When it comes to emergencies while driving, roadside assistance is a valuable service but also one that often gives us a false sense of security. If something happens to our vehicle, we make a quick call for assistance then wait while the problem is fixed or our vehicle is towed.
What if your phone’s battery dies or you are in a remote area with no signal? Do you have the necessities to change a tire, jumpstart your car’s battery, switch out a fuse or handle other common road mishaps?
An emergency kit can mean the difference between being stranded for a few minutes and sitting around waiting for assistance for several hours.
Here are 14 must-have items for your in-car emergency kit:
When it’s dark
Flashlight – If you need to change a tire or take a look at your engine, you’re going to need some light. Make sure you have an extra set of batteries, just in case.
Road flares – Use road flares to alert oncoming traffic that your car has stopped. Follow the instructions on the packaging to ensure your safety and the safety of others around you.
When it’s hot
Water – Water is essential on hot days. Stow at least a gallon per person in BPA-free containers. It’s also a great idea to bring an extra gallon in case your vehicle overheats.
Electrolytes and/or hydration salts – Salt is important because it helps maintain your body’s water levels and dehydration causes sodium to drop. Electrolytes and hydration salts will help your body replenish itself.
Extra coolant – Hot weather can be taxing on your vehicle, so packing an extra bottle of coolant is smart. Be sure to monitor your vehicle’s temperature gauge and coolant levels.
A fan or cooling device – A battery-operated fan is a great way to create additional airflow and alleviate the heat. These can be purchased at any department or outdoor gear store.
Cooler with ice – Ice cold beverages can help keep your body temperature down, so keep a couple handy. Bring a cooling towel or two with you – they work quickly and last longer than a normal wet towel if you’re overheated.
Sunscreen – Protect your skin from the sun to avoid getting burned if you’re waiting by the side of the road. Most sunscreens expire after a year, so remember to check the expiration date and replace it if necessary.
Umbrella – An umbrella can help keep you out of the sun and will help you stay cool in exposed areas.
Extra mobile phone battery pack – Cell phone batteries drain quicker in hot weather, so it’s a good idea to have an extra battery pack with you.
When it’s cold
Matches and/or a lighter – These come in handy if you need to start a fire to stay warm.
Mylar blanket – There are many uses for Mylar blankets. They’ll keep you warm in the cold and provide a waterproof cover to keep things dry. With the potential for wet El Niño weather, it’s not a bad idea to keep a couple of these stocked in your car kit in case flash flooding leaves you stuck in the rain.
When you need to change a tire
Tire jack and wrench – These two items will make changing a tire easier. The tire jack that comes with your vehicle is often flimsy so consider investing in a more robust one. And remember to use your vehicle’s hazard lights and pull over to a safe place when changing your tire roadside.
Spare tire – It’s hard to change a tire without a spare. Make sure you have the proper spare as supplied by your vehicle manufacturer and that it’s not flat or expired. Yes, tires expire.
Jumper cables – It’s always a good idea to keep these in your car in case the battery dies.
Oil – In case your engine needs motor oil, keep two quarts of it handy.
First aid kit – You can never go wrong with a few bandages, adhesive tape, gauze pads and aspirin. Better to have a first aid kit and not need it than to need one and not have it.
Extra fuses – Keeping a box of fuses in your kit is a smart idea. If your turn signals don’t blink or your tail lights go out, chances are, you need to change a fuse.
Nonperishable nutrition bars and water – If you’re stranded in a place without restaurants or a convenience store nearby, you may want to keep a few snacks in your kit.
No matter how reliable your car is, you never know when your emergency kit will come in handy. Keep your kit in an easy-to-reach place, and make sure your passengers know that it’s available and where it’s located.
Additionally, if you don’t want to make your kit, you can always purchase one online. Just make sure you know how to use all of the items included in your kit properly in order to avoid safety mishaps.