How to Build a Roadside Safety Kit

If you own and drive a car, roadside breakdowns are an unfortunate, but inevitable fact of life. They can happen to any vehicle, no matter how old, new, or recently serviced. And while any roadside trouble is a hassle, you can be prepared so that your next breakdown doesn’t become a disaster.

Having an emergency car kit is essential for anyone, at any time of the year. It can be especially important if you’re driving with young children or during bad weather. Here’s what to include in a roadside emergency kit in order to see you through most common breakdowns until you can either solve the problem, or assistance arrives.

A spare tire and car jack

Nearly every vehicle, whether it’s bought used or new, comes with a spare tire and a jack that will fit the car. If yours doesn’t have this vital equipment, make sure you get a spare and a jack right away. Flat tires are one of the most common roadside problems, but they’re also one of the easiest to remedy.

It’s important to know how to change a tire yourself, and to be familiar with how your vehicle’s jack works and where to place it. Many people rely on cell phones so they can call for emergency roadside assistance from AAA or a similar association, but if you end up with a flat tire somewhere that’s out of range for your phone, you could be waiting a long time for help.

First aid kit

Having a first aid kit stored permanently in your vehicle is helpful not only during roadside breakdowns, but in many situations. Make sure your first aid kit contains basic treatments for minor cuts and burns, an ice pack, bandages, and any other medical supplies you might need. You might also want to include over-the-counter pain relievers and any medication you or your family members rely on regularly.

Vehicle fluids

Fluid loss is another common occurrence during roadside breakdowns. Your car emergency kit should contain replacement antifreeze, oil, brake fluid and windshield washer fluid (to keep your windshield clear of ice if you break down during the winter). In some cases, replacing lost fluids can help you get your vehicle home or to a service station, even if it’s leaking out along the way.

Jumper cables or a portable jump starter

Many people experience roadside emergencies when their car battery drains. Losing battery power in your vehicle may be due to several problems, ranging from an aging battery to loose or corroded battery cables or from leaving the accessory switch on too long while running headlights to a bad alternator. In any case, you will often be able to get your vehicle running again by jumping the battery, though if the battery itself is bad or your alternator isn’t working, the charge may not hold for long. Once you’ve arrived safely, you should have your vehicle checked at a service station for the cause of the battery problems.

Having a set of jumper cables in your vehicle ensures that if someone stops to help, you’ll have a way to get your vehicle started again. However, while more expensive than cables, a portable jump starter or jump pack is a better solution. These portable power stations can charge a car battery without the need for another vehicle, and most of them include other power ports that let you plug in an electrical device or a USB cable handy for charging your phone in emergency situations.

Blankets and a water supply

In extreme cases you may have a roadside breakdown in poor weather or a remote location and you might not be able to get help for some time. Storing blankets and a supply of fresh water in your vehicle can ensure that everyone is as comfortable as possible in an emergency situation, and may even save lives.

Here at Westway Auto Body in Wisconsin, we wish you safe and prepared driving wherever your roads take you!

Getting Your Vehicle Ready for Spring

Spring is a welcome break from the cold and the right time to give your car a thorough checking over so you can repair or prevent any damage from winter. Road salt, slush and cold temperatures can affect many parts of your vehicle. Fortunately, with a few spring cleaning steps, you can repair minor damage and get your car in great shape to match the upcoming weather.

Give your car a thorough cleaning

Running your vehicle through a car wash after the winter is a good idea. But, once the snow and slush is gone for good, you should aim for a deeper clean. For the exterior, wash everything, including the underbody which can become corroded and rusty if winter salt and sand clings for too long. Once it’s clean, a fresh coat of wax will help protect your paint and make it easier for your car to shake off spring rains.

There are more areas you can clean under the hood. With the engine completely cool, remove any leaves or debris from under-hood components and use soapy water and a soft mitt to wipe down the engine itself. You can also clean crusty white residue from your battery using baking soda and water on a toothbrush.

Finally, don’t forget the interior. After all that salty wet slush and mud has been tracked through your vehicle, the material on your floors and seats are at risk for damage. Use rug-cleaning spray and a car vacuum, or rent a steam cleaner and freshen up your seats and floors.

Replace non-metal components as needed

Winter conditions can crack and erode exterior vehicle parts that aren’t metal. Spring is often the right time to replace windshield wiper blades that have been working hard for months and are now worn down.

Your tires may also need replacing. Look at the tire tread for general wear or uneven spots and keep in mind that bald tires are just as bad in the spring since your vehicle can hydroplane on rainy Wisconsin days. If your tires are still good tread-wise, make sure you check the tire pressure for proper inflation. Soft tires can affect your MPG and are also more prone to blowouts.

Spring car checklist

Finally, you’ll want to make sure that your vehicle is in top mechanical condition. Some things to check after the winter include:

  • Battery: If you have accumulated dirt or grime on your battery posts get them cleaned to ensure your battery keeps working properly. You can also test your battery’s charge level and replace it if needed.
  • Fluids: Check your fluid levels, including windshield wiper fluid, oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid and antifreeze. Top off as required and if anything seems unusually low, ask a mechanic to check for other problems.
  • Belts and hoses: Inspect these components thoroughly as winter temperatures and conditions can cause worn spots, cracks or breaks.
  • Alignment: Driving in the winter can be tough on your vehicle. If your car shakes or pulls to one side it may be time to have your alignment readjusted.

Here at Westway Auto Body, we wish you a warm and safe spring with a vehicle in great condition. Happy driving!