CAR EMERGENCY KIT

It’s not possible to foresee or prevent every eventuality when it comes to driving. However, you can be prepared for the majority of outcomes with a little advance work. By prepping a car emergency kit for you and your family, you’ll make sure that when an accident happens, or you break down, that you are safe, comfortable, and able to proceed on your way without too much undue hassle.

HOMEMADE OR PREMADE?

Pre-made car safety kits are usually reliable and save you the hassle of having to pull together all of the items individually. However, making your own kit will give you the option of tailoring it to your own specific needs and the conditions you might use it in.

 

 

PRE-MADE

You can get premade emergency kits online or from your car dealer, or auto store. These tend to contain all of the basic items you’d need. If it comes with your car, then you can be assured that all of the parts are compatible. Either way, you should be sure to take an inventory of contents to make sure you’re not missing anything.

HOMEMADE

If you do decide to put together your own emergency kit, then you should factor it based on the following information.

    • WEATHER

      The type of weather you’re likely to be driving in will greatly affect what items to include in your kit. If you’re likely to be driving in Arizona in the summer, then you should make sure you have plenty of drinking water. For Minnesota in the winter, you’ll need blankets and tools to deal with ice. Extra precautions need to be taken when driving in bad weather conditions.

    • FAMILY

      Knowing what your family likes or needs will also help you to tailor your kit. If you’re traveling with young children, then bring plenty of diapers, changes of clothes, and general distractions. You can make sure that your family has their favorite snacks in case of being stranded for a long time.

    • MULTIPLE KITS

      You might want to put together multiple car safety kits or have different parts stored throughout different parts of the car. For example, the toolkit can be in the trunk, whereas the drinking water, snacks, and blankets can all be stored up front. You can also make a summer kit and a winter one, and switch them out twice a year.

Just like if you purchase full coverage auto insurance for your car, packing an emergency kit creates an added safety net. Be sure to regularly take an inventory to make sure everything is stocked, and nothing has broken or expired. There’s nothing worse than going to use something and finding out it doesn’t work.

FIRST AID KIT

A small first aid kit is absolutely essential, whether part of your toolkit or in a separate bag. Whether homemade or premade (and pre-made is certainly easier), you should make sure that your bag contains all of the following:

Band-aids

These are absolutely essential, for everything from small scrapes to larger cuts. Make sure to get the band-aids that come in a variety of sizes and shapes so that they will stay stuck to different parts of the body. Modern band-aid kits usually contain a mixture of sizes.

Sterile wipes/hand sanitizer

Sterile wipes will enable you to clean dirt out of any wounds and make sure that any cuts stay as clean as possible. Hand Sanitizer can also work in a push, but you should aim to have both in your kit. Sterile wipes and band-aids will cover you in most minor first aid situations.

Antiseptic

A bottle of antiseptic will be useful when a wound is more severe than can be handled by sterile wipes. If it’s in a bottle, make sure it is properly protected so it doesn’t break.

Antibiotic ointment

An antibiotic ointment or gel, as sold over the counter in most drugstores, will be useful in case of cuts, but also from minor abrasions or burns. This will be a common first aid remedy in minor cases and will help keep everything sterile and clean.

Bug Spray

This is not technically a first aid item, although it should be included in the kit for ease of access. Get a type of bug spray that is directly relevant for the types of bugs in the area you’re traveling to (e.g. mosquito repellent, gnat repellent) for maximum effectiveness.

Aspirin

A bottle of antiseptic will be useful when a wound is more severe than can be handled by sterile wipes. If it’s in a bottle, make sure it is properly protected so it doesn’t break.

Cotton balls/gauze pads

Cotton balls will help you to wipe items out of wounds, plus to apply antiseptic to any areas. Cotton balls also have a variety of other uses, including cleaning away oil and making excellent kindling in case of needing to start a fire in an emergency.

Tweezers

Tweezers will help you remove splinters and other debris from wounds. They are also useful for any fine-motor work.

Bandages

Aim to have a few bandages in your first aid kit. These will be useful for stopping bleeding and for placing pressure on any sprained joints. If you don’t have a specialist sling in your first aid kit for broken arms, then you can improvise one from a bandage.

TOOLKIT

Every car should have a toolkit in it as standard. However, most people only examine their toolkit when it’s an emergency, meaning that items aren’t always where they need to be, or up to the requisite standard. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) recommends that you have the following five items as a bare minimum:

 

 

Jumper cables

Jumper cables will help you to jump start your car when the battery has run dead. Once you have jump-started the car, you will need to keep it running for at least twenty minutes before the battery will have achieved a sufficient minimum charge (and ideally longer), hence why it is necessary to have supplies and additional clothing in your emergency kit.

