With the warmer weather, there will be an increase in drivers taking to the roadways for vacation travel and, sometimes, having an auto club membership or a newer vehicle with a warranty and roadside assistance can give drivers a false sense of security about breaking down. However, the ugly truth is that your vehicle can break down at any time – unfortunately, it’s not always during daylight or in well-lit areas during warm, dry weather with good cell phone reception and a tow truck nearby. It could be late at night and you’re driving on a dark country road. Suddenly, the steering wheel tugs in your hands and the car becomes extremely hard to control. You ease to the side of the road and, getting out, you notice that the front right tire is going flat. If you have roadside assistance and a good cell phone signal, you can call for help. If not, you’re faced with either having to hail a passing motorist or change the tire by yourself. Hopefully you have a good spare tire and a roadside emergency kit.
Having a roadside emergency kit could mean the difference between getting back on the road safely and being stranded for hours waiting for help. When assembling your kit, keep the age and condition of your vehicle in mind, as well as the possible weather conditions you could face.
Your basic car roadside emergency kit should include the following must-have items:
- A charged cell phone – this could be the difference between getting help fast or not getting help at all.
- First-aid kit – band-aids, adhesive tape, gauze pads, antiseptic wipes, cream/ointment, aspirin, a warm blanket and a space blanket.
- Fire Extinguisher – rated for Class B and C fires.
- Standard or LED Flares and 3 or more reflective warning triangles – Place them approximately 50 feet apart.
- Tire gauge.
- Foam tire sealant – A quick way to repair deflated tires without having to change the tire.
- Jumper cables –coated cables at least 10 feet in length and free of any breaks or cuts.
- Flashlight (waterproof) and extra batteries
- Gloves –work gloves and a latex pair.
- Tool kit – screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench, leatherman tool and/or pocket knife.
- Rags – cleaning rags, paper towels.
- Duct tape – The “universal fix-it solution.”
- Quart of motor oil and gallon of coolant
- Tow strap or tow rope – strong enough to be rated to 6,000 lbs.
- Pen and paper
- Rain poncho
- Ice scraper – if traveling in an area with snow
- Snow shovel and cat litter – cat litter works as well as sand beneath the tires for traction.
- Nonperishable snacks
Also, familiarize yourself with any tools that came with your vehicle, including the tire jack. Once you have your kit together and understand how to use each item properly, pack them all in a simple cardboard box, storage bags or even a backpack to keep them organized. Then, be sure your kit is properly secured within the cargo area of your vehicle so that it does not become a projectile in the event you are ever involved in a frontal crash.
If your vehicle should break down, remember to exercise good judgment. If possible, pull over to a safe location, well out of the way of traffic. Turn on your emergency flashers and set up your LED flares and reflective warning triangles. If you have roadside assistance and a cell phone, make your call. If not, either stay in your vehicle or proceed cautiously utilizing the roadside emergency items you have stored in your vehicle until help arrives.