Most car trouble falls under mechanical or accident-recovery problems. Many of these emergencies can be fixed or even avoided with proper preparation.
But emergencies happen, even when you’ve done your due diligence and maintained your car. A flat tire, a broken windshield, engine trouble, or 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.
We’ve highlighted a few specific items with some tips on what to look for to tackle different mechanical or recovery roadside emergencies.
A flat tire is one of the most common roadside emergencies. To change your tire, you’ll need the right tools. Check your car and make sure you know how to access the spare tire and the jack—and that there is one. (Most spare tires and jacks can be found inside the trunk or underneath the rear of the car.)
If you have a used car that’s missing the jack, or if you’ve misplaced it, buy a replacement jack that can support the weight of your vehicle. We like this Torin T10152 Big Red Steel Scissor Jack that can hold up to 1.5 tons.
We also recommend having a tire inflator or air compressor and some tire sealant as an alternative way to fix a flat.
What if you leave your lights on in the parking lot and come out to find your car battery drained? Good news: if you have jumper cables (also known as booster cables) in your car, you can awkwardly ask a stranger to help you resurrect your dead battery.
Your jumper cables should be long enough—at least 20 feet—to connect to any car, truck, or SUV. Also, double-check and make sure you have the right gauge of cable for your vehicle. If your car takes four-gauge cables, you can try the ones we recommend from EPAuto.
You might find yourself stranded somewhere without a friendly stranger to help jump your car. But you can still get your battery going as long as you have an emergency charger.
Fuses are the culprit in many mysterious car problems. When you think you might’ve blown a fuse, it’s an easy DIY fix. Just prop open the hood and use a pair of pliers to remove and examine each engine fuse. If one of your fuses looks burned, you can easily replace it.
We recommend keeping replacement fuses on hand. Just make sure the fuses you’re buying work with your engine.
Some car emergency kit items are pretty self-explanatory. Here’s a list of tools that you should pack in your car at all times:
For anything that might be vehicle-specific, like fuses, consult your owner’s manual or a trusted online forum to find what you need.