Having your car breakdown in an unexpected place can be both scary and stressful. Waiting for help from emergency services can take a long time and be unpredictable. It's a good idea to have a breakdown readiness kit in your car and plan for the unexpected. Then if you do have a car breakdown emergency you will know what to do and it won't be nearly as stressed out.
I've only had a few instances where my car did breakdown, but; luckily, I was close to home or a relative's house. The first time my car got a severe flat tire – the tire valve stem broke as I was trying to air up my tires. Yes, broke. Turns out there was recall and I found out the hard way. It was middle of November, and my oldest son was only an infant. Thankfully, we had just left from visiting some relatives and we were able to remedy the solution.
More recently, I had mistakenly left the keys in my car which then drained my battery. That was when I realized that I didn't have any jumper cables. None. What kind of man doesn't have jumper cables, right? Don't answer that. Luckily, I was at the house so I was able to take my wife's car to purchase some (one set each for my car and hers) and I also bought an emergency road site kit. Here's a list of items that you should keep in your car in the event you do have a car breakdown.
What to have for personal use in an emergency:
- Flashlight & extra batteries – Keep these in your glove compartment for extra lighting for yourself to be able to see under the hood or for changing a tire, in case you need to walk on a dark road, or to signal for help.
- Blankets/Sleeping Bag & hats/gloves – Weather can change in an instant and having items to keep you warm could be life saving. Use the glove compartment or seat back pockets or even under seat storage to keep blankets and hats & gloves for each family member in the car.
- Cell Phone/Charger/Emergency Numbers – Having a cell phone can be a life saver, but not if you don't have the right numbers to call or the battery is dead. Keep a cell phone charger in your car and a list of important numbers. Of course, just call 911, if you can't find the number for your auto club or local garage.
- Trash Bags – These can be used as extra insulation to keep you warm or as rain gear. They are also hand should you need to lay on the ground to change a tire. Consider just storing some of your emergency gear, like blankets, in the trash bags in your car then you know you will have them.
- First Aid Kit – Everyone should have a basic first aid kit in their car. Bandages, antiseptic, small scissors, eye wash, gauze & tape, pain reliever, tweezers.
What to keep for your car in an emergency:
- Ice Scraper – It can be beautiful and sunny, but you may head to a higher elevation where there is suddenly a storm. It's always a good idea to keep an ice scraper in the car year round.
- Duct tape – Use it for small repairs on hoses or connections. This may help you be able to get closer to signal help or to a garage.
- Kitty litter or rock salt – Helps with traction should you become stuck somewhere.
- Fluids – Windshield washer fluid so you can always see well and Antifreeze to be sure your car doesn't freeze or overheat.
- Flairs – Flairs help alert other drivers to your presence if you are broken down on the side of the road. They can also be useful for signaling for help if you are lost in a wooded area.
- Jumper cables – You never know when you or another driver might have a battery die. It is always a good idea to keep jumper cables in your car and more important to know how to use them! Practice when you are not stressed in an emergency. Keep a bit of sandpaper in the car too in case your battery terminals are corroded.
- Water/snacks – It's always a good idea to keep some water or shelf stable juice boxes in the car, as well as some snacks like crackers or granola bars. Another food item would come in handy are MRE”s (Meals Ready to Eat). Although the thought of them makes me want to vomit because I ate so many of them in my military career, they really are great to have for emergencies. You could feed a family of four for a few days with just one.
credit: Thomas Hawk
Another aspect is to make sure you have good roadside coverage. Your insurance may provide some options, but another service to continue is AAA. We've been a member for years, and I know it came in handy with my wife several years ago.
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AAA is an association of regional automotive clubs, but you can enjoy the benefits from almost everywhere. AAA clubs primarily provide emergency road services, which include services such as, lockouts, winching, tire changes, automotive first aid, and towing. In the event of an emergency, you would call AAA and they would then find a local tow company to assist you.
Also becoming a popular options is On Star. I'm sure you've seen their commercials where they can respond if you've been in a crash or unlock your car if you've locked yourself out – raise your hand if you've done that before (yes, mine is raised). On Star also provides roadside assistance for those situations that most would rather avoid.
As you can see, if never hurts to be prepared for a car breakdown. What precautionary measures do you take in case you have a car mishap?