Even the safest drivers encounter unexpected emergencies on the road. Establishing and maintaining your car emergency kit is the simplest way to feel prepared and give yourself some peace of mind.
On average, there are 6 million car accidents a year in the US. When you break it down, that’s over 16,400 accidents per day!
Most vehicle-related emergencies can be sorted into two categories, repair and restart or sustain and survive. This car emergency kit checklist has all the essentials you need to stay calm and get through any emergency you may experience on the road.
Essential Items for Every Roadside Emergency Kit
Most common car problems can be fixed, at least temporarily, without calling for a tow truck or roadside assistance. Keeping these items on hand in an emergency kit and knowing how to use them properly will get you back on the road after car trouble in no time.
1. Jumper Cables
We’ve all experienced a dead battery after accidentally leaving an overhead light on or playing the radio with the engine off for too long. A dead car battery can be massively bothersome and time-consuming, but this car kit item provides a quick and simple fix. Jumper cables are essential in any emergency car kit and can save you a long wait for AAA or an unnecessary tow truck.
If it’s not executed properly, jump-starting a car battery can be dangerous. Before attaching your jumper cables and starting the engine, make sure you understand how to do it properly. If you have a lithium battery, you can jumpstart your car on your own. If not, you’ll need to call a friend or ask someone nearby for assistance.
2. A Spare Tire
This one may seem obvious, but it’s a very important item on the checklist. Blown and flat tires are two of the most common causes of roadside emergencies. These difficult situations are made much easier if you have a functioning spare tire.
It’s not uncommon to forget about replacing your spare tire after an unexpected use, but it’s essential to maintain it over time. Keeping a spare tire in your car is only one step in the equation. If you want to fix a flat on your own, you’ll need a car jack (they’re typically included in new cars), nut wrench, and an air pump. Learning how to properly change a tire will save you time and money in the long run, but don’t attempt it if you aren’t confident — avoid future damage by calling a tow truck or roadside assistance if you’re unsure.
3. A Multipurpose Tool
Much like a pocket knife, a multipurpose tool puts an entire utility tool kit in one handheld device. Multipurpose tools range in equipment and price, but they typically include a screwdriver, pliers, scissors, and knives. Some of these compact tools are specifically designed to address roadside emergencies and feature a seatbelt cutter and window hammer.
4. A roll of Duct Tape
At least once in their life, everyone has seen a car’s bumper or side mirror secured with duct tape, but that’s not always a bad idea. Much like a band-aid, duct tape is not a permanent solution, but it does provide a temporary fix for several unanticipated disasters. In addition to structural repairs, certain varieties of duct tape are heat-resistant and can serve as temporary sealants for pipes and other car parts.
Additional Wellness Items
If you’re in a more serious accident or unable to get assistance right away, keeping the following items in your emergency kit will help you to survive in extreme or life-threatening circumstances until help arrives.
5. A Portable Cellphone Charger
Your cellphone is the most useful tool in any roadside emergency. An ambulance, police officer, or tow truck will reach you in minutes if you’re able to contact emergency services. However, If your phone is dead and you have no way to charge it, the situation is much harder to deal with. Keeping a phone charger in the car is absolutely essential. If you have a USB port in your center console, all you need is the charging cord — if not, a fully charged power bank is a necessary addition to your car’s emergency kit as well.
6. A Robust First Aid Kit
In most situations, standard car trouble doesn’t involve any bodily injury — but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to be prepared for the worst-case scenarios. Keeping a basic first aid kit in your car with antiseptic wipes, gauze, band-aids, gloves, and other medical supplies is always a good idea.
7. A Fire Extinguisher
Automobile fires are extremely common and, unfortunately, cause a huge amount of damage and injuries when they’re not managed early. Cars contain extremely flammable liquids that increase the possibility of resulting fire after an accident or collision. Keeping a fire extinguisher in your vehicle is an easy way to contain a potentially deadly situation. Make sure your car’s fire extinguisher is certified for use on class B and class C fires.
8. Bottled Water & Snacks
From inclement weather conditions to a lack of cell phone service, there are many circumstances that could leave you stranded on the side of the road after an emergency. In extreme emergencies, bottled water and survival food, like granola or protein bars, will prevent dehydration or starvation. Whether you’re stuck for a few hours or several days, you won’t regret keeping food and water in your emergency kit.
9. Reflective Triangles
In order to prevent further incidents, it’s absolutely crucial drivers alert others to any upcoming accident or roadblock. Reflective triangles are a commonly known caution indicator, especially at night or on a narrow road. According to Country Club Garage, The general rule of thumb instructs placement of the first reflective indicator 10 feet behind the incident, the second 100 feet behind the incident, and the final indicator 300 feet behind the incident. That being said, it’s important to assess the situation and establish earlier traffic indicators if necessary.
10. A Reflective Safety Vest
Accidents and breakdowns can happen at all hours of the day (and night). Make sure the situation doesn’t become worse by being highly visible to those who are driving on the road in the dark.
Not only should you get a safety vest, but you should also consider purchasing reflective triangles as well. While these may cost a pretty penny, they’ll be worth every dime you spent when it prevents other drivers from hitting you and your parked vehicle while you’re changing out your flat tire.
Cold Weather Components
If you’re in an area where you may experience snow, ice, or freezing temperatures, these additional emergency kit items will help you stay safe on the journey.
11. An Emergency Blanket
In extreme winter conditions, staying warm after a car accident or breakdown can be difficult. Without any functional heating source, the temperature inside your car will quickly drop to just a few degrees above the outside temperature. Ideally, emergency assistance will reach you quickly — but if you’re stranded indefinitely, emergency blankets are essential to sustain your body heat.
12. Sand or Cat Litter
Your feline friend isn’t the only one that can utilize cat litter. If your car gets stuck in the snow or hits some unexpected ice, cat litter or sand will absorb moisture and provide traction to help get you out of an icy situation. Just pour some litter or sand anywhere your tires can’t find traction and you’ll be on your way in no time.
Learn More About an Emergency Kit for Your Car
In addition to the items on this checklist, it’s important to customize your car emergency kit with the specific items you would need if you’re ever in an accident or stuck on the side of the road. For example, if you have children, it might be a good idea to include games or crafts to keep them calm and entertained.
If you ever encounter a roadside emergency in Germantown, MD, or the surrounding area, let the licensed and certified professionals at Geyers Towing & Recovery help you get home safely. Click here to learn more about how you can take advantage of our roadside assistance service.