It’s hard to fathom, but there’s a very good chance you could face a survival situation in your automobile. If you’ve ever driven a lonely mountain pass during a snow squall, or traversed a desolate desert in the heat of summer, you might have thought “What would I do if I broke down here?” It’s important to answer that thought with a plan. This post offers practical advice and a list of survival tools that no motorist should be without.
Below is a list of suggested items your vehicle(s) should never be without, along with a brief description of why you want to have them on board. The AAA has produced a very nice guide with more advice and practical tips, which can be downloaded as a PDF.
Seatbelt cutter/window punch. There are a couple of instances where this tool will, literally, save your life. If your vehicle is submerged in water, for example, quickly breaking a window and getting out of the seatbelt is a must. Take a look at this great demonstration video of one of the many types of tools available.
Ice scraper with snowbrush. You never know when you’ll need to scrape a window or clean off your vehicle, so make sure you have a scraper and snowbrush on board at all times. Even in the summer, if your car is suddenly covered in dust, sand, or roadside grime, a snowbrush will be helpful in cleaning off the debris.
Jack, lug wrench, and flat board (for use on soft surfaces). It’s important to know how to change a flat tire. Make sure you know where your jack is and how to use it. Keep a flat piece of board in the trunk with the jack in case you find yourself needing to change a tire on a soft shoulder or off-road situation. The board will evenly distribute the weight of the car on the jack and keep it from digging into the soft surface (Which could result in your vehicle falling off the jack).
Tool kit. Keep a basic tool kit in your vehicle. Even if you don’t know how to use them, the person stopping to help might!
First aid kit. Just as with tools, even if you don’t know all there is to know about first aid, someone who stops to help you might be well-versed. Make sure you have a suitable first aid kit on board, and be sure to refresh it from time to time.
Road flares. Pretty much the gold standard of roadside safety, road flares are highly visible and let other vehicles (including police, fire, and EMS) know your vehicle is disabled. Keep a fresh supply on hand, and know how to use them.
Reflective vest. If you’re stopped on the side of the road—especially in foul weather or at night—you’ll want to be seen. Having a reflective vest is a must, so make sure you include one in your emergency kit.
Fire extinguisher. Keep a small ABC fire extinguisher in your vehicle, and check the indicator twice a year to ensure it’s fully charged.
Extra fluids (coolant and windshield cleaner). You don’t want to run out of coolant or windshield cleaner, pretty much ever. So make sure you keep an extra jug of each in the trunk.
Extra fan belt. A busted fan belt can stop you dead in your tracks, so keep an extra one onboard. Even if you don’t know how to replace it, the person who stops to help you might.
Extra fuses. Just as with the fan belt, a blown fuse can mean the difference between no headlights, heat, or signal lights and a fully operational vehicle. Know where the fuses are in your vehicle and which types you’ll need to have on hand. Keep them in a small box in the glove compartment.
Duct tape. If you need a quick fix for a leaking hose or a way to hold a busted taillight together until you can get to a service station, nothing can beat the functionality of duct tape, so make sure you keep a roll in your kit. That MacGyver fella was onto something
Trenching tool or folding shovel. If you’re stuck in the snow, mud, or sand, it will be enormously helpful if you can dig your way out. Make sure you keep a folding shovel—also called a trenching tool—in the trunk in case you need it.
Jumper cables. Quickly charge a dead battery and be on your way with the proper use of jumper cables.
Ice melt or kitty litter. Oftentimes the difference between being terminally stuck and on your way out of a snow or ice situation comes down to traction. Keep a small amount of ice melt or kitty litter (or some of each) in your trunk during the winter months. It might also be a good idea to keep a supply of kitty litter on hand in case you need to cover (or get out of) an oil or slick fluid spill.
Crank flashlight. You’ll want to have a light source, and you don’t want to have dead batteries to deal with, so a good crank-powered flashlight is an indispensible part of your roadside kit.
Emergency blankets. If you’re stranded in cold weather, simple survival will dictate you are able to stay warm. There are a variety of Mylar emergency blankets available that fold small, flat, and are ultimately stowable for your emergency kit. Make sure you have one for each passenger your vehicle can carry.
Drinking water. Don’t get stuck without water. Make sure you keep a gallon container of potable water on hand at all times.
Energy bars or MREs. If you’re stuck or stranded, the last thing you want to deal with is hunger. Make sure you have some quick calories on hand in the form of preserved food, MREs, or energy bars.
No matter where you go, go prepared. We here at Freedom Insurance are all about safety, so we hope this post was helpful for you as you keep yourself and your loved ones safe on the road. Got a roadside safety tip? A success story? Maybe a tale of things gone wrong? Tell us in the comments! We’d love to hear from you!