As a student driver or the parent of a new driver, you may feel a little nervous about all that can go wrong behind the wheel. According to Agero, there are roughly 69 million car breakdowns each year in the United States alone. While prevention (like getting regular vehicle maintenance, tuneups, and oil changes) is important, sometimes a breakdown is unavoidable. As a new driver, one of the best things you can do is to prepare for an unexpected breakdown. Depending on the time of year, the age of your vehicle, and the distance you drive each day, there are things you should know and keep in your vehicle emergency kit. 

In this article, we are going to touch on some of the most common reasons older cars break down and offer a list of basic emergency items everyone should keep in their vehicle. We’ll also touch on specific winter and summer emergency car kit items so you’re hopefully never caught unprepared. Let’s dive in.

Emergency Items To Keep In Your Car

Whether you’re a new driver or an experienced driver, there are some universal emergency items you’ll want to keep in your car. If you have the financial means, there are pre-made packs on websites like Amazon that you can order to make it easy. They come in a nice duffle bag and you can simply put them in your trunk or under a seat in your car. However, if that’s not an option, the following list will help you prioritize items to get for yourself over time. You can often find these items at a dollar store or Walmart to stay budget-friendly. When traveling, these are the basic emergency car kit items we believe you should always have on you:

  • First aid kit (band aids, cleansing wipes, antiseptic spray, gauze, etc.)
  • Spare tire
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Gloves
  • Water
  • Whistle
  • Phone charger and/or a spare battery
  • Jumper cables
  • Hazard lights/road flare
  • Seatbelt cutter (in the event of an accident, a seatbelt cutter can help you break free from a locked or stuck seatbelt)
  • Window breaker

Although these items seem basic, if you find yourself stranded or broken down, these items could make all the difference.

Winter Emergency Car Kit Items

Winter is a time when you need to be extra prepared for disaster, especially if you live in a climate that experiences icy or snowy conditions. Make sure you have additional winter emergency car kit items in your car in case you get stranded somewhere. Some essential items to include during the winter time include: 

  • A shovel in case you need to move snow or dig out of a blizzard.
  • Extra clothes to layer up in the event of a breakdown where the heater does not work.
  • Blankets. Blankets are good to keep you and any passengers warm while you wait for help.
  • Snacks. Snow can cause road closures and it may take longer for emergency responders to get to you. Having snacks will help you stay positive, alert, and avoid a blood sugar crash if your wait becomes long.
  • Tow rope. It’s good to have a rope for many emergency situations. One example would be helping you pull your car out of a jam or ditch if your car slides off the road in icy/slick conditions.

In colder conditions, you should also strive to keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid getting stranded with an empty tank. Getting stranded or stuck in any situation can be stressful. It can be extra stressful (and dangerous) during the winter when it’s cold and snowy. We highly recommend that you to keep these winter emergency car kit items with you. By being prepared, you can make sure that you’ll be safe and warm if you find yourself in an unexpected winter situation.

Summer Emergency Car Kit Items

Summer is the perfect time to hit the open road and explore all that this great country has to offer. However, before you head out on your next adventure, it’s important to make sure that your car is prepared for the journey. Besides a spare tire and a good emergency kit, there are a few other items that can come in handy during summer road trips. 

  • A big jug of water can help you stay hydrated in hot weather.
  • A blanket can provide extra warmth if you get stranded in cooler areas or provide shade if you get stuck on the side of the road. 
  • It’s also a good idea in warmer weather to keep coolant or water specifically for your radiator.

By keeping these items in your car, you can rest assured that you’ll be prepared for just about anything the summer may bring.

Your First Car: Older Vehicle Emergency Kit

Your first car as a teen may not be your dream car. It’s typical to share with your family, get your sibling’s hand-me-down, maybe a parent’s older car, or one off the local used car lot. No matter what it looks like, getting access to your first vehicle is exciting. However, older vehicles are more prone to breakdowns and need more frequent car maintenance. Let’s go over some of the most common reasons older cars break down and look at emergency items to keep in your car or your family’s car if you have an older vehicle. 

  1. Dead batteries: Having jumper cables in your car is a basic emergency kit necessity. Jumper cables can get you out of a dead battery situation. Before you get stuck, don’t forget to learn and practice how to use them. 
  2. Tire issues: A spare tire is always important to have on hand. You should replace your spare tire every 8 years. In older vehicles, it’s important to make sure your spare is in good working condition. 
  3. Oil issues: an extra quart or two of oil can go a long way to prevent a breakdown by giving you enough time to get to the nearest Jiffy Lube for an oil change. It is important in older vehicles to regularly change and monitor oil levels. Keeping your oil at the right level is an easy way to avoid much bigger engine problems down the line.
  4. Overheating: Just like in the summer, it’s always good to keep coolant with you. Older vehicles are more prone to overheating, so making sure your coolant is at the appropriate level will keep you going.

Closing Thoughts: 

That’s it for our list of emergency items to keep in your car. We hope you never have to use any of them, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Be sure to check out our other blog posts for more tips on staying safe while driving. And as always, drive safely!