From Your Driveway to the Highway: Car Emergency Checklist

By HomeAdvisor

Updated May 17, 2019

Man working on broken down car in snow

If you drive a car, you’ll have many concerns and responsibilities. From being able to change a flat tire to knowing what to do if your car won’t start, you’ll need to be prepared for any situation and have a car emergency checklist as well as making sure that you’ve found good garage door contractors near you and nearby driveway paving companies to maintain where you keep your vehicle. You should also consider assembling an emergency car kit to keep in your vehicle for optimal car safety. Knowing how to respond readily to potential problems will keep you in the driver’s seat.

Mechanical and Recovery Car Kit Items

Often, you can avoid car trouble with preventative maintenance such as:

  • changing your oil,
  • topping off fluids,
  • changing your air filter, and
  • rotating your tires.

But even when you’re careful to keep your vehicle maintained, you may still experience a roadside emergency with an issue such as a flat tire, a broken windshield, or running out of gas. If you have a basic understanding of car repair and you keep tools in your vehicle, you may be able to take care of some issues yourself.

  • Car jack and spare tire: A flat tire comes in near the top of the list of roadside emergencies. Every driver should know how to change a tire, and you must also carry the tools you’ll need to do so. Know where the spare tire is and how to get to it and carry a jack with you.
  • Jumper cables: If you accidentally leave the lights on, you may return to a dead battery in your car. Carrying jumper cables will enable you to jump-start your car with the help of another driver. Ideally, your jumper cables should be at least 20 feet long with the correct cable gauge for the car.
  • Emergency car battery charger: For those times when you’re stranded without someone to give you a jump-start, carrying a car battery charger will enable you to recharge your battery with enough power to get you to the next city.

Emergency and Survival Car Kit Items

If you’re ever stranded in your car, a survival kit can make the difference between life and death. Make sure you pack these important items in your car.

  • Fire extinguisher: Keeping a fire extinguisher within easy reach of the driver’s seat will enable you to extinguish a gas or diesel fire.
  • Car escape tool or pocket knife: A tool that enables you to cut through a seat belt and break a window to escape is also important.
  • Two-way radio: Carry a two-way radio in your car for emergencies. With a range of more than 20 miles and long battery life, it’ll help you if your phone doesn’t work and you need to call for help.

As you assemble the items for your car kit, make sure you add these items for a full car emergency kit:

  1. Canvas bag to hold the kit
  2. Gas can (no-spill style)
  3. Jumper cables
  4. Flat tire inflation canister
  5. Spare tire
  6. Jack
  7. Maps
  8. Car fuses
  9. First aid kit
  10. Flashlight
  11. Shovel
  12. Car escape tool
  13. Fire extinguisher
  14. Antifreeze
  15. Extra motor oil
  16. Duct tape
  17. Paper towels
  18. Washer fluid
  19. Pens and paper
  20. Multipurpose tool
  21. Rain gear
  22. Ice scraper
  23. GPS unit
  24. Towing strap
  25. Cell phone charger
  26. Car battery charger
  27. Flares or glow sticks
  28. Battery-powered radio
  29. Extra winter outerwear
  30. Blankets and sleeping bags
  31. At least two to three gallons of bottled water
  32. Granola bars or other non-perishable snacks
  33. Tool kit with screwdrivers, pliers, wrenches, and tire gauge
  34. Personal sanitation items (hand sanitizer, towelettes, etc.)

Safe Driving Tips for Bad Weather

Driving on Snowy or Icy Roads

  • Slow down: Drive about 10 miles per hour slower, even if you have all-wheel drive.
  • Look out for black ice Black ice is invisible, so be prepared for it on bridges, in shadows, and at intersections.
  • Don’t tailgate: Leave at least 100 yards between you and the vehicle ahead of you so you can stop.
  • Don’t brake while turning: Slow down before you turn to avoid spinning out.
  • Turn into skids: If you start to skid, release the brake and gas and steer the car in the direction it’s skidding.

Driving in Foggy Conditions

  • Use fog lights: Turn on your fog lights to cut through the fog better.
  • Pump the brakes as a warning: If you enter a fog bank, pump the brakes as you drive into it so cars behind you are prepared.
  • Slow down before hills: Reduce your speed before you crest a hill so that you’re prepared for what you can’t see ahead of time.

Driving in Rainy Weather

  • Slow down: Reduce your speed by up to 10 miles per hour to avoid hydroplaning.
  • Don’t drive through water: Avoid standing water because it could be deeper than it looks and cause your car to stall.
  • Dry the brakes: After driving through a puddle, take your foot off the gas and brake lightly to dry the brakes.

Having Car Trouble?

  • Get the car out of traffic: Pull off the road and illuminate your hazard lights. Place flares around the car for optimal visibility for other drivers.
  • Don’t leave the car: Stay in your car until someone arrives.
  • Dig yourself out of snow: If you’re stuck in snow, use kitty litter, sand, or even your floor mats under the tires to improve traction. Use your shovel from your survival kit to dig out around the wheels and around the exhaust pipe to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

Prep Your Car for Bad Weather

  • Maintain the windshield wipers: Replace wipers regularly to ensure that they’re working properly.
  • Clean the headlights: Headlight covers will turn cloudy over time. Purchase a kit to clean them.
  • Check the tires: Insert a penny so the top of Abraham Lincoln’s head goes first into a tire groove. If you can see the top of his head, your tires are too worn. Check the tire pressure, too.
  • Get winter car service: If you live where it’s cold during the winter, ask about garage contractors near me and have your car serviced before the snow flies.
  • Keep an emergency kit: Always drive with a fully stocked emergency kit in your trunk.

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