We have all heard the saying, "Expect the best but prepare for the worst." There couldn't be a better saying to keep in the back of your mind when planning your next long-distance road trip.
If you were to ask your friends or family members if they've ever experienced an unexpected incident on a road trip, you're guaranteed to hear more stories than you bargained for. And while you may or may not know how to work on a vehicle, there are a few key ingredients to ensure the best outcome of a not-so-pleasant situation. We've compiled a list of must-have roadside emergency car kit supplies to ensure you are at the peak of preparedness if you find yourself on the side of the road this season.
Emergency Car Kit Items
AAA Roadside assistance
To jump-start this list, we have to mention the cherry on top of the safety kit, the AAA roadside assistance card. At approximately $100 per year, this membership could save you thousands of dollars in tows, jump starts, and flat tires. It even has you covered if you run out of gas—a must-have for emergencies on the road.
Jumper Cables and Portable Jumpstarter
We've all walked away from our vehicles with our lights on only to return to a dead battery. If no one is around to assist in jump-starting your vehicle, you could be facing steep fines for a towing company to come and give you a jump. My recommendation is always to carry jumper cables regardless of the duration of your trip. If your plans involve venturing away from civilization, purchase a portable jump starter. A portable jump starter will start your car battery even when it's completely dead. Before purchasing, make sure the jump box has a high-enough crank amp (CA or CCA) for the vehicle.
12-Volt Air Compressor and Fix-A-Flat
Your roadside emergency kit isn't complete without a 12-volt air compressor inflator, partnered with at least one can of Fix-A-Flat. Utilizing a tire pressure gauge and ensuring your tires are inflated to the correct PSI will also let you know you are getting the maximum MPG, which is essential with the rising gas prices.
Fix-a-flat will help you get back on the road a few minutes after a puncture with a single button push. Fix-A-Flat will seek out the hole, seal it, and inflate your tire enough to get you back on the road if you have a nail in your tire or a slow leak. During long-distance road trips, it is also wise to always keep a spare tire or donut in your trunk in the case of a blowout.
LED Flashlight and Reflective Triangles
These items have been added to the survival kit list to keep you safe while making repairs or waiting for assistance. Breakdowns at night are substantially more dangerous due to visibility and possible poor weather conditions. When you find yourself on the side of the road, it is vital to conserve your vehicle's battery to prevent more issues from arising. I've personally drained my battery by keeping the lights on while waiting for a tow. A good quality LED flashlight is critical when searching for tools in your vehicle or just waiting for assistance.
In addition to turning on your hazard lights, Reflective triangles should be placed appropriately within 10 minutes of your vehicle breaking down with the reflective side facing oncoming traffic to maximize your visibility to oncoming motorists. Ideally, you have one placed 10 feet behind your car and one at the front, with an additional reflective triangle 100' behind the vehicle. To prevent the risk of fire, we recommend purchasing electric road flares if you can't find reflective triangles. Both of which are typically sold in a convenient carrying case.
First Aid Kit
On your path to road trip preparedness, you must always plan for the unexpected. Whenever you need a first aid kit, it's usually unexpected. Your car emergency kit wouldn't be complete without even the most minimal first aid kit. A simple kit will have bandaids, antiseptic cream, gauze, an instant icepack, and other additional items. If you are already traveling and do not have one, find a store near you with Amazon lockers. You can usually order one for under $15 with next-day shipping, like this one.
Basic Tool Kit
Sure, you may not be mechanically inclined, but thanks to owners; manuals and YouTube, paired with the proper tools in your automotive road kit, you can learn how to change a tire or make other simple adjustments. Carry a small pack of fuses in your emergency supply kit as a blown fuse is a common annoyance and a straightforward fix. Most fuse kits include a fuse tester making it easy to determine if a fuse has blown without removing it.
A lug wrench is needed for changing a tire. If you don't know how to change a tire, having this in your vehicle will allow others to help. Carry a jack and jack stands if your car isn't already equipped with them. My tool kit includes screwdrivers, crescent wrenches, duct tape, a seatbelt cutter, tow rope, a multi-tool, zip ties, and an ice-scraper. You should always have a fire extinguisher handy as well.
Don't Forget Snacks
You can't pick up your cell phone and order pizza to a vehicle broke down at mile marker 15 - I've tried. You're going to want snack bars, sandwiches, fruits, and nuts. Foods that will not only satisfy but also nourish the mind and body. Whatever you prefer, make sure you brought enough for everyone. Pack at least 2-4 gallons of water when traveling in the summer, some will be for you and some for your car if it overheats.
Save this short and useful list as a reminder when you venture off onto your next adventure. Remember to enjoy yourself out there and don't sweat the small stuff, it's all part of the adventure and anything that doesn't go according to plan is a learning experience. Enjoy!
Raised in Butte, Montana, Josh Monthei is a nomadic photographer, skateboarder, and an over-caffeinated writer. He has been traveling North America for over seven years. His travels have spanned over 100,000 miles and include a 3000-mile skateboard trip from Los Angeles to New York City. Instagram: @josh.monthei
Editor's Note: Products featured on Wide Open Roads are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
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READ MORE: How to Save Gas on Your Summer Road Trip
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