Never Unprepared: The Ultimate Car Emergency Kit Checklist

red tire

A car emergency kit is one of those things you never really think about until you need it. Then, you never leave your home again without one.

Driving the latest car model can give you a false sense of security. Nothing bad can happen to your brand new, state of the art vehicle. But, here’s the hard truth: breakdowns can happen anytime, anywhere, and they don’t always strike on a busy highway with perfect phone reception and a tow truck at your service.

Being prepared is the least you can do when you travel in highly remote areas. To help you avoid unexpected situations, here’s a list of items that you’ll always want close at hand (even when you go to the supermarket – you never know when you get a flat tire.)

Car Repair and Maintenance

  • Car repair information It is essential to have some car insurance claim forms and a business card from your auto repair shop, in case you need to get a hold of them. 
  • Spare tires These should also come with tire’s iron and tire’s jack; a special security key must be found alongside with them if your wheels require it.
  • Duct tape It can help temporarily mend your car until you get to the repair shop.
  • Tire inflator and sealer These should be enough to get you to an auto shop.
  • Car manual Several problems can be fixed by reading the car’s manual!
  • Jumper cables Dead batteries can happen anytime, but it is quite easy to overpass this issue by having jumper cables with you at all times.

Sustenance

  • Water Without any doubt, the thing you need most when you are stranded in a remote place is to maintain hydration. Keep a flat of water in your trunk for emergency. situations.
  • Food High-calorie food such as protein bars are the perfect option to get you through a car emergency.

Other Essentials

  • Reflective warning triangles Make sure you have several warning triangles in your truck that provide visibility.
  • Charged cell phone This should be a different one from your personal phone so that it is always charged and ready to use. You can buy a pre-paid cell phone for emergencies at many convenience stores.
  • Fire extinguisher – Preferably rated for Class B and C.
  • First-aid kit That should contain antiseptic cream, band-aids, antiseptic wipes, adhesive tape, aspirin, and gauze pads.

While this list might seem like a lot, all of these items can prove to be extremely useful in a variety of emergency situations. You’ll thank yourself for having them in your trunk when the unexpected hits.

Tire Anatomy and Construction

To most of us, we think of a tire as what connects our vehicle to the road and what we hope never goes flat on an important day! Although that may be what we think, there is far more to a tire than that for which most of us give it credit. There are many components to a tire that work together to keep your vehicle connected to the road, and the construction of the tire makes a difference in terms of the quality and performance you can expect. Knowing these parts can help you to get the best tires for your vehicle the next time you need to replace them.

The Parts of a Standard Vehicle Tire

There are six main components of a tire. Starting on the inside, is a layer of rubber. In older types of tires, this used to be a tube; however, newer tires are created without tubes and are now made up of a butyl rubberized liner that is totally impermeable. Just like the rubber tubes of old they can still lose pressure,  but if you check the pressure on a monthly basis, you can easily keep it in the right range for your vehicle.

The next component of the tire is what is called the “carcass ply.” This is a series of fiber cables that are combined and then pushed into the rubber of the initial layer of your tire. These thin cables are typically a major component in the strength of the tire. On top of the carcass ply, are found the “beads.” These beads are responsible for keeping the inside parts pushed up decisively against the rim of your wheel.

The sidewall is the next component of a tire. These have multiple uses. First, they add height to your tire. Second, they offer protection from side impacts with objects such as curbs or similar firm objects. Third, they can also add style to how your tire looks. You will find the specifics about your tire located on its sidewall, such as the overall dimensions of the tire, how much of a load the tire is rated to carry, and the maximum speed at which the tires are rated to go.

“Crown piles” are the tire’s next component. This covers the gaps between the sidewalls, and is the base upon which the tread will later be built. The more rigid the crown piles on the tire, the better gas mileage your vehicle is going to get. There should be a bit of flex so that, as you drive, your ride is not stiff and bumpy; but it should also be strong enough to provide the proper support for a vehicle in your weight range. The crown piles will also bring a bit of lateral stability to the tire, keeping it strong all the way across.

