Stop the presses—NBC News just blew my mind! Did you know that 60% of people can’t change a flat tire? Sixty percent. I’m looking at you, fellow millennials. You’ve got to step up your game. But it’s cool—we’ll get through this together. If you haven’t learned how to change a tire just yet, take a look at this handy guide from the DMV.
This news story really got me thinking. If so many people are underprepared for such a common emergency situation, they could probably use some help preparing for other car-related emergencies. I’ve narrowed the potential problems down to two types of car-related emergencies that you should prepare for—mechanical/recovery and emergency/survival—and compiled a checklist to help you put together your own emergency car kit.
Mechanical and recovery car kit items
Most types of car trouble fall under mechanical or recovery problems. Many of these emergencies can be fixed or even avoided with proper preparation. You should change your oil every 3,000–5,000 miles—it’s also a great time to top off any fluids or change an air filter—and rotate your tires at least twice a year. These regular maintenance practices will help you cut down the likelihood of a roadside emergency.
But sometimes emergencies just happen, even when you’ve done your due diligence and kept your car well maintained. A flat tire, broken windshield, engine trouble, or simply running out of gas could all leave you stranded without warning. With a little bit of know-how, you can fix most mechanical or recovery emergencies yourself—if you have the right tools—and get back on the road. I’ve highlighted a few specific items with some tips on what to look for and included several common items you’ll need in order to tackle different mechanical or recovery roadside emergencies.
Car jack and spare tire
Emergency car battery charger
Other common mechanical car emergency kit items
Some mechanical and recovery emergency car kit items are pretty self-explanatory. Here’s a list of common tools that you should pack in your car at all times:
Emergency and survival car kit items
Sometimes getting back on the road just isn’t going to happen and you need to prepare yourself for the possibility of being stranded until help arrives. Prepare for anything from serious accident recovery to getting stuck in extreme weather by keeping these items in your car at all times.
Car escape tool or pocket knife
Find a two-way radio with a range of over 20 miles and a long battery life (8–10 hrs). Also, look for one that includes weather channels, so if you’re going to be stranded while you wait for help, you can prepare for whatever conditions lie ahead. This Motorola 3-pack meets all of the requirements for less than $100.
Mechanical and recovery
- Car jack and spare tire
- Jumper cables
- Emergency car battery charger
- Tire pressure gauge
- Flashlight (and extra batteries)
- Utility gloves
- Duct tape
- Tow strap
- Multipurpose utility tool
- Window scraper
- Snow shovel
- Mechanic rags
- Canvas bag
- Small tool kit
Emergency and survival
- Fire extinguisher
- Car escape tool or pocket knife
- Two-way radio
- First-aid kit
- Emergency blanket
- Cellphone charger
- Granola bars
Time to prep and pack
With any luck, you won’t need to use any of these emergency items anytime soon. If this sounds like one of those “hope for the best, prepare for the worst” speeches, it’s because it is. The bottom line is that having an emergency car kit packed in your car could save your life. So get on it. And learn how to change a tire while you’re at it.