Roadside emergencies happen to all of us at one time or another. Your car breaks down. You find yourself in the midst of a storm and have to pull off the road. Whatever the cause, you want to be prepared.
Click through to see 10 items you should always carry in your car in case of an emergency.
Cell Phone and Portable Charger
Not only should you carry a cell phone, but you should ensure it's fully charged before hitting the road. To be safe, keep a portable phone charger on hand that can plug into a cigarette lighter or other car outlet. You can find a variety of cell-phone chargers on the market these days: battery-powered chargers, solar-powered chargers and even chargers you crank with your hand.
In addition, keep an old, fully charged phone in your car for backup if you have one. Cellular providers are required to complete 911 calls from cell phones, even if service is not activated.
Jumper cables can come in handy if your battery dies unexpectedly or if you need to help someone whose battery has died. Be sure your cables are at least six feet long, in case your car is stuck in a position that makes it difficult for another automobile to park next to it for the jump.
Keep a small fire extinguisher in your car. While rare, it's possible for blazes to start from accidents, overheated engines or leaking oil or other fluids. Be sure to purchase an extinguisher that can douse chemical fires.
If a fire does break out in your engine area, don't open the hood. Instead, spray the extinguisher up from under the wheel well.
Always carry an LED flashlight. An alternative is an LED headlamp, which allows you to keep your hands free if you need to change a flat tire or check under the hood.
Be sure to keep extra flashlight batteries in your car, or purchase a flashlight that uses a hand crank to recharge. Some flashlights have a variety of handy features. The Energizer Emergency Weather Station operates on AA batteries or with a hand crank. What's more, it features a USB cell-phone charger and has a built-in NOAA emergency radio.
Keep a tire-changing kit in your car, along with Fix-A-Flat tire inflator and foam tire sealant for minor leaks or punctures. Your tire-change kit should include a spare tire, a jack and lug nut wrench or a tire iron. Some of these items will already be included in your car when you purchase it. Be sure you know where they're located.
Reflective Triangles and Road Flares
Be sure to carry reflective triangles or road flares. They'll alert other motorists that you're in trouble and serve as notice to drive carefully around you.
Keep at least two triangles on hand. If you find yourself on the shoulder, place one about 10 feet behind your car and another 100 feet beyond that.
As you walk to place the triangles near your car, hold them in front of you so you're visible to oncoming traffic.
Keep a well-stocked first-aid kit in your car at all times. The kit should contain items like bandages, gauze, antiseptic wipes, scissors, non-latex gloves and a first-aid instruction booklet.
You can purchase ready-made kits or create your own. The American Red Cross offers a detailed list of items you'll want to include.
Water and Non-Perishable Foods
Always keep non-perishable foods on hand. You can purchase military-style MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) or stock high-calorie energy bars.
Also be sure to keep water in the car. It can be more important than food, as it prevents your body from dehydrating and can be used to wash wounds in case of injuries.
Next: 20 Surprising Tips for Surviving a Heat Wave
Winter Weather Preparedness Kit
A shovel and windshield ice scraper can be indispensable during a winter storm. You should also keep kitty litter or sand in the car. Either can provide traction on icy road surfaces.