Bad weather. Flat tire. Overheated engine. Debris in the road. Rear-end collision.
At Siegfried & Jensen, we work with people everyday who have faced a serious car-related injuries. We know from their experiences that being prepared for problems increases safety, reduces stress, and gets the situation resolved faster. Having an emergency car kit is part of being prepared.
Recommended items include —
1. Water: Going several hours without water can lead to dehydration which can leave you feeling tired and unwell in an already stressful situation. Always have a few bottles of water in the car, just in case.
2. Food: In some roadside emergencies you may be far from anywhere or unable to leave your vehicle. Having food (e.g., energy bars) on hand will help make sure you have the energy and concentration you need to handle the situation.
3. Light: Having adequate lighting is imperative in an emergency or urgent situation. Always have a flashlight in the car (check the batteries regularly). Consider carrying lightsticks, as well.
4. First Aid Supplies: A standards first aid kit is a must for all vehicles. The Red Cross has information about what a first aid kit should contain.
5. Safety Equipment: A fire extinguisher appropriate for a car can keep a small fire from becoming a devastating fire. Hazard triangles/cones and a help sign can help you signal your need for assistance without having to leave your car if it’s safest to stay or without having to stay with your car if it’s dangerous to do so.
6. Tools: Car-related tools include a tire gauge, foam tire sealant, spare fuses, jumper cables, a jack and lug wrench, gloves, hand cleaner, rags/paper towels, windshield wiper fluid, oil, coolant, etc. In addition, consider keeping a good multipurpose tool containing pliers, wire cutters, knife, saw, screwdriver, etc. in the car; it can take the place of a whole toolbox.
7. Communication Items: Always carry your cell phone and have an adapter that allows you to charge your phone from your car. Even if you’re fully wired, keep a pen and paper in the car. They may seem old fashioned, but they’re useful for leaving notes as well as taking them. Also consider keeping a small disposable camera in the car that can be used to record damage (e.g., to your vehicle) in case of an accident.
8. Information: Know where your insurance and registration cards are as well as any driver assistance/roadside assistance information. Having a consolidated list of emergency contacts, garages/dealerships, etc. will save you from having to located the information under pressure. It’s best to have copies of all of this in the car in case you aren’t with your vehicle when the emergency happens (e.g., your spouse or child is driving).
9. Money: Keep $20 or so in small bills and change hidden somewhere. You never know when you’ll have to rely on a vending machine or need cab money.
10. Weather Specific Gear: For cold weather, you should carry additional items including a windshield scraper, a blanket, hat and gloves, chemical hand warmers, a small folding shovel, kitty litter (or other form of instant traction), and tire chains.
This may seem like a lot of stuff, but most of it should fit into a bag that can sit in a corner of your trunk, and when —not if— you need it, you’ll be glad you made the room.