Car emergencies aren’t fun, and are nearly everyone’s nightmare. You’re on the side of the road, waiting for help, maybe for a long time. Are you ready for the day it happens to you?
We’re not talking about replacing your alternator, your radiator or a blown head gasket. More often than not, something that stops your car is a small repair that you may be able to handle easily—if you have the tools available.
If you’re lucky, that flat tire, dead battery or empty gas tank will happen when you have time and resources to take care of it (like in your own driveway or near a repair shop.) Chances are, you probably won’t be that lucky—and you’ll still have to take time out of your day to deal with it.
Our emergency car checklist can prepare you for the day it happens, and you won’t wish you had jumper cables or other tools to take care of something small. (We also have a free PDF you can download and print; scroll down for the link.)
With a little organization and planning, being ready for breakdowns and minor emergencies can take away some of the annoyance that comes with a “bad car day.”
You’re driving down the road, maybe to work, or to do some shopping, and suddenly you’ve stopped. You didn’t touch your brakes, but you don’t know why you’re not moving. Flat tire? Blown radiator hose? What about something else?
It’s late at night, and your phone rings. Who would be calling at this hour? A friend who’s stranded, that’s who. You get in your car and go help them back on the road, or tow them home until they can get to their mechanic.
Emergencies can’t be predicted, but you can prepare for when your car stops. Batteries give out at the most inconvenient time, alternators drain batteries, and you never know when your tire will find and embrace a sharp nail.
Putting an car emergency kit in your trunk, cargo area or behind the seat of your truck can go a long way to make bad situation a little easier. Carrying the tools and supplies you’ll need means you’ll be better prepared for a breakdown.
Available battery cables available will make it easier if someone stops to help but doesn’t have any. (And of course, know how to use them.) Things like reflectors and flares let other drivers see you so that you can change your tire safely. And of course, a jack means you can pick up your car to change that tire quickly.
• Jumper cables and/or an emergency battery booster
• Small tools, or a multi-tool (screwdriver, pliers, etc.)
• Small utility knife (i.e., Swiss Army knife; there are many versions available)
• Roadside flares and/or reflectors
• Reflector vest
• Seat belt cutter and glass-breaking auto escape hammer (kept in an easy-to-reach place, not the trunk)
• Hose clamps
• Fix-A-Flat (just enough help to get your car to the shop)
• Spare tire (properly inflated)
• Two quarts of your vehicle’s motor oil
• Towing strap
If you’re in a city, you can probably get help within an hour. But if you’re in a rural area, a longer distance away from home, or having trouble finding help, you might have to wait a while. Add these items in case you’ll be there a while.
• Dedicated cell phone charger (left in vehicle)
• Fire extinguisher
• Gloves with gripping dots on the palm area (for handling parts)
• First aid kit with regularly refreshed supplies
• Tire pressure gauge
• Portable radio (battery or other powered)
• Small, foldable shovel
• Roll of duct tape
• Can of WD-40
• Flashlight (check batteries regularly, or find one that doesn’t need them)
• Maps and/or road atlas (in case you have a drained battery or you’re where cell phones don’t work)
• Moistened towelettes
• Emergency raincoats (inexpensive, available in camping departments)
• Bottled water
• MREs, granola/energy bars or other portable foods (regularly refresh your supply)
• Canvas bag or other easy-to-carry container to store everything in and get to easily
• Packing cloth (for laying on the ground, or for lining your car or truck bed when moving something)
• Ice scraper
• Sand or kitty litter (for ice and snow)
• Heavy leather gloves (from the hardware store)
• Blanket and car pillow
• Sleeping bags
You may need to add additional supplies depending on where you live.
Keeping these items organized and easily accessible will help if you ever find yourself on the side of the road.
Amazon, Walmart, Target, and Bed, Bath and Beyond all sell different versions of car emergency kits on their websites (some may be available in stores as well.) Some have just car tools and jumper cables, some have things like water and food included, and vary in price from about $25 on up. Some are small enough to fit in a glove box or under your seat.
While these ready-made kits are a good start, review the contents before you buy so you know what you’ll get, and what else you may need to purchase. Most kits will not contain everything on this list, but one or two may be a good start for equipping your vehicle for any emergency (or a gift for your friend that you rescued.) This checklist can help you make sure you have everything to be prepared.
It’s also good idea to test your battery cables and other equipment you’ll be depending on before you need them. Even new, you might have a set that’s bad. Testing makes sure your equipment is in working order before your car breaks down.
Click here to print out a copy of your emergency car checklist to put together one for each of your cars. Review the list periodically, refresh supplies as needed, you’ll be sure you’re never without tools and supplies to get back on the road.
Planning for an emergency? Reserve your emergency fuel supply before you need it. Call us at 1-866-445-5508, email us at [email protected], or use our online contact form. Centrally located with strategic fuel reserves throughout the US, Specialty Fuel Services can deliver emergency fuel and equipment anywhere. Add us to your disaster recovery and business continuity plan to guarantee fresh fuel anytime you need it. We’re just a phone call away.