Some of us keep absolutely nothing in our car trunks, while others have enough packed to live in their cars for weeks. Somewhere in between is this list of thirty things we think every car owner should always have on hand.
This should naturally be in your glove compartment anyway, but you want to make sure that it is indeed in your car. The owner’s manual provides a ton of useful information that can get you back on the road, such as detailed images of how to change a tire and so forth.
Old cellular phone, powered off, with a fully charged battery
An old cellular phone, even without subscription, can be powered on to call 911 or 999.
Even if the weather is nice, you could wind up having to spend several night-time hours in your car. A blanket makes it possible for you to curl up, keep warm, and sleep.
Battery-powered radio (and extra batteries)
If weather conditions are atrocious, a battery-powered radio (or, even better, a crank-powered one) can provide you with basic information about what to do.
This is necessary for sustenance if you get stuck somewhere and have to wait for a while.
High energy snacks and/or MREs
Similar logic to the water; high-energy foods are essential. I usually keep some nuts and some jerky. I know of at least one person who would not go on any trip without a couple MRE (meals ready to eat) in the car – you just pour some water in the pouch and they self-warm and are ready to eat.
Keep a detailed map of the state you’re in in your car at all times – or even a current atlas if you have room. Don’t completely rely on a GPS navigation system.
Booster (jumper) cables
These can enable you to get your car started with a dead battery (if a good Samaritan comes along) and also enables you to help someone out in a fix.
First aid kit (and manual)
This can be vital if you’re in an accident and someone has injuries. Slowing down bleeding quickly can mean the difference between walking something off and going into shock.
If your tire has a pretty rapid leak, Fix-a-flat can often provide just enough to get you to a repair station. I recommend at least two cans.
Tire repair kit
If the tire has deflated rapidly, a tire repair kit makes it possible for you to patch up the tire well enough for a short period.
Tire air gauge
This one isn’t so vital for emergencies, but is absolutely essential for preventive maintenance – keeping your tires fully inflated not only improves gas mileage, but reduces the risk of tire explosions.
These are invaluable at night so that others can see you if you need to change a tire or such things.
Flashlight (and extra batteries)
Similarly, a flashlight is utterly essential at night if you need to change a tire.
This can help loosen any bolts that won’t come loose. WD-40 has saved me in a pinch several times.
Fire extinguisher (5 lb.)
If you’re in an accident (or even if you’re not) and there’s a small fire, a fire extinguisher can stop something that could turn into a true disaster.
Portable battery charger
A few of the items on this list require batteries. A portable battery charger can plug into your car and charge up these batteries if they’re all DOA.
A change of clothes
These are incredibly, incredibly valuable in one situation: changing a tire in the snow or in the rain. You’re going to get soaked either way and sitting there in wet clothes is not a good option.
Towels have a lot of general usage: helping to keep warm in the night, drying off after getting drenched, and aiding in pulling out of mud, ice, or snow (put them under the tire for traction).
I’ve reattached a muffler (temporarily) with duct tape before; since then, I keep a roll around to help keep me on the road.
A carpet remnant
If you’ve ever been stuck in mud, snow, or ice, a carpet remnant is the best way to help get yourself out. Wedge it as best you can underneath one of the driving tires, then move in the direction of the carpet. It’s gotten me out of a few sticky wickets in the past. Even better – it can simultaneously serve as a trunk liner.
A small amount of money in change and small bills can be invaluable for tipping tow truck people or all kinds of other situations that are easy to imagine.
(in winter) can rescue you if you’re stuck in ice. Dump a lot of it near the ice, get in the car under the blanket, and wait for an hour. Then put the carpet under the tire (as described above) and a lot of the time you’ll pull right out.
(in winter) is invaluable if you ever face a giant snowdrift. I’ve been saved by having a shovel in the back of my truck in the last month; I can’t even count the number of times it’s rescued me in the last year.
Hat, scarf, and gloves
(in winter) can help keep you from being frostbitten if the weather is bitterly cold. Keep them in multiples if you have passengers.