Are you prepared for breakdowns, flats, dead batteries, mechanical trouble, accidents and other roadside car problems that might come up?

Instead of having a panic attack next time you have a roadside emergency, it’s a better idea to be prepared and have a plan of attack. A few simple preparations can get you through just about any breakdown or accident.

includes a blanket, candy bars, a candle, and all that other stuff. That kit is a good idea. But there are a few additional itemsyou should stock in every vehicle you own, along with this guide. By the way, seriously consider joining a roadside assistance plan. Even seasoned mechanics aren’t too proud to belong to one. One tow or a jump start on a freezing day and the annual fee will pay for itself.

Build A Car Emergency Kit

  • If you are often not around other people with cars, or just want the ability to start a car with a dead battery without involving another person and vehicle pickup a emergency jumper and keep it charged.
  • Also have standard jumpers, you might forget to charge the aforementioned
  • Have a flashlight, some emergency jumpers have one built in
  • Have car’s owner’s manual in the car. If you don’t have one, get one from your dealer. It will explain waring lights, has parts lists for lightbulbs and wipers, shows fluid types and levels, and will show all sorts of other important stuff.
  • Get some LED Flares, they last much longer than an ordinary flaming road flare and they won’t potentially start something on fire.
  • Have a spiral notebook and mechanical pencil, not a pen at the ready. A pen might freeze, leak, etc… Use to record accident information, plate numbers, phone numbers, etc.
  • Have a cell phone car charger for your current phone.
  • First aid kit.
  • Tool roll with the basics
  • If you live or drive near water a Car Hammer for breaking windows and cutting seat belts
  • If it is fall/winter carry the following: blanket/sleeping bag, candy bars, a candle, some bottled water

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What Your Car’s Warning Lights Mean

Airbag/SRS: The airbags are non-functional, you will get more seriously injured/dead if you get in an accident. Take the vehicle in for service.

Oil light: The engine has low oil pressure, check the oil level and add oil according to spec if you have some with you. Otherwise, call for a tow, driving a vehicle with low oil pressure is a great way to cause engine damage.

Brake light: Check your parking brake first. Then check the operation of the brake pedal. Does it feel weird? Spongy? Does it go to the floor? Stop driving and have the car towed. If the pedal feels firm and the brakes stop the vehicle, check the brake fluid level if you’re comfortable doing so. It it’s low, add more brake fluid. If the light stays on take the vehicle in for service.

Charging system: There’s a major issue with the charging system, take the vehicle in for service immediately.

ABS: There’s a fault in the anti-lock brake system, you can drive and operate the vehicle but give yourself more time to stop to be safe and be extra vigilant on slippery roads. Take the vehicle in for maintenance.

Traction control: There’s a problem with the system, you can still drive the car but be extremely vigilant on wet/snowy roads. Have the car serviced as soon as possible. Definitely no hooning.

Check Engine: Sometimes this is as simple as tightening the gas cap. Sometimes it is not. If the engine and transmission sound and feel smooth, you can continue to drive until you can get it checked. If the check engine light is flashing, pull over and have the vehicle towed. Driving with a flashing check engine light can destroy some very expensive emissions parts.

High Temperature: Pull over at the nearest safe spot, turn off the engine. Whatever you do, DO NOT open the radiator or coolant reservoir, unless you want to burn your face off. Have the vehicle towed. 
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How to Unstuck a Stuck Car

Shift into 1, or Low: Press the accelerator gently and allow the spinning wheels to move the vehicle forward a bit. Then release the gas and let the vehicle roll backward naturally. Immediately apply the gas to roll forward again. Rinse and repeat to build enough momentum to get going.

Do NOT shift the transmission back and forth between “D” and “R.” This will destroy your transmission, if you’re at this level of desperation call a tow truck it’s cheaper than a new tranny.

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How to Jump Start A Car

Read our extended guide on jump starting a car. Here’s a review:

  1. Turn off the ignition in both vehicles.
  2. Connect the positive jumper clamp (marked “+” or colored red) to the remote battery terminals on the car with the good battery. Remote terminals are located away from the battery, but near by. If you cannot find the remote terminals, connect the positive (“+”) jumper clamp directly to the positive (“+”) battery terminal. Then do the same on the dead vehicle.
  3. Connect the negative jumper clamp (marked “–” or colored black) to the remote negative terminal on the dead vehicle. Then connect the clamp to the good vehicle on its negative remote terminal. If the vehicles don’t have remote terminals, connect the negative jumper clamp to an unpainted metal surface a good foot or more away from the battery.
  4. Start the good vehicle and let it trickle charge the dead battery for at least five minutes. Try to start the dead vehicle with the cables still in place. If it doesn’t start wait 5 more minutes and try again, still no luck? Call for service.

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How to Change a Flat Tire

Changing a tire is actually a very straightforward process. You’ll find all the instructions you need on a decal near the jack, you know where that is right, and in the owner’s manual. Sometimes you should leave the changing to a pro:

If you have a flat tire on a highway or narrow street and the flat tire is on the driver’s side of the vehicle, call for roadside assistance. Never risk being struck by another vehicle to save the cost of a tow.

If there’s a nearby exit, you can turn on your emergency flashers and drive the vehicle to the exit and call for help from there. Know that you will most likely destroy the tire and possibly the wheel by driving to the exit, but it could save your life.

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What to Do if You’re in an Accident

  1. Check for injuries first. If any party is injured, call 911 immediately. Do not move injured persons unless you see fire, suspect the risk of fire, are in other immediate danger or are instructed to do so by 911 operators.
  2. Note your location. Cross streets, the street address itself,  the highway mile marker, destination sign or nearest billboard can all get help to you quicker. Your insurance company will also need this information.
  3. Take pictures. You have a fantastic camera in your pocket, get everything. Damage to vehicles, injuries, skid marks, the weather, the location, plates, etc…
  4. Locate any witnesses and get their account of the accident and their name, address and phone numbers.
  5. NEVER EVER admit any fault, at all. “Oh I didn’t see you there” is your ticket to a bad time.
  6. Get a copy of the police report or find out how to obtain one.
  7. Don’t make any “deals” in order to avoid notifying your insurance company. I guarantee you that your policy requires you to report the accident even if you choose not to file a claim and this is also a great way to get screwed.
  8. Contact a towing service to move your vehicle to a repair shop.
  9. Report the accident to your insurer and file a claim.