Making Your Car Emergency Kit
Although cars have gotten much safer and more reliable over the years, breakdowns are still a very serious possibility. Most of the time, it is not even your fault or something you could have prevented. When these emergencies do come up, and they will no matter where you live or what you drive, you want to be prepared. Go grab an old backpack out of your closet and put all of these belongings into it. Then chuck it in the trunk of your car and forget about it until the day you eventual need it. You'll be happy you bothered.
Jumper Cables - There is no excuse not to have a pair of jumper cables with you. When your car battery dies, the problem is almost never not having someone to help you out. Most of the time you can find someone willing to spare 20 minutes to help out a dire driver in need. But you better be supplying the cables, and you better know how to use them without blowing anything up. You can pick up a good pair for $20, and it takes less than 20 minutes to learn how to use them safely.
Shop Manual - Even if you don't plan on doing your own work for your car, you should get a shop manual to keep with you. That's NOT just the owner's manual that should be in your glove compartment. A shop manual shows you how to do all sorts of jobs on your specific car. This is much better than a generic auto repair book, because you will see where all of the parts for a job are on your specific model. Haynes is a popular brand for making these, but there are other good ones too.
The 3 Fixer-Upper Essentials - Obviously you need gas in your car. And you should have a spare wheel and jack. But if you want a few couple items that will help you get your car to "limp home" in almost any situation, there are 3 secret ingredients - a quart of oil, WD-40, and duct tape. There is so much you can temporarily (key word) fix on your car with just these items.
Flare/Attention Grabber - Sometimes your car comes with something like this, but you want to make sure. The last thing you need to do is put yourself in danger while changing a tire on the side of the road in the middle of the night. Do not expect other drivers to take notice of you, even with lights or your four way signals on (speaking of which pack a flashlight.) When a car emergency happens, it is very stressful and you don't want the added worry about people not being able to see you lying halfway under your vehicle.
Water - You never know when you could be stranded for a long period of time in your vehicle. Water should be an obvious essential. If your hot, and have to wait for a tow truck, it could make your day a bit better. If the engine is overheating, you can dump it into the radiator to start cooling it down. And if the zombie apocalypse happens and survivors are scavenging cars for supplies, they will be thankful for you. Keep a gallon with you.
Snacks - It may not have as many practical uses as water, but it's another obvious essential. Make sure it's food that isn't going to expire for a while, the point of an emergency kit like this is that you have it made up and then don't worry or think about it. Also, this is going to be crammed in a backpack or sitting in your trunk, so a bag of potato chips will not work, for obvious reasons. Granola bars are always a good choice, they provide energy and taste okay even after they expire.
Clothes - They don't have to be anything grand, function is much more important than fashion here. An old pair of jeans, shirt, and warm hoodie, and you're good to go. The added benefit of this is that if you are ever out somewhere and spill something on your pants or it gets colder, you are prepared and can grab stuff right from your car.
Garbage Bag - This one is brilliant for a couple reasons. If you ever have to change a tire and it's raining, you can cut holes in it and use it as a poncho to help stay dry. You don't even need a multi tool to cut it (although it's worth considering having one) because you can just use your car keys! Also, it can be used for covering a window. If you can't get your window up for whatever reason, you can use this and the duct tape to cover it up. May not be the safest way to drive down the road, particularly if it's your driver or passengers window, but it'll certainly keep your interior dry.
Blanket - Another great item to have, and for multiple purposes. There are all sorts of "horror" scenarios in which you may need to spend the night in your car. Let your mind go to work with them and inspire you to re-purpose that old comforter. On a lighter note, there are probably a lot of times you wished you had a blanket with you. Maybe it's January and the temperature reads sub zero, and it's taking a long time to warm up. Maybe it's July and you're having an impromptu picnic. Or maybe it's October and what was going to be a comfortable seat at the high school football game just became something to wrap yourself in.
You may not ever end up needing all of these items. Perhaps you will get lucky and never have to use any of them. But most of these things are cheap, or the types of stuff you already have lying around the house. And should the emergency ever arise that you do need to break out your kit, there is nothing more gratifying than knowing you have it covered.
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