 

 

Tire changing kit

Not only should you have a tire changing kit in your car, but you should also be aware of how to use it. Practice at home one day so that you know where to place the jack and how best to undo the tire nuts. Practicing at night is also valuable, as everything is a lot more complex in the dark.

 

Duct tape

Duct tape is a solve-all. It will work in a variety of situations and is usually hard-wearing enough to last you until you are able to reach a more permanent solution.

Rags

Rags are useful for cleaning, particularly when you are dealing with anything oily, or anything hot. Having a pack of rags in your kit will be extremely useful. You can even use an old t-shirt, as long as you don’t mind getting it dirty.

Tarp

Tarps are useful for situations when you need to patch up a large surface. For example, if your window were to break, you could patch up the gap with the tarp and the duct tape until you were able to take your car to the body shop for repairs.

SAFETY

If the above items represent what you would need to fix your car (or someone else’s car) in most situations, then the below items demonstrate what you’d need to be as safe as possible in case of an accident or other emergency. Again, the below five items should be part of every car emergency kit. Some of the items may be too large to physically place in the same bag, although should be present in your car at all times.

    • Fire extinguisher

      A small fire extinguisher is essential. Not only should you have one in the car, but you should also know where it is at all times. Ideally, you will have a small one in the front of the car (i.e. accessible immediately when driving), as well as a slightly larger one in the trunk. Check these annually to see that they are still in date. Use an outdated one to practice on so you know how they work and how best to aim them (at the base of a fire).

    • Road flares

      Road flares are a staple of roadside emergency kits. They are designed to be placed behind the scene of an accident to signal that drivers should be cautious. These are particularly useful on country roads when visibility is poor. Road flares generally expire every three to four years, so check that yours are in-date or they may not work.

    • Flashlight and batteries

      A flashlight and batteries (plus spare batteries) are invaluable, particularly when it comes to doing repairs at night. As there are increased dangers of driving at night, there is a higher likelihood that you will need to assess an emergency in the dark. Although your car lights may work, they do not always provide light where you need it. Again, check the flashlight every six months or so, and always have a spare set of batteries. Alternatively, you can buy a wind-up flashlight that does not require batteries.

    • Rain ponchos

      If you have to wait any length of time for roadside assistance, then a rain poncho will be a valuable addition to your kit. Getting wet, particularly when the weather is cold can become dangerous, so keeping yourself as dry and warm as possible can ultimately be a major factor in keeping you safe.

    • Drinking water

      Cars can very quickly become extremely hot when the air conditioning is switched off. In fact, it can take very little time for the temperature inside a car to rapidly exceed the external temperature. On hot days, when there is little shade, you should make sure to drink water regularly. A gallon jug of water in your car will last indefinitely and will be invaluable when you break down. Although you should ration your water where possible, you can also use it to cool down engine parts if necessary.

OPTIONAL EXTRAS

The above information will cover you in the majority of situations, and certainly until you are able to make it either to medical or mechanical help. However, depending on when and where you plan on driving, there are a few optional extras you can include in your kit to ensure you are adequately prepared for (almost) anything.

 

 

Ice Scraper

For winter driving, an ice scraper is invaluable. You can use it to remove ice from the windshield and other windows of your car if you have been stopped for any length of time.

 

 

Battery-powered fan

In case of breaking down in the summer, a battery-powered fan will keep you cool. Don’t be tempted to rely on one you plug into your car, as you may not have the power to keep that running in all situations.

 

 

Cash

You should always keep a small amount of cash in your car. If the power goes out, or you are somewhere that doesn’t take credit cards then having cash is extremely useful. You should make sure to replace the cash whenever you use it and have a variety of bills. If you have $35 made up of $20, a $10, and a $5, you will be covered in most eventualities.

 

 

Blankets

Blankets are generally multipurpose – in the winter you can use them to stay warm, whereas in the summer you can place them on the ground to sit outside.

 

 

Cell charger

Having a charger that works with a USB as well as a wall outlet will mean that you can charge your phone in most situations, and will leave you ready to call for help without too much bother.

 

 

Cat litter

Cat litter is a DMV recommendation that may seem initially a little strange. However, if you find yourself stuck in ice, then sprinkling cat litter in front of your tires will give you the traction you need to get your car moving. Again, this will not be a long-term solution but will keep you from getting stuck. This technique may also work in mud.

 

Planning and maintaining a car emergency kit will ensure that, in the vast majority of situations, you’re prepared. Being prepared will not only make situations less dangerous but also less stressful. Regardless of when and where you’re driving, having the basic emergency kit is important, but by upgrading your kit, you’ll make sure that there are almost no situations that leave you unable to respond.

Take an hour, pack and kit, and make sure everything works; it’ll pay dividends when something goes eventually goes wrong.

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