The final component of the tire is the tread. These are strips that are built up to help keep the vehicle on the road under a wide variety of conditions. You can purchase tires with treads that are resistant to punctures, heat, wear, and abrasion, allowing for a longer tire life for the price paid.

How each of these components is placed together determines the overall quality of a tire. Learning how these components rely on each other allows consumers to ensure they are getting the best quality tire available for their budget. If you are on the lookout for a new set of tires in the near future, take this newfound knowledge along when you go shopping, and make sure you get the best set of tires for your particular circumstances.

If you want to simplify the tire-buying process, you can even buy your tires online through companies like TreadHunter. When they arrive,  have them installed at your local tire store. This allows you to get the best tires no hassle or running around from place to place to find the best deal.

Fuel Economy and Your Tires

As a vehicle owner, we are always on the lookout for ways to stretch out our MPG to save a few bucks at the pump. As tire technology improves, one way that owners can improve millage and reduce fuel consumption is to switch to tires with a low rolling resistance (LRR).

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Image via WIkimedia

How Fuel Consumption is Factored

Most of the factors that determine your vehicle’s fuel consumption are out of the owner’s control. Things like vehicle design, aerodynamics, weight, mechanical efficiency, and terrain determine how a vehicle consumes fuel. By practice some driving techniques that are proven to improve MPG, such as easy starts and stops, owners can gain a bit more out of each gallon of fuel.

Many owners are unaware of the role that their tires play in fuel consumption. The rolling resistance of the tires on your vehicle play a major factor in consumption, and with the introduction of low rolling resistance tires to the market, it’s possible to add additional fuel economy to your vehicle.

What is Rolling Resistance?

Without diving into complex, scientific details, rolling resistance of a tire equates to the amount of energy a tire consumes while rolling under a load. This resistance is influenced by the friction between the tire’s tread and the road surface, as well as the amount of energy consumed by the flexing of the tire’s sidewalls as the tire rolls over terrain. According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, it’s estimated that anywhere from 5 to 15% of passenger vehicle fuel consumption is spent overcoming rolling resistance of tires.

Low Rolling Resistance Tires

Vehicle manufacturers have begun to move towards equipping new vehicles with low rolling resistance tires in order to help meet the government-mandated fuel economy standards while maintaining the all-around tire performance. The new technology of low rolling resistance tires has led to changes in rubber compounds, sidewall construction, and tread patterns used during manufacturing. Many dated studies will claim that ride comfort, stopping distance, and handling will suffer when using low rolling resistance tires, but as the technology continues to improve, the gap in performance and handling between low rolling resistance tires and a standard tire continues to close.

How Much Will I Save?

The current low rolling resistance tires can be expected to improve fuel economy by anywhere from 1 to 4 MPG. Depending on your driving, as well as type of vehicle and the price of fuel in your area, the savings from running low rolling resistance tires on your vehicle can be upwards of $400 in fuel costs over the life of the tire.

As with any tires, proper pressure is the key to longevity of the tire, as well as performance levels. When temperatures begin to drop, it’s important for owners to regularly check the pressure in their low rolling resistance tires to ensure that they are not operating the vehicle with underinflated tires. Driving with tires that are underinflated by 5-7 PSI will increase the rolling resistance by nearly 15%, which can cause any fuel benefits you are expecting from the low rolling resistance tires to be cancelled out.

Tire Pressure and Temperatures

Every make and model of tire will come with a recommended tire pressure to keep the tires filled at while under operation. Hours and hours of research by manufacturers determine the exact PSI (pound per square inch) that your tire will performance at its best at. Proper inflation allows the tire to provide maximum handling, traction, and durability on any surfaces or conditions that the tire is rated for. The air pressure of your tire is what supports the entire weight of your vehicle, so it’s improbably to frequently monitor to ensure for safe operation and maximum performance from your tire.

As temperatures change, tire pressure will fluctuate. In many areas, some parts of the year will bring very warm temperatures of 80 degrees and higher, while the winter months can plummet down into the 30’s and below. It’s important for the vehicle owner to understand how these temperature changes can affect the PSI within their tire and how to check to ensure that pressure levels are adequate for driving in different seasons.

