident.

For Winter Driving

  • A snowbrush and ice scraper
  • A bag of sand to help with traction
  • Extra windshield fluid
  • A blanket, just in case
  • Old winter boots and clothes for the trunk

 

A Few Winter Driving Tips

  • Keep your gas tank filled above halfway to avoid emergencies in bad weather.
  • Stuck on the ice without sand or cat litter? In a pinch, you can take the mats out of your car, place them next to the tires, and slowly inch the car onto and across the mats.
  • To restore proper windshield wiper blade action, smooth the rubber blades with fine sandpaper to remove any grit and pits.
  • Gently rub a small, moistened, cloth bag of iodized salt on the outside of your windshield to prevent the ice and snow from sticking.
  • Fog-proof your mirrors and the inside of your windshields with shaving cream. Spray & wipe if off with paper towels.
  • Avoid driving when you have the flu, which can reduce your reaction time almost six times as much as moderate alcohol intake.

If it’s balmy all winter where you live, be thankful that you don’t need all of this stuff! To see if snow and ice are predicted in your area, see your free two-month long-range forecasts or check out your local 7-day forecasts.

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