We’ve all dealt with the occasional flat tire, a bad battery, or another of a thousand things that could go wrong while cruising down the highway, touring country roads, or crossing the nation on a four-day road trip. And for whatever reason, issues crop up when it’s least convenient. I’ve found myself stranded on a Kansas highway with a failed alternator. And I’ve blown a radiator on a thousand-mile road trip from Colorado to Wisconsin. Oh, and there was that one time I had a flat coming over a switchback on Wolf Creek Pass in the middle of winter.
While cool heads may prevail, it’s preparedness that has truly proven helpful in my travels. Whether you’re an everyday commuter or a fan of the coast-to-coast road trip, you should keep your vehicle stocked with items that you may need to get you out of a pinch while you’re traversing the tarmac. When you find yourself stranded on the shoulder of a dark road, you never know what will come in handy. That’s why I’ve compiled a comprehensive list of items that you can collect to create the ultimate emergency preparedness kit. And once you’re back on the road, you can stop by our shop in Denver to repair your vehicle and to give it the maintenance it requires for your next journey. Check out our checklist, and create a kit that you can keep in the trunk for those unexpected roadside events:
- Duct Tape
Duct tape is the ultimate layman’s tool, and it can be used for just about everything. Tear off a few yards to hold up a busted bumper. Or use a big swath of duct tape to make a makeshift window when your car decides that the window should conveniently stick in the down position while a blizzard rolls through.
- Jumper Cables or Remote Battery Charger
A dead battery is always a possibility, especially if you neglect to turn off your lights when you shut off your car (like I tend to do). Invest in a remote battery charger to make a quick start easy, no matter where you are. Or at the very least, throw in jumper cables to syphon off some power from a friendly stranger.
- Flares, Cones, & Reflective Clothes
When you’re stuck on the side of a busy road, you want to ensure that you, your car, and its passengers are highly visible, so the odds of a collision are mitigated. Buy roadside flares, reflective cones or triangle stands, and high-vis vests to stay safe while you wait for help.
- First-Aid Kit
Whether you need an EpiPen® for an accidental ingestion of peanuts from the gas station, or you need a tourniquet to help a fellow hiker who slipped on the trail, you should keep a first-aid kit in the trunk. Keep a kit filled with aspirin, bandages, gauze, sunscreen, and other items to make on-the-spot treatments easy. Check out SureFire CPR for a comprehensive car first-aid kit checklist.
- Phone Chargers
Your phone may prove to be the most valuable tool in your vehicle, as long as it’s charged. You can call for help, find information on the internet, and navigate with your phone, so long as you have a charger to keep juice in the device.
- Space Blanket
Space blankets are lightweight and inexpensive, and they may just save your life. Invest in a few space blankets (enough for you and your passengers). These reflective, thermal blankets can keep you warm in the most trying conditions, even when the heat is off in your car.
- Bottled Water
Keep a gallon of water or a few bottles of bottled water handy. If you’re stuck on the road for days on end, this is the first commodity you’ll need to survive. Plus, if you’re in a pinch, you can use water in your radiator to keep your engine cool until you can reach a mechanic to fix that leak.
- Non-Perishable Snacks
Alongside extra water you should stock your trunk with non-perishable snacks to make sure that you don’t go hungry. Even a jar of peanut butter can be a lifesaver. If you’re opting to include canned non-perishables, be sure to keep a can opener in the vehicle as well!
- Rain Poncho & Umbrella
Whether you have to stand outside to flag down a passing stranger, or you need to replace a flat in the middle of a thunderstorm, a rain poncho will can keep you dry and comfortable, and it may be sufficient to stave off hypothermia in colder conditions. Keep an umbrella handy too, in case you have to hoof it somewhere in the rain.
- Snow Gear
If you’re headed for a snowy climate, you should prep by gathering the following snow gear: a brush, a scraper, and a snow shovel. Also, it’s wise to include an extra set of warm clothes, as well as gloves and hats.
- Kitty Litter
Kitty litter can give your wheels traction if you’re stuck in mud, snow, or ice. Toss a bag of kitty litter in the back, and lay it down under your tires to get unstuck.
- Local Maps & Compass
While we’re often reliant on our smartphones these days, an old-school map may prove to be important if your phone dies, if you lose cell service, or if you’re in an area that hasn’t yet been mapped out online. When you’re really out in the woods, you can rely on a map, local landmarks, and a compass to get you to the nearest town or busy road. Remember, the red end of the needle should point north!
- Spare Tire, Tools, & Instant Inflatable Canister
When’s the last time you checked the pressure of your spare tire? Or do you even have a donut in the trunk?! Be sure that you have a spare and a full tool set so that you can get out of a pickle and limp your car to the nearest auto shop. You can also invest in an inflatable canister (like Fix-a-Flat) to remedy a flat for the time being.
- Pressure Gage
Speaking of tires, you should keep a pressure gage on hand to ensure that your vehicle’s tires are full and balanced. If you notice that your wheel is pulling to one side, your car feels extra bouncy, or it’s difficult to steer, then you may have a tire that is low on pressure. If you can limp your car along the road, you can fill up at the next gas station that has a compressor. Otherwise, pull out the spare tire or that Fix-a-Flat.
Flag down passing cars, search through your trunk, or send an S.O.S. signal (if you’re really in trouble) with a flashlight. Be sure to check the charge of your flashlight from time to time, and keep an extra set of batteries in your kit while you’re at it.
- Fire Extinguisher
Cars rarely catch fire, but when they do it’s just about the most alarming event you can experience. Keep a fire extinguisher in the trunk or a small extinguisher in the cab to quickly put out a fire. If a fire springs up, pull over as quickly and safely as possible. Have all passengers vacate and move to a safe distance. If you’re certain that you’re not in danger of an explosion (if the fire is not near the gas tank (which is usually in the rear of the vehicle) or near gas struts or shock absorbers (which aren’t in most vehicles), you can try to use a fire extinguisher. If flames are near these areas, call 911 and clear away from the vehicle. If the fire is in the engine compartment, crack the hood (do not open it all the way), and spray the extinguisher under the hood. If you have a fire in the interior of the vehicle, spray the source of the flame with the extinguisher. If you are uncomfortable or hesitant to use the extinguisher, call 911 and clear away from your vehicle.
- Oil, Coolant, & Windshield Washer Fluid
You should keep a few essential fluids in your kit in case you spring a leak or run out of fluid in your lines. Keep motor oil, coolant, and windshield washer fluid handy. You can also keep transmission fluid in the vehicle if the reservoir is accessible (some transmissions are self-contained and cannot be filled without the proper tools).
- Tool Kit (With Screwdrivers, Pliers, Adjustable Wrench, & Multi-Tool)
Build a tool kit with a few of the most common tools that are used to fix minor car troubles. Toss in a set of screwdrivers, some versatile pliers (I prefer Vise-Grips and needle-nose pliers), an adjustable wrench, and a multi-tool to remedy little issues that can crop up.
- Spare Lights
When you lose a headlight or taillight, your vehicle will be less visible, and it may be more difficult to see the road. At the very least, you should keep spare headlights and taillights in your car. Consider keeping blinker lights, interior lights, and other spare lights as well, since you never know when a bulb will go out.
Keep That Car Running With Avalon Motorsports
Whether you have to tow your vehicle into the shop, limp it in, or you just need a quick oil change, we’re always here to ensure that your car is running for the next few thousand miles. We hope you’re always safe out there on the roads, wherever they may take you. And as always, you can bring your vehicle in to our Denver auto shop for repairs and regular maintenance. Schedule an appointment today, or stop by at 6950 East Colfax Ave!