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Emergency Kit Items for Your Car

Better to Be Safe Than Sorry

Cars break down, slide off roads, get stuck in ditches, have accidents, get nailed by bad weather, get hit by flash floods or mudflows, rockslides, slippery streets, stop working for whatever reason and it never happens in your driveway. It always seems to happen in the worst place at the worst time in the worst weather when no one is around.

That said, your car should be stocked with all the right survival tools in case you get stranded. I know, I know, you have OnStar or AAA but a backup plan is always best because you don't know what you don't know, and you don't know what's coming your way. It can't hurt to have a Plan B. But it may hurt without one.

Below is a list of items that we recommend keeping in your car trunk at all times. Throw them in a box, a bag, ideally a covered container that's waterproof.

According to Jim Rink, a trusty source at AAA, these are the items every motorist should have stashed in his or her car:

  • flashlight

  • flares or reflective triangle

  • distress sign

  • first aid supplies

  • basic tools ie: screwdriver, hammer, gloves

  • a fully charged cell phone

  • boots / sox

  • hat

  • coat/jacket

  • gloves

  • jumper cables

  • carpet strips, sand or kitty litter for traction

  • ice scraper, window squeegee, brush

  • blanket and water and/or sleeping bag

  • lots of water, snacks

  • chocolate candy

As I initially perused this list, I realized how unprepared I would be if I were to ever have car trouble. I had an ice brush with a built-in scraper that really doesn't work that well. That's it. As nice as my ice brush is, it most definitely wouldn't be able to keep me warm or help me out in case of an emergency.

I always thought that if my car died, all I would need is a cell phone. Yes, I am that naïve. Forget about what would happen in my cell phone's battery lost its charge or if I was in an area where my phone couldn't get service or the phone flew to the back of the car during an impact. There are all sorts of reasons that your phone might not be accessible during a breakdown so don't assume it will be.

And then there's this happy thought from AAA's Jim Rink: "Even if you call for help, especially under severe weather conditions, it may be some time before help arrives and hypothermia or heat stroke is a very real danger."

Also, get a first aid kit (make sure it has adhesive bandages, first aid tape and gauze), emergency tire sealant (comes in handy in case of a flat tire), a screwdriver, an adjustable crescent wrench.

And last but not least, a window punch, otherwise known as Car Safety Hammer Escape Tool. What is that, you ask? Something hopefully you'll never have to use. My family laughed at the Christmas gift I gave each and every one of them (at least those who drive) last year, yes a window punch. It's basically a little hammer with a sharp point for breaking your window under water or during a fire. It also has a seatbelt cutter attached which allows you to cut your seatbelt off in the event it traps you in your seat upon impact. Many people have drowned or died by fire needlessly because they couldn't escape their seatbelt. So yes, get a $10 window punch and keep it in your console. Not on top as it could become a flying projectile in an accident and end up unreachable. You want to keep it locked in your center console where it will stay in case of a roll or impact so you have easy access to it. Minutes matter when a car is underwater or on fire. This little gadget can save your life.

More tips for prepping your car and life for a breakdown.