Thanks to mobile phones, a vehicle breakdown is usually more of an inconvenience than a real danger. A quick call to a tow truck or roadside assistance service will usually get you to safety within a couple of hours. But technology can fail, and there are still parts of the country that aren’t covered by cellular service. So to make sure you’re prepared for an unexpected breakdown, keep these 6 items in your car at all times.
1. Jumper cables (and the knowledge to use them)
Most people have jumper cables in their car, but many drivers don’t know how they work. Familiarize yourself with how to use jumper cables so you can get to work on time after leaving the dome light on all night. If you need a refresher, the guys at Car Talk wrote a simple car-battery jumping guide that you can print out and keep in your glove-box.
2. Spare tire, tire iron and car jack
Spare tires and tire-changing equipment are also included in most new cars. Just as with the jumper cables, you should familiarize yourself with how to change a tire, even if you plan to use roadside assistance when you have a flat. Flat tires are the most common cause of breakdowns, and you should know how to change a tire if help is unavailable.
3. Blanket or sleeping bag
For more serious situations, keep a warm blanket or sleeping bag in your car. This is essential to keeping your body temperature up during the cold months while waiting for help to arrive.
4. Drinking water
Along with keeping warm, staying hydrated is an essential element of survival. Keep clean drinking water in smaller plastic containers, which will thaw faster with a little body heat in the winter than large gallon jugs.
5. Mobile phone and charger
A charged mobile phone is your best chance at getting out of a serious situation. Whether you’ve been injured after a crash, or your car simply stopped working, being able to call for help when you need it is essential.
6. Emergency lighting
You shouldn’t assume that every breakdown will happen during the day. Road flares or reflectors can keep you safe on the side of the road by making you visible to oncoming traffic and emergency vehicles. And a flashlight with extra batteries can be a lifesaver if you’re changing a tire or jumping a battery after dark.
By keeping these 6 items in your vehicle, you’ll be able to handle most roadside emergencies. And if you’re handy with a wrench, here’s a video that covers the tools you’ll need to tackle the most common mechanical problems on the fly.