The list we’ve come up with today is what we feel that, at a minimum, you should have with you in your vehicle.
Most of our readers are probably already prepared with these essentials, but it never hurts to share this information with those you care about. I’m sure we all people we know and love that hardly even carry a jack with them.
Instead of getting into a huge article on all the things you could potentially need in an emergency situation, we’ve decided to come up with a simple, basic list that creates the foundation of your Vehicle Emergency Kit.
We’ll definitely be expanding on this list and topic in the future, but it’s time that you at least get this stuff in your vehicle!
One of the best things you can carry with you is a good set of Jumper Cables, this isn’t a time to get cheap, and like your grandfather always said “Buy cheap, buy twice.”
There’s plenty of cheap “made in china” cables out there, so be cautious. We recommend getting cables with multiple strand four gauge copper wire.
The alligator clips should also be made of copper with pressed/crimped connections to the cables. One of our readers pointed out that for high currents, soldered connections should be avoided as the solder might melt.
We recommend at least 12 feet of length, and the more the better. 16 feet is ideal for most situations and should allow you to get a jump from someone behind you if need be.
There are many different kinds of flashlights out there, but essentially two types of light. Incandescent and LED.
Without getting too much into an Incandescent vs. LED article (which we’re planning by the way), get something that’s a dependable backup light.
Our first thought is LED because it can potentially last longer than an incandescent and will keep running even as the batteries get depleted.
Plus, LEDs nearly run forever and there’s no bulb to have to worry about changing.
On the other hand, incandescent bulbs are typically brighter than LEDs, depending on what you buy.
In the end, just get something that works for you, and will allow you to change a tire or inspect your vehicle at night. Throw in some extra batteries too.
Jack / Tire Iron
For those who could possibly be unfamiliar with a Jack and Tire Iron, a Jack is what lifts the vehicle to change a tire, and a Tire Iron is what you use to remove the bolts that hold your wheel on.
These two items are essential and without them you won’t be able to change a flat tire.
Also, be sure that your Jack is complete and in good working order. With most Jacks, there’s a rod that is used to turn the Jack to raise it. Make sure you have it!
The most common vehicle problem is a flat tire, and having a proper spare tire with you can mean the difference between making it to your destination or not.
Always check your spare periodically to ensure it’s properly inflated and there’s no cracking in the rubber.
Yes, tires have shelf lives! A general rule is that a tire is only good for about five years before the rubber starts to deteriorate. This includes a spare tire that’s never been used, especially if your spare is exposed to the elements like on a truck.
So, think back to when you bought your vehicle, and if it’s been five years, replace it!
Simple Tool Kit
Including a simple tool kit in your Vehicle Emergency Kit is always a great idea. At the very least, you should have the tools necessary to replace your battery.
A small wrench set, socket set and a pair of pliers will do most of the tasks required, but throwing in a few screwdrivers, some electrical tape / duct tape, tire pressure gauge and spare fuses will make it even better.
Fire Extinguishers are an often forgotten element in most Vehicle Emergency Kits, and an item we feel is very important to have with you.
How many times have you seen a car on the side of the road that was either on fire, or nice and crispy from being on fire. It happens, and having a Fire Extinguisher with you could mean the difference between a burnt hose, and a burnt car.
There are quite a few Vehicle Fire Extinguishers that are manufactured, and even some that have a handy velcro backed bracket that will hold it in place on your vehicle’s carpet.
Fire Extinguishers made for vehicles will typically come in two different dry chemical configurations (ABC and BC), to fight different classifications of fires.
Here’s a quick primer on fire classes, using the wrong type of fire extinguisher on the wrong class of fire can make matters worse!
- Class A: Ordinary Combustibles – Wood, Paper, Cloth, Trash, Plastics and Solids that are not metal.
- Class B: Flammable and Combustible Liquids – Gasoline, Oil, Grease, Acetone and all Flammable Gasses.
- Class C: Energized Electrical Equipment and Battery Powered Equipment
- Class D: Combustible Metals – Potassium, Sodium, Aluminum, Magnesium (these require a special extinguishing agent)
Obviously carrying both types of extinguishers, ABC and BC, would be ideal, but at the least get a small ABC extinguisher made for a vehicle.
Remember that dry chemical fire extinguishers need to be turned upside down periodically to loosen up the chemical that will settle at the bottom of the extinguisher. If the chemicals become caked, the extinguisher may not discharge properly when it’s needed.
This goes for those extinguishers you have sitting around the house too. You do have Fire Extinguishers in your house right?
Emergency Signaling Device / Markers
The purpose of an emergency signaling device is two fold, it can be used to alert oncoming traffic to your prescence on the side of the road, and can also be used as a distress signal in an emergency.
We’re partial to Road Flares, because in addition to the two uses mentioned above, they can also be used to start a fire. Carrying another way to start a fire with you is never a bad thing in our opinion.
Other markers available include brightly colored flags (a VS-17 marker panel is perfect) and reflective items. A flag can be tied to an open hood/trunk and reflective markers can be put out in a similar fashion to road flares, marking your location.
Extra Food and Water
Carrying extra food and water is a necessity in our book. The potential of being stranded with just the items in your vehicle is a sobering reality.
Yes, most of us drive along busy suburban roads where the Quik-E-Mart is just a few blocks away, but you’re not always in that situation, especially when traveling.
And, there may be traffic along the road you’re on, but when is the last time you stopped to help a stranded motorist?
Sometimes the best plan can be to stay with your vehicle until someone finds you, and having food and water is a good thing.
At the very least, carry a small foil-like space blanket if you’re tight on storage space. Something is better than nothing.
The primary purpose of a tool like this is escaping from a vehicle, which in the event your vehicles takes a dive into a body of water, you’re most likely not going to be able to simply roll down the window to escape.
As the good samaritans we know all of you are, it can also be used for rescuing others that could be in a similar situation, or need to be pulled through a window to escape a vehicle.
Our choice in these situations is a dual-purpose tool that not only breaks glass, but cuts seat belt webbing.
We have a Benchmade Houdini Pro Rescue Tool that we’re evaluating right now, so far it’s a very good fit for these situations. We’ll be posting a review on it soon.
Knife / Multi-Tool
In addition to a knife, a good Multi-Tool will also come in handy and can replace needing to carry a few of the tools we mentioned above.
We’re partial to the SOG PowerLock because of its great leveraging capability and ease of use.
Extra Clothing / Gloves
Let’s say you need to make a quick run up to the store and decide to underdress for the weather since all you’ll be doing is running from your vehicle to the door.
Well, what if you get a flat on the way back and have to get out to change it? Or what if you become stranded in a disabled vehicle?
Having some gloves to keep your hands warm while changing a tire, or some extra clothing could mean all the difference in the world.
Do yourself a favor and at least toss a jacket in your vehicle.
There are quite a few companies that produce an all-in-one vehicle emergency kits that contains most of what we’ve described here, but all of them we’ve seen are garbage.
Take our advice and build your own. Yes, you may pay more, but isn’t it worth the peace of mind knowing that you’ve bought quality items that aren’t going to fail when you need them the most?
We’d love to hear what you guys (and girls) carry with you for emergency purposes, and what you add to these basics we’ve discussed.
Even if you have all these items, this is a good time to dig them all out and make sure they’re in proper working order.
To quote the movie Spy Game, “When did Noah build the Ark? … Before the rain.”
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