The air that fills your tires is a gas. When a gas is heated, it expands, and when it is cooled, it contracts. When the temperature at night begins to drop, regular tire pressure checks should start up to ensure that the air in the tire has not contracted to the point of being unsafe to operate. It’s important to note that the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle is based on cold inflation pressure. It’s important to check tire pressure at different times of the day, as something like being in direct sunlight can cause the air pressure to change by a few pounds, which can possibly cause your vehicle to handle improperly.

A general rule of thumb is to equate 1 PSI of change to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Remembering that gases expand in heat and contract in cold, a 10 degree increase in the ambient temperature will result in a 1 PSI increase in your vehicle’s tire pressure. Inversely, a 20 degree decrease in the ambient temperature will result in a 2 PSI decrease in your vehicle’s tire pressure. In most parts of the country, average summer and winter temperatures vary by roughly 50 degrees. This means that your tires will fluctuate approximately 5 PSI throughout the year just from the changes in air temperature. Operating a vehicle in winter conditions while your tires are underinflated by 5 PSI will cause a noticeable difference in handling, traction, and performance.

Many people who live in colder climates will take advantage of having a heated garage, but this can actually place you at a greater risk of losing tire pressure as you are driving. Because the tires are kept at a regular temperature while in the garage, one they hit the outside air, which would presumably be much colder than inside the heated garage, they will continue to lose pressure at the 1 PSI per 10 degrees rate until they level out.

During the winter months, it’s very important for the safe operation of your vehicle to check tire pressure a few times a week, especially if the outside temperatures are fluctuating significantly during the daytime and night time. A small, pen-sized, tire pressure measuring device is all that is needed to ensure that your tires are at the optimum pressure for you to handle any conditions that the roads may present.

Driving with Mismatched Tires

For Best Performance, Match Your Tires

Unless your vehicle has a flat and you are running a full-size spare, you should always look to have the identical tires with the same tread pattern on each wheel. When you use different tires on each wheels, tires will not only wear unevenly due to different tread patterns, but may also perform differently because of construction or materials used. Some vehicles have what is known as a “staggered fitment” which is different-sized tires for the front and rear axle wheels.

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Image via Wikipedia

Ways Owners Mismatch their Tires:

  • Run-Flat tires mixed with non-run-flat tires
  • Tires from different manufacturers that may be the same size
  • Tires with different tread patterns
  • Mixing winter tires with all-season or summer tires
  • Tires with different construction or materials or even sizes

Matching Tires = Even Wear/Longer Lifespan

Tires are designed to work in unison with one another, and using a tire with different tread patterns than the others can lead to poor performance and traction, especially in wet or icy conditions. In addition to control and stability suffering, using a mix of different tires makes it difficult to rotate your tires in a way that will cause them to wear evenly.

Even if you regularly rotate your tires, running a different sized tire on some wheels, having a alignment issue, or not keeping up with maintenance on your tires can leave you shopping for a new set of tires well before you should need to. In the instance where you get a flat or puncture in one tire of your matching set, the first option should be to replace that tire with the same brand and model tire. By doing this, you restore the ability for the tires to work in unison, and it should not affect the handling and performance of the vehicle. If you haven’t purchased new tires in a while, and the model that you are currently running isn’t offered anymore, Treadhunter recommends looking to find a tire in the same performance category with an equivalent load rating, speed rating, handling and traction characteristics as the remaining tires you have on your vehicle.

Treadhunter will always recommend that when replacing tires, you should always try to replace them as a set. Sometimes, this isn’t an option financially, and a lesser, used tire may be the only option. While you may be able to operate your vehicle for a while on a discount used tire, over time the performance of your vehicle, as well as it’s smooth ride, will begin to deteriorate. Just one tire that differs from the rest of the set can cause the vehicle’s handling and balance to become uneven, creating potentially dangerous situations for the vehicle operator, especially in poor driving conditions.

Why Do I Need to Rotate My Tires?

