Your essential breakdown kit checklist

With around four million vehicle breakdowns in the UK every year, it makes sense to have the right equipment with you in case you find yourself in a fix. Use our list to make sure your car is packed with everything you might need if things don’t go according to plan.

With around four million vehicle breakdowns in the UK every year, it makes sense to have the right equipment with you in case you find yourself in a fix. Use our list to make sure your car is packed with everything you might need if things don’t go according to plan.

Daniel Hutson
From the Motor team
minute read
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Posted 5 NOVEMBER 2020

1. A portable mobile phone charger

You’ll no doubt have your smartphone with you, but the last thing you want is for it to run out of juice just as you need to call for help. It’s a good idea to have an in-car mobile phone charger or portable power bank with you, in case you have to contact your breakdown provider and let people know you’ve broken down.

2. An empty fuel can

A petrol can is really handy if you run out of fuel within walking distance of a petrol station. Many large petrol stations also stock cans, and filling one up and putting the fuel in your vehicle yourself might prove quicker than waiting for the breakdown services.

3. Food and drink supplies

Always carry a filled reusable water bottle with you so you can stay hydrated, and don’t forget to stock up on non-perishable food for emergencies. Things like cereal bars, which provide an energy boost but have a decent ‘use by date’, are a good choice. After all, you won’t want to find something mouldy in your hour of need.

4. Warm clothes and waterproof jacket

You might have to leave your car to wait for your breakdown service to arrive, or to walk for help. Having a jumper and raincoat could make life more comfortable if the weather’s bad. A fleece or foil blanket may come in handy in the winter months, too.

5. A high visibility vest

Unlike some countries in Europe, having a hi-vis vest in the car isn’t a legal requirement in the UK, but it could be very useful. Breaking down in a dark place is potentially dangerous. Being seen should help reduce the chances of you being involved in an accident.

6. A warning triangle

If you break down, the Highway Code recommends placing a warning triangle on (non-motorway) roads 45 metres behind your vehicle to alert other road users. If you don’t have a tape measure to hand, that distance roughly equates to 60 steps. Most triangles are compact so won’t take up much room in your boot.

7. Puncture repair kit

Flat tyres are a common cause of breakdowns. Most modern cars no longer come with a spare tyre, so you’ll have to make do with a puncture repair kit until you can get to a garage. Many vehicles already have them supplied, or you can get them from automotive stores. They should seal up any punctures and help you to re-inflate the tyre as a temporary fix. Don’t use the repair kit if the puncture is more than 4mm, or the wheel itself is damaged.

8. A torch

While many mobile phones emit some light or have a torch app, a proper high-power LED torch could make a big difference if you find yourself stranded in the dark. Keep the torch (and some spare batteries) in the glove compartment. Alternatively, buy a wind-up torch that doesn’t require battery power, or a head torch that allows you to go hands free.

9. Jump leads

A lot of breakdowns are due to flat batteries, particularly in cold weather or if you haven’t driven your car for a while (as many people found after lockdown). A set of jump leads can soon get you moving again, with help from a fellow motorist. If you're not sure how to use them, call your breakdown provider instead.

10. A tow rope

A tow rope may be useful particularly if you’re driving in winter when you might find yourself stuck in snow or mud. If you need to be pulled out of a drift or up a slope, your tow rope could come in very handy.

11. A shovel

If your garden shovel is too big for your boot, try buying one that folds. They take up very little room and you can keep one in your car in case you need to dig your vehicle out of mud or snow.

12. De-icer and a scraper

The need to thaw out your car on an icy morning before driving to work, or returning to a frozen vehicle in the evening is common in winter. That’s why it makes sense to keep a spare can of de-icer and a scraper in your car. It’s a legal requirement to keep your front and rear windscreens clear of snow and ice before driving – and using de-icer is a lot easier than trying to clear with your hands.

13. A first-aid kit

You won’t necessarily need this in a breakdown, but it’s good to know that you could patch up small injuries when you’re parked up if you’ve hurt yourself when driving.

14. Your breakdown insurance policy information

Keep your insurance info in your glove compartment or on your smartphone, so you can easily call your provider if there’s a problem. They’ll send out a mechanic and, depending on your level of cover, will attempt to fix your car at the side of the road, or tow you to a garage or location of your choice.

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