Having a gear kit for your vehicle is a smart idea but often overlooked in favor of personal or home emergency kits. But things happen, and preparedness is usually what separates you from the guy who is always clueless. There are several different items you should have in your vehicle at all times. I can account, from firsthand experience, the times these items have saved my neck. (Because believe me, being stranded on the interstate at midnight in 20 degree weather sucks.
1. Cell Phone
Chances are, you’ll already have one with you. Originally, people only carried cell phones for highway emergencies. But if you haven’t yet gone mobile, at least get an inexpensive plan so that you can get in touch with someone in the event of an emergency.
2. AAA Card/Towing Company Business Cards
My wife’s uncle was nice enough to get us AAA last year. It’s a life saver. You pay a yearly fee for the service, and towing companies can tow your car, jump your battery, change a flat, and give you gas without having to pull out your checkbook. I realize not everyone can get AAA, so I suggest obtaining the business cards from towing and recovery companies in your area. I used to keep one from my area in the glovebox when I was a teenager.
3. Jumper Cables
This one is a no-brainer. Batteries lose their power over time, and the majority of car batteries now last four years at the most. From the 1930s to the 80s, if you had battery trouble, you could just pour distilled water in the battery and it would work. Not anymore. And in my small part of the U.S., we have to have special batteries due to the heat. It always helps to have a pair of jumper cables. Even cheap ones work.
4. Car Jack
Speaking from experience, the jack that usually comes with a vehicle is unreliable. I suggest getting a sturdier and better built jack to keep in your car. Wal-Mart has jacks available from $23-$60 dollars, and they’re much better than the one that came with your car.
With the extreme cold of the last three weeks in many areas of the U.S., you’ll be glad to have these if your car breaks down. I keep three in my SUV: fleece, wool, and mylar (also known as a space blanket).
6. Tool Kit
Whether you know anything about cars or not, you’re going to have to do some basic maintenance on it from time to time. Everyone should have skills like changing a tire, a battery, spark plugs, fuses, and oil. For my toolkit, I use an old tanker toolbag, and the tools kept in it include vice grips, needlenose pliers, regular pliers, socket set, screwdriver with changeable bits, folding four-way lug wrench, spare spark plugs, tire gauge, duct tape, paracord, spark plug wrench, three adjustable wrenches of different sizes, spare fuses, electrical tape, WD40, belt conditioner, extra oil, funnels, and anti-freeze.
It never hurts to have a source of light. (Editor’s note: Check out our recommendations for flashlights under $50.)
8. 12V Air Compressor
This is a life-saver in a pinch, but you should check your tires regularly. (Not all of us do, and I am guilty of that myself.)
9. First-Aid Kit
Whether you get in a bad accident or a minor injury inflicts your spouse, children, or self, it’s wise to keep a first aid kit in the car.
10. Survival Kit
A survival kit is a must-have in the car. A small box or small duffel bag will work fine, and should contain a hatchet, folding saw, fixed-blade knife (full tang), lighter/matches/firesteel, tarpaulin, ponchoes, granola bars, beef jerky, water, tinder, one contractor bag, an aluminum casserole tin, folding shovel, and road flares/flashers.
I have to say the GPS is the greatest invention for travelers. Not only does it help you navigate unfamiliar terrain, but it also has built-in tourist attractions, restaurants, and hotels. Many smartphones have GPS apps already, but in the event that service is unreliable, a mountable car GPS is recommended for those who drive long distances often.
What do you keep in your car? Comment below and tell us your essential items!
Photo via Mark Crawley