No matter how well you prepare for the unexpected, emergencies happen. The trick is to be prepared for them.

Prepare Your Emergency Kit

Here’s a list of 10 of the most important items you should have in your car emergency kit. Nearly all of them should be available at your local big box or auto parts store.

  1. Roadside Emergency Checklist - Cottman Man - Cottman Transmission and Total Auto CareFlashlight — There’s nothing worse than getting stuck on a dark road, except maybe getting stuck on a dark road without a flashlight! Check the batteries when you replace the battery in your home smoke detector.
  2. Safety Reflective Triangles — These replace the old-fashioned flares to warn approaching motorists to avoid hitting you if you’re stuck along the side of the road.
  3. Spare Tire and Jack — They come with your car, but its amazing how many seem to get lost or damaged over time. Make sure you have a good spare, full of air, and a jack that works. And don’t forget a lug wrench and a spare key for your wheel locks.
  4. Jumper Cables — While there are a number of portable devices on the market, a simple set of jumper cables is usually all you need to get your car started and back on the road. Remember to have your battery and charging system checked before you shut the engine off, or you could end up needing the cables again.
  5. Basic Tools — Even if you aren’t very handy, having a few simple tools can be helpful. Nothing fancy: just a set of sockets or wrenches, a couple screwdrivers, pliers, and a knife may be enough to get you out of a jam.
  6. Spare Fuses and Bulbs — You’re driving down the road and suddenly your dash lights go out. You check, and sure enough, the fuse is blown. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a spare on hand?
  7. Duct Tape — Sure, duct tape is the stereotypical fix-all, but there’s a reason for that: It’s amazing how often a little duct tape can get you patched up and back on the road.
  8. Fresh Water — Whether it’s for adding to an overheating radiator or for drinking, if you need it you’ll be glad you had a gallon on hand. Just remember: Never remove your car’s radiator cap or add water while the engine’s hot. Let it cool down first.
  9. Engine Oil — If the oil pressure light starts flashing, sometimes a quart of oil will be just enough to get you safely off the freeway and over to a repair shop.
  10. First-Aid Kit — Again, nothing fancy. There are kits available through all major pharmacies for just a few bucks. As an added precaution, include any drugs that you or your family would need if you were stuck away from home overnight.

Roadside Emergency Tip

And here’s an extra tip: have a cell phone on hand. It’s the easiest way to stay in contact with the world in case of an emergency. Even an old phone may be useful, because all phones built over the last few years are required to allow 911 calls, even if they’re no longer registered with a network.