In a perfect world, breakdown essentials would be neatly packed in your trunk and ready to go in the event of some unexpected automotive emergency on the road. In reality, there’s only so much space that you can devote to carrying extra gear, fluids, and supplies, which means you’ve got to pare it down to the items you’ll most likely need should a breakdown occur.
Here’s a handy checklist to get you started on expecting the best, but preparing for the worst.
Fluids are the lifeblood of your engine’s health and as a result, should form the core of your breakdown essentials kit. The most common fluid-related issue you’ll encounter out on the road is overheating, which can have many causes but is most often related to a lack of coolant circulating through your vehicle’s radiator. Having a gallon of coolant (also known as antifreeze) in your trunk to add to your car’s overflow reservoir, should the temperature needle spike, can sometimes be the difference between getting home and getting towed.
Oil is another important fluid, although a low oil condition is harder to spot. You should check your engine oil while getting gas at least once every two weeks, and if the dipstick shows low, then having some in the trunk to add to the crankcase is very convenient. Of course, most modern cars will automatically monitor oil pressure and level and warn you should either drop too low. If this happens while you’re driving, pull over to the shoulder, assess the situation and add oil as needed from your box of breakdown essentials.
No one expects you to perform serious mechanical work on the side of the road, but having a basic tool kit in the trunk can keep minor issues from becoming major problems. A small screwdriver (with interchangeable slotted, Philips and Torx heads), a ratchet set and pliers will go a long way toward tightening loose headlights, tail lights, engine covers and a range of interior panels that might work their way loose and make it difficult to keep driving. A tire pressure gauge that fits inside your toolkit alongside a can of fix-a-flat is also a major boon when stuck in an emergency.
If your battery’s dead, there’s nothing better to have in your breakdown essentials kit than a set of jumper cables — unless it’s a portable battery pack that lets you jump your own car back to life. The battery pack is more convenient, while the cables take up less space.
Cut yourself while working on the car? Feeling sick on a road trip? A simple first aid kit with bandages, pain relievers, tweezers, and gauze should be considered vital when assembling your breakdown essentials. Make sure to include a small flashlight, too, so you’re not applying bandages in the dark.
Although you don’t want to put your whole garage in your trunk, stocking it with these essentials should be just what you need to get you out of a jam.
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It won’t serve you much good to have a phone for said emergencies if it’s dead. Keep a portable battery charger, fully charged and ready for your device. The Anker PowerCore 20100 Portable Charger (Amazon) is compatible with a variety of mobile devices.