9 items every car emergency kit should contain

December 29, 2014

Winter driving means being prepared for any situation that could leave you and your vehicle stranded thigh-high in deep snow in the middle of nowhere. That's why a car emergency kit is a must. But do you know what items should be in it? Here are nine must-have items every car emergency kit should contain.

9 items every car emergency kit should contain

Although they might seem like a hassle to assemble, the best car emergency kits prepare you for worst-case scenarios without taking up too much space. So why go to the bother of having a kit when you've got a cell phone? Because sometimes there's no cell phone service, cell phone batteries die, tow trucks are unavailable and much more. In a pinch, you'll be glad that you prepared a small kit. So what are the most important items in car emergency kits to help you get through various emergencies?

1. Jumper cables

Most people have experienced a dead battery at some point, so a set of jumper cables is always handy to have on hand.

  • As well, have printed instructions about how to safely boost a dead car battery.
  • If you're unsure about the procedure, wait for help. If improperly boosted, you can not only cause damage to your vehicle but you also put yourself at risk for injury.
  • Some taxi services will offer to boost your car for a fee, which is another option should your vehicle's battery die.

2. Flashlight and batteries

A flashlight is always convenient in case you have to walk in the dark or check under the hood. It's also helpful if you need to flag down help.

  • Remember that in the cold, batteries may not work as well, so have spares on hand.
  • You could opt to buy a hand-cranked flashlight that recharges the flashlight batteries.
  • Newer LED flashlights are much brighter than conventional bulbs, using a fraction of the power.
  • For your cell phone, consider having an extra power source if your battery begins to die.Similarly, you can get hand-cranked chargers that will give your phone a boost of juice.

3. First aid kit

Your car should always have at least basic first aid materials such as adhesive bandages, antiseptic ointment and gauze.

  • Basic first aid means for everyday cuts, nicks and bruises – the non life-threatening kind. For any other type of more serious injury, the ones that put your health at risk, always call 911.

4. Basic tools

Even if you aren't handy with tools or don't know much about cars, some basic tools can be useful in many situations including tightening loose screws, temporarily patching small hole and plugging minor leaks.

  • Buy a small toolbox for the trunk of your vehicle and stock it with tools including a screwdriver with interchangeable heads; a set of wrenches; duct tape and bungee cords.

5. Scraper, brush and shovel

During harsh winter weather, tools for cleaning snow may mean the difference between driving on and getting stuck.

  • At a minimum, your car must have a dedicated ice scraper, snow brush and shovel  in the trunk all the time.

Include a bag of sand or salt in your trunk.

  • Not only will the extra weight help to provide traction if your rear wheels are spinning, but you can use the sand or salt itself if you get stuck.

6. Safety sign, road flare and whistle

In the middle of a snowstorm or on a dark, unlit road, these tools will help to attract attention when you’re in trouble.

  • Include a brightly coloured, reflective safety vest to put over your coat. Oncoming headlights will reflect the vest, making you more visible and easier to spot.

7. Candles and matches

Candles and matches are useful if your flashlight dies.

  • In a pinch, candles can also provide a small amount of heat if necessary.
  • Ensure you buy waterproof matches. If they get soaked, you won't have to worry about if they'll light.

8. Emergency blanket

Even if you're wearing a heavy coat, hat and boots, an emergency blanket is a must.

  • Emergency blankets often have a silver-coloured metalized layer that reflects body heat back to you. It could be a life saver if you’re stranded in the wild or stuck in your vehicle for a prolonged period.

9. Roadside assistance

A membership with an automobile club, such as the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), includes roadside assistance services. It can be invaluable should you need towing, a boost, help changing a flat tire or directions if you get lost.

  • Keep a copy of your membership and any emergency phone numbers provided by the automobile club in your emergency kit or the glove compartment of your car.
  • Remember, roadside assistance services offered by, e.g., CAA, is year round, not just winter.

Considerations when buying a car emergency kit

If you decide to buy a car emergency kit vs. put one together yourself, there are a few things to consider.

Many emergency kits are extremely compact so that you don’t have to waste space to stay safe. If you don't have a big trunk, you're less likely to want to fill it up with an oversize kit. Moreover if you only ever do city driving, chances are you won't need a top-of-the-line kit because you're likely to always be near people.

In harsh climates, consider kits built specifically for the conditions where you’re are most likely to be. A winter survival kit or heavy-duty emergency blanket are reliable choices for colder climates.

Emergency rations
Foods that won’t go bad, such as power bars and water, are always a good addition to an emergency kit.

Personal additions
Emergency kits never include personal items, like medicines, so make sure there’s a supply in yours.

  • Always be careful not to expose medications to freezing temperatures, if possible. The cold may affect how well they work.

Cell phone
If you don't have a cell phone, one with a charged battery plus a portable backup charger can dramatically improve an emergency situation.

It's easy to drive a car without an emergency kit until you need one. That's why stocking an emergency kit in your vehicle just in case is both smart and proactive – because even the best maintained vehicles sometimes break down or get stuck in a snow drift.

A basic car emergency kit will provide you with reassurance knowing you're ready to handle many common winter roadside situations.

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