When you are planning a trip in your auto, take time to check your vehicle. In addition to cleaning out the trash, check the windshield washer fluid, oil, water/anti-freeze level in the radiator, and tire inflation. Remember to double check your emergency car kit, updating food and water and adding extra clothing based on the type of weather you expect to travel through. If you have a cell phone, pack it and the charger. Check your wallet for cash and any roadside emergency membership card you may have. Always maintain a half-full tank of gas. Before you leave, contact someone at your destination to let them know your estimated time of arrival.
Once you are on the road, pay attention to your vehicle’s performance, listening for any odd sounds and look for any odd emissions. Once I was traveling home late. I noticed white smoke coming from my exhaust and looked down at the dash to see the temperature needle pegged to overheating. The radiator hose had burst.
If you have a breakdown, use the car’s momentum to get it off the road safely. Try to get over as far as possible to remove your vehicle from on-coming traffic. Put on the emergency flashers. Exit the car from the passenger side door. If you can’t get off the road, set up any warning signals you have, like flares or hazard triangle, as far behind as practical to give other motorists notice to get around you.
Raise your vehicle hood and leave it up, Get out your HELP sign or white cloth. Place it in the window. Use your cell phone, if you have one with service, to contact law enforcement. Calling 911 will put you in contact with help. Your cell phone may or may not have a GPS tracking device installed, so you will need to be able to tell the 911 operator where you are. A mile marker or landmark is helpful.
Stay with your vehicle, if possible, especially at night or in bad weather. Wait for a uniformed law enforcement officer to arrive. Rely on the items in your road-side emergency kit to keep you hydrated, warm and entertained while you wait for assistance to arrive.
Keep doors and windows locked. If someone stops to assist you, crack the window and ask them to contact law enforcement. Use your best judgment accepting help from strangers.
When help arrives, if you are out of your vehicle discussing details, be sure to stand away from the vehicles, not in between them. Many people have been injured or worse when another driver has hit the back vehicle, driving the two together, crushing or amputating legs.
If you must walk, write down your name, date, time you left the vehicle and the direction you were going. Leave it on the dash. Walk facing traffic, if there are no sidewalks. If you accept a ride from a stranger, write down the plate number of the vehicle, a description of the driver and vehicle, in addition. Leave this information on the dash. As soon as possible notify law enforcement of the location and condition of your vehicle.
Holidays are the time of year when much long distance traveling is done. Going home to visit families, often leaving after work in the dark, and frequently encountering bad weather, can put travelers in jeopardy. Add to that the fact that tires can get punctures, gas tanks can get empty and engines can overheat when you least expect it. Having a road side emergency kit in your car at all times will often save you time and money, and may even save your life. We’ve expanded Edmunds.com’s extensive list of items to keep in your vehicle. Make sure that you include items to keep you and your passengers warm in case your break down leaves you stranded in the cold. Some of the basic items include:
- 12-foot jumper cables
- Four 15-minute roadside flares
- Two quarts of oil and Gallon of antifreeze
- First aid kit (including an assortment of bandages, gauze, adhesive tape, antiseptic cream, instant ice and heat compresses, scissors and aspirin)
- Wool blanket or sleeping bag
- Extra clothes and boots/shoes (for winter: coat, hat gloves and scarf)
- Extra fuses
- Flashlight and extra batteries, lighted headband or lighted brimmed cap
- Tools to include:Flat head screwdrivers, Phillips head screwdrivers, Pliers, Vise Grips, Adjustable wrench
- Tire inflator (such as a Fix-A-Flat) and Tire pressure gauge
- Rags and Roll of paper towels
- plastic garbage bags for trash and to help insulate feet
- A couple of old newspapers to use for insulation under coats
- Roll of duct tape and Roll of reflective tape for visibility
- Windshield washer fluid and Anti-freeze
- Ice scraper and kitty litter or sand for tire traction
- fire extinguisher (5 pound, A-B-C type)
- tow rope or chain
- Whistle, compass and Road maps
- Dollar bills and quarters, dimes and nickels
- Toilet paper and paper towels
- gas can, 2 gallon size plus funnel & short hose for siphoning
- hand warmer packs
- Pen and paper and Help sign or strip of white cloth
- Cell phone & charger
- Granola or energy bars – dried fruit, peanut butter crackers, canned goods; remember a manual can opener and basic eating utensils
- Bottled water – a case or a gallon as fits
- Book, puzzle or other non-battery operated item to pass the time
- Heavy-duty nylon bag or two to carry it all
The most important tip is to familiarize yourself with all the items in your car road-side emergency kit, how you have them arranged, and how to use them properly.