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.
Contents: Jumper cables, warning triangle, tow rope, 12V tyre inflator, glass hammer/seatbelt
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).
Best for first aid
Contents: Fire extinguisher (600g), hi-vis vest, warning triangle, windscreen ice scraper,
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).
Best for winter
Contents: Thermal blanket, wind-up LED torch, folding shovel, ice scraper, windscreen de-icer
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.
Contents: Primary care leaflet, tweezers, scissors 5.5cm blade, 6 x safety pins, white open
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.
CAR's top-rated jump starter
CAR's favourite tyre inflator
Best item for punctures
Tyre sealant is incredibly useful in the event of a puncture. It has its limits - a maximum 6mm