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Car Emergency Kit: 9 Essentials Even Savvy People Forget

By John Gower, October 9, 2017

It’s estimated that one-in-three motorists will wind up stranded at the side of the road at some point in the next 12 months, and while we can’t always predict when it’s going to happen to us, we can take steps to make our lives easier when it does happen. Creating a well-stocked car emergency kit is a big part of this, and you probably know some of the most important items to include, like jumper cables. However, there’s a good chance your roadside emergency kit is missing at least one of the following items, even if you’ve taken the time to prepare.

1. 3 Reflective Triangles, LED Flashers, or Flares

reflective triangle

Reflective triangle / Image source

Flares used to be the gold standard, but they’ve more or less been replaced by reflective triangles and LED flashers because they’re safer and easier to use. If you’re ever stuck at the side of the road, these will alert other vehicles to your presence before they reach your car, so drivers will give you more space and reduce their speed. You’ll want to have at least three on hand, which should be staggered about 50-100 feet to the front or back of your vehicle, depending on which direction traffic is coming from.

2. A Fully-Stocked Car First Aid Kit

first aid kit

First aid kit / Image source

If you already have a pre-made car first aid kit, chances are it has everything you need, though you should check it periodically to ensure nothing in it is expired or damaged from heat. If you’re making your own or checking to see if yours has everything you need, look for:

  • Bandages of various sizes
  • Antiseptic ointment
  • Burn ointment
  • Hand sanitizer and/or disinfectant hand wipes
  • Gauze pads
  • Bandage tape
  • Cotton balls
  • Ace bandage
  • Aspirin and non-aspirin pain medication
  • Nausea medication
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • Safety pins
  • Eyewash cup
  • Sunblock
  • Bug spray

3. Flat Fix Spray or Injection Set

flat tire

Flat tire / Image source

If you’re savvy, you already have an air compressor and tire gauge in your trunk, but chances are you don’t have anything to temporarily repair a flat tire to go with them. There are many different styles of flat fix sets, including injection or spray foam sets that will fill up minor holes in your tire until you can get to your mechanic. Keep one on hand just in case.

Fix it now before it becomes a roadside emergency.

4. Phone Charger

Phone batteries drain fast nowadays, and the last thing you need is to be stuck by the roadside unable to call for help because your phone died. Even if you never charge your phone in the car, get a spare charger and keep it in the glove box or with your roadside emergency kit.

5. Duct Tape

Duct tape is pretty much the universal must-have tool, even if you have a full tool set in your vehicle. It can be used for temporary repairs and has medical uses when you’re in a pinch. Keep a roll in your vehicle and be sure to check it regularly to make sure it’s still good, particularly if you’re in a warmer climate.

6. Water and Non-Perishable Snacks

The amount of water you need varies based on how many people you have in the vehicle and where you drive. If there’s any chance you’ll be driving to a remote area where you could remain undiscovered for a day or more, the general rule of thumb is one gallon per day per person. Obviously, if you only engage in city driving, this is overkill, but you should keep a gallon for emergencies anyway.

Non-perishable snacks, particularly those high in protein, should also be on hand. This includes things like jerky, nuts, trail mix, and protein bars. Some experts also recommend that you keep a can or two of dog food, with the idea that it’ll sustain you, but you won’t touch it until you absolutely need it.

7. Trash Bags

Trash bags are incredibly versatile. You can use them to create a clean surface for eating or for diaper changes, wear them as a poncho, use one as an impromptu toilet (sounds weird, but you’d be glad for it if you were trapped in your vehicle), to hold everyday trash, and more. Stash 10-15 in with the rest of your supplies.

8. Fire Extinguisher

car fire extinguisher

Car fire extinguisher / Image source

It may sound far-fetched, but there are roughly 17 car fires reported every single hour, and they kill about 4 people each week. Opt for a fire extinguisher that’s rated for Class B (combustible fluids like gasoline) and Class C (electrical) fires. You can keep your fire extinguisher with your car emergency kit or purchase a special mount that keeps it by the driver seat.

9. Winter Car Kit Essentials

Carrying around unnecessary things will weigh your vehicle down, burn extra gas, and take up valuable space, so it’s a good idea to have a separate winter car kit in addition to your regular car emergency kit. The items in it can be stored elsewhere during the warmer months, then checked and tossed back in the vehicle when it gets cooler outside. For ease of use, put the following things together in a separate sealable (Rubbermaid-style) bin:

  • Snow socks
  • Gloves
  • Hand warmers
  • Blankets (even a thermal emergency blanket or two will do)
  • Snow scraper
  • Shovel
  • Cat litter (can help you gain traction if stuck in ice, snow, or mud)

Prepare with a Car Emergency Kit; Preempt with RepairPal

Your car emergency kit will prove invaluable if you’re stuck by the roadside with an inoperable vehicle, but most breakdowns can be avoided with proper vehicle maintenance. Use RepairPal to get repair estimates and quotes from trusted mechanics in your area.

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