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When it comes to unexpected driving conditions—whether you get a flat tire, are lost or encounter severe weather—it’s better to be safe than sorry. Planning ahead is a must for any traveler, even if you’re only expecting to drive a short distance.
Ready.gov has provided a handy list of everything you should have in your car at all times:
- Jumper cables—You might want to include flares or reflective triangle.
- Flashlights with extra batteries
- First-Aid Kit—including any necessary medications, baby formula and diapers if you have a small child.
- Food—non-perishable food such as canned food, and protein-rich foods like nuts and energy bars
- Manual can opener
- Water—at least 1 gallon of water per person a day for at least 3 days
- Basic toolkit—pliers, wrench, screwdriver
- Pet supplies—food and water
- Radio—battery or hand cranked
- Cat litter or sand—for better tire traction
- Ice scraper
- Clothes—warm clothes, gloves, hat, sturdy boots, jacket and an extra change of clothes for the cold
- Blankets or sleeping bags
- Charged Cell Phone—and car charger
Business Insider created this helpful infographic with the above information that even shows where in your car you should keep some of the items in your emergency kit (like the shovel and tire in the trunk):
Before you pack up your emergency kit, however, you should check (or have a mechanic check) the following items on or in your car:
- Keep your gas tank full—in case evacuation is needed.
- Antifreeze levels—ensure they are sufficient to avoid freezing.
- Battery and ignition system—should be in top condition and battery terminals should be clean.
- Brakes—check for wear and fluid levels.
- Exhaust system—check for leaks and crimped pipes and repair or replace as necessary. Carbon monoxide is deadly and usually gives no warning.
- Fuel and air filters—replace and keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas. A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing.
- Heater and defroster—ensure they work properly.
- Lights and flashing hazard lights—check for serviceability.
- Oil—check for level and weight. Heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.
- Thermostat—ensure it works properly.
- Windshield wiper equipment—repair any problems and maintain proper washer fluid level.
- Install good winter tires—make sure the tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some jurisdictions require that, to drive on their roads, vehicles must be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.
Ready.gov also offers these tips when it comes to driving:
- Do not drive through a flooded area—Six inches of water can cause a vehicle to lose control and possibly stall. A foot of water will float many cars.
- Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded—Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
- If a power line falls on your car you are at risk of electrical shock—Stay inside until a trained person removes the wire.
If you’re not up for putting all of these items in your car, you can buy emergency road assistance kits, like this one on Amazon for about $20. Most include batteries, a flashlight, a few tools and a first-aid kit.
Because we can’t predict disasters and emergencies—especially while on the road—being prepared is our best chance of survival.