The vehicle you drive can be a smooth little self-contained universe, but when something goes wrong, that universe can collapse quickly. Whether you’re an experienced driver or have a new teen driver in the house, there are special items that can come in handy when stored in your car.
Not everyone needs to load up their car with these items, but knowing what’s available, and what your own family, climate and natural-disaster risk may require is a place to start. Here are some items you should consider, but what you end up actually loading is up to you.
No question, you have jumper cables, even if you don’t know how to use them, someone will. Your car can be in great shape but can end up with a dead battery, or you may need them to help someone who’s less prepared. Most booster cable sets, with a carrying case, are inexpensive.
Even the newest and most well-kept car can get a flat tire. So make sure you have these handy products with you: cans of Fix-a-Flat, Slime or a similar aerosol tire inflator that can help you limp to the repair shop, or at least get to a safe parking spot. Also, portable air pumps are a good idea. You just plug it to an auxiliary outlet and fill the tire so you can get to a shop.
A bottle or two of water can come in handy not just for drinking, but water bottles can be used for everything from cleaning a small cut to sloshing over a pair of hiking shoes that are just too muddy to wear back into the car.
Even in warm weather, once the sun goes down it can get surprisingly chilly in most places. And if you don’t want to pack a blanket, a jacket can double as one, especially to sling over kids’ cold legs. Blankets also have many emergency uses, from keeping travelers warm in a broken-down car to carrying an injured animal found on the roadside.
Not many of us will end up trapped in our car for days, though it has certainly happened. A healthy snack can be useful even in non-emergency situations, such as after a strenuous hike or when you realize that all the restaurants on your road-trip route hung up the closed sign hours ago.
Another handy thing to stow away are paper towels. Tuck them somewhere in the trunk or back seat. They’re handy to clean up spills, which happen frequently or they can be used in cases of sudden carsickness. A small roll can play a big role.
Smartphone chargers that plug into the dashboard are right up there with sliced bread. Your car may have a port all ready for your charger, or you may have to use your cigarette lighter. If you want a charger that doesn’t draw on your car’s power, a portable charger, such as an external battery pack, is a good option.