There are few things more frustrating (or scarier) than breaking down far from home with your kids in the car. These days, roadside assistance is often just a phone call or push of a button away. Even when these resources are available, it’s smart to have a ‘just-in-case’ plan in place. There are times when phones don’t have reception, you’re far from a major town (more likely in the western U.S.), or you’re simply in a hurry and need to get back on the road.

A kit for roadside emergencies is simple to put together. Keeping one in the car will leave you with the empowerment and peace of mind that whatever happens, you have a plan in place to deal with it. When you’re prepared, there’s no reason to worry!

Breakdowns come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you blow a flat tire, your engine starts smoking, or you’re simply having trouble keeping your vehicle moving in a straight line, it’s smart to have the tools on hand necessary to access the situation, even if you plan on letting someone else do the work.

At the very least, keeping a kit on hand can help you avoid spending the night on the side of the road or having to hail down a passing motorist in the dark.

Most of the items needed for your kit can be purchased in one stop at a car parts or major discount store. Here are your essentials:

  1. Extra motor oil — Whether you spring a leak or your light flickers on that you’re low, adding oil to your engine is easy. Keep a rag with the oil so you can open the simple twist off input underneath your hood. If you know that you’re low, pour a third of a quart in and recheck your oil light. If it’s still on, add a bit more and check it again.
  2. Jumper cables — Another car can’t jump your dead battery if neither of you have cables. Get cables that are at least 12 feet long to connect between batteries on opposite sides of two cars.
  3. Blanket — It may be cold, and you may have to wait. Don’t risk freezing!
  4. Roadside Flares — In case you’re ever really stuck (out in the desert or far down a dirt road), these will alert people in the vicinity to your whereabouts, and flares are a universal call for help.
  5. Extra Fuses — Just ask at a car parts store what types you should carry for your car. The next time one of your headlights goes out, don’t risk a ticket before driving home. Just check the fuse.
  6. Flashlight — Whether you’re identifying a problem under your car or walking for help, you’ll be glad you’ve got light.
  7. Tire Inflator — Often times, a can of Fix-A-Flat is all you need to get that flat tire to the nearest service station. These are available at most gas stations and there are instructions on the can. They’re easy to use and should be kept in every vehicle.

If you’re willing to do a bit more tinkering, throw in tools like screwdrivers, pliers, and a pocketknife. It’s also not a bad idea to keep a few granola bars and bottles of water in your glovebox. Just remember to replace them every few months! Whatever you do, don’t drive around for another day without an emergency kit. Every car breaks down — it doesn’t have to be a disaster.

John Egan is managing editor of Car Insurance Quotes, a leading online provider of car insurance news.

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