Breakdown Cover Knowledge Hub

What to keep in your car in case your vehicle breaks down

Having a few creature comforts and practical tools to hand can make a real difference if your car breaks down unexpectedly. Check out this list of essentials and stock up your car.

Finger pressing hazard warning button.

If you are unlucky enough to have a breakdown on a journey, it pays to have a few extra items to hand to help to make the experience a little less traumatic. In fact, a well-stocked car can even help to save your life in some scenarios.

What to keep in your car incase of a breakdown

  • A road map
  • An in-car phone charger & a portable battery charger
  • Contact details of your breakdown cover provider
  • A waterproof and reflective jacket
  • Two reflective red warning triangles
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Seasonal survival kit
  • Spare medication if you are currently taking some
  • Torch and spare batteries
  • An empty fuel can
  • Vehicle first aid kit

Comfortable shoes: You might need to walk away from your car for a short while if you can’t get a signal on your mobile phone to call for help. Having some comfortable walking shoes already in your car will make this a lot easier. It’s a good idea to keep a torch and a spare set of batteries in your car too, just in case you breakdown at night or in poor visibility conditions.

Reflective jacket: Because your car could break down at any time of the day or night, it’s a good idea to have a reflective jacket handy when you’re standing at the roadside. It’s also a regulation in many European countries to always keep a reflective jacket in your car for use in a breakdown.

Medication and food: The worst case scenario is that you could be stranded for a while, that’s where this situation can become very stressful and nerve-wracking. So, by having some snacks and extra medication in the car already, you will be better prepared for a long wait.

Paper road map: Remember to pack a road map, especially if you are driving in a foreign country, just in case the Sat Nav fails and you mightn’t always have mobile signal in the area your car breaks down. You will need to tell roadside assistance where you are currently located, so having an in-car phone charger will ensure your phone is charged to make that important call.

Breakdown cover and insurance documents: The details for contacting your breakdown cover service provider are usually found on the policy’s certificate. It’s a good idea to keep this in the glove compartment of your car, alongside a copy of your car insurance policy and driving licence.

Red safety triangles: Similarly, the red triangle can be bought at most garages and petrol stations and they are helpful for warning others that you’re in trouble. Just remember it’s not safe to put one out on the motorway and it must be placed a minimum of 45m behind your car. Again, in most European countries it compulsory to carry at least one warning triangle – so take note when driving on the continent.

Spare fuel can: Sometimes a car will break down because it has run out of fuel; they are not always the cause of a mechanical fault, battery or engine failure. If you have an empty can of fuel in your car, then if you are able to, you could fill it up at a nearby petrol station and carry it back to your car, so you can get back on the road and fill up.

First aid kit: Having a first aid kit in your car will help you treat minor injuries. All vehicle first aid kits need to include a packet of waterproof plasters in assorted sizes, sterile cleansing wipes, nitrile powder-free gloves, dressings, a Revive-Aid resuscitation face shield or similar and a pair of scissors. By including a seasonal kit in your car for emergencies, you will be able to stay comfortable until help arrives, whatever the weather.

What to keep in your car for a winter breakdown?

It makes sense that the emergency items you keep in your car for a breakdown will change each season, because there is no point packing your car to the rafters with items that will never be used out of season.

Having a small winter survival kit stashed in your car can be a real boost in times of crisis.

Having a small winter survival kit stashed in your car can be a real boost in times of crisis. Below is a helpful guide to what you might need during a car breakdown in winter.

  • Some spare warm clothes: Coat, jumper, socks, scarf, gloves and a hat.

  • A warm blanket: Helpful if you’re stuck in a remote area during the night.

  • Some sugary snacks: Chocolate, bananas, nuts and dried fruit – you might need to keep your energy up until you get rescued.

  • Some drinks: You don’t want to be thirsty whilst waiting for roadside assistance.

  • Shovel: Your car could be broken down in heavy snow and may need digging out.

  • Jump start cables: The most common cause of car breakdowns in winter is the cold affecting the battery. Roadside assistance or a kind driver will be able to help you get it going again.

  • Sunglasses: These are a good idea because you need to be able to see and be seen by others when you’re standing by your car in the glare of the winter sun.

  • Warm boots with a good grip: If there is adverse weather the day your car breaks down, you will need a pair of boots with good grip on the road should you need to walk away from your car to get mobile phone reception.

What should you do before you set off?

Purchase breakdown cover

You never know when your car might break down and, as is often the case, you mightn’t be in a convenient area to get help quickly; this is where having a breakdown cover plan comes into its own.

There are a number of breakdown cover providers and options available for you to choose a plan from. You can also get breakdown cover if you’re planning on driving abroad during a single trip. If you aren’t covered for international driving, then you might need to look into getting a separate plan in place before you leave.

If you are looking to drive more extensively in Europe you can arrange for annual European breakdown cover for your peace of mind.

Check your vehicle

Understanding what causes a car to break down in the first place, will help you prevent it from happening. One way to stay ahead of the curve is to carry out routine checks of your vehicle, and if you carry out any repairs yourself, always refer to the car’s manual beforehand. Keeping your car service schedule up to date is another good way to help prevent a car breakdown.

It might sound obvious, but you should always check that you have enough petrol or that your electric car is fully charged before you drive away. One of the most common causes for a car breakdown is the simple fact that it has run out of fuel, so by always making sure your car is topped up, you will be able to prevent it breaking down for this reason.

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