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12 emergency items for the road

What to keep in your car if you get stranded

Last updated: January 2014

We're in the thick of the winter season, and as any driver who has been stranded on a cold night knows, a few pieces of equipment can make a huge difference in safety and comfort. We’ve found that some ready-made emergency kits have a fraction of what’s needed, and some of their items are of low quality, so we recommend putting together your own kit. Start with a cell phone, which is the most important safeguard and also keep a charger in the car. Here’s what else you’ll need:

Hazard triangles (or flares)

Use three, and put them 50, 75, and 100 feet behind a disabled car.

Jumper cables

Make sure they’re at least 12 feet long. A 6-gauge rating is fine for most cars.

Flashlight

Plus spare batteries and bulb.

Roadside-assistance membership

There’s AAA, of course; others include Better World Club and GM Motor Club.  Have your card in your wallet, so you have the number ready to call in an emergency.

Tow rope

Buy one that can pull at least your car’s gross vehicle weight (see the owner’s manual). Use it only to get out of harm’s way, not for long hauls.

Duct tape

For emergency repairs.

Small shovel and bag of sand

Dig out around tires, if needed; place sand in front of and behind tires for better traction.

Windshield scraper, emergency blanket, and hand warmers

If you’re in a cold climate and need to keep warm or clean off your car.

   

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