The following is a guest post by John Egan.
There’s nothing like unexpected car problems to upset your monthly budget. Even for minor repairs, the cost of towing or new tires can quickly add up.
With a small amount of preparation, it’s possible to avoid many of the headaches that come with breaking down on the side of the road. Even if you do fork out the cash for a roadside assistance program, it’s still worthwhile to ready yourself in the event that you’re stuck on the side of the road. We’re all occasionally without phone service, and being somewhat self-sufficient provides both a feeling of empowerment and security.
Putting together a simple roadside emergency kit for each of your family’s vehicles is a smart, inexpensive endeavor. Most of the items necessary can be purchased in one trip to an auto parts or big-box discount store. Although you’ll make a small investment upfront, being prepared could save you needless cash down the road on sudden expenses like a long-distance tow. Not to mention, your roadside kit could be the difference between spending the night in your car (or walking miles for help) or rolling on down the road.
Things Every Emergency Roadside Kit Should Include:
- Extra Motor Oil: 2 quarts of 10W-30 will get you where you’re going almost any time of year. If your oil light comes on, check for leaks and top it off.
- A Rag: There’s no reason adding oil to your car has to get your hands messy.
- Antifreeze: Keep a jug stashed in your car in case your car runs low and starts to overheat. It’s easy to add more and can save your engine (and a big chunk of cash).
- A Blanket: If your car is dead on the side of the road during winter, you don’t want to freeze.
- Jumper Cables: A dead battery is easy to fix. You just need another car and jumper cables. But if neither car has them, you’re out of luck.
- Fuses: Any auto parts store will know what kinds your car needs. Often times, problems with headlights, wipers and even your starter can be attributed to a blown fuse. They’re easy to change yourself. Learn where your fuse box is before you need it!
- A Flashlight: Keep one in every car. Whether you’re fixing your car at night or walking for help, you’ll need light.
- Tire Inflator: These magic cans available at most gas stations (often called by the brand name Fix-A-Flat) are amazing when you get a flat tire. In many cases, squirting their glue and compressed air into your tire is all you need to get you to a garage for tire repair without needing a tow truck.
- Roadside Flares : If you’re just commuting in a city, you may never need these, but it’s smart to have them on hand for that one time you go camping and break down deep in the woods.
If You’re a Tinkerer (or Willing to Try), Add These:
- The Mechanic Manual for Your Car: Most auto parts stores will have these. They’re about $20 (even cheaper on eBay) and they’ll tell you everything you need to know to self-diagnose a breakdown.
- Tools: Stash screwdrivers, an adjustable wrench, pliers, a vise grip, and a pocketknife and you’ll be ready for 75 percent of roadside jobs.
- Duct Tape: It does everything.
- Energy Bars and Water: Stash these in your glove box just in case. They’ll come in handy in traffic jams too.
Sometimes, being frugal requires making a small upfront investment. In the case of a roadside emergency kit, a small amount of planning can save you big bucks and lots of frustration later on.