How to buy a car emergency kit
A car emergency kit buying guide
If something significant but unexpected happens while you're on the road, it's best to be prepared with a well-stocked car emergency kit at the ready. Frequent drivers often learn from experience that a car emergency kit is one of the most important auto accessories you can own.
Fortunately, emergency roadside kits are easy to buy and to customize to those situations you personally are most likely to encounter. Here's how to choose the best car emergency kit for your vehicle and expected driving conditions.
>> What should a basic car emergency kit include?
Car emergency kit brands and models differ in what's included in each kit. The best car emergency kits include all the compact, lightweight tools and accessories you need to handle on-the-road occurrences. The table in this buying guide provides a suggested list of car emergency kit items to which you can refer, while looking over your options in the automotive supplies department.
Make sure you buy car emergency kits that include equipment to perform temporary or minor car repairs. This includes jumper cables and duct tape, though you'll also want to have first-aid items, such as bandages and wipes to disinfect wounds. Quality car emergency kit brands also add safety gear to help you stay visible and sufficiently warm and dry, in case you have to brave inclement weather. Examples can include a rain poncho and waterproof reflective tape to apply to it, 15-minute flares to alert others to your parked car and even pocket-sized hand warmers that generate heat for hours after activation.
Ponchos or other cover-up clothing also keep your clothes clean. Rags or a microfiber cloth are other items that can help you wipe rain or grime from your clothes after conducting emergency repairs or administering first aid.
>> What's in the best car emergency kit for you?
Keep in mind that when you buy car emergency kits off the shelf, they are usually an all-purpose mix of items to suit general needs. As with any auto safety accessories, it's up to you to customize and create a car emergency kit to meet your particular needs.
To make yourself a car emergency kit checklist that goes beyond the basics and covers all the bases, consider the types of trips you're expecting to make in the near future and the climate you're likely to drive in. Cold-weather driving calls for certain additions to your kit, and long-distance drives suggest other items.
>> Car emergency kit components
Top car emergency kit basics
Long-distance driving add-ons
- Mobile phone with charger
- First-aid kit
- Flares, hazard triangle or reflective "Help" sign in large font
- Jumper cables
- Tire inflator or sealant (often comes in a can)
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Gloves and rags or disposable wipes, for keeping hands clean
- Rain poncho, preferably reflective
- Contact information for roadside assistance club or tow company
- Drinking water and high-energy snacks
- Paper or GPS maps of your planned route and surrounding area
- Spray bottle with washer fluid, for clearing windows and windshield
- Tools for more extensive roadside repairs, including an adjustable wrench, pliers and a multi-tip screwdriver
- Extra automotive fluids, including a gallon of antifreeze and two quarts of oil
- Extra layers of warm clothing
- Snow chains
- Sand or cat litter for traction
- Portable shovel
- Windshield snow brush and scraper
>> Are there other items you can add yourself?
The best car emergency kits you can buy usually have one thing in common: the manufacturer expects and may even recommend that you add certain additional items and make them part of your kit. Such items aren't necessarily included by manufacturers because it's more practical to have the buyer add them. However, this fact doesn't make the additions any less important when creating a car emergency kit for your needs.
One example is your cell phone. A well-charged mobile phone is a key feature of a top car emergency kit. Phoning for help is often one of the most important pro-safety actions you can take. No matter how complete your kit already seems, drop in a spare phone charger or phone battery to ensure that you can stay in touch as much as you need.
Drinking water is another item usually not included in even the best car emergency kits, but it's easy enough to add by yourself with a few bottles. If you ever have to wait with your disabled vehicle on a hot day, you'll be glad you thought to include them. Similarly, a few snacks can go a long way toward keeping your energy level up during prolonged unplanned stops.
If you are a member of a roadside assistance program or club, make sure your kit contains the contact information. Otherwise, tuck the number of a reliable local towing company into your kit. Another item for your car emergency kit checklist should be a bit of cash in small denominations. Having some on hand can makes certain emergency-related needs much easier to manage.
Some car emergency kit brands offer models that are extremely well provisioned, right off the shelf. Just a few items from this section may be all that's needed to supplement them and create the best car emergency kit possible for you. No matter how many items you choose to add, maintaining a top car emergency kit is simple when you use a master car emergency kit checklist. Your checklist should change with the seasons and whenever you plan a long car trip. Make it a habit, not only before those longer journeys, but also every few weeks while at home, to double-check the contents of all emergency roadside kits you own against your checklist, just as you would routinely check over your auto and tires.
When it comes to auto safety and security, a little planning goes a long way. Your favorite car emergency kit benefit will probably end up being the peace of mind it provides for you and your family.