If you’re planning a long drive, especially one where you’ll be on the road for at least six hours, you need to ensure that your car emergency kit is well stocked. The farther you go, the more likely it is that something could go wrong. While relying on an auto club or roadside assistance plan is important, having a kit on hand to help you manage a crisis is a smart decision too.
Car Emergency Kit Basics
You can buy an emergency kit from a store or assemble one yourself. A customized kit may actually be more beneficial, especially if you have specific needs such as diphenhydramine and ibuprofen to combat the effects of an allergic reaction or other medical issue.
All kits should include a flashlight, a second set of batteries, duct tape, road flares, battery jumper cables and a spare tire or tire inflation kit. You should also consider buying a set of tools, including screwdrivers, a hammer and a mallet.
The Should Haves
If your trip takes you hundreds of miles from your home, consider what other items might come in handy. A fully charged cell phone is important, as is a charger or backup battery. Even so, the reception may be poor or broken in some areas.
Besides road flares, reflective triangles will warn people as they approach your disabled vehicle. Reflective triangles are typically sold in groups of three and should be spaced at least 50 feet apart to caution approaching drivers.
Other items vitals to pack in your car emergency kit are as follows: a fire extinguisher, rags, a tow strap or tow rope, a windshield ice scraper and poncho.
On Desolate Roadways
Your standard, and even your comprehensive, emergency kits may not be sufficient, especially if your trip takes you down isolated roads, including long stretches of hot, desert highway such as US Route 50 in Nevada or across winding, mountain thoroughfares in the northern Rockies. These types of roads may be far from service stations, restaurants and lodging, and that means you need to be prepared.
For desolate driving, your car emergency kit should include a five-gallon can of gasoline, cans of oil, antifreeze fluid, spare belts and hoses, blankets, food, water and extra clothing. A waterproof jacket, a multi-tool knife and all-purpose utility rope can also come in handy. Bringing a shovel and a bag of kitty litter can help wherever wintry conditions are possible.
Imagine your car skidding off the road and plowing into a snowdrift. Indeed, that’s what happened to one Alaskan man who was stuck in a snowdrift for 60 hours before he was rescued. He survived that time by eating several cans of frozen beer. In this situation, a long trip wasn’t planned, but the beer may have saved his life.
Before Hitting the Road
Before you embark on any lengthy trip, be certain your car is ready to hit the road. This means that the tires should be in excellent shape, the spare should be inflated properly, the oil changed and other fluids topped off. Your battery should be up to the task and the belts, hoses and the exhaust system ready for the journey ahead.
Having a mechanic service your vehicle before you leave can save you from a breakdown later. You might also share a copy of your itinerary with someone at your destination. That way they’ll know to call for help if you miss your anticipated arrival time.
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Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.