Anything That Can Go Wrong, Will
Imagine you're on a road trip with your family. You have planned and prepared for this trip for weeks, and you're finally on your way. The car is packed to the roof with suitcases and various other vacation essentials, but as you wind your way along that steep mountain road deep in the hinterland of your favorite national park, you hear a terrible sound, feel a thump, thump, thump, and realize that you have a flat tire.
You pull to the side of the road, unload the suitcases that are covering the spare tire in the back, only to discover that the tire is flat and the jack is missing. As the sun slowly sets behind the mountain ridge you began to scramble around looking for that flashlight. As you flip open your cell phone to call for a tow truck, you see that the battery is almost dead...
OK, this may be a worst-case scenario, but it might have even been worse. The adage that says, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," while cliched, is true. Had this family taken a bit of time to assemble a basic roadside emergency kit, their journey would have been far easier that day.
What to Put In Your Kit
Your trunk space is limited―especially while traveling ― but there are certain items that you really should carry with you in the event of an emergency.
You can assemble these items yourself at an auto supply store, or department store, or purchase a pre-assembled kit online. The American Red Cross offers an emergency kit, and the website Outdoor Lodge recommends the following list of items:
- Flashlights and extra batteries.
- A folding camping (Army) shovel.
- Jumper cables (8-12 feet long).
- Set of tire chains. Know how to install these beforehand.
- Fuses. There are several types, so make sure you have the right ones for your car.
- Tools: pliers, flat and Phillips-head screwdrivers, and an adjustable wrench.
- Wool blanket.
- All the necessary fluids for your car, including 2 quarts of motor oil, brake fluid, power-steering fluid (if applicable), automatic transmission fluid (if applicable), a gallon of water, and a gallon of antifreeze. Also include a funnel, and keep a few rags handy in case of spills.
- Fire extinguisher.
- Road flares.
- Gloves, wool socks, and a pair of boots.
- Electrical and duct tape.
- Bright cloth or emergency road sign to display in your window in case of trouble.
- Other items to consider are:
- Non-perishable food items and a can opener
- Rain gear
- Extra clothes
- Folding chair(s)
- Sleeping bags
- Books and games
- Toilet paper
As our example illustrates, it's important to make sure your cell phone is charged up before you hit the road on a long trip. Having a car charging cord is a great idea if you will be driving for several days at a time. Another item that would be useful to have in your car in case of emergency is a first aid kit. A small manual with instructions on how to do some basic roadside repairs is a good thing to have in your kit, as well.
Be sure to walk through changing a tire in the safety of your driveway, so you know how to do it before you are called upon to do it in the dark in the driving rain.
Check the contents of your kit when the seasons change. The blanket, chains and ice scraper are important for winter driving conditions, but you may not need them in August.
Keeping a roadside emergency kit in your car will arm you with both peace of mind, and the tools you'll need to rescue yourself in the event of an emergency during your travels.