Be prepared for a breakdown: What your car emergency kit needs

With a little maintenance, you can prevent many stalls and car problems. If problems do strike, you want to be as prepared as possible.

Tags: Planning, Cars, Loans
Published: September 19, 2019

You don’t think it will happen to you, right? Sure, we’ve all seen other cars stranded on the side of the road, but we seldom seriously consider whether that could be us without an auto emergency kit or roadside assistance. 

It might not happen, but there’s always the possibility you’ll be the one pulled over, with steam billowing from under the hood. Here’s how to be prepared.

 

Keep up your car maintenance

The best way to prevent a potential breakdown is proper car maintenance. This means regular oil changes, clean oil and air filters, regular review of the fluid levels, rotated tires and having the car checked out if anything is amiss — like a flashing warning light. Also, maintaining your car means keeping your tires properly inflated, using the manufacturer’s guidelines posted near the driver’s side door.

 

Keep an emergency kit

This is especially important if you are heading out on a long trip, but you should always have these things in your car:

In case of emergency, it’s important to keep these items in your car: first aid kit, spare tire, water, a bottle of coolant, jumper cables and an ice scraper and shovel.
  • First aid kit: In the event of a breakdown or a minor accident, you might be grateful that you have bandages and gauze with you.
  • Spare tire: Whether it’s a doughnut or a full-sized spare, always keep one with you. Just like you care for your tires, check the spare regularly for damage and proper pressure.
  • Water: Keep a couple of bottles of water in your car. During the winter, getting stuck is a real possibility, and you’ll need to keep hydrated until help comes. In the summer, a highway breakdown might mean a long walk along baking hot pavement to get help. You’ll be grateful for water.
  • A bottle of coolant: In the event of overheating, you just might need to let the car rest and add fresh coolant.
  • Jumper cables: If your battery dies, you’ll need jumper cables to get going again. You’ll also need to find someone willing to give you a jump, which will be a lot easier if you already have the cables.
  • Ice scraper and shovel: If you live or travel in a snowy climate, a good ice scraper — or two — should be a mainstay in your car. A shovel with a collapsible handle is another handy tool in case you find yourself stuck.

Consider roadside assistance programs

A roadside assistance program means you won’t be at the mercy (and price tag) of whatever garage is available when problems strike.

Roadside assistance programs will send a tow truck or other aid to rescue you, if needed. You pay up front as part of your plan, with defined rates for various services. Basics like a jump-start or a tow are usually included without additional cost.

When looking at roadside assistance plans, realize that prices and programs vary greatly from company to company, so shop around. 

 

If you're stuck with a fixer-upper and ready for a more reliable car, learn what to look for when shopping for a new, or new-to-you, vehicle.