The Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Homeland Security have created a list of key items that should always be included in a vehicle emergency kit. Metro News Service photo

Prepare for a breakdown: How to properly pack a car emergency kit

After home and work, the next most common place people spend their time is in their vehicles. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says the average American spends 17,600 minutes driving each year. Because they spend so much time behind the wheel, drivers need to be prepared for breakdowns. Packing an emergency kit in the car can help people make the best of such situations.

A car emergency kit can help drivers get back on the road promptly. Without such kits, drivers may be stranded for hours after a breakdown. Emergency kits also come in handy during weather-related events that can sideline cars until roads become passable. Getting caught in a vehicle during a snowstorm and failing to have the proper gear can be a life-threatening scenario under extreme conditions.

It is always wise to plan for the worst and hope for the best. The Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Homeland Security note that these key items should always be included in a car emergency kit.

  • durable bags or crates to store supplies
  • complete first aid kit
  • small fire extinguisher
  • jumper cables
  • rain ponchos
  • plastic tarp
  • flashlights and extra batteries
  • bottled water
  • small cache of nonperishable foods
  • wrench and pliers
  • local maps
  • rags
  • duct tape
  • multipurpose tool
  • ice scraper
  • automotive fluids
  • ¥ blankets/warm clothing
  • cat litter for slick roads
  • tire-changing equipment
  • spare tire
  • road flares or caution reflectors
  • empty, refillable gas canister
  • cash for gas
  • phone charger cable

Being prepared can make a difference when vehicles are sidelined. In addition to an emergency kit, cars and trucks should be regularly maintained to prevent breakdowns. This includes ensuring all fluids are at proper levels, filters are changed, batteries are in good working order, and tires are inflated correctly. Investing in a roadside assistance service also can help get drivers back on the road quickly.

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