Whether you’re commuting to work or taking a long road trip, it’s best to prepare for when plans go awry. That’s why you need to keep several things in your car in case something goes wrong during your travels. Seasonal weather is also a factor concerning what to keep in your vehicle, so as summer fades into fall, revisit the items you carry with you and re-stock as is necessary.
Let’s assume that you already know that you should have the spare tire aboard, as well as the jack and lug wrench supplied by the car company that built your vehicle. Keep in mind that some vehicles have a tire inflator kit in place of these items. You should also have copies of your car registration and proof of car insurance in the glove compartment, along with the original owner’s manual.
What, aside from these items, is good to have along for the ride? Let’s take a closer look.
What to Keep in Your Car for Breakdowns
If your car’s battery dies, or if you encounter another motorist who needs help, a set of jumper cables comes in handy. Before using them, however, be sure you know how to jumpstart a car.
If you suffer a breakdown after dark, you’ll want a flashlight. Choose an LED flashlight with plenty of illumination and regularly check that the batteries are good. Carrying a spare set of batteries is also a wise idea.
Flares and matches or reflective emergency triangles
When you experience car trouble, you should pull as far off of the road as you can to ensure your safety. Lighting road flares (using a box of matches you keep in the car) helps to warn other drivers that you’re on the side of the road and to slow down. An excellent alternative to road flares is a set of reflective emergency triangles.
You’ll need basic tools to assist you if your car breaks down. A multi-tool device, such as a Leatherman, comes in handy and doesn’t take up much space inside your vehicle as a tool kit might.
Duct tape and plastic zip ties
In addition to a multi-tool, a roll of duct tape and a bag of plastic zip ties can prove useful to secure loose items until you can get them repaired.
If your car breaks down, you might need to get down on the ground to investigate or perform a makeshift repair. When a tire goes flat, or if you need to install tire chains, you’ll also be in contact with the ground. A waterproof tarp is perfect for such situations.
Wet wipes and rags
After investigating or resolving a mechanical problem, you’ll want to use wet wipes to clean up. Rags are also helpful, and they can assist during the investigation and resolution of a problem.
Water and non-perishable snacks
Depending on the situation, you could have a long wait for help after your car breaks down. Especially if you’re traveling with children or in a remote area, it’s a good idea to have water and non-perishable snacks such as nuts or jerky in your vehicle.
What to Keep in Your Car for Emergencies
You want to have a first-aid kit in your vehicle. At a minimum, it should contain adhesive and fabric bandages, anti-bacterial spray, antibiotic ointment, medical tape, and scissors. Many also include medical gloves, alcohol cleaning wipes, antiseptic, gauze, and tweezers.
An escape tool cuts through seatbelt webbing and breaks window glass from the inside. This tool is useful if you run off of a road into a body of water, so keep it in your center console or glove compartment and not in your trunk or cargo area.
What to Keep in Your Car for Warm Weather
Bug spray, sunblock, and a sun hat
If you break down on a hot and muggy summer day, keep in mind that you won’t be able to run your vehicle’s air conditioning. You’ll need to wait for help outside. Having bug spray, sunblock, and a sun hat will protect you from mosquitoes and a sunburn.
Keeping an umbrella in your car is smart, even if you live in the desert. Otherwise, sudden, unexpected rainstorms can catch you unprepared.
What to Keep in Your Car for Cold Weather
Ice scraper and snow brush
When the snow flies, you’ll want to have an ice scraper and a snow brush inside of your vehicle. If the weather calls for freezing rain, it’s a good idea to remove the ice scraper and keep it in your home because you might need to chisel your way into your car after the storm.
Blanket, gloves, and hat
Breakdowns in the winter pose a severe threat to your health. You’ll need to be prepared to keep yourself and your passengers warm in the absence of the car’s heater. Blankets, gloves, and hats are a must for people living in cold-weather climates.
To help your tires get traction, kitty litter is useful. You don’t want to carry an entire bag of it, which takes up space and adds significant weight. A quarter of a bag should be enough to assist you in slippery situations.
When driving in winter weather, your windshield gets filthy, and fast. If you run out of washer jet fluid, you could suffer significant visibility problems as a result. In winter, carry washer fluid in your vehicle to avoid this problem. Do not use water, which could freeze and damage your washer system.
What to Keep in Your Car for Convenience
Cell phone charger
We are dependent on our cell phones and smartphones, and when the battery powering them goes dead, we lose our primary form of communication. Keeping a charger in your vehicle and using it while driving is essential not just for your convenience but also if you break down on the side of the road.
Tire pressure gauge
Maintaining proper tire pressure is one of the best ways to maximize fuel economy, minimize tire wear, and maintain a vehicle’s proper ride and handling characteristics. Using a quality tire pressure gauge is always better than using the air machine indicator at your local gas station.
Reusable grocery bags
Many states have banned the use of plastic grocery bags, or they require stores to charge extra for plastic or recycled paper bags. In response, reusable grocery bags are increasingly popular. Be sure to keep them in your car, so they’re available during impromptu trips to the market.
As society has learned, easily infectious germs are everywhere. Thus, it is a good idea to have hand sanitizer in your vehicle for when you cannot wash your hands, such as after refueling your car.
The Bottom Line
This list is not an exhaustive recommendation of what to keep in your car. There will be other things that you prefer to have with you at all times. Carry these 20 items, seasonally adjusted as is necessary, and you should be prepared for most potential situations while you’re traveling.