It’s a simple fact that the more you drive, the higher your chance for an automotive breakdown of some kind. In the event that you become stopped on the side of the road, having at least a few common tools available will potentially give you the opportunity to get your vehicle back on the road without having to call a tow truck. And even if you are lucky enough not to have a breakdown, you may come across another motorist that isn’t prepared for such an occurrence. In the event you find yourself stuck on the side of the road or just lending a helping hand to someone else who is, the following is a set of basic tools that can fit in a small backpack that we suggest that you carry with you in your car.
The Best Tools To Include In A Roadside Tool Kit
Jumper Cables – a set of cables is necessary to start a dead battery. This is perhaps one of the more commonly used items since leaving your headlights on by mistake can quickly drain your battery. If you have a smaller economy car, you may only require a shorter set of cables. A large SUV or truck may need a longer set to reach to another vehicle. Check where your battery is located in your vehicle and it’s pretty easy to estimate the right length.
Flares – these are simple to use to get another driver’s attention, whether waving them down for assistance or just signaling your presence to passing traffic. Just be careful not to allow them to come into contact with roadside trash or vegetation as they can create a fire hazard.
Basic First Aid Kit – a simple first aid should include some gauze, bandages of various sizes, alcohol wipes, etc. There doesn’t have to be any major medical gear in there, but cutting your finger and getting dirt in it when working on your car does require a little cleanup.
Duct Tape – duct tape is a very versatile type of tape that is also very strong. A few layers of tape can temporarily hold body panels in place, hold parts out of the way if needed, and even slow a pinhole leak in a coolant hose long enough to get you to a safer location (provided you are watching your coolant levels!).
Electrical Tape – electrical tape should be carried just in case you need to do electrical repairs. Sometimes wires can break and you can temporarily reconnect them and wrap them in electrical tape.
Roadside Triangle – a sign can be used to signal for help or just let other motorists aware of your presence. In inclement weather or in low light levels, a sign can be reflective and make you much easier to see for passing traffic.
Flashlight and/or Headlamp – there’s no guarantee that a breakdown won’t occur at night. A hand-held flashlight can be a benefit, but when your hands are busy you may want a hands-free headlamp that will allow you to see during a night event. A cell phone with a flashlight app can get you by in a pinch, but it’s hard to hold a cell phone and work (especially if you are trying to keep your phone clean).
Adjustable Wrench – an adjustable wrench will give you flexibility to work on a variety of fasteners with the same tool and doesn’t require specific sizing to accommodate metric or standard sizes fasteners. It’s a universal tool that is handy in a ton of different situations.
Socket & Ratchet Set – depending on what fastener style your vehicle is assembled with, you may need a metric or standard sized set. If you have a vehicle with both, having a simple set of each will help when you need them. We don’t recommend an entire full sized socket set. Instead, a 3/8-drive flex head ratchet, a socket extension, and shallow sockets should be good enough without taking up too much space.
Mechanic’s Gloves – mechanic’s gloves are something you need when you may be dealing with greasy or dirty parts, but nothing that involves fluids. Changing a tire, swapping an alternator, etc. are projects that could potentially injure your hands and a good set of mechanic’s gloves will keep your hands safe and clean.
Nitrile or Rubber Gloves – these gloves will be worm in case the roadside event involves fluids that would soak into leather or heavy gloves. These mainly keep you clean, and take up almost no space or weight.
Pliers – there are many options for pliers, but the two most versatile together would be a pair of needle nose pliers and a set of channel lock pliers. The combination of these two types should cover most, if not all, roadside situations.
Screwdriver – A screw driver with swappable screwdriver bits is going to go a long way as tons of things use both flathead and phillips screws. Using a screwdriver with replaceable bits means you only have to have one handle which can save space as the bits are very small.
Tow Strap – tow straps come in varying lengths, but a 30’ strap is in the middle of the range and offers flexibility to every situation. If needed to be shorter, it can be folded in half and looped, or just be used at full length. Some come with metal hooks at each end, or they can be purchased with loops (no metal hooks) depending on your needs. Choose whatever best suits your vehicle. This can get you out of trouble if your car gets stuck in mud or snow.
Overall, a roadside tool kit can be extremely convenient and can save you a good bit of cost if you’d otherwise be calling a tow truck. While we have listed out some of the best tools to keep in your roadside tool kit, you can also purchase a complete kit if you don’t feel like building your own. You can click here to see a review of our favorite complete roadside tool kit review if buying a readymade roadside kit is of interest. Happy wrenching!