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Summer is the height of road-trip season, and no matter how far you’re traveling, there’s always the chance of experiencing car trouble. Before beginning any road trip, be prepared with vehicle maintenance, the right emergency supplies, and a plan of action for car problems, and your trip can be smooth and enjoyable.

How to Prepare

Before you begin any journey, make sure to have a mechanic check your vehicle and make any needed repairs.1

Keep an Emergency Kit in Your Car

Keep an emergency supply kit in your car, and check it every six months to restock or remove any expired items. Kits should include2:

  • A properly inflated spare tire and wheel wrench, plus other tools as needed
  • Jumper cables
  • Tool kit or a multipurpose utility tool
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Reflective triangles and brightly colored cloth to make your vehicle more visible
  • First aid kit including bandages, antibiotic ointment, aspirin, a blanket, non-latex gloves, and other first aid kit essentials
  • Nonperishable foods such as unsalted nuts and dried fruits
  • Drinking water
  • Reflective vest to help other motorists see you
  • Car charger for your cell phone
  • Fire extinguisher
  • For traveling in cold weather, include a sturdy snow brush, shovel, windshield washer fluid, warm clothing, cat litter for traction and blankets
  • Keep emergency phone numbers (such as for your auto insurance and towing company) and numbers for family and emergency contacts in your phone.

In Case of Emergency

Sometimes, even if you’ve done everything right to prepare for your trip, a road trip emergency can still happen. It’s important to know what to do when something goes wrong and where you can get help.

What to Do If You Experience Problems While on the Road

  • If you experience car trouble, take your foot off the accelerator slowly; do not brake suddenly.3
  • Steer your vehicle carefully to the breakdown lane or side of the road. If on a highway, try to get off the roadway on an exit.
  • Let drivers behind you know of your problems with your turn signal and/or flashers. If you must change lanes, check mirrors and the traffic around you.
  • Once you’ve gotten off the road safely, use your emergency flashers and put out reflective triangles behind your vehicle.
  • Wait inside the vehicle with the doors locked. Use your cell phone to call for help.
  • Contact roadside assistance or a tow company. If you are not sure who to contact, call the local police for assistance.
  • Never attempt to cross a multi-lane, high speed roadway, and stay far from traffic.
    Roadside Assistance Vendors

    If you are a member of a motorists’ club, provide specific information when calling, including your membership number or insurance information, as well as4:

    • A phone number where roadside assistance personnel can reach you.
    • Your vehicle’s color, make, and model, as well as your license plate number.
    • The address where your vehicle is located, or the nearest cross street or exit number if on a highway.
    • A description of the signs or the reason for the breakdown.
    • Ask the dispatcher for an estimated time of arrival, as well as the name of the towing company. Look for identifying markers on the roadside service personnel’s vehicle from the organization that you’re a member of. You should also ask for identification from the service representative once he/she arrives.
    • If you don’t have a roadside assistance service, look up the number to the nearest towing company or the non-emergency number for the local police department on your cell phone.
    • Roadside assistance clubs will often help non-members, too, but they’ll charge for their services.
    • While waiting, if you feel unsafe, notify the dispatcher or call 911.


    Need help with your personal auto insurance needs?* In addition to great coverages, our product includes an optional roadside assistance program. Talk with your Merchants’ independent insurance agent for more details.

    *Personal Auto insurance is available only in New York State.


    This blog was originally published by Merchants on June 28, 2021.


    1. SF Gate
    2. National Safety Council
    3. Safety Serve
    4. Your Mechanic

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    Erica Dalton

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