Emergency Car Kits – Just In Case

They’re called Roadside Emergencies for a reason…you never know when they might happen…and they’re often serious…sometimes even life threatening.  And the reality is…no one is immune. It doesn’t matter whether your car is old or new…an all electric urban subcompact, or a 3/4 ton diesel pickup…they’re all machines and machines break sometimes.  Accidents happen too.  But being prepared with a basic roadside emergency car kit can increase your safety, reduce stress, and help you get back on the road faster.  Even if you already have a roadside-assistance or auto-club membership, you usually need phone access in order to contact them and depending on time of day (rush hour?) or season of year…you may be waiting in your vehicle for an hour plus before help arrives.  So it’s only smart to always carry certain items in your vehicle, even if it’s only used for everyday, around-town driving.   A basic kit can always be supplemented with additional items for long-distance trip or for winter weather conditions.

Most of the items on this list can and should be kept together in their own container in the trunk or rear compartment of your vehicle (except for the first item – LifeHammer).  It’s also important to make periodic checks on these items ensure they’re fresh and functional —  that the spare tire is properly inflated, batteries are not discharged, first-aid supplies are current, water is fresh, and food is dry.  Also, make it a point to know how each tool or item works, from the cellular phone to the jack, before an emergency occurs.

Far from exhaustive…and not necessarily in order of importance…an emergency car kit should aid you in getting help, signaling your car’s presence to other motorists, and tackling simple challenges

  • LifeHammer – If you haven’t heard of these devices, then you may not know of the amazing life-saving power of these tools. A LifeHammer is a device which has a sharp cutting edge on one side and a hammer on the other. It is designed to allow you to quickly escape a bad situation if you get in one. The hammer to break a window to escape the wreckage of a car and the blade to cut your seatbelt easily and quickly. If you just have one emergency tool in your vehicle, this should probably be it. Keep this one within reach of the driver at all times.
  • Duct tape – made infamous by Tim Allen on ToolTime… its uses stretch wide and far, from repairing items to providing a means to easily hack together a makeshift shelter. It never hurts to have a roll tucked away.
  • Cellular phone – Of course NOT for while driving, but in an emergency, this can be the single most valuable part of your emergency kit.  Include a car charger too.  Emergency tip: If you need to dial 911, remember that your location and phone number aren’t always available to an emergency operator when calling from a cell phone. So first, give the operator your cell number and any location information. Ignore any “no service” messages on the phone and try the call anyway. If you have trouble connecting to 911 from inside a car, get out if possible and call from the side of the road. That may help you get a better signal.
  • First-aid kit – Choose wisely.  A kit caters to treating a range of problems…from small cuts or burns to ones that require major bandaging…is best.  Take time to get familiar with how to use the kit before you need to.
  • Fire extinguisher – Car fire can start from something as simple as a wiring short circuit or leaking oil. You should get away from a vehicle that’s on fire as quickly as possible. Still, for extra security it’s good to keep a fire extinguisher in the car that can be used in any emergency or to quickly dose a small flame that’s just begun. The quicker a fire can be put out, the less damage it will cause. Multipurpose dry-chemical fire extinguishers are available in a variety of sizes. We recommend carrying a compact unit that’s labeled 1A10BC or 2A10BC.
  • Warning light, hazard triangle, or flares – If your vehicle is stuck on the side of the road, it’s vital that you give other motorists as much warning of its presence as possible, especially at night. Look for a battery-powered warning light that can be placed far from the vehicle. Reflective hazard triangles and flares are also effective and don’t need batteries.
  • Tire gauge – Use the guage on a monthly basis to check the inflation pressure in all four tires and the spare tire. Because ambient temperature affects tire pressure, it’s also advisable to check the pressure after a significant change in temperature.
  • Jack and lug wrench – Almost all vehicles come with these items for changing a tire. Refer to your owner’s manual on where they’re located in the vehicle and how to use them. Models that come with run-flat tires do not have a spare tire. Run-flat tires can be driven a limited number of miles with little or no air in them. They have very stiff sidewalls, which provide support when the tire is deflated. Learn more about the warning signs of imminent tire failure.
  • Foam tire sealant or a portable compressor and plug kit – For minor punctures, a foam tire sealant can get your vehicle back on the road quickly. Only use it in an emergency, however, as many tire shops will refuse to repair the tire because of the sticky residue these sealants leave inside it. Be sure to choose a sealant that’s labeled as non-flammable, and don’t consider this a permanent fix. A portable DC-powered air compressor can also be used to inflate a tire–and is especially handy for one that suffers from a slow leak. To fix a puncture, however, you need to have it professionally repaired.
  • Jumper cables or a portable battery booster – Jumper cables are easy to use as long as you have a second car available to provide a jump. Refer to your owner’s manual for instructions. A portable battery booster eliminates the need for a second car.
  • Flashlight – This can be critical at night. Choose one that is bright and weatherproof. In addition, a flashlight with a magnet, flexible mounting system, or a stand will free up your hands for other tasks. Also, have extra batteries and a bulb available.
  • Gloves, hand cleaner, and clean rags – Even the simplest jobs can get your hands dirty. Having these on hand will help keep that dirt from getting on your clothes or your vehicle’s interior.
  • $20 in small bills and change – Keep this available for miscellaneous use. And resist dipping into it for a spontaneous ice cream cone on a hot day.

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