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There’s nothing worse than getting stranded on the road with a broken-down car.
Whether you’re just a few miles from home or entirely out of town, knowing how to repair fundamental vehicle problems can mean the difference between a frustrating night and an inconvenience.
This article will cover the basic emergency supplies you should always keep in your vehicle.
Are you prepared?
Whether driving to work, taking the kids to school, or going on a road trip, you need to be ready for emergencies.
In previous posts, we have covered first aid and being prepared for what life throws at you. But it’s a good idea to always have a separate automotive kit with you.
Having equipment isn’t just for you. It can be to help others out as well.
This is critical if you go camping on BLM or public lands. I can’t tell you how often my gear has helped others out.
The biggest thing to remember is that you better know how to use it if you carry it. I cannot stress this enough.
You need to know how to use your gear. Two of the most common examples are how to change a spare tire and how to jumpstart a vehicle.
If you want to know how to do this, I suggest doing some research (or leave a comment below, and I can expand on any of the topics). It never hurts to check out YouTube as well.
You might think you can rely on your friends, family, and even AAA if you ever get stranded. But, if you are like me, you travel to places where there is no reception. Not to mention getting a tow truck to your location can be very difficult.
You can do a few things to ensure your vehicle is in top shape.
You should make sure you are keeping up with your car services. In the manual, most vehicles will tell you when to get major services, oil changes, and tire rotations.
But let’s cover a few that are easy, and anyone can do them.
Keep your gas tank above half
The best thing you can do is always keep your gas tank above empty. If you want to take it a step further, refill your tank when it reaches the halfway mark.
I’ve done this for as long as I can remember. Mainly because in winter there is snow and in summer we are prone to fires. Ensuring my tank is at least half full means I can get out if needed.
Monitor your fluids
When you get gas, pop the hood of your car. This is a great time to examine all your fluid levels quickly.
You can look at the side of most of the fluids, like your Antifreeze, windshield fluid, and brake fluid.
You can use the dipstick to check the oil level. But honestly, it’s better to make sure the oil is cool to check. I like to do this once a month or before any long road trip.
The next thing you can do is keep an eye on your tires.
This includes the pressure and tire tread. Always make sure you check out your spare too.
Speaking of tires, having the right ones for your season is best. I generally buy all-season tires.
Safety while driving
Always be aware of what is going on around you.
The best way to do this is to watch the road approximately 10-15 seconds ahead of you. It’s surprising how many people only watch what is immediately around them.
Having a view of the road ahead will help you avoid obstacles, road hazards, and other vehicles.
You should always watch for signs of issues ahead and read the flashing signs on the side of the road.
If you are on a roadway and it is raining/snowing like crazy, keep an eye out for down trees and power lines. This is something you never want to be stuck on or around.
If you are in areas where it floods, please never go past a sign that says, “flooded road do not enter.” This happens all the time, and then they get stuck, and now we need to deal with a vehicle that could pose numerous issues.
What Items to Keep in Your Vehicle
When you think of emergency items to have in your vehicle, it’s likely that you would think of things like a first-aid kit or a flashlight.
However, you should always keep a few other key items in your vehicle in case of an emergency.
Here are the ones I find most important:
- Everyone should have a set of jumper cables and know how to use them.
- I’ve had this neat battery starter pack that will jump your vehicle! I cannot tell you how worth this thing is. I’ve used it many times, and it’s still working like the day I got it.
- Know where your spare tire is, as well as your vehicle’s jack
- Get a tire patch kit. You can go on YouTube to see how easy these are to use.
- Maps of the area you are in or going to (got to love road trips!). If you have a AAA membership, you can get maps for free!
- Foldable triangle reflectors or flares (if you have flares, practice so you know how to use them. Always read the warnings and strike them away from you).
- There are many options with a window breaker or a car escape tool. I use this one and couldn’t be happier.
- One way to fix basic electrical issues you might have is to have a set of spare fuses. This is unnecessary; most fuse boxes have a few in the lid.
