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Car Emergency Kit Checklist

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Traveling by car over the holidays?

by Ron Lovell

This Thanksgiving I will serve 600 people at my local Santa Maria Salvation Army. Around 1 pm I get to travel to San Luis Obispo to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast at my brother's house. This is an event I look forward to all year. This holiday season I am sure you will be traveling by car too, most likely with your most treasured assets; your family.

Over the course of my life I have driven almost a million miles through 46 states. Yes, even Alaska! I have experienced most car emergencies, and I have been saved more than once by my car emergency kit. Even a simple blown fuse can derail your travel plans if you are not prepared. You can also be placed in a dangerous situation on the side of the road, in the dark, and maybe no cell service.

Stuck on the side of the road
Here are some of my most memorable roadside emergencies:
  1. Entire drivers side front rim and tire flew off on the 101 freeway (Camarillo, CA)
  2. Car in front of me caught on fire (Ventura, CA)
  3. Front tire blowout 110 freeway (Los Angeles, CA)
  4. Blown fuse disabled my ignition, pre-cell phones (Nipomo, CA)
  5. Dead battery, so many times I can't remember!
  6. Snapped axle on a trailer, Alaska Highway (Tatogga, Canada)
  7. Ran out of gas, Skyway Drive (Santa Maria, CA)
  8. Rear wheel lug nuts snapped and rim/tire came off due to overtightening I-15 (San Bernardino, CA)...There are lots more, but ket's get to the basic kit.
Mercury Insurance has some suggestions here. I am going to add a few based on my experiences.
  1. Working jack, lug wrench and fresh spare tire. Make sure you know how to use the jack and when rotating tires, ask the tire shop if rotating your spare into the mix is recommended. At least have it checked.
  2. Fire extinguisher. Get trained by your local fire department for free - safety first!
  3. First aid kit. Have some ibuprofen for when your kids give you a headache too. "Are we there yet?"
  4. Basic tool kit with bungee cords, rope, zip ties, and duct tape. This has saved me many times. I love old cars and they break often.
  5. Jumper cables. A dead battery has, or will happen to you! My favorite is the drive-in.
  6. Flashlight. Good ones now are super-bright LED. Some have multiple colors and can flash.
  7. Flares and/or safety triangles. Know how they work too!
  8. Fuses, fuse removal tool, and fuse box schematic. Many dead car or lighting issues can be fixed easily by replacing a fuse. I check fuses before calling for help.
  9. Back-up cell phone battery. If you have an iPhone, have a portable charger for some quick juice.
  10. Emergency money. Keep a $10 or $20 bill in the glove box or ash tray. No, Starbuck's is not an emergency!
  11. Overnight bag. Food, water, lighter and mylar or camp blanket. Heck, even toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant!
We will post this on Facebook too. Let us know your favorite roadside emergency story and tips!
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