Motoring breakdowns are far less common than they used to be but they still occur. And because they're rare they seem extraordinarily ill-timed. But if you think about it for a moment, no breakdown is ever well-timed. Some may be more inconvenient than others, such as conking out on a narrow bridge, but none are welcome.
It depends on what kind of person you are as to how you approach a roadside breakdown: Hissy fits, or a sigh and a shrug. Irrespective of whether you deal with a motoring breakdown like Elton John or the Dalai Lama, having the correct gear makes solving said breakdown easier.
Why do you need an emergency breakdown kit?
Because it may allow you to fix the problem yourself if it's something like a puncture or dead battery, or perhaps stuck in mud or snow (though, be prepared to be laughed at a little for that). In the event of a more serious breakdown occurring, or an accident, an emergency breakdown kit will help you stay safe at the side of the road.
The best emergency breakdown kits
Frankly, there's only a small handful worth recommending because most are rubbish, putting low prices ahead of effectiveness and quality. The kits we think are worthwhile are those from the AA and EVAQ8.
The AA you know and are familiar with; its kit below contains the bits you might actually use. EVAQ8 you may not have heard of but it is a UK emergency supply specialist. No doubt its office is one ginormous hi-vis jacket, but it supplies the NHS and offers some excellent kits. Furthermore, it can even put together a bespoke emergency kit for you.
AA Vehicle Breakdown Safety Kit Plus
Contents: Jumper cables, warning triangle, tow rope, 12V tyre inflator, glass hammer/seatbelt cutter, torch, hi-vis vest.
There is nothing useless in this AA kit, which is quite refreshing. The tow rope is rated to two tonnes and we like that the jumper cables are a generous three metres. The kit comes with a yellow AA canvas bag to chuck it all in. The only niggle is the torch which needs AAA batteries to run - a USB rechargeable or a dyno unit would be better. You may wish to add a first aid kit too (see below).
EVAQ8 Advanced Car Safety Kit
Best for first aid
Contents: Fire extinguisher (600g), hi-vis vest, warning triangle, windscreen ice scraper, glass hammer/seat belt cutter, emergency foil blanket, travel first aid kit (Health & Safety Executive approved contents), wind-up LED torch, pair of light-duty work gloves.
Where the AA kit is for tending to breakdowns, this EVAQ8 kit is more for staying safe while waiting for help. Thus, it includes a first aid kit and an emergency blanket. The quality of the gear is fantastic and the bag has Velcro on the base so it sticks to boot carpet. It wouldn't hurt supplementing this kit with a tyre inflator or jump starter, though (see below).
EVAQ8 Deluxe Winter Car Survival Kit
Best for winter
Contents: Thermal blanket, wind-up LED torch, folding shovel, ice scraper, windscreen de-icer spray, hi-vis vest, emergency whistle, long-life drinking water, long-life emergency food ration, first aid kit, two emergency foil blankets, two emergency light sticks, two instant hand warmers, survival bag and backpack.
It's not a kit that's necessary in Basingstoke or Crapstone, for example. Rather, for unfortunate breakdowns in the middle of nowhere up in the wild north. The emergency rations and water are unlikely to be needed, but the rest of the gear certainly may be. As with the EVAQ8 kit above, adding a tyre inflator or jump starter to this kit would be wise.
Other important breakdown gear
While the kits above do well, there are a few small extras we think should be considered in an emergency breakdown kit.
Lifesystems Trek First Aid Kit
Contents: Primary care leaflet, tweezers, scissors 5.5cm blade, 6 x safety pins, white open woven bandage 7.5cm x 5m, crepe bandage 5cm x 4.5m, 5 x 4-Ply gauze swabs 5 x 5cm, micropore tape 1.25cm x 5m, 4 x hygienic cleansing wipes, 2 pairs vinyl gloves, burn gel sachet, low adherent dressing 5 x 5cm, low adherent dressing 10 x 10cm, sterile adherent dressing, pack of assorted plasters, 2 x blister plasters, small eye pad wound dressing.
A great supplement to the AA kit. This kit is tiny, about the size of three slices of stacked Hovis, and is a more comprehensive first aid kit than those found in the EVAQ8 kits. It's also D of E recommended.
NOCO Boost X GBX45
CAR's top-rated jump starter
CAR's favourite portable jump starter. It's small (17.3cm x 8.3cm x 5.3cm) and light (1.25kg) but is tough and packs a 1250A wallop. It's therefore capable of jump-starting engines of up to 6.5-litres petrol/4.0-litres diesel. But more than that, it's a power bank that for your devices if needed. The GBX45 recharges via USB and it also features a 100 lumen LED torch too. We like the fact it's so easy and safe for any fool to use, with UltraSafe 2.0 spark-proof design.
Ring RAC635 Digital 12V Tyre Inflator
CAR's favourite tyre inflator
You don't want flamboyant but flawed characteristics in a tyre inflator; what you want is a Toyota Corolla and this is it. The RAC635 is small (a little bigger than the Lifesystems first aid kit) and plugs into the 12V plug in your car. The digital screen is backlit and allows you to pre-set the desired pressure and will automatically shut off once the device reaches it. There is a cheaper, more basic analogue version called the [RAC610](http://Or https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ring-RAC610-Analogue-Compressor-Inflation/dp/B0030FBSQ2?tag=cararticle241-21) without the pre-set and auto-shutoff features too if you wish.
AirMan Tyre Sealant 450ml
Best item for punctures
Tyre sealant is incredibly useful in the event of a puncture. It has its limits - a maximum 6mm puncture and drives a maximum of 125 miles on the repaired tyre - but within those limits, it's a godsend. See our full guide for more detail, but in essence, tyre sealant gel is pumped into the tyre by a tyre inflator (any tyre inflator) and seals the puncture. You can then drive a distance to get the tyre repaired or replaced.