Have you ever been in this scenario? It's 11:00 p.m.; you're driving on a lone country road that's dark and desolate. You know in an instant that something's wrong. Controlling the vehicle becomes increasingly difficult and you ease the car to the side of the road. Getting out, you see that the left rear tire is flat and you're already running on your spare.
If you're lucky to have an account with the Auto Club and your cellular phone works, or are driving a Caddy with OnStar, help is only a phone call away. If not, you're either faced with having to hail a passing motorist or spend a night in the boonies. That is, unless you have a well-stocked emergency roadside kit in the trunk of your car.
When it comes to commuting or traveling any lengthy distance, a roadside emergency kit can mean the difference between getting back on the road or being stuck for a long period of time. A roadside emergency kit is the one item that every vehicle should have; yet most of us never carry any of the basic items to help you get back on the road quickly and safely.
Some of the basic items include:
- 12-foot jumper cables
- Four 15-minute roadside flares
- Two quarts of oil
- Gallon of antifreeze
- First aid kit (including an assortment of bandages, gauze, adhesive tape, antiseptic cream, instant ice and heat compresses, scissors and aspirin)
- Extra fuses
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Flat head screwdrivers
- Phillips head screwdrivers
- Vise Grips
- Adjustable wrench
- Tire inflator (such as a Fix-A-Flat)
- Tire pressure gauge
- Roll of paper towels
- Roll of duct tape
- Spray bottle with washer fluid
- Ice scraper
- Pen and paper
- Help sign
- Granola or energy bars
- Bottled water
- and heavy-duty nylon bag to carry it all in.
Granted, all these items practically necessitate a Ford Excursion to haul them down the road, but a basic version with two roadside flares, a quart of oil, small first aid kit, extra fuses, flashlight, Leatherman Tool (or any other multipurpose tool commonly containing pliers, wire cutters, knife, saw, bottle opener, screwdrivers, files and an awl), tire inflator, rags, pocket knife, pen and paper and a help sign will take up a minimal amount of trunk space.
A few companies offer pre-assembled emergency roadside kits, ranging from RightTrak's 58-piece Deluxe Auto Safety Kit ($24.00) to the 78-piece Auto First Aid Kit from Home First Aid ($39.95). While these kits contain the basics in a small convenient carrier, you might want to augment yours with a few of the items listed above to suit your needs.
Before you actually use your kit in an emergency situation, take some time to familiarize yourself with the items you've collected and how to use them properly. Also remember that the most important item is your own good judgment - stopping to change a tire in the high-speed lane is only an accident waiting to happen.
Unfortunately, there isn't "one tool for all roadside emergency needs." But with a little planning and a smidgen of trunk space, an emergency roadside kit can often save the day.