It feels like forever ago since we had family members giving us advice on driving a car. Maybe some of you are teaching your kids or family members how to drive a car! But you’re never too old to be prepared for any misfortunes that may happen while on the road. Every driver should know how to change a tire, what to do if you need to pull off the way, and what to do in a variety of situations that may arise while behind the wheel. But are you equipped to handle whatever happens? We’ve compiled a list of items we think would be convenient to keep in your vehicle, just in case!
If you live in Florida, you probably don’t need to worry about winter emergencies. And if you’re an avid hiker or camper, you may find many of these things useful. You probably have a lot of them in your car already! While everyone’s idea of must-haves may vary, we’re going to list some of the ones that we think would be beneficial. Does that mean you need to have your car stuffed to the roof with random items? No, but it’s always better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it!
Tire Pressure Gauge - check out our blog on tire pressure and inflation to see why this is so important! Under or over-inflated tires cause unique problems of their own. Knowing your tires proper inflation (located inside the driver side door usually) and being able to check it is crucial for a few reasons. Including getting your money’s worth from your tires, but also sustaining good fuel economy, and keeping you safe on the road.
Compressor - So your tires are low in your driveway, or you used a patch kit for a hole, but need to put air back in it, now what? While yes, you can drive to a gas station, it can be a nerve-wracking ride. Having one in your car that can plug into your cigarette lighter is ideal! Here are a few options for portable air compressors.
Patch Kit / Tire Sealant - A hole is a hole. Even if it’s small, your tire is now compromised. Do you want to pay $90+ for a new tire over a very fixable hole? Patch kits and tire sealant, like Fix-A-Flat, are a very affordable option for tire repair.
Tire Changing Supplies & Spare Tire - Every car, for the most part, comes with a spare tire and the three tools you need to change it. However, if your spare is damaged or unusable, or if you’ve lost any of those tools, you should replace them ASAP. If you get a flat without a functional spare tire or the means to put it on, you’re now stranded and reliant on someone else to help.
First Aid Kit - This isn’t just for you, but possibly for a friend or even stranger. You never know when you’re going to need bandages or basic medical supplies! You can find a pretty expansive pre-packed kit at stores and online for under $20.
Winter Emergency Kit - Winter weather isn’t something that we need to worry about here in Virginia. But many of us aren’t initially from here, and are all too familiar with the troubles and worries winter weather can bring. Things that should be included in your winter kit are; blankets, ice scraper, shovel, traction helper (such as cat litter), extra clothing, matches, and a heat source such as a coffee can with tea lights. These items can be stored in a plastic bin and easily removed during the warmer months.
Food/Water - Keeping non-perishable foods and water in your car can be helpful. The critical thing to remember about storing water is that if it’s going to be in your vehicle for a long time, especially exposed to heat, it cannot be kept in the plastic bottles. The main reason behind this is the fact that plastic and heat don’t mix. Over time, the heat compromises the plastic, releasing BPA in the bottle into the water itself. BPA is a chemical used since the 1960s in plastic and resin, found in many food and beverage containers. BPA is most worrisome for babies and children, but still shouldn’t be ingested by anyone. To avoid the problems with BPA in bottled water, simply use other containers. Canned water (yes, canned water is real), or other non-plastic containers like glass or stainless steel are perfect substitutes.
Fire Extinguisher - Although this may seem like overkill, it never hurts. Fire extinguishers are usually required to be able to withstand 175 degrees without compromising its function or exploding. So storing it in the trunk of your car is best, to prevent damage from heat exposure. According to The National Fire Protection Association, vehicle fires account for about 20% of all reported fires. Car fires can become dangerous very quickly, but knowing what to do in this scenario could save lives.
If you feel your car is about to catch fire, or already has, pull off the road and turn the ignition off immediately. Evacuate the passengers, moving at least 100 feet away from the vehicle, and call 911. Even if you have a fire extinguisher, still follow the above steps.
Jumper Cables - These are probably one of the most common items found in vehicles across the world. Dead batteries happen to everyone, and while usually, you can find someone who will help you jump your car and has the cables, it’s good to have a pair of your own.
Gas Can - While most of us are relatively aware of how many miles we have left in the tank, accidents happen. Even the most careful of drivers can run out of gas. However, you should never store a full gas can in your vehicle (duh). It’s also helpful when your friend calls you for help because they ran out of gas on the roadside. We’ve all been that person at least once!
Reflectors - While you’ll be able to use your hazard lights in most situations, it is possible for your hazard lights not to work. When experiencing electrical problems, you can lose the function of your turn signals and hazard lights. Keeping reflectors that you can put on and around your car will help other vehicles see you and avoid tragic accidents. Many emergency car kits will come with some type of reflector, and sometimes even flares.
Roadside Assistance (either AAA, insurance provided, etc.) - Many insurances offer roadside assistance as an add-on service, but there are other options. Credit card companies like American Express and MasterCard offer roadside service along with auto clubs like AAA and National General Motor Club. You can even add roadside assistance service to your Verizon account for $3 per month per line! In researching different companies that provide towing assistance, we learned about fraudulent towing and storage companies. When dealing directly with your insurance or another group immediately after an accident or when needing a tow, they will either recommend a company, or dispatch one for you. Always ask for a printed and itemized invoice from the tow truck driver, and don’t accept unsolicited service. If your insurance didn’t call them, and if the police didn’t call them, it’s most likely a scam.
Owner’s Manual - Most people don’t take these out of their car, but it’s key to have the owner’s manual!
Towels/Old Blankets - Whether you need an extra blanket at night while camping, to dry off a wet dog, or want something to sit on while at the park, keeping towels and blankets in your car are ideal for multiple occasions! Putting an old comforter in your trunk won’t take up much room, and will help you repurpose otherwise retired items!
Cleaning Products & Trash Can - Everyone should have some sort of bag or can for trash in their car. But if you have children or pets, cleaning products are helpful too! Especially if you’re planning on a long car ride.
Old Maps - This won't really be of much help if you’re not traveling, or know the area you’re in well. But losing your GPS signal in the middle of nowhere by yourself is one of the worst feelings. And you’re low on gas? Oof. Even though maps are “old fashioned,” they can prove helpful in a tight spot!
Umbrella - for rain, ya know?
Multi-tool - You never know what tool you may need!
Plastic Grocery Bags - You never know when you're going to need one! Dog owners are more than familiar with the strike of fear when your dog goes number 2, and you realize you don’t have any bags close on you. Or worse, when you’re driving and a passenger becomes sick. Avoid the panic and just reuse any bags you may get at a gas station or convenience store.