Build Your Own Vehicle Emergency Kit
By Kimberly Graf. Published on March 14, 2018
It's a universal truth of traveling by car, no matter where you're going: eventually, something is going to happen. Even the best-kept cars can break down due to unforeseen circumstances. Sudden weather patterns might cause you to pull over and be stuck on the side of the road for long periods of time. You can be an extremely cautious driver and still end up in an emergency situation.
The importance of having an emergency kit in your vehicle cannot be overstated. Many companies market pre-made versions of these kits, and while that's a good place to start, tailoring your own or adding to existing kits is preferable.
If you have children or pets, your kit will include different essentials than others. Younger children need diapers and more frequent snacks, not to mention toys to keep them busy in the advent of an emergency. Pets will need a special subset of supplies that you wouldn’t have on hand otherwise. Moreover, the weather varies so drastically in all corners of the country that you need to have a solid idea of how the weather is en route to your destination. These considerations are key.
There are a few things that you will need in your car no matter how big your family is or where you’re going. Basic kits may include the following:
- Road flares, to mark your location if you happen to break down at night
- Jumper cables to get your car going again if the battery dies
- Extra batteries
- A first aid kit
- Your vehicle’s owner manual
- A tire gauge for measuring the air pressure in your tires
- A fully-charged cell phone or car charger
These basic supplies take up very little space and are essential for getting out of an emergency situation or waiting for help to arrive.
For more advanced kits, or in cars where you have more space to keep supplies, there are a few extra cautionary items you can include. A fire extinguisher can come in handy; they make car-friendly extinguishers that are lighter and take up less space. An empty gas can is always nice to keep with you, especially on longer road trips where you might be leaving the interstate.
It's also a good idea to keep extra fluids on hand. Buying fluids as you need them from gas stations and auto shops can cost almost double again what you would pay in a department store. It is less-expensive in the long run to keep these fluids on hand. Brake fluid, motor oil, windshield wiper fluid, transmission fluid, and antifreeze should all be accessible in case you need them.
Most cars have a spare tire, but you should still check to see if your vehicle comes equipped with one. If you don't have a spare, you should definitely invest in one. This, along with a jack and a lug wrench, will make a flat tire much less stressful. It doesn't matter how well you maintain your tires, there is always the chance of driving over a nail or other puncturing debris. For longer road trips, this is a no-brainer. Certain shops will offer tire 'insurance' or replacement programs, and while this isn't crucial, it will definitely ease your mind.
Winter Weather Kits
If you are going to be traveling through areas where there is any threat of winter weather, some additions are vital. With snow and ice storms there is a possibility you may be stuck on the side of the road for some time, so drinking water is absolutely key. Non-perishable food items can be useful in these situations as well; if you are traveling on state highways and interstates, you shouldn't need more than two days of food. If you plan to be traveling two-lane roads and backroads, you should consider storing more.
Other winter emergency essentials include:
- Blankets for the whole family
- An ice scrapper for clearing windows and mirrors, preferably with an attached snow brush
- Cat litter for icy roads; cat litter is relatively inexpensive and will melt snow and ice if you get stuck.
Tire chains are also a good idea if you plan on traveling in the winter. They increase traction on snow and ice and will keep your car from sliding or getting stuck on roads that aren't maintained.
Obviously, what you keep in your car for emergency situations will vary based on several factors, including where you are going and how big your family is. These ideas are only a starting point for building your own emergency kit. There are no hard and fast rules about what you have to keep in your car, but it is necessary that you have some sort of kit or plan to keep your family and yourself safe.