You should always have your own Roadside Emergency Kit even if you don’t know much about cars.

It’s late at night and you’re driving on a dark, lonely country road. Suddenly, the steering wheel tugs in your hands and the car is hard to control. You ease the car to the side of the road and stop. Getting out, you see that the left rear tire is going flat and you don’t have a spare.

If you have roadside assistance and a cell phone signal, you can call for help. If not, you’re either faced with having to hail a passing motorist or spending a night in the boonies. That is, unless you have a well-stocked emergency roadside kit in the trunk of your car. Then you can set out flares to alert other drivers while you inflate the tire with a can of sealant to get you to safety. If these steps fail, at least you’ll have food, water and a blanket to keep you comfortable until help arrives.

When it comes to commuting or traveling long distances, a roadside emergency kit can mean the difference between getting back on the road and being stranded for hours. It’s the one item every vehicle should have. And yet, most of us don’t carry the basic items to help us get back on the road quickly and safely.

When assembling your emergency kit, keep in mind that it should be tailored to the age and condition of your vehicle, your driving patterns and the weather. If you live in an area with no snow or freezing rain, you can skip some of these items. Also, if something on this list is inexpensive and small, you might as well carry it. You never know what kind of situations you might have to deal with.

A basic roadside emergency kit should include some of the following items:

Jumper cables. Or you can carry a small, portable, lithium-ion battery with jumper cables. Usually, these batteries will also recharge computers and cell phones. Prices for these batteries range from $60-$120. If you go the battery route, though, make sure to keep it charged.

Flares or triangle reflectors. LED flares are also an option worth considering.

  • A quart or more of motor oil
  • A gallon of coolant
  • First-aid kit
  • Blanket or space blanket
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Tool kit with screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench, pocket knife
  • A can of tire inflator and sealant such as Fix-a-Flat
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Paper towels
  • Spray bottle with washer fluid
  • Ice scraper (if you live in an area with snow)
  • Pen and paper
  • Granola or energy bars
  • Bottled water
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