The Ultimate Breakdown Essentials Checklist

17th January, 2022, in Car Hire Help, Travel Advice & Guides

It’s something all drivers fear happening, the long journey, stuttering to a halt because something has broken on your car. Sometimes it is a quick fix and you are back on your way, other times it’s a call out to a local or national roadside repair service. Either way, it isn’t something you were hoping to encounter. This blog looks at the essentials you need to help remedy a breakdown situation. Remember most hire cars will not come with this kit so the driver’s responsibility is to equip themselves properly.

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Breakdown essentials

It is not actually law in many countries to have a breakdown kit in your car, let alone a rented vehicle, but there are a few essentials you are required to carry.  A first aid kit, a warning triangle and a fire extinguisher are all expected to be in the boot of your car in most locations. This doesn’t cover you from all, or even a few of the eventualities so let’s dive into what else you may need to use driving overseas.

Ice scraper and de-icer

In some countries the weather remains cold most of the year and as a result you can find yourself clearing snow and ice when you may not have expected it. Pack these essentials and that trip to Switzerland in your hire car will be more leisure than work!

Torch and spare batteries

No matter what time you set out, you could encounter a period of darkness where that little bit of extra light helps you get moving again. Even more vital during the winter months in some countries, a torch is handy when you are under the bonnet or stranded roadside. Some Scandinavian countries encounter darkness for extremely prolonged periods so don’t forget just how important this piece of kit could be if you’re visiting for business or pleasure.

Spare clothes or blankets

You cannot predict where you will break down, or how long you’ll be stationary, so always prepare for the worst-case scenario. Packing a warm coat or blankets allows you, and your passengers to stay warm whilst you wait for additional roadside support. It has been seen in rare occurrences for people to wait for 8 hours!

Spare tyre and jack

One of the most common faults is a flat tyre. It can happen for a variety of reasons and is one of the breakdowns many drivers feel confident in fixing.  Simply ensure a fully road legal tyre is in the boot of your hire car, along with a jack and any other relevant tools.

Warning triangle

We already mentioned this in the opening section stating how it is a requirement in some countries. In some European countries though, you will need two. They act as a great way to alert other road users to where you are. They also notify the breakdown service when they come to help. If travelling abroad, check what the requirement is for the country you are visiting. Just ensure you place one 45 metres behind your car and never use on a motorway.

Reflective jackets

You don’t just want your hire car to be highlighted. For your own safety, you need to be to. Packing some reflective jackets will do a similar job to the warning triangle and help you become noticed by other road users and your repair crew. You will need one for each person in the car.

Spare fuel can

Many hire cars will come with a full tank of fuel and it is the drivers responsibility to return it as they received it. Whilst enjoying your city or beach drive you may have underestimated the amount of fuel consumption. The last thing you want is to be stranded, topping the fuel up will help get you back to where you want to be should you run out.

Additional engine oil and water

Hire cars should always be checked over before you get the keys but, that doesn’t mean problems won’t occur. Store some oil and water to help look after your engine if you develop a fault with your hire car.


Keeping hydrated and refreshed whilst you wait for assistance, particularly if you are driving in a hot country, is key. Heatstroke is common and prolonged exposure to the sun – such as standing on the side of the road in the sun – could lead to it. Try to find shade and ensure you’ve got water in your hire car.


If it’s a family holiday there is a good chance the children are getting restless in the car if you breakdown; especially if you have had a fun filled day! Providing them with some games and snacks will keep the boredom at bay whilst you await the breakdown team.

So that is our guide, it’s not exhaustive and rules change frequently so always check guidance for where you are travelling to for country specifics. Don’t forget, to avoid paying high excess fees when renting a car abroad take out a direct car excess insurance policy today.

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