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Whether you're gearing up for a road trip or simply driving to the supermarket, you never expect to break down along the way. However, the reality is that breakdowns do happen — often when you least expect it — and being prepared for the worst can't hurt.

But how prepared is prepared enough? Some suggest packing a vehicle with every item imaginable, including a face mask, pepper spray, and parachute cord (or paracord), while others recommend keeping a car stocked with a few basic essentials.

Although you can't control when a break down occurs, you can be knowledgeable about the tools and items needed to ensure your safety and make the situation more manageable. That's why several roadside emergency kits and supply lists have been already been created. These bundles include the gear that can help in the event of a breakdown and information on how to use each item.

The Basic Kit

Easy to store and simple to use, the below items are included in most basic roadside emergency kits. It's recommended that you store these items in your vehicle at all times.

Jumper Cables

Jumper cables should always be stored in your car in the event that your vehicle needs a jump. This could be caused by something as mundane as forgetting to turn off the vehicle's headlights or driving through extended periods of extreme heat or cold. Having jumper cables stocked in a vehicle means that a friend, family member, or even a passerby can be “flagged down” to jump your vehicle, instead of having to call — and pay for — a tow truck.


A flashlight is another item that should always be stored in the car. Breakdowns can happen at any time of day, and trying to change a tire when it is difficult to see could make a situation even more frustrating than it already is. On top of that, it can be dangerous if other drivers or pedestrians are unable to see you in the dark. A bright, weatherproof flashlight is the best choice but it is more important to make sure the flashlight works before hitting the road.

First Aid Kit

A first aid kit might not always be necessary in the event of a breakdown, but one should be stored in the vehicle at all times, in case someone gets hurt. Basic items such as painkillers, bandages, gauze, antibiotic ointment, antihistamines for allergic reactions, alcohol wipes, medical tape, and an instant ice pack could all come in handy.

Tire-Related Items

While most cars come equipped with a jack and lug wrench, it is important to ensure the vehicle has them, they work as expected, and you know how to use each item. Other useful items include a tire pressure gauge to check your tire pressure and a can of Fix-a-Flat, in case you need to temporarily patch up small holes in tires until they can be looked at by a professional. Finally, having a spare tire on hand can help you avoid being stranded in the event a blowout or flat.

Triangle Reflectors and Roadside Flares

Both triangle reflectors and roadside flares are great safety essentials to have on hand. Placed around a car, especially at night, reflectors and flare alert motorists know they should slow down and/or pull over to make sure everything is ok. It it recommended you keep at least 2 reflectors and 4, 15-minute flares in your vehicle at all times.


A blanket can be used in a number of different breakdown scenarios. If it is chilly outside, a blanket can provide comfort and warmth while you or your passengers wait for help to arrive. Additionally, a blanket can be placed on the ground and knelt on while changing a tire to keep clothing clean and provide some cushioning.

Air Compressor with Jump-Starter

An air compressor with a built-in jump-starter is a handy device when there are no other cars on the road to provide a jump. This useful addition not only generates compressed air for a flat tire — it also provides the power needed to jump-start your vehicle without the assistance of another motorist. Most air compressors with built-in jump-starters can conveniently be charged at home — just make sure to store it in your vehicle after its completely charged.


You may need to make a minor repair when you least expect it, so it is best to keep some small tools in your car. Items such as a flat-blade screwdriver, Philips-head screwdriver, pliers, and/or multi-tool (one that has a knife, scissors, screwdrivers, saw, and a wire cutter) are all good to have on hand. Even if you aren't confident you can fix an issue yourself, it is advised to keep these tools on hand in case a passenger or passerby can help.

Extra Bottles of Fluids

Keeping extra quarts of oil, a gallon of antifreeze, and a bottle of windshield wiper fluid in the trunk of your vehicle will seem like a god-send if it is low on any of them. Place these items in a cardboard box so they don't bounce around in the trunk or spill. You should also keep a funnel handy as it will make pouring fluids easier and more precise.

The Worst-Case Scenario Kit

The worst-case scenario kit is meant to highlight items you might need in the event you get stuck in the middle of nowhere, your cell phone doesn't work, and it is too far to walk to get help. Pep Boys hopes you never have to use these items, but it is best to stock them in a vehicle for precautionary reasons.


Being stranded in the middle of nowhere might mean spending the night in the area, and having a sleeping bag handy can provide some extra comfort. In the event a camp fire must be started, waterproof matches can prove extremely valuable. Other good items to pack include a rain poncho, sunscreen, a bandanna (use as a sweat rag or face mask), a solar-powered or crank-powered emergency radio, a hat, walking shoes, a tarp (makes a good makeshift tent or sleeping surface), extra batteries, a backpack, and simple food items like energy bars, trail mix (without chocolate since it melts in the heat), and/or whole wheat crackers.

Items For Winter

There are some items that you should have in your car only during the winter months, such as a shovel (could be a small, folding shovel or a full-sized snow shovel) to dig out your car, a knitted hat, a pair of boots, chemical hand warmers, and a bag of sand or kitty litter to provide some traction on a slippery road surface if your vehicle gets stuck. Pep Boys also recommends having snow tire chains on hand to improve on-road traction in the event of a snowstorm.

If you find yourself in a dangerous situation and need a tow, Pep Boys is here to help. Give us a call at 1-866-TOW-2-PEP. Or, if you need help creating your ideal roadside emergency kit, stop by your local store or shop Online today.