Cars come equipped with all sorts of bells and whistles these days, but there are just some things that even Siri can’t help you with if you become stranded on the side of the road. What happens if that electronic navigation system goes out, and you’re in the middle of nowhere? Or if it’s after midnight, and you’re stranded on the side of a desolate road with a flat, and you drain your cell phone battery using the flashlight app? What if, heaven forbid, you run out of gas or are in an accident and can’t get a cell phone signal? It’s important to always be prepared when you’re on the road, and that’s why you should have these top 10 essentials in your car at all times—just in case technology won’t fix the problem.
In the Trunk
First-Aid Kit: Find a small pouch or container and create your own makeshift first-aid kit. It should contain some adhesive bandages, cotton balls, rubbing alcohol wipes, backup prescription medicine, aspirin and a topical pain reliever such as Neosporin. If you or your fellow passengers have certain allergies, it might also be beneficial to keep an anaphylaxis treatment, e.g., an EpiPen, in the kit as well. According to Cars.com, some retailers carry first-aid kits specifically for glove compartments if you’re looking for something a little more accessible and compact.
Tire-Changing Tools: Most cars come equipped with a spare tire, but in addition to that spare, make sure to have all the tools you would need to change that flat yourself. Yes, there’s AAA, but not everyone is a member. And if you’re in a hurry, sometimes it’s faster to just change the tire yourself. You’ll need a heavy object to place in front of the front and back tires, a jack and a cross wrench.
Warning Triangles: While you’re changing that flat tire or if you’re stranded on the side of the road for any other reason, it’s important to have warning triangles with reflectors to place around your car. To give oncoming traffic plenty of notice, professional truck drivers place one triangle at 10 feet, one at 100 feet and one 200 feet behind their trucks to indicate they’re on the side of the road. Using these reflectors, day or night, is especially important if you’re stranded somewhere there isn’t a lot of room on the shoulder of the road. You don’t want to put yourself in more danger in case oncoming drivers don’t see you tending to your vehicle.
Jumper Cables: Do the lights in your car not automatically turn off? Have you failed to check out the battery in quite a while, and now it appears to be corroded? You should always have a set of jumper cables stowed away in your trunk for safekeeping because you never know when you’ll need them. It has happened at least once to pretty much everyone who drives a car; they leave their headlights on, or the battery just dies. Hopefully, you’ll be around a good Samaritan who will give you a jump.
In the Glove Box
Title & Registration/Insurance Card: We’ll cheat a bit and count this one as an “item”—especially because it should be kept in its own baggie, wallet or folder. Nothing makes a situation like getting pulled over more stressful than when you can’t quickly find all of these important documents. You don’t want to make the police officer impatient or suspicious. By keeping your registration and insurance card together in a baggie, you can grab these documents out of your glove box in one fell swoop. Maybe you won’t even get a ticket because the officer will be so impressed by your organization skills? Maybe not.
Flashlight: It’s dark. Your car battery dies, or you need to change a flat tire. That cell phone light isn’t really going to come in handy if you need to put it down in order to use both hands to change your tire. An LED flashlight is essential to have in your glove box just in case you’re without power, and it’s too dark to see. They come in all sizes, and some are small enough to fit in your glove box or hold in your teeth when you need to use both hands. The best are flashlights that can also be used as lanterns.
Tire Pressure Gauge: Most people don’t think to check their tire pressure very often, which can result in a higher possibility of a flat tire down the road. If not in your glove box, it has been recommended that you keep a tire pressure gauge in your center console where you’ll see it every time you get into your vehicle. This will hopefully serve as a reminder that you need to check your tire pressure about once a month.
Spare Fuses/Owner’s Manual: Believe it or not, spare fuses are actually fairly inexpensive and are items that are good to have in your glove box, just in case. Check your owner’s manual, which should also be in your glove box, for where the fuse box is located in your car. If your power windows stop working or you have a taillight out, you can replace the fuse yourself. This saves time and money by not having to take it to a dealership.
Cell Phone Charger: If all else fails, and you can only keep one item in your glove box, make sure it is a cell phone charger. You don’t want to be stranded without a phone in an emergency situation, such as when you need a ride or need someone to bring you a can of gasoline. Having a fully charged smartphone is also a good idea if you need a backup navigation system to help you figure out where you are or how to get to the nearest gas station yourself, just in case you don’t have a map or atlas already located in your glove box.
Map/Atlas: How in the world were we able to find our way around before Google Maps or Siri? A paper map and atlas—the world’s original GPS. Just in case your fancy navigation system in your car goes out, or if your cell phone with navigating capabilities dies (which it shouldn’t if you have that charger in your car), then having an old-fashioned map or atlas in your glove box might just save your bacon.