You might want to put AAA on speed dial. That’s because no matter how often we invest in a new set of tires, every U.S. driver will experience, on average, up to five flats in their lifetime. But while experiencing a puncture or blowout on the open road is one of the bigger dangers facing drivers, it certainly isn’t the only trouble they might encounter.
To ease your mind, here are a few practical tips about how to prep your car for any type of danger or emergency and ensure the safety of you and your passengers when Murphy’s Law rules the road.
Conduct Routine Vehicle Maintenance
Your best defense in preparing your vehicle for the worst of situations means routinely getting it serviced at a dependable auto shop. Of course, a well-maintained vehicle is less likely to experience failures on the road. And it’s no secret your vehicle needs regular oil changes to run optimally. But, on average, you should get a tune-up at a minimum every 30,000 to 45,000 miles.
The chances of experiencing a breakdown or system failure decreases with routine oil changes, battery testing, fluid level checks and tire inspections. So when you schedule your next vehicle checkup, make sure your mechanic checks the following:
- Air and fuel filters
- Level of antifreeze
- Your ignition system
- Your battery
- Your brakes
- Your exhaust system
- Headlights and hazard lights
- Windshield wiper fluid
- Windshield wiper equipment
Devise Your Own Emergency Kit
There are countless roadside assistance kits on the market, but devising your own allows you to tailor its contents based on your preferences as well as local conditions. For example, not every vehicle will require an ice scraper, but your kit might want to include jumper cables and roadside flares.
Perhaps the best benefit in organizing your own roadside assistance and emergency kit is that you’ll always be aware of its contents. Though the specifics are up to you, some basic recommended essentials include:
- Spare tires and a jack
- Flares (or a reflective triangle)
- Jumper cables
- Cell phone charger or adapter
- Sand or cat litter to create better tire traction
- Tire pressure gauges and an adjustable wrench
- Windshield washer fluid
- Flashlights and batteries
- First-aid supplies
- Drinking water
- Non-perishable food for passengers and pets
A large toolbox makes for a tidy place to house all your supplies. To better organize it, use clear containers with secure lids for any loose items; place items in a single row and layer them for easier access; tape an itemized list of supplies to the toolbox’s exterior and replace items as needed; and check the toolkit regularly for expired items.
Your emergency kit should be kept in the trunk or secured on the vehicle’s roof with bungee cords to prevent any sliding or tumbling of items.
Follow These Vehicle Safety Tips
- Always keep a full tank of gas. Not only does a full tank prevent the fuel line from freezing, but you will also be prepared in case you and your family must suddenly evacuate.
- Don’t forego investing in new tires. Contrary to popular belief, not all tires are created equal. But you don’t have to be a mechanic to know owning the right set of all-season tires to handle all types of weather conditions and terrain can mean the difference between surviving an emergency and avoiding one altogether.
- Avoid flooded areas. As little as six inches of standing rain water can stall out your vehicle or cause you to lose control of it. Meantime, as little as a foot of water on a roadway is enough for smaller vehicles to float away.
- Stay inside your vehicle in case of downed power lines. Exiting the vehicle when downed power lines make contact with your vehicle could lead to experiencing an electrical shock.
- Pull over in the event of an explosion. This is especially important if this or another similar event makes controlling your vehicle a challenge. In these cases, pull over as soon as possible, put your car in park, and apply the parking brake.
- Avoid lockouts. According to AAA, experiencing a flat tire, dead battery and vehicle lockout tops the list of reasons why drivers typically call for assistance. To that end, AAA recommends drivers check to make sure their car keys are in hand before exiting the vehicle and that they bring a spare car key on every trip.
In many instances while on the road, what can go wrong will go wrong. Still, the only way to plan for these unplanned events is to be prepared. With that said, make sure to routinely service your vehicle, always carry an emergency kit, and make it a point to follow best practices on the road.
Author information: Jayme Cook is a writer and English professor living in Phoenix. She enjoys punctuation marks, sashimi and the smell of wet paint. Dislikes: people who cut in line.