Preparedness isn’t something that most people spend a lot of time thinking about, but it is an area where just a little bit of effort can pay big dividends in preventing major disruptions to your lifestyle. Even the most basic level of preparedness can turn what would have been a major problem into a minor inconvenience – many times saving you money as well.
The average American spends a lot of time in their car. This means there is a good chance that at some point, something will go wrong while you are in your car. Could be a breakdown, an accident or injury, witness somebody else have an accident or injury, etc. I don’t suggest you spend any mental effort fretting over these possibilities, but instead make some basic preps that will turn most of those ‘disasters’ into simple annoyances.
Everybody should keep the following items in their car to be prepared for the many issues that can arise while driving (click on the pictures to get these items on Amazon):
A dead battery is a fairly common occurrence, and a simple pair of jumper cables is a no-brainer when it comes to things you should keep in your car. They allow you to help out friends and other drivers too. I’d go for these extra-long cables so you can still jump the car from a lot of different parking arrangements.
Most cars have a spare in the trunk. Check it, make sure it is not only there, but also has air in it. Many people have gone to grab the spare when they get a flat tire, only to find it is just as flat!
A necessary tool for changing a flat. Your car should have one, but if it doesn’t you can pick up one of these scissor jacks fairly cheap.
Water has a ton of uses: drinking, radiator, washing, would wash, etc. Great idea to keep a gallon or two in the trunk. Get the clear plastic or use old soda two liters. The milk jug type plastic gallons are designed to biodegrade quicker and will spring leaks after being stored for too long. The lids are less secure as well and can pop off.
Extra phone charger
Most times help is only a phone call away. That’s an easy solution – if you can make a phone call! Carry whatever charger you use for your phone, but you may need to charge somebody else’s phone, not just yours, so having all of the common charging type plugs can come in handy. You can grab this universal USB charger for 8 bucks. Don’t forget a 12V adapter so you can use it in your car.
Small Tool Kit
A small general tool kit can really come in handy. You don’t have to spend a fortune, but I would avoid the super cheap kits as well, like the kind that pop up around Christmas. You can also put your own together. You’ll want a basic socket set, some pliers, zip ties, screwdrivers, duct tape, etc.
Window scraper / squeegee
Especially important in areas with freezing temperatures, but even in tropical areas can be used to clear bugs or oily residue off your windshield for a clearer view while driving. Your best bet is something like one of these combo scraper/squeegee tools.
One of these should be kept by your seat, not with the rest of the kit. Used to cut seatbelts and break windows in case you get in a rollover crash or end up in the water.
Bad weather can make a shitty situation even worse, so make sure you have a poncho or an umbrella. Ponchos are good because they leave your hands free to work, but overall an umbrella is more versatile. I recommend getting these basic ponchos for your kit, and keeping a small umbrella under your seat for everyday non-emergency use.
A flashlight is super important, and will come in handy more than you think. I definitely recommend a headlamp, because they leave both your hands free to do whatever you need.
Extra clothing, Gloves
Include an extra set of clothing and/or a pair of coveralls. They can be used to change into if something happens to the clothing you are wearing, and the coveralls can be used if you have to change a tire or do any other kind of roadside repair. It will keep your regular clothing from getting ruined. Leather work gloves or Mechanix gloves are also a must have item for your kit.
Towel or small blanket
Can be used if you get wet, to dry off and to protect your seats. Rolled up into a pillow if necessary. Lots of uses.
there are many potential uses for a lighter, and they are cheap, so it’s worth it to keep a couple simple Bic lighters in your car kit.
Keep a few garbage bags in your kit. They can be used to protect things