Pack for the Unexpected: Create a Vehicle Emergency Kit
What do you need in an emergency kit for your vehicle? It could be as simple as a mobile phone to call for help or as complicated as a survival kit with canned water, blankets and dehydrated food.
You can buy an emergency kit, or you can take a sturdy box or case and assemble your own. Your needs will change depending on the kind of driving you do. An emergency kit for your daily commutes to work and the kids’ soccer field will be different from what you’ll want for a family vacation crossing long stretches of remote landscape.
To help you get started, we gathered the best recommendations from Consumer Reports, Edmunds.com and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for what the typical vehicle emergency kit should include:
What to Put in Your Vehicle Emergency Kit
1. Mobile phone and charger: With your roadside assistance or auto club emergency number easy to find.
2. First-aid kit: Include a variety of bandages, gauze pads and tape, antiseptic ointments or wipes, pain relievers and any specific first-aid needs for family members, including the furry ones if they travel with you often.
3. Flashlight: Waterproof, with extra batteries. Lights with flexible stands or mounts are particularly useful.
4. Warning signs: Flares, reflective tape or triangles, or battery powered warning lights to warn approaching vehicles.
5. Jumper cables: With clean clamps and undamaged insulation. However, if you’re not sure how to properly hook them up, don’t use them. A more expensive, but handy, option is a portable battery that comes with its own cables.
6. Tire pressure gauge: Check your owner’s manual or alongside the driver’s side door when it’s open for proper inflation guidelines.
7. Tire jack: A mat, tarp or length of cardboard is also handy for keeping yourself clean while changing a tire.
8. Tool kit: Screwdrivers, pliers, an adjustable wrench, a multi-tool or a pocket knife — and duct tape. Even if you don’t know how to make the repairs, someone may stop by who does.
9. Work gloves and clean-up supplies: Water or hand cleaner and paper towels.
10. Maps: The power and signal needed for GPS may not always be available.
11. Emergency blankets, towels and coats: Pocket raincoats and space blankets are compact and inexpensive.
Beyond the Basics
If you’ve got the room and the desire, expand your car emergency kit with all or a few of these items:
- Compressed tire inflator and sealant.
- Change of clothes.
- Water and food: Bottled water, protein bars or nonperishable foods.
- Automotive supplies: Replacement windshield washer fluid, motor oil, coolant, spare fuses.
- Spare cash.
- Pen and paper.
- Fire extinguisher: Consumer Reports suggests a multipurpose dry-chemical unit labeled 1A10BC or 2A10BC.
If you do suffer car trouble, get off the road and away from traffic. Turn on your emergency flashers and call for help, if help is available. And, remember, your emergency supplies won’t do you any good if you take them out of your vehicle. They may take up a little – or even a lot – of space, but, when you need them, you’ll be glad they’re there. They could even help save your life.
Preparation is the Best Defense
The first step in preparing for an emergency on the road is regular car maintenance, especially if you’re planning a long trip. The second step is adequate insurance. When you need a helping hand on the road, it can be a relief to remember that you signed up for Roadside Assistance coverage. Talk to your independent agent to review your auto insurance coverage and, if needed, add Roadside Assistance to your car policy.