Everyone who owns or drives a vehicle needs an emergency roadside kit. It doesn’t matter if your vehicle is old or new, whether you drive over short distances or long distances, or where you drive—country roads, highways, or city driving. Unfortunately, if you drive enough, the chances are that you will find yourself in a situation where you’re on the side of the road and in need of help.
This could entail anything from a simple flat tire to a dead car battery, an overheated vehicle to a fender bender, and everything in between. The last thing you want is to be stranded on the side of the road for a long period of time, without some sort of help.
That’s why an emergency roadside kit could be a real lifesaver. So it’s important to take some time and think about the items you want to include in your kit. What are necessities, and what items can you do without?
Complete road emergency kits are available to purchase already put together, and we’ll discuss that later in the article. But you can also choose to put together your own kit based on your specific wants and needs, many of which will be based on aspects like your car’s condition and age, your driving patterns, and the weather patterns you most often have to deal with.
And if you decide to buy kit that’s already put together, you can also supplement it with items that fit your needs.
Let’s take a look at the three categories of how to build a complete road emergency kit.
General Car Care
Any number of things can go wrong with your car, no matter its condition or age. However, by stocking your emergency road kit with a few helpful items, a simple fix will have you back up and on your way in no time.
The first thing to include is jumper cables. A dead battery is no fun no matter what, but if you have jumper cables you’re halfway there when it comes to getting back on the road.
Hazard triangles, much like road flares, help let other motorists know that you’re there and to look out for you.
You may also want to carry extra motor oil and coolant, especially if you drive an older-model vehicle. Stock your kit with a fire extinguisher, which can be a lifesaver if a small fire breaks out. Work gloves will protect your hands when you’re working with sharp objects like metal, or lighting a flare.
Perhaps the most common problem when driving is a flat tire. Whether it’s a piece of glass, a nail or screw, or any other kind of puncture, the bottom line is your day just got a whole lot worse. But if you’ve properly outfitted your emergency road kit with the right tools and equipment, it doesn’t have to be the nightmare you think.
To be prepared, make sure you have a jack and a spare tire, and that both are in operational shape. You should also stock a tire pressure gauge so that you can keep track of your tires’ air pressure and fill them up as needed. Finally, always have flares in your emergency kit and learn how to ignite and use them so that you can use them to alert other motorists to your presence along the side of the road.
You may also want to carry a can of Fix-a-Flat with you. While it won’t work on large gashes or if your tire is close to the rim, it can help if you have a small nail hole in your tire and you’re close to home or a tire repair shop. That small can could save you a few hours of waiting for a tow truck to come rescue you.
Survival & Medical Supplies
If you should find yourself in a genuine roadside emergency, where you’re potentially stuck in a ditch, along the side of the road, or off the beaten path, you’ll want to ensure you have everything you need to stay safe and can handle whatever the situation calls for.
First, your roadside kit should include a good first-aid kit that includes items like bandages, gauze, alcohol, and tweezers. Quick action to attend to an injury is critical.
Stock your kit with blanket for keeping warm, protein bars and bottled water, and a flashlight with extra batteries. Pack a lighter or matches in case you need to start a fire, and a whistle that can be used to alert would-be rescuers to your location if you’re lost or stranded.
Since you may not have access to clean water, stock your kit with purification tablets so you have drinking water.
A knife or multi-tool, as well as duct tape, are beneficial and can be used for a wide variety of fixes, from car issues to survival-related situations.
Packing Your Emergency Road Kit
As you build and put together your kit, do so with a plan in mind and don’t just throw everything in with no regard for order. Instead, place items in a single layer so that you can see and get to everything easily. Position items that are likely to be used more often toward the top of the bag or container so that they are easy to grab, and lay those items that won’t be used as often below them.
Consider creating an itemized list of the items in your emergency road kit so that you know exactly what you have and what you don’t have. Tape the list to the outside of your bag or container. And remember to periodically check items and replace those that have either been used up, damaged, or expired.
Your Complete Road Emergency Kit
The perfect road emergency kit probably doesn’t exist, because there is no way to stock every conceivable item you may need in any given situation you face while on the road. Instead, the best course of action is to tailor your emergency kit to your specific needs and challenges. For instance, if you live in a warm-weather climate, you probably don’t need hand and foot warmers, whereas if you live in the Northeast, then they are a wise choice.
After building your complete emergency road kit, make sure you familiarize yourself with each item in it, so that if and when the time comes and you need to use an item, you’ll have experienced it already and will be ready and able to tackle the issue with ease.