Every 3,000-5,000 miles, you tires should be rotated. For most drivers, that number has been exceeded significantly, and their tires may be suffering because of it. No, we don’t mean rotated like they do when you drive down the road, we mean having the tires moved from their current positions (front/rear/driver/passenger), to a different position. Check out the graphic below to see how your vehicle’s tires should be rotated.

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When a vehicle’s tires are rotated, it helps in the tires wearing in a more even pattern, prolonging the life of the tire set. In addition, many tire manufacturers require regular tire rotation to keep a warranty valid.

How Your Tires Wear

Regardless of what type of vehicle you drive, or tires that are on the vehicle, tires will wear over time. Because each axle experiences different forces as your drive, brake, hit bumps, etc. different tire positions will wear differently. In rear-wheel drive vehicles, the rear wheels will experience more force since they are receiving power when you accelerate. The inverse applies for front-wheel drive vehicles.

If tires wear unevenly, or are not rotated regularly, it may result in needed to replace one or two tires before you’d normally need to replace the entire set. Uneven wear can also affect the handling and performance of your vehicle, especially while turning and braking. An unevenly worn tire is much more susceptible to separating as well, which can be a severe safety risk, as well as doing damage to your vehicle.

Why Tire Rotation Helps

Whether you have family or a friend who can do it for you, or you choose to go to a local automotive shop, regularly rotating your tires will help to evenly distribute tire wear. By distributing the wear evenly across your entire set, you are not only prolonging the life of your tires, but are also ensuring that each tire will perform in unison with the others. Uneven wear can cause low spots, bald spots, and low treads that can ultimately affect the performance and traction of your tires, especially in wet or icy conditions. For the best results and even wear, rotate your tires every 3,000-5,000 miles, or whenever you are due for an oil change. Many shops and repair centers will offer a combo deal, and it takes one more thing off your vehicle “to-do” list.

All Season vs Winter Tires: Which Do You Need?

More and more people are asking about winter tires after spending the previous winter slipping and sliding around the roads. At Treadhunter, our goal is to take the guesswork out of picking out a set of winter tires for your vehicle. Here are a few of the most common questions we’ve gotten over the years about winter tires.

Snow Tire

Image via Pixabay

Do I Really Need Winter Tires?

While there are many variables that can factor into this answer leaning towards “yes” or “no”, the general rule of thumb that we like to share with customers is to base your decision off the average winter temperatures. In areas where the average winter temperature is 45 degrees or less, a set of snow tires would be beneficial to put on your vehicle for the winter season. For those who enjoy a warmer winter, but may experience a bit of snow, standard all-season tires will probably be fine.

What Makes Winter Tires Different from All-Season Tires?

All-season tires are designed to handle all types of conditions, but are best suited to handle both dry roads and wet roads. When conditions change from wet roads to icy, slushy, and snow filled roads, winter tires will provide a significant boost in performance and handling to your vehicle. The reason for winter tires superior performance in winter weather driving comes from the special compound used in the tire that will remain pliable and “grippy” even as temperatures drop. All-Season tires may perform well during the first snowfall of the year, but as temperatures continue to drop, their compound will begin to firm up and provide less traction between the road and your tires.

Will My Four Wheel Drive Be Fine in the Snow?

While four wheel drive can help you pull out of your driveway without shoveling first, many do not realize that four wheel, or all-wheel, drive does nothing to help while braking.  Vehicles with four wheel or all-wheel drive help improve traction by sending power to all four wheels at once when you press the gas, instead of just two in a standard vehicle. The addition of winter tires to your four wheel or all-wheel drive vehicle will not only provide additional handling performance while braking, but will also make your vehicle stick to the road while accelerating or turning in wintery conditions.

Can I Buy Two Winter Tires for my Front Wheels?

By mixing winter tires with all-season tires, you are essentially giving your vehicle two different ways of controlling itself. When the front tires and rear tires are not working together, handling, control, and overall safety will decrease dramatically. If you were have winter tires on your front wheels, but not the rears, and hit the brakes, the rear tires would not have the same traction as fronts and may cause the vehicle to fishtail or spin.