- Your basic or advanced First-aid kit. You can purchase already made or make these yourself (always the better option).
- A way to stay warm is by having a blanket. Some options are an emergency bivvy or a space blanket.
- Light! This could be a flashlight or, even better, a headlamp. Also, make sure you have a set of extra batteries or get a rechargeable light.
- Staying clean is always a good thing. Have some hand sanitizer and individually packaged wipes.
- Tools. I would suggest getting a multitool, such as this Leatherman (only you know what you need, but having a screwdriver, pliers, wrench, knife, and hammer is a good start).
- Food such as granola bars or emergency food bars. Nobody wants to be hangry, especially when you could be stuck for a long period of time.
- Extra water storage has different options, but keeping extra on hand and a water filter could be a lifesaver.
- A sewing kit is something that has many different uses. Get a small one. If I’m staying at a hotel, I always ask for one and throw it in your glove box. You will thank me later.
Extra Items if YOU Have the Room
While typing this list, I separated the items into two sections. The main reason is that this is a HUGE list.
It is funny that you realize how much is out there as you start making a list.
Just as in the list above, please remember to pick and choose to create your own auto emergency kit that will work for you.
Your auto kit could change depending on what you are doing. Keeping the daily things in your car can fit in one or two duffel bags.
If you are going on a long road trip or living the dream (full-time in your car), you must carry many more items.
Here are some additional items to consider:
- Oil, I have friends that say two quarts minimum
- Gas can
- GPS unit (I always have maps as a backup)
- Fire extinguisher
- Flat tire inflation canister, or better yet, a 12v tire inflator with a tire patch kit (this is what I use now)
- Glow sticks and these are just fun if you’re on a night hike or camping with kids (let’s be real, we all like glow sticks)
- Small foldable shovel
- Clothing (gloves, boots, shoes, wool socks, beanie, buff)
- Small backpack or duffel bag
- Paper towels or rags
- Towing strap
- Extra battery packs (very helpful to charge USB-type devices like your cell phone)
- Seasonal supplies (chains, rain gear, umbrella, ice scraper, to name a few)
- Battery or hand-crank radio
- If you have animals, remember to have items for their needs too!
Don’t Purchase a Premade Kit
I know not everyone wants to take the time to build their own kits. And that is totally cool.
Remember that most of the premade kits do not have quality items, and here are some things you want to consider.
The best example I have is a first aid kit I purchased a long time ago. It was in a plastic case with dividers and 1,000 items (I might exaggerate, but you get the point).
After purchasing it, I tossed it in the back of my car.
I realized my mistake when I needed it.
It was while rock climbing that I slipped and messed up my shin. After cleaning the injury, I grabbed a few of the included band-aids. Long story short, they had horrible adhesive and didn’t stick to anything, much less a sweaty leg. Not only that, they had a plastic-type feel to them.
At this point, I decided I would better examine what was in the kit. Let’s say that I was not impressed.
So yes, you can purchase a premade kit that you keep in your vehicle.
My advice is to get a small duffel bag or a one-gallon Ziploc and slowly adding what you need.
Coming from someone that enjoys this sort of thing. I would suggest starting small and adding to it over time. There are the essential first aid items you need all the way up to specialty items.
Now It’s Your Turn
To sum this all up, you should always be prepared while on the road. There are simple things you can do to make your daily commute and road trips safe.
Always being ready for what life throws at you is crucial. The lists above are from most of what I have in my vehicle. I could go on and on about how often they have helped another motorist or me out.
Remember, whatever you decide to carry, you should know how and when to use the items in your auto emergency kit that can help you get through any situation.
Make sure to always have a kit in your car, and be sure to check it regularly for expired items or new needs. Until next time, stay safe on the roads!
Did I miss something, or is there anything you have that I didn’t list?
Leave a comment below!
All emergency kits are always improving and growing. I hope this got your gears moving, and I would love to hear what you are using in yours!