Stuff happens. It’s an unavoidable fact of life. But that doesn’t mean you can’t arm yourself in advance for unforeseen circumstances. Whether you’re driving across town or taking a cross country voyage, there are a handful of things you should never hit the road without. Here’s a checklist of the top 8 most important items for your car emergency kit.
1) A spare cell phone. Did you know that even if you own a cell phone that’s not activated, you can still use it to call 911? You’re probably wondering why we’d suggest having a spare cell phone in this event, even if you’ve already got a killer smart phone with an international calling plan and coverage throughout the 50 states. But the reason is plain and simple: cell phone batteries die and in the event of an emergency, you’re going to kick yourself for not having a fully charged spare around. Next time you upgrade your phone to a new plan, don’t throw away that old brick. Keep it in your glove box for emergencies.
2) A flashlight. The stranded traveler’s best friend, a flashlight can save you from a number of things, not the least of which include falling down in the dark and inuring yourself. A good quality light can also save you from having to fork over a serious wad of cash on a tow truck if all you have is a flat tire and a fully functional spare. Consider also keeping a few spare batteries in your trunk so you don’t run out of juice.
3) Road flares. If you find yourself stranded by the side of a narrow road, flares can ensure that approaching traffic is notified of your presence well in advance. If you’re not fond of flames, you can easily find LED-powered lights that are just as effective at cutting through the dark.
4) A small hand shovel. If your trunk’s big enough, you can upgrade from a small shovel to a large one. Either way, it’s not exactly the worst idea in the world to equip yourself with something that you can use to dig yourself out of a sticky situation – whether that situation is the result of snow, mud or dirt.
5) Jumper cables. If you’re not sure how to jump start your car, get someone to teach you how. Don’t rely on a passing stranger to know what they’re doing. Keeping jumper cables in your trunk and knowing exactly how to use them can turn an all-night fiasco into a temporary inconvenience that can kick start a weak battery to life long enough for you to get to where you’re going safe and sound.
6) A can of fix-a-flat. This can be used to refill a flat tire in an emergency, provided that the tire hasn’t become shredded to the point of complete failure. If you use fix-a-flax, be sure to inform the mechanic that tries to repair your tire, as it can leave a milky residue inside that’s harmful if you get it in your eyes.
7) A portable air compressor. Not exactly overkill (especially not when you find yourself in a situation where you really, really need it) a portable air compressor beats that fix-a-flat stuff hands down. Air compressors won’t repair a blown out tire, but it sure can come in handy if you find yourself 70 miles from the nearest gas station and air pump.
8) Duct tape. Because you never know when you’re going to have to strap your bumper onto your car or jimmy a loose muffler so it doesn’t scrape against the asphalt as you drive.
Remember that a little preparation can result in a whole lot of relief, especially when the alternative is spending the night in your car in the middle of nowhere. Always follow this simple rule: Go prepared or don’t go at all.