Years ago I was driving from Albany to Oswego NY late at night when I realized the rear end of my car was acting oddly – it felt loose, particularly when I went around turns. I pulled over and discovered that my left rear tire was almost completely flat. The good news: I had a spare tire and functioning jack. The not so good news: I was on the side of a 2 lane road about 100 yards past a big sweeping curve, it was pitch black out, I had no flashlight and no way to warn any cars coming around that turn. Fortunately I was able to get the flat off and the spare tire on the car and get on my way without mishap, but it was a bit of a scary experience.
Since then I’ve carried an emergency kit in my trunk, and it’s given me peace of mind and has come in very handy a couple of times over the years. If you’ve got about $50 and 15 minutes, you can have a terrific roadside emergency kit in your trunk.
Disclaimer: I am not suggesting you go out and buy the individual items for your kit, although that’s certainly an option. Any Wal-Mart or any decent auto parts store carries basic roadside emergency kits; I suggest you purchase one and then augment it with several additional items.
The kit shown below was actually purchased from Woot.com for less than $20. Wal-Mart sells a basic emergency kit for $20 and a slightly more elaborate one for $30. These kits usually contain the basics:
In this case, it contains:
- Tire inflator (cigarette lighter plug)
- Jumper cables (not the best cables around, but serviceable)
- Bungee cord
- Folding warning triangle
- Tire pressure gauge
- A couple of simple hand tools – pliers, screwdriver
To this I suggest you add several items as pictured below.
- First aid kit
- Extra batteries
- Disposable camera
- Lightsticks or other back-up light source
- Wire/zip ties
- Roll of duct tape (of course!!)
- A few granola bars (Clif bars are shown here)
- Shop rags
- Germicide to make water potable (sold in the camping supplies dept.)
- 4-way screwdriver
- Extra fuses & fuse puller (make sure you get the right type for your car – most cars manufactured in the last decade use mini fuses)
- Can of Fix-a-Flat — for quick, on the fly flat tire repairs — NOTE: does not work well in cold temps!
- Leatherman tool
- Bottled water
- A plastic poncho
With the exception of the Leatherman tool, all of these items are available at Wal-Mart or similar stores and you can purchase all of them in a matter of 10-15 minutes. Then just find a suitable bag (a small nylon gym bag would be fine) to hold everything and put it in your trunk.
Another obvious option would be to include a few road flares.
If you live in an area with tough winters, consider adding a shovel, blanket, ice scraper (although you’d presumably have this in your car anyway) and you may want to consider a couple of cans of Sterno and a small camping-style saucepan (for melting snow if you REALLY get stranded!)
A small battery or (better yet) crank powered portable radio is also worth consideration. Wal-Mart (and no, I’m by no means a big fan of Wal-Mart, it just happens to be convenient for a lot of people) sells this crank-powered emergency radio/light for $20; here’s a link.
Take a few minutes this weekend and put together a roadside emergency kit for your car – with summer vacations and travel imminent, this is the perfect time to put a little peace of mind in your trunk!
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