Be prepared. It's more than a Boy Scout motto. And when it comes to being on the road, a good driver is always prepared in the case of an emergency. Flat tires, slippery roads, cracked windshields, dead batteries, medical issues -- all of these and more can happen in the blink of an eye. Having a roadside emergency kit for your car will make you ready to tackle whatever life -- and other drivers -- throws at you.
Most motorists already keep some emergency supplies in their vehicles for flat tires. An inflated spare tire, wheel wrench and tripod jack are important items to keep in your car; however, there are other supplies you should keep handy as well.
According to Phillip Reed at Edmunds.com, your vehicle emergency supply kits should include flares or triangle reflectors to alert other motorists of your car's presence; a quart of motor oil; a gallon of coolant; a first-aid kit; a blanket or space blanket; a flashlight with extra batteries; a toolkit with screwdrivers, pliers, an adjustable wrench and a pocket knife; a can of tire inflator and sealant, a tire pressure gauge, paper towels, a spray bottle with washer fluid, an ice scraper, writing supplies, granola or energy bars, and bottled water.
Additional items could include unsalted nuts, dried fruits and hard candy, a reflective vest (should you need to exit your vehicle at night), a small fire extinguisher, duct tape, bug spray, baby wipes and a car charger for your cellphone.
Consolidating items, such as replacing the tool kit with a singular multipurpose tool, can save space. Reed recommends that once you're done assembling the kit, you should "find a good way to keep these items together in your trunk so they don't roll around. Even a simple cardboard box works well. A backpack is another option. But make sure the kit is quickly accessible because you might need it in a hurry."
According the National Safety Council, every car should have a kit, and the supplies "should be checked every six months, and expired items should be replaced to keep it up to date." Imagine reaching for an emergency flashlight to change a flat tire at night and it not working because the batteries have corroded. Create a calendar reminder for your twice-yearly check to avoid those problems.
Premade kits are available for purchase online and in superstores, and they can vary in price from $30 to $120. However, there are many reasons why it's helpful to pack your own kit. According to the experts at DMV.org, the biggest benefit is, "You'll know exactly what's inside. You bought it and packed it, so you'll know what is and isn't included."
Emergency kits should be specific to your car, your lifestyle and your region. Though you probably won't need a snow shovel or windshield brush in the South, you might need a hurricane relief kit. Depending on the season, you could need warm-weather clothes, rain ponchos or cool-weather clothes. Supplementary items for colder weather include a shovel, windshield washer fluid, cat litter for traction and blankets.
If you are traveling with pets, remember things like dog treats and food bowls. And for motorists with kids, packing some emergency entertainment -- cards, games, books -- might be almost as important as food and water.
The National Safety Council also recommends keeping "family and emergency phone numbers, including your auto insurance provider and a towing company, in your phone."
After putting together your emergency supply kit, you and anyone else that uses your car should familiarize yourself with what is available and how to properly use each item. A fancy multipurpose tool won't be much good if you can't get it out of the package or don't know how to use it.
Though it takes some time and money to put together an emergency supply kit, the safety of yourself and your family is worth it.