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10 Things You Need in a Emergency Car Kit
It's a fact of life. If you drive, eventually you're going to run into trouble sooner or later. Even if you drive carefully and take good care of your car, accidents happen. Don't be caught unprepared. Create an emergency car kit so if you suffer a breakdown, you'll have the right tools to get you moving again.
Some kits come pre-made. Some are built from scratch. No matter which you prefer, make sure it has these ten items in before you leave home. They'll help get you through most of the problems you'll encounter out on the open road.
1. Cell Phone
A cell phone is the most important item in any emergency car kit. Most people carry cell phones with them, but in an emergency, it is a good idea to have a spare phone in your kit, just in case. An old model will work just as well as a newer one, as long as it's charged and it works. Cell phones let you communicate with emergency services, but they can also be used by tow trucks and first responders to triangulate your position and find you.
2. Jumper Cables
Dead batteries can happen quite suddenly and unexpectedly, but easy to fix if you have a set of jumper cables. Make sure they're 10-12 feet long and coated with 8-gauge rubber. Attach the jumper cables to a car with a working battery. Make sure both cars are off and in park before you start. Clamp the red (positive) cable onto the red (positive) battery post in the dead car first, and then clamp the other end to the red battery post in the booster car. Next, clamp the black jumper cable to the black (negative) knob on the booster car and clamp the other end onto a bare, metal surface in the dead car to ground the connection. A bolt or screw will work fine. Then start the booster car and let it idle for 3-5 minutes before starting up the dead car and letting it run for 3-5 minutes. Disconnect the jumper cables in the reverse order you attached them. Remove the black cable from the metal surface in the dead car, then remove the black cable from the black knob on the booster car, then remove the red clamp from the booster car's battery, and then remove the red clamp from the dead car's battery.
If your car requires frequent jumps, take it to a mechanic. It means the battery needs to be replaced.
3. Air Compressor or Foam Tire Sealant
Flat tires are caused by one of three things: leaky valve stems, bead leaks between the tire and the wheel, or sharp objects in the road. If your tire is punctured, the air can escape suddenly or over several hours. If you have a flat, pull over to the side of the road, as far away from traffic as possible. If you have an air compressor, you can attach it to the tire valve and inflate your tire to the recommended setting. Often, objects will remain stuck in your tire after they've been punctured. This prevents the air from leaking out all at once, so you can safely drive on them after they've been re-inflated.
If you have a can of tire sealant, it can be attached to the it to the tire valve and injected into the tire. The sealant will automatically plug the hole in the tire and re-inflate it. Air compressors and tire sealants only provide temporary fixes, so once you've used them to inflate your tire, head to the nearest garage and have it repaired professionally.
4. Replacement Fluids - Oil & Antifreeze
Overheating and oil loss is catastrophic for your engine. If it overheats or if your oil pressure drops too low, you'll need to add more oil or antifreeze immediately. One or two quarts of oil and gallon of antifreeze is enough to refill your oil reservoir or your radiator. Radiators require a 50:50 mixture of water and antifreeze to operate. Rather than measuring the amounts yourself, it's easier to buy a pre-mixed solution that you can pour directly into your radiator in an emergency.
Your engine temperature and your oil level are both measured by your dashboard instruments. The temperature gauge is located next to your speedometer and tachometer. There is no gauge for your oil level. If your oil pressure drops too low, a light will appear on the dashboard and alert you.
5. Duct Tape
Originally developed during World War II to seal ammunition cases, duct tape is an important, multi-use tool for your emergency car kit. It's three layer design makes it easy to tear into strips, but also incredibly strong. Duck tape can be used temporarily patch and repair damaged vehicles in a number of ways.
|Leaky Radiator||Tape over the cracks in the radiator or hose and add antifreeze to reduce engine temperature|
|Cracked or Chipped Windshield||On the inside of the window, tape over the damaged glass using a crisscross pattern. Holds the glass together, prevents leaks, and stops glass from falling into the vehicle|
|Cracked Headlight or Taillight||Tape over the crack to hold the broken light together|
|Dead Headlight or Taillight||Tape over the dead light. The top reflective layer will pick up light from other cars and alert their drivers|
|Snapped Side Mirror or Review Mirror||Place the broken mirror against the side of your car or windshield and wrap the tape around the broken stem. Place additional strips of tape lengthwise along the damaged area to strengthen it|
|Car Door Won't Shut. Car Hood Won't Shut||Tape along the edge of your door or hood with long strips to hold it in place. Place strips of tape perpendicularly to the edge reinforce it|
Duct tape's biggest asset is its versatility. It can hold almost any broken or damaged car part for as long as it takes to reach the nearest service station.
Working on your car with your bare hands can be very difficult, so have a pair of work gloves to protect your hands. Leather work gloves or knit gloves with a latex coating over the palms and fingers will provide excellent protection against cuts and scrapes. For more delicate work, a pair of nitrile gloves will protect you from chemicals, solvents, and grime.
7. Flashlight & Extra Batteries
A flashlight is essential if your car breaks down at night. The light not only helps you work in the dark, it can also be used to flag down other motorists or signal emergency vehicles. Make sure it's waterproof and keep an extra set of batteries with you.
8. Emergency Triangles & Flares
Emergency triangles and flares increase your visibility, direct traffic away from damaged vehicles, and alert drivers you're in distress. Carry three triangles and flares with you to provide enough warning to approaching vehicles. When placing triangles, put the first one ten feet behind your car, on the side closest to the road. Place the second 100 feet behind your car, directly in line with the bumper. Place the third on the right side of the vehicle, 100 feet behind you. If you're car has broken down on an undivided highway, place the third triangle 300 behind you.
When using flares, always hold them downwards, away from your face, and never carry more than one lit flare at a time. Place the first flare fifteen feet behind your vehicle and place the second on fifteen feet behind the first. If you're on a two-lane road, place a third flare fifteen feet in front of your vehicle to alert drivers in the other lane. If visibility is limited, use more flares if you have them. Always extinguish flares by grinding them into the ground before you leave.
9. First Aid Kit
A first aid kit is great for treating minor injuries. If you've been in a serious accident, it can be a lifesaver. You can buy a first aid kits or build your own. Kits should contain enough material for you to treat a wide range of physical injuries. Below are some basic first aid supplies every first aid kit should have.
|Adhesive Tape||Bandages (various sizes)||Scissors||Aspirin or Other Pain Relievers|
|Finger Splints||Cold Pack||Hand Sanitizer||Safety Pins|
|Antibiotic Ointment||Cotton Balls and Cotton Swabs||Triangular Bandages||Calamine Lotion|
|Antiseptic Solution||Gauze Pads (various sizes)||Petroleum Jelly||Saline Solution|
If you require medications prescribed by a doctor be sure to pack those as well. To prevent infections, it is also a good idea to include one or two pairs of disposable gloves, as well as a plastic bag to store used bandages. First aid kits should be restocked after every use, even minor ones.
10. Food & Water
Hunger and thirst make it difficult to cope with emergency situations. Pack some bottled water and nonperishable food items, like protein bars or trail mix, in case you become stranded with your car and have to wait for help to arrive. They'll help keep you refreshed and alert.
Emergencies can happen at anytime. Don't let one catch you unprepared. In an accident or breakdown, having an emergency kit for your car will make a world of difference.