Cars can be fickle, and you never know when you’re going to get stuck in a traffic jam, lost on a back road or stranded because of a breakdown. In these situations, it pays to follow the Boy Scout motto and “be prepared.” But what exactly should you keep in your vehicle for emergency situations? Knowing what to have on hand can be helpful in a jam, and, in an extreme situation, could save your life and the lives of your family and friends. Here is a list of 12 items you should always have in your car.
12. A Spare Tire and Jack
While blowouts are less common today than ever before, and many car tires are capable of running for up to 50 miles or more when punctured, it is nevertheless important to have a spare tire and jack in your trunk in case you end up with a flat and are not able to drive on it. Most of us take for granted that there is a spare tire in the trunk of their car underneath the mat. But have you checked to confirm that this is the case? You may want to, especially if you bought your car second-hand. Many motorists are surprised to learn that they do not actually have a spare tire in their trunk. And, sadly, they usually learn this at the worst possible time—when their car is stuck on the side of a rural road surrounded by cornfields. Equally important is a trusty jack that you can use to raise the car and get the tire off. Of course, you should watch a YouTube video or two on how to properly change a car tire.
Another important item to always have on hand in case you are stranded for long periods is water—the one true necessity in life. Keeping bottled water in your car for an emergency just makes sense. And the great thing is that, unlike other drinks, bottled water will never go bad or expire. You can put it in your car and forget about it until the day comes when you need it. Water is also a very diverse product and can be used for things besides hydration such as filling up the radiator of a car, cleaning a cut or wound in the event of an accident, or cleaning a dirty windshield that is difficult to see out of. Really, water is an all-purpose product and one that can help sustain people when stuck or stranded until help arrives. We recommend keeping at least five liters of water in a car at all times.
What’s the only thing worse than being stranded by a broken down car during the day? Being stranded at night, of course. Trust us, there’s nothing worse than having to walk for miles in the dark when you don’t where you are and can’t see where you’re going. It can also be extremely difficult to change a tire or repair a vehicle in the dark of night. A simple and compact flashlight can literally do wonders for stranded motorists. Flashlights are an inexpensive tool that can be found at the local dollar store for a buck or two. But the light they provide can be invaluable in certain situations. Just be sure to keep batteries in the flashlight. Reaching for a flashlight and finding out there are no batteries in it when you need it most would be a real kick in the gut.
9. A Spare Cell Phone
These days people are never out of reach or contact with one another. Unless, of course, their cell phone dies. And just as Murphy’s Law predicts that “anything that can go wrong will go wrong,” so too is it that cell phone batteries die at the absolute worst times. When your car is in a ditch or broken down on the shoulder of a dirt road, your phone will pick that very moment to shut off. For this reason, it is always good to have a spare cell phone in your car that you can use in an emergency. This doesn’t have to be a state-of-the-art iPhone. A prepaid basic phone will do. Just be sure that the battery is charged and that the prepaid card has not expired so that you can use the spare cell phone when you go to fish it out of the glove compartment.
Summer nights can be cool. Winter nights can be deadly. And many a person has died on the side of the road during a frigid January night. So be smart and always carry some blankets in your car. These can literally be a lifesaver if you find yourself broken down in the middle of a blizzard. They can also help if you’ve been in an accident and you or someone else is in shock. And, if nothing else, blankets can be great for kids and passengers in your car to snuggle up with on long road trips. Any way you look at it, you can’t go wrong keeping some blankets in your car.
7. Pen and Paper
This might seem overly simple, but a pen and paper can be worth their weight in gold in certain situations. In an accident, for example, you’ll need to write down the name, contact information and insurance company of the other party. You will also be required to write down and share your own information. There could be other situations where you’ll want to jot down a license plate number and vehicle make and model. And, in an extreme situation, you may need to slip an emergency responder a note telling them who you are and what happened to you and your vehicle. Having a paper and pen in your car is a no-brainer and a simple thing that can pay huge dividends. Put it in your car and forget about it until you need it. When you do need it, you’ll be glad you have it within reach.
