You depend on your car to get you from point A to point B, whether that be during your daily commute to work or on a cross-country road trip with family. While you do your best to maintain your car and make sure it’s in top working condition, mishaps can still happen. Your car could break down, you could be involved in an accident, you could get stuck in traffic, or you could run out of gas.
Keeping your car well-stocked will help to ensure that you’re prepared for anything. Here’s a list of items you should have ready to go in your car — no matter how long of a distance you’re traveling.
1. The Owner’s Manual
Cars come with an owner’s manual, a book that provides you with everything you need to know about operating your vehicle. It can help you figure out what different warning lights mean, optimal tire pressure, when you need to get maintenance, and more. While you can typically find a copy of the owner’s manual online, having a physical copy in your glove box can be helpful if you have poor reception or your phone battery is low.
2. A Spare Tire and Tire Changing Kit
A nail or other sharp debris in the road can puncture your tire, leaving you with a flat. Driving on a flat tire increases your risk of damaging different parts of your car, including the brake lines, fender, or suspension components. It also increases your risk of getting into an accident.
If you notice your tire is flat, you should pull your car over right away to change it. A spare tire, a jack, and a lug wrench (or lug nut key if your tire has locking lug nuts) are essential. Even if the spare isn’t a full-size tire, it can help you get to your destination safely (or at least to the next exit so you can find a repair shop).
3. Jumper Cables
A car battery can die for many reasons. Leaving interior lights on or letting the car sit for too long are some of the top causes. Sometimes, a bad alternator can be the culprit.
A good set of jumper cables can help you get your car running again. If the battery is still good, your alternator can recharge it (if there’s nothing wrong with the alternator). Otherwise, you can at least drive your car to the nearest auto shop to get a replacement.
4. An Emergency Kit
In an accident, you or someone in your car could get hurt. An emergency kit with bandages, antiseptic cleaning solution, gauze, and cotton balls can come in handy if someone gets a cut or other minor injury.
5. A Flashlight and Extra Batteries
If you break down at night, you’ll need a light source. A flashlight can help you see if you need to change a tire or fix something under the hood. An LED flashlight will provide stronger light than an incandescent one. Or, you can choose a tactical flashlight. No matter what type of flashlight you keep in your car, make sure that you also have extra batteries.
6. Flares or Reflective Triangles
If you experience sudden trouble on the road, one of the first things you’ll want to do is pull over. Unfortunately, you might not always be able to get as far away from the road as you might like. Setting up flares or reflective triangles will alert other drivers to your presence, allowing them time to move and give you space. If you do have flares, be sure to also have matches or a lighter to light them.
7. Duct Tape
Duct tape can be helpful for certain emergency repairs. Its strength allows it to act as a temporary patch for sudden cracks, leaks, or holes, giving you time to get your car to the nearest repair shop.
8. An Umbrella
Even if you’re not expecting rain or live in an area where it doesn’t rain often, you should keep an umbrella in your car. If you break down during a rainstorm, it can help keep you dry while you check to see what’s wrong or make the necessary repairs.
9. Bottled Water and Non-Perishable Snacks
In some situations, you may need to call for roadside assistance. It can take a while for help to arrive. Having bottles of water and non-perishable snacks, especially if you have children in the car, is a good idea.
10. Seasonal Supplies
Some supplies you might not need year-round. In winter, for instance, you should have such items as a blanket, cold weather hat, and gloves. A bag of kitty litter or sand can provide traction if you get stuck. An ice scraper and snow brush are also beneficial. In the summer, you should have sunscreen, a sun hat, and bug spray.
11. A Phone Charger
In an emergency situation, your cellphone can be a lifesaver. You can use it to find directions if you’re lost or call for help if you break down. As such, you want to make sure that it’s always charged. A charging cable that plugs into your car can help. You might also consider having a portable battery bank in case your car’s battery dies.