Don’t let car trouble ruin your day.
Be prepared with a Roadside Emergency Kit
Life doesn’t always go according to plan. When an emergency happens, having the right roadside tools can make the difference between delay and danger.
You can’t beat the odds. Better to be prepared.
The average age of cars in America is 11.4 years.1 Higher mileage cars can break down unexpectedly, as older parts fail. Even with new vehicles, roadside failures can create an emergency situation. In fact, AAA of South Carolina estimates that one-third of drivers experience a roadside failure each year.2 Some of the most common roadside emergencies include a flat tire, a dead battery, running out of gas, overheating and engine failure.3 And when these emergencies occur, having the right roadside tools can make the difference between an uncomfortable night on the roadside and safely resuming your trip. The most important emergency auto tool might well be your well- charged cell phone. Calling for assistance is always a good first step. But sometimes you might find yourself out of cell phone range. Joining an emergency road service is another good option. The National Automobile Club,4 AAA (American Automobile Association)5 and numerous other roadside services are popular choices.6 If you often travel by road or make long road trips, membership can be a wise investment. But be prepared to wait if you’re in a remote area. With a roadside emergency kit you can fix many problems yourself, or at least stay safe and comfortable until help arrives.
Build your own toolkit and be ready to roll.
Look for "Roadside Emergency Kits" online or in stores—you’ll find plenty for sale. Or you can assemble your own set of roadside tools. Start by including these basics:
- Look for "Roadside Emergency Kits" online or in stores—you’ll find plenty for sale. Or you can assemble your own set of roadside tools. Start by including these basics:
- A jack and a lug wrench (some people like to have a portable jack stand for extra safety)
- Heavy duty booster (jumper) cable
- Tire gauge
- Roadside emergency lights
- First Aid Kit
- Screwdrivers, adjustable wrenches and pliers, socket wrench set
- Tow strap
- Air compressor
- Tire repair kit and foam tire sealant
- Reflective triangles, flares (not only to be visible to passing cars, but to alert the police to an emergency)
- Safety vest for high visibility at night
- Empty gas can
- A small amount of cash (both bills and change)
In addition, you may choose to customize your kit for your geography and season. Consider adding:
- Portable cell phone battery charger
- Portable battery jump starter
- Spare fuses
- Portable radio with spare batteries
- Bungee cords
Stay safe while repairing the car (or waiting for help).
When a roadside emergency occurs, safety is a primary concern. Roadside tools or a roadside emergency kit may help solve the problem, but there are two steps you should take to stay safe. First, pull over to the side of the road as far away from the traffic as possible. Second, make sure to add roadside service numbers to your phone.2
Extras to keep you comfortable while you wait.
You might be stuck on the side of the road for a while. Some items will make this less frustrating, more easily tolerated:
- Multipurpose utility tool, like a Swiss Army knife
- Emergency escape kit (seatbelt cutter, window breaker combo)
- Rain poncho
- Gallon of drinking water
- Nonperishable snacks (like granola or protein bars)
- Fire extinguisher
- A book or magazine
- A battery-powered reading light
- Roadside emergency lights, including a blinking light, or reflectors
- In good weather, a lawn or camp chair
- Camping gear, such as a camp stove
- A tarp for ground cover or shade
Getting stuck in cold weather requires even more forethought. If you live in or travel frequently to a very cold or snowy climate, it would be wise for your roadside emergency kit to include:
- A thermal blanket
- A fire starter
- Extra hats
- Snow shovel
- Ice scraper
- A bag of cat litter for traction if stuck in the snow
Make every trip more enjoyable by assembling your own roadside toolkit. It won’t prevent emergencies (unfortunately), but it will sure make them easier to face.
Click here to download a printable emergency roadside toolkit checklist.
Be Prepared with a Winter Car Emergency Kit (ConsumerReports.org)
2 20 Must-Haves in Your Car Emergency Kit (Bankrate.com)
3 Handling Roadside Emergencies: 13 Skills Every Driver Should Know (IndependentMotors.net)
4 National Automobile Club (NacRoadService.com)
5 Auto Club South (AutoClubSouth.AAA.com)
6 Compare the Top Emergency Roadside Assistance Plans (BestRoadsideService.com)
How to Build the Ideal Roadside Emergency Kit (MyImprov.com)
Emergency Tools (Progressive.com)
Resqme car emergency escape kit on a keychain (ConsumerReports.org)
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