If you get a flat tire, your car battery dies, or severe weather forces you off the road, will you be prepared? You may already keep essentials such as your owner's manual and proof of insurance in your car, but what else should you have on hand? Even if you pay for a roadside assistance service, here are some essential items to keep in your car in case of emergency.
1. FIRST AID KIT
You can buy a prepackaged kit or assemble your own. Be sure to include bandages in multiple sizes, gauze, an antibiotic cream, over-the-counter pain relievers, allergy medicine, hand sanitizer, and cotton swabs. To be even more prepared, consider packing a thermometer, heating pad, battery-powered radio, and any medications you and your family might need.
2. WATER BOTTLES
Whether you store a case of water bottles or a few jugs in your trunk, water will do more than quench your thirst. You can also use water to clean oil off your clothes or pour into your radiator if your car overheats.
You can use your cell phone as a light source, but you’ll definitely want to preserve your battery in an emergency. A heavy duty, waterproof flashlight will allow you to take a look under the hood and make a nighttime car emergency less scary. Just make sure you have extra batteries.
4. WARM CLOTHING
Keeping blankets, sweatshirts, and other warm clothing in your trunk can be a lifesaver when the temperature drops and you’re stuck in your car without a working heater. If you live in a colder part of the country, consider storing a fleece blanket or thermal sleeping bag in your car. And in a pinch, you can always use a blanket as a makeshift tarp, towel, or window shade.
A growling stomach makes the already-unpleasant experience of waiting for a tow truck even worse. Keep food that isn’t too messy and doesn’t require refrigeration—think granola bars, crackers, nuts, seeds, cereal, dried fruit, and turkey jerky—in your glove compartment. And if you’re a true survivalist, throw some MREs (Meals, Ready-to-Eat) in your trunk.
6. SPARE TIRE
Having a spare tire (and the knowledge of how to install it) is important for all drivers. If you get a flat tire, you’ll need to use a few tools—a jack, tire iron or wrench, and pipe—to remove your bad tire and replace it with the spare.
7. TOOL KIT
A basic tool kit can be a lifesaver when your car breaks down, especially if you’re far from a gas station or repair shop. Consider keeping items such as a tire gauge, screwdrivers, pliers, oil, brake fluid, duct tape, antifreeze, and a pocket knife in your tool kit. Based on your climate needs and your level of automobile expertise, you can also include items such as an ice scraper, collapsible shovel, and foam tire sealant.
8. EMERGENCY FLARES
A busy highway, crowded intersection, or blind curve isn’t the ideal place for your car to stall, but such is life. Even if you manage to pull over to the side of the road and turn your emergency blinkers on, it may be difficult for other drivers to see you. If you have orange or red reflective flares, you can place them around your car to warn of your presence.
9. JUMPER CABLES
If your car’s battery dies, jumper cables can help you quickly get back on the road. Attach your cables to the positive and negative battery terminals of another person’s car—but make sure to follow the instructions!
You’ll need a pair of disposable gloves in your first aid kit to keep things sanitary should you need to tend to an injured passenger. And if you’re doing more heavy-duty work on your car, a pair of thick work gloves will protect your hands from hot materials and chemicals.
11. PAPER TOWELS
Opening your car’s hood to investigate a problem can be messy. A roll of paper towels can come in handy whether you need to clean up a spill, sop up liquid, or wipe oil off your hands.