6. Granola Bars
Why granola bars? Because they’re light weight, pre-packaged, don’t readily expire and taste delicious. And when stranded and hungry, reaching for a granola bar can provide the energy and sustenance needed to keep you going. Plus, kids love them as they are sweet and tasty while being a little healthier than a traditional chocolate bar. Keeping granola bars in your car, along with the aforementioned water, could be all you need to keep going in an emergency situation until help arrives. And the great thing about granola bars is that they have an incredibly long shelf life. They can withstand extreme heat and cold and never seem to go bad. They’re the kind of food you want to have with you in a bomb shelter.
5. An Ice Scraper/Shovel
Winter is the time of year when most vehicle accidents occur and drivers get stuck. And it doesn’t take long in a blizzard or heavy snow fall for a car on the side of a road to get buried and coated in ice and snow. For these reasons, it is always advisable to have an ice scraper on hand that you can use to clear your car of snow and ice. Many ice scrapers today double as a two-in-one shovel and can also be used to dig your car out of snow bank or pile of snow when, for example, a street plow goes by. This kind of tool can be invaluable to motorists during the dark days of winter. Heck, it is even helpful to have an ice scraper on hand when you leave work and simply want to scrape the ice off your windshield before heading home in the evening. Being able to see clearly out of your car windshield in winter is critically important and can help to prevent accidents.
4. Jumper Cables
One of the most common reasons for vehicle breakdowns is dead car batteries. And the best way to remedy this problem is to use a reliable set of jumper cables to boost the battery and bring it back to life. Jumper cables are therefore very important and should be in every vehicle at all times. Of course, you’ll need another vehicle present that can give you a boost. But you won’t get anywhere if you don’t have booster cables within easy reach. If you find that boosting the battery is not working, keep in mind that the cables connecting the battery to the car could be loose and in need of tightening. This can be accomplished quickly and easily with the next item on our list…
3. A Tool Set
We’re not talking about a massive collection of tools in a large red tool chest. You don’t need to have a battery-powered drill in your car (although you never know). However, it is worthwhile to keep a small tool set in the car complete with the essential items such as conventional wrenches, socket wrenches, screw drivers, a hammer, etc. This can help with everything from changing a flat tire to securing battery cables and fixing an exhaust pipe that has come loose and is dragging on the ground. A small, reliable set of tools can work wonders in an emergency and get people out of a surprising number of bad situations. Just be sure to keep the tool inventory current and contained in a secure tool box. You don’t want to have loose wrenches and screw drivers under the seats in your car.
2. Gas Can
We’re not advocating keeping extra gas in your car as that is potentially dangerous and will evaporate over time. However, it is good advice to keep a can to hold gas in if you have to walk to a gas station and then carry gas back to your vehicle. Believe it or not, running out of gas is one of the top reasons motorists get stranded on the side of the road. Who among us hasn’t had to hike to a gas station and carry gas back to our car at least once? It sure does help to have a gas can on hand for these situations. And you don’t need a huge can either. A five or 10 liter can will do the trick. But be sure that it is clean and does not have holes in it as that could lead to a whole new set of problems for you.
1. First Aid Kit
The most important item to keep in a car at all times is a First Aid Kit. To say that this could be a lifesaver for people is an understatement. An accident can occur at any time and you may not be in a populated area or near a hospital when something unexpected strikes. This means that you could be required to administer First Aid on your own, either to yourself or others. Having a well-stocked First Aid Kit could mean the difference between life and death. What should be in the kit? At a minimum, it should contain bandages, Iodine, Aspirin or Tylenol, adhesive tape, instant ice packs, disposable non-latex gloves, antiseptic wipes or soap, a thermometer and eye patches. Most of these items come standard in First Aid Kits along with many other things. It is also a good idea for a First Aid Kit to contain emergency contact numbers and a manual directing people on how to properly administer First Aid.