A car breakdown always seems to happen at the worst time, in extreme temperatures or in the middle of the night (or in my case in the middle of the on-ramp of a busy Toronto highway at rush-hour). There is no such thing as a convenient breakdown, and while a roadside assistance company will try get to you as soon as they can, an hour or more in the sweltering heat or freezing cold is a nasty prospect. My dad always told me to keep up with my oil changes and make sure there's gas in the tank. For my birthday one year I received what every teenager wants most - an emergency car kit. I didn't know what most of the things in it were but I put it in the trunk and felt well taken care of with this plastic briefcase of strange objects that I didn't know how to use.
Here's a reminder of the very simple and obvious items you should always travel with in your car but don't:
A blanket and warm clothes. If you wind up breaking down at the side of a highway, in some situations it is dangerous to sit in the car and you have to move as far away from it as you can. A hoodie is a great thing to have should you find yourself without a hat in the cold, and it gives you an extra layer of warmth. Mitts or gloves are a must. If it's summer where you are, don't wait until the season to get these things together. We all know how fast the time goes and you're not likely to think of it until it's too late.
For more information on how you can prepare your car better for problems associated with breaking down in winter, take a look at these winter survival kits. They’ll be a blessing when the frost starts to appear.
Water. You may be waiting a while for assistance to arrive and you'll need to stay hydrated to think clearly. And if you find yourself stranded, in extreme cases it could save your life. Keep the water in the trunk of your car so it's out of the sun. It may freeze but it's better to have edible ice than nothing in some cases. If you don't use it then be sure to replace it according to the date on the bottle.
Energy Bars. It is always a good idea to have some food in your car. Something as simple as an energy bar that has a good shelf life and won’t melt in the heat is ideal, and it can give you something to do to break up the wait time.
Phone and back up power. The phone is no brainer - do we go anywhere without our phones these days? But a dead phone at the time of a breakdown is dangerous, especially if it happens in an isolated location and you don't have your car charger. There are neat gadgets you can buy that use a single AA battery and a connector to give your phone a boost. Keep one of these and the battery in your glove compartment. Make sure that you store the number for your recovery company and a record of your policy number in your contact list to make life easier.
Medication. If you have a medical condition that requires daily medication, don't travel without it. You don't need the additional stress of worrying about your physical state when trying to get back on the road.
And be sure to keep everything together in a bag or a box so your kit doesn't get scattered, lost or damaged and is there when you need it!