Cars may be one of the greatest conveniences of modern technology, but they may also be a source of some of your greatest frustrations. Nothing is worse than breaking down on the side of the road with a simple problem that you can't address because you weren't prepared.
By keeping these five items in your car at all times, you'll feel greater peace of mind and get back on the road more quickly when breakdowns do happen.
Jumper cables or portable jump box
One of the most common but also most easily rectified problems car owners can run into is having their car run out of battery power. Even something as simple as leaving a light on in the vehicle overnight or running the radio when the car's ignition is not engaged can drain a battery past where it has power to start the engine. Keeping jumper cables or a portable jump box in your car is a simple way to solve this problem.
Jumper cables allow you to charge your car's battery by joining it to another car's battery, provided the car you jump your battery with is at least the same size as or bigger than yours. A portable jump box allows you to jump your own battery, as long as you keep it charged. In either case, having the means to jump your own car can mean the difference between quickly going on about your day or being stranded until you find someone else who has jumper cables.
Two quarts of oil
Jensen Tire & Auto suggests keeping two quarts of oil in your car at all times. Oil is used for lubrication of the moving parts of your engine. When it leaks due to an unsealed gasket or internal engine damage, your car will start "burning oil," which means you may not be able to make it the full 3,000- to 5,000-mile interval auto service centers recommend between oil changes.
If you notice a burning oil smell when you're driving or if you check the level of your oil using your dipstick and it is consistently low, you may want to carry a couple of quarts of oil with you between oil changes, especially if you're planning on taking a long car trip.
Should your vehicle break down at night, emergency flashers may not be enough to grab the attention of passing motorists. Roadside flares are designed to burn brightly and with a different intensity than a flashlight or blinker, which motorists may not notice on a dark road. They also are water-resistant, store well and don't require batteries, which means you don't have to worry about keeping them charged or having extra batteries on hand.
In the event your car breaks down at night, roll it as far off the roadway as you can and turn on your flashers. Place one flare about 15 feet behind your vehicle and another 30 feet beyond that to give oncoming motorists plenty of time to slow down or move over. If you're traveling on a two-lane road, you'll want to place flares in front of your vehicle, as well. Once you've placed the flares, retreat from your vehicle and the road a safe distance if you can, or get back in your vehicle and buckle up. Should a passing driver not notice your signals, you'll be safer in your car than standing on the side of the road.
Modern vehicles will alert you when your tire pressure is low, giving you time to make it to an auto service center before your tires suffer from uneven wear or are damaged by low inflation. Cold temperatures cause tire pressure to drop, so it's a good idea to check in with your automotive technicians to find out what the ideal tire pressure for your vehicle is during winter and summer months.
Unfortunately, some tire damage is too abrupt or severe to allow you to make it to a service center in time. If you don't have tire-changing equipment on hand in your vehicle, you'll waste precious time waiting for someone to arrive to help you. If you're traveling out of town and get stuck with a flat tire in the snow, an inconvenient situation can quickly turn dangerous.
Jensen Tire & Auto suggests you always carry a well-inflated spare tire, a jack and a lug wrench in your vehicle.
Some of the most important advice might be the least regarded as well: Always carry water in your vehicle. It's an important part of any emergency preparedness kit in the event you should be stranded on the side of the road, regardless of weather. It can also be a last resort if your engine's radiator is low on fluids and you don't have access to antifreeze. That's not to mention those days when you or the children are suddenly struck with a savage thirst — having water on hand at those times will feel like a lifesaver.
For more information on auto and tire safety, or to purchase a new set of all-season tires, visit a Jensen Tire & Auto location near you.