Prevent Roadside Breakdowns From Becoming Disasters: Prepare an Emergency Kit

I begin by encouraging you to prepare an emergency kit to carry in your vehicle. Over a span of fifty years I have traveled a million ground-miles on three different continents—driving most of it myself. A wide range of unexpected situations have occurred. Besides numerous flat tires, I’ve also dealt with engine compartment fires and several electrical system malfunctions while out in the middle of nowhere, just to mention a few. I am thankful that in nearly every situation the problem was corrected in less than an hour. I attribute that to two things. First, God’s good hand being upon me. Secondly is the fact that I try to keep an emergency kit in the vehicle at all times. So, I present the following list of items one should carry in their vehicle to help with common roadside emergencies.

Photo of car pulling trailer

A Basic Emergency Kit

  1. Extra fluids: Different kinds of fluids are used to lubricate and/or cool a vehicle’s engine and transmission. In each case the various fluids are contained in the right location through the use of gaskets and rubber seals. When a gasket or seal fails it allows fluid to leak out. If you’re prepared, you go to your emergency kit, grab the correct bottle and use it to top up the necessary reservoir until you can get the leak repaired. Here are some extra fluids to carry:
    • One or two quarts (liters) of engine oil.
    • At least a half-gallon of coolant.
    • One quart of automatic transmission fluid (ATF) if your vehicle has an automatic transmission.
    • It could prove helpful to have a pint of brake fluid and some power steering fluid too.
  2. Assorted electrical fuses: Fuses are designed to fail so they can protect expensive electrical parts from being damaged by electrical malfunctions. For example, on a fuel pump circuit, a twenty-cent fuse is supposed to burn out first in the event of an electrical overload. This is done so as to protect the very expensive fuel pump from burning out. The repair might be as simple as replacing the fuse; so, having some assorted fuses could help you from being stranded on the side of the road.
  3. Emergency tow strap: A tow strap s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s when pulling another car. Using a chain is okay but it causes a very hard jolt when pulling since chains don’t stretch.
  4. Old serpentine belt or fan belt. When putting a new serpentine belt or fan belt on your engine, look at the old one before you discard it. If it is not broken or falling apart throw it in your emergency box as a spare; even new belts occasionally fail or get damaged.
  5. A working jack. Be sure to have the correct jack-handle and lug-wrench. See if there is any kind of locking lug nut present that would prevent your wheel from being stolen. If so, be sure you have the key for removing it and that it gets stored in the same place every time.
  6. Check the spare tire. Your car might have the spare stored up underneath the vehicle. If so you should make a “dry run” and lower it. This will confirm that the retaining mechanism will actually release when you need it to. Occasionally check the air pressure in the spare.
  7. A reflective triangle or signal flare.
  8. A good set of jumper cables.
  9. Good flashlight along with some spare batteries.
  10. A fire extinguisher with an ABC rating can be used for electrical as well as oil-based fires.
  11. Ground-cover: something to put on the ground when you must lie down and look underneath the vehicle. A plastic shower curtain or large piece of cardboard works well.

Having an emergency kit during a breakdown could mean the difference between being stranded on the roadside—perhaps for several hours—or whether you get rolling again after a short delay. Most of these items can be purchased for $100 and can fit into a medium sized box.

I encourage you to put together a vehicle emergency kit and PREPARE TO MEET THY EMERGENCY.

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