In addition, your all-season tires would wear unevenly if they were pair with two winter tires, leaving you stuck with possibly needing to buy an entire new set of all-season tires in the springtime.

What Does the M+S Mean on the Sidewall? What about the “Mountain/Snowflake” Symbol?

Unfortunately, the M+S doesn’t stand for mountain and snow like the symbol does. M+S, or M/S, M&S, and MS, means that the all-season tire you have has been approved by the Rubber Manufacturer’s Association for use in mud and snow. These tires will provide some traction in light snow or ice, but not at the same level of performance as tires with the “mountain/snowflake” symbol.

Tires with the mountain/snowflake symbol carry an approval from the Rubber Manufacturer’s Association for severe snow service. These types of winter tires undergo rigorous testing by the RMA to ensure that they will perform well in blizzard conditions, as well as on icy and slushy roads.

Why Can’t I Just Use Winter Tires All the Time?

Unless you live somewhere that the yearly average temperature rarely rises 50 degrees, the softer rubber compound that winter tires are made from will wear much faster than a all-season tire will, due in part to the warmer weather that will make the compound even softer than it is in the wintertime. While winter tires are OK to use on asphalt and other roadway surfaces, they are built specifically to be driven on snow or ice, and will perform at their best in those types of conditions.

Original Equipment Tires vs Replacement Tires

When shopping through Treadhunter’s selection of tires, you’ll most likely see at least one tire marked as “Original Equipment” for your vehicle. Many may wonder if that means the tire is the right one for their vehicle and the answer to that depends on what you want from your tires and how you’ll be using your vehicle with the new tires mounted on.

What is Original Equipment?

Original Equipment, often shortened to OE, are the tires that the manufacturer of your automobile included when it rolled off the assembly line. In most instances, automakers have a partnership with tire manufacturers to equip new vehicles with different models from the brand. The two companies will work together to pair each type of vehicle with the perfect tire to match the performance features of the vehicle. A luxury car will usually come equipped with a tire that provides a quiet ride, while a sports car will come with a tire designed to handle tight cornering and straight-line acceleration. For some models that are offered in a variety of trims, there can be numerous OE tires that fit to the vehicle.

Do I Need OE Tires?

The short answer is no, you do not need to buy the OE tires when it comes time to purchase a new set for your vehicle. However, if you have been satisfied with how your vehicle has performed since purchase, it may be best to stick with the OE model. As previously mentioned, OE tires are chosen for each vehicle to make the most of your vehicle’s performance and features, so changing from the OE model to a different model may compromise the ability for your vehicle to perform how you would like it to.

Why Would I Buy a Different Model?

Some vehicle owners are unhappy with the performance or handling that OE tires provide. In an instance where the owner is looking to improve fuel-efficiency or make the car run quieter, a set of aftermarket tires will allow the owner to find a model with the features that they want.

How Do I Choose Aftermarket Tires?

Buying aftermarket tires with Treadhunter takes the confusion and salesmanship that often comes from visiting a tire store, out of the equation. By simply entering your vehicle information into Treadhunter’s tire search, you’ll be able to shop through a variety of tires that not only will fit to your vehicle, but will offer different qualities that you may desire. To look for a specific type of tire that will provide the performance you need, say better wet traction, just utilize the performance category filters on the left side of the page to narrow down your search parameters.

Deciphering Tire Types and Sizes

For the average automobile owner, the numbers, letters, and words located along the sidewall of each tire may seem a bit cryptic. This unfamiliar code holds all of the information regarding the tire, including size, along with much, much more. A standard tire size may look something like this, “P260/60R17 91V.” Understanding what information that number holds will help you in the future to shop for the best deal on a new set or single replacement tire.

Tire Service Type Ratings

The first part of most tire sizes will begin with one or two letters. This letter tells what type of vehicle or what type of service the tire is designed for.

P = P-Metric

P-Metric tires are the most common tire found on the roads, and are used for the majority of passenger vehicles, hence the “P” in the tire number. These “P” tires are used on vehicles like cars, minivans, light-duty pickup trucks, and SUVs.

Metric/Euro-Metric

Metric tires, also referred to as Euro-Metric, do not have a letter at the beginning of the tire number. This tire type is referred to as a Metric tire because the sizing originated in Europe. These tires are the same as P-Metric tires in terms of sizes and dimensions, but will often have a different load-carrying rating.

LT = Light Truck

Tire numbers that begin with “LT” are made for light truck use and application. These tires are designed to handle much heavier loads than “P” or Euro Metric tires. Found most commonly on SUVs, full-size vans, and medium-duty and heavy-duty pickups, these tires are rated to handle loads up to 1-ton, such as towing a trailer or carrying a heavy load in the truck bed.

T = Temporary Spare

Tire sizes that begin with a T are meant for temporary spare use. Also referred to as mini spares or space savers, temporary spares should only be used for short-term use until the automobiles’ regular tire can be replaced or repaired.

ST = Special Trailer

For those who have boat or utility trailers, the ST, or Special Trailer, tire is designed to handle a heavy load, but is made specifically for trailer wheel sizes. These types of tires should not be used as a regular driving tire.

C = Commercial

A “C” found in tire sizes indicated that the tire is designed for commercial use. These tires, meant for application on delivery trucks or vans that carry a heavy load, are capable of handling a heavy load over a long range. They will often have a service description rating within the tire size as well.

Tire Sizes

Section Width of Tire

The first three digits that follow the service prefix are the measurement of the cross-sectional width of the tire, in millimeters.  This measurement is taken by measuring from the widest point of the inner sidewall to the widest point of the outer sidewall when the tire is mounted.

Aspect Ratio of Sidewall

Following the section width measurement, a two-digit number will indicate the aspect ratio, or tire profile measurement, of the tire. This number represents a percentage of the section width measurement to determine the height of the tire’s sidewall. A lower aspect ratio number will be a lower profile tire, while a higher number will have a much taller tire with larger sidewalls.

Tire and Wheel Diameter

Immediately preceding the aspect ratio measurement is the tire and wheel diameter size. This number will determine what size rim the tire needs to be mounted on. Common tire diameter sizes include: 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, 23, 24, 26, and, 28. Tires within this measurement range will be most common on passenger cars, light-duty trucks, SUVs, minivans, and other daily-use vehicles.

Unique Wheel Diameters

For special applications, such as heavy-duty trucks, sports cars, or box vans, tire diameters may come in half-inch diameters. These sizes often range from 14.5 to 19.5 inches. These unique diameter wheels should never be paired with traditional wheels that measure to the inch.

More Info Found in Tire Sizes

Internal Construction

Found in between the aspect ratio and the tire diameter, a single letter; R, D, or B, can be found to indicate the tire’s construction. The most common construction type for wheels is radial, indicated by the letter R. Over 98% of tires on the road today are radial-built tires. If there is a D, the tire has a bias ply construction, and a B means the tire has a belted construction. Belted tires have become increasing uncommon as tire technology continues to advance.

Speed Rating

At the very end of the tire size number, a single letter may be found to indicate the speed rating. Today, only the letter Z is used here, to indicate a Z-rating, which is for sports cars.

Service Description Rating

For the majority of cars on the road, the service description rating is how you can determine what load index and speed raging you’ll need. This number and letter combination can be found at the very end of the tire size measurement. The first number identifies the tire’s load index, and the following letter will identify the speed rating.

Minimum Installation Appointment Window

When a consumer views tires on your storefront, he/she has the option to set an appointment time to purchase and install the tires. If you have come on board with TreadHunter through a distributor relationship, they may have already told us the minimum lead time for your store based on the distance from their warehouse, etc., so you cannot set your minimum installation appointment window shorter than that. You may also desire to set your window a little bit longer than the distributor’s window to allow for any delays.

The system default for this minimum installation appointment window is 48 hours. If you wish to change it, please update it here:

My Stores (My Account/My Stores), then click Edit next to the store and the Edit Minimum Appointment Window link will be next to the Installation Charges table.