Build an Emergency Car Kit

and keep your car in good shape.

Regardless of whether or not you have an emergency car kit in your trunk, if your rig isn’t prepared, or working, you aren’t going to get very far.

Some things to think about:

If the power goes out, fuel pumps won’t work.

Make it a habit to never let your tank get below half empty and you’ll be in far better shape than most folks.

If the Big One hits, it could take weeks, or even months before you can buy gas.

It’s especially bad for Oregon, because all of the fuel stored for Portland and environs is stored in tanks on landfill, and if they crack, and/or the pipeline or rail lines fail, every drop of gasoline has to be trucked in over the Cascades.

Don’t drive unless you have to, and have a plan of where you are going.

Car Safety

You can avoid many dangerous weather problems by planning ahead.  Plan long trips carefully, listening to the radio or television for the latest weather forecasts and road conditions. If bad weather is forecast, drive only if absolutely necessary. has a these suggestions for keeping your ride ready. 

Check or have a mechanic check the following items on your car:

  • Keep your gas tank full – in case evacuation is needed.
  • Do not drive through a flooded area – Six inches of water can cause a vehicle to lose control and possibly stall. A foot of water will float many cars.
  • Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded – Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
  • If a power line falls on your car you are at risk of electrical shock, stay inside until a trained person removes the wire.
  • Antifreeze levels – ensure they are sufficient to avoid freezing.
  • Battery and ignition system – should be in top condition and battery terminals should be clean.
  • Brakes – check for wear and fluid levels.
  • Exhaust system – check for leaks and crimped pipes and repair or replace as necessary. Carbon monoxide is deadly and usually gives no warning.
  • Fuel and air filters – replace and keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas. A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Heater and defroster – ensure they work properly.
  • Lights and flashing hazard lights – check for serviceability.
  • Oil – check for level and weight. Heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.
  • Thermostat – ensure it works properly.
  • Windshield wiper equipment – repair any problems and maintain proper washer fluid level.
  • Install good winter tires – Make sure the tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some jurisdictions require that to drive on their roads, vehicles must be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.

You could get stranded in your car,  or have your car kit be the only thing you have to use for a full 21 days if the Big One hits.

So build a good emergency car kit.

and not just stuff for your car, like jumper cables, or a flashlight, or a first aid kit (which you should ALWAYS have in the trunk), but a proper emergency kit. You get a rubbermaid type container, fill it, seal it, and leave it in the trunk.

Here’s a good recommendation for a full 21 day car kit:

  • Jumper cables
  • Flashlights and extra batteries
  • First aid kit and necessary medications in case you are away from home for a prolonged time
  • Food items containing protein such as nuts and energy bars; canned fruit and a portable can opener
  • Camp stove and fuel for 21 days (backpacking stoves are great for this, or if you have the room, I keep my regular two burner stove in my trunk for camping, or if there’s an emergency).
  • 1 gallon of Water for each person and pet in your car
  • Portable emergency radio
  • Cat litter or sand for better tire traction
  • Shovel
  • Ice scraper
  • Warm clothes, gloves, hat, sturdy boots, jacket and an 2 changes of clothes. I have a sealed new pack of boxers and a sealed pack of socks in my kit, plus a pair of old jeans and a couple of tshirts. If I have to go a long time without bathing I want clean drawers.
  • Blankets or sleeping bags

Also consider:

  • A fully-charged cell phone and phone charger
  • Flares or reflective triangle
  • Baby formula and diapers if you have a small child
  • A camping tent
  • A paper map! Yup, an old fashioned paper map. Your cell phone might not work, or could run out of juice, and the ol GPS or Google Maps might not be available. Having a paper map in your glove box or kit will help you know your options if you have to evacuate.

Be prepared for an emergency by keeping your gas tank full and if you find yourself stranded, be safe and stay in your car, put on your flashers, call for help and wait until it arrives.

If you go on vacation in BC, Washington, Oregon, or Northern California, ESPECIALLY IF YOU VISIT THE COAST, have your Go bag, AND your car kit fully stocked.


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