Our philosophy when it comes to car emergency kits is that it's better to be overprepared than to find yourself stranded on the side of the road without the basic essentials. As any former boy scout knows, "be prepared" is an important lesson in life, and it becomes even more especially on the road. The heavy rainfall that fall brings will soon turn into the heavy snowstorms of winter and it's in these weather conditions that you're most likely to experience an emergency situation. The beauty of creating your own emergency roadside kit is that you can tailor it to the conditions in your area and pick the items that will be most useful to you.
1. Jumper Cables
No matter the age of your vehicle, it's highly recommended to have jumper cables in your trunk as part of your kit. When a dead car battery strikes, the Cartman Booster Cable ($26) will come to the rescue. Its easy to use design with tangle-free cables is a safe way to jump-start your car, truck or SUV. The copper-coated aluminum wires are resistant to cold weather down to -13F. The extra-long cables make it easy to reach your vehicle even with the other car parked behind yours.
2. LED Road Flares
Having road flares handy for a roadside situation, especially in the early morning hours or at night can save your life by allowing other vehicles to see you and your vehicle. The Slimk Pack LED Road Flares ($16) come with 3 flare lights along with a storage bag to keep them from getting lost. The LED lights are shatterproof and can be seen from a mile away. The AAA battery powered lights will work for 36 hours, and it's a good idea to keep an extra set of batteries in your kit, just in case.
3. First Aid & Survival Kit
Whether for a roadside emergency, a camping trip or a road trip, keeping a first aid kit in your car is smart. In addition to using this kit in a roadside situation, it's also great for the outdoorsman to bring along as a survival kit. You may be shocked to learn this compact first aid kit ($30) measuring 5"x7" includes 200 pieces with everything from bandages and gauze pads to a fire starter rod, compass, and fishing kit. With the minimal space it takes up in your trunk, there's no excuse not to have one.
4. Outdoor Waterproof Throw Blanket
Keeping a warm, waterproof blanket in your trunk is essential in the colder months in case of a car breakdown or other emergency that forces you to exit your vehicle for an extended period of time. You don't have to wait until an emergency strikes to use this Tirrinia Waterproof Outdoor Blanket ($24). Thanks to its double-sided construction with a warm sherpa layer and a waterproof layer, you can use it for camping, sporting events, and outdoor concerts. Its clever design allows it to roll up into a carrying case which won't take up much space in your car and makes it easy to transport.
5. Auto Tool Accessory Set
Stashing a set of tools for your vehicle in your trunk (and knowing how to use them) will let you fix small problems with your car and get you on your way instead of being stuck on the side of the road. Key items in the Cartman Auto Tool Accessory Set ($30) includes a ratchet handle, sockets, screwdrivers, adjustable wrench, and pliers, all of which come in a sturdy case that can be stashed in your trunk.
6. Safety Hammer
A safety hammer is something you hope you'll never have to use. You also don't want to find yourself in a situation when you need one and don't have it. The double-sided VicTsing tool ($11) can be used as a seatbelt cutter and a hammer to break a car window if you're stuck inside your vehicle after an accident. Just remember to keep the hammer separate from the other kit items in your trunk (you'll want it where it's easy to reach from inside the cabin). The glove compartment or door pocket work best.
7. Tire Pressure Gauge
Measuring tire pressure is an essential step in maintaining a safe vehicle. When your tire pressure light comes on, you should measure your tire pressure as soon as you can get to a safe location. The Vondior heavy-duty tire pressure monitor ($15) provides an accurate tire pressure reading to ensure your tires are good to go. The gauge's large dial with swivel valve hookup makes it easy to measure air pressure at any angle. Just attach it to your tire's air valve and the pressure will show instantaneously.
8. Fix-a-Flat Tire Repair
If your tire pressure light comes on and you discover it's due to a small puncture in your tires, you may not have to go through the trouble of changing over to your spare immediately. If you have a can of Fix-a-Flat in your emergency car kit, you can temporarily patch your tire, fast. The cans in the Fix-a-Flat 2 pack ($30) include a universal hose to seal and inflate your damaged tire. This allows you to get to a safer or more convenient location where you can put on a spare or take your car into the body shop for a permanent tire repair or replacement.
Ideally, you should be checking your coolant levels every time you fuel up. If you find the coolant is getting low away from home, having a gallon ready to go in your trunk will let you top off in a pinch. The two-pack, 1-gallon containers of Peak antifreeze and coolant ($31) will work for either topping off or completely flushing out and refilling. Keep the coolant in its original packaging and store it in your trunk so you can stop worrying about your engine overheating.
10. Car Flashlight
Most people already keep a flashlight in their homes for power outages but most don't think to also keep one in their car. If a breakdown or incident forces you to exit your vehicle at night, you'll be thankful for a high-quality, powerful flashlight like the GearLight ($14) in your roadside car kit. This flashlight is water-resistant and offers 5 modes including high, medium, low, strobe and SOS. It provides enough power to illuminate an entire room or backyard and uses 3 AA batteries.
11. Safety Vest
If you get a flat tire that you need to change on the side of the road or you experience a breakdown and need to exit a vehicle, it's crucial that you remain visible to other drivers. A reflective, high-visibility vest keeps you safe while you work on the vehicle or wait for help. The Neiko neon vest ($8) is lightweight, breathable and has 4 reflective strips so you can be visible any time of the day or night. For something that barely takes up any space in your vehicle and may save your life, we'd say it's worth having.
12. Emergency Car Shovel
Most folks who live in cold climates know they should store a shovel in their trunks for getting out of parking spots after a snowstorm. Driving during heavy snowfall also poses the risk of getting stuck on the road and a shovel can be your saving grace. Despite their important role in winter conditions, full-size shovels can be a hassle to keep in a vehicle. The Hopkins SubZero emergency snow shovel ($14) provides a compact solution with a telescoping handle that extends to 37". Small but mighty, this shovel will dig you out of a jam.