The average American drives approximately 15,195 miles per year, reports the Federal Highway Administration. That’s the equivalent of driving from the Outer Banks of North Carolina to the San Francisco Bay area five times.
That creates plenty of opportunity for the unexpected to occur. No matter the distance from your daily point A to point B, there are basic supplies every driver should have in their vehicle to reduce the risk of potential danger.
Whether you buy a pre-assembled kit or collect the items separately, the information below will help you build the perfect car emergency kit for your car.
Roadside Necessities For Your Car Emergency Kit
In the unfortunate event you end up on the side of the road, there are a few things you do not want to be without. Even if you have roadside assistance coverage, Consumer Reports recommends carrying the following items in your car at all times:
- Vehicle owner’s manual
- Cell phone and charger
- First aid kit stocked with supplies to treat a range of injuries, including child and pet injuries, if applicable
- Fire extinguisher
- Hazard triangle or flares
- Tire jack and lug wrench for changing a tire
- Spare tire
- Jumper cables
- Flashlight and batteries!
In addition to those listed above, the supplies below are suggested for driving long distances:
- Basic tools, including wrench, screwdriver, and pliers
- Hose repair kit and tape
- Extra clothes
- Water and nonperishable food
- CB radio
- Paper maps
For extreme cold weather conditions:
- Extra shoes and clothing
- Tire chains
- Small shovel
- Windshield scraper
So you’ve got the kit, now what?
It’s likely you already know how to work a flashlight, but if you’re unable to replace a tire, the car jack and lug wrench are useless. It is crucial that you educate yourself on how to use these emergency supplies as soon as you can. Luckily, there are several online resources with guides on vehicle maintenance, from how to change a tire to knowing when the job needs a professional mechanic, and even how to avoid getting overcharged for repairs.
Keeping your vehicle on a regularly scheduled maintenance plan is step one in your preparation for an emergency on the road. SafeMotorist.com, a vehicle safety resource developed by the American Safety Council, suggests DIY vehicle maintenance checks, such as oil and fluid top offs, between visits to the mechanic.
Also, stay up to date on auto manufacturer recalls to ensure your vehicle isn’t plagued with defects. You can look up issued recalls by providing the year, make and model of the car.
If you find there has been a recall on your car, don’t panic. In most cases, a recall doesn’t mean your car is unsafe to drive; think of it as an extension of the manufacturer’s commitment to your safety. They are just informing their consumers of the issue. However, some recalls could be potentially serious and it may be necessary to return the car to the auto dealer to have the issue fixed.
Might I also suggest some cheap plastic ponchos so that if you have to change a tire in the wet you have a degree of protection from rain. Expensive ponchos are better but the cheap ones will keep out most of the rain though very heavy rain does come through the thin plastic as I found out last year. Also you need something to kneel on on the ground for when you have to undo wheel nuts and actually change the wheels over.
A book to read, a pack of cards and paper and pens are a good idea. The paper is useful to write up details of what happens after a crash or when treating someone if they are injured. Also to keep little ones occupied if you are stuck in your car and not moving.
A long sleeved cotton shirt, sunscreen and sunhats for all members of the family who travel are necessary for summer travel. If you have to leave your car in full sun at over 100 degrees F these are essential. And if some of the family don’t routinely wear walking shoes then you should have these in the car too.
Good article. As a transplant from Northern California the extreme weather changes here in north Texas are HUGE!. Extreme heat and humidity of summer to Sleet and high winds driving windchill factors into the teens. My first years here, has been a learning curve and note taking. I got caught unprepared for the winter here, both at home and vehicle, I would and now at 80-90% now.
Oops, I am 80-90% complete prep wise regards weather here.
We don’t live in a remote area so our vehicle preps are “light” unless we’re taking a day trip or hitching up our travel trailer. Even when we take a motorcycle ride we put food, water, sunblock, windbreakers, and other items in our saddle bags and backpack.