Today's cars and trucks are a lot more reliable than vehicles were 50 or 60 years ago, and these days, you don't very often see a greasy, irritated parent by the side of the road trying to get a broken-down car going again. Still, the unexpected can happen and it's a good idea to have a trouble bag in your vehicle (especially if you're driving something that's a little old and rough).
In a recent survey, the AAA found that cars 10 years or older are twice as likely to end up stranded on the side of the road. Even though older cars might be more at risk of a breakdown, it can happen to any car, so we advise always carrying a bag of tools and supplies that will help you get your car going again.
So what makes up a good trouble bag? There are the basics like a few simple hand tools and a roll of duct tape, but how much more do you want to add (and how much room do you have in your vehicle to stow it)?
Dewalt Tools Multi Tool | Advance Auto Parts
Consider these tools:
- Small socket set and driver (available in pocket-size case)
- Leatherman-style multi-tool with long nose pliers, wire cutters, screwdriver tips, mini-saw, etc (go with a good one because cheap ones are useless.)
- Screwdrivers (Phillips and standard)
- A good sharp knife
- Work gloves
- Coat hanger wire
- Adjustable wrench
- Duct tape (aka "100 mph tape")
- At least one can of aerosol Fix-A-Flat
- Motor oil, transmission fluid, antifreeze (if you have room)
Sas Safety 10-Person First Aid Kit | Advance Auto Parts
And some survival stuff:
- Drinking water
- Blanket (and maybe a sweater, cap and gloves, if you're in a cold climate).
- Protein-rich snacks — things like nuts, beef jerky or even canned tuna that take longer to digest and can make your stomach feel satisfied longer.
- Power bank for your cell phone, or maybe a prepaid flip phone that's strictly for emergency use (flip phones usually have a long, long battery life).
- Reflector triangles or collapsible orange cones
- Fire extinguisher
- First aid kit — you don't have to prepare for surgery, but burn cream, antiseptic, tweezers, scissors, band-aids, gauze, and tape are at least some minimums for the kit.
- Flashlight and extra batteries — LED flashlights are now extremely bright and compact, and some feature a strobe function that can draw attention if you're stranded at night.
Of course, all this stuff does take up a lot of space. If you're driving a big Dodge Ram or an SUV, that might not be a problem, but if you have a small crossover or hatchback it could be a challenge. You might need to get creative with the storage of some of these items — minivans usually have multiple cubbies and storage options (along with the console) where things can go.
Of course, we hope you don't need the stuff in your trouble bag, but it's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
What do you carry in your car in case of a breakdown? Let us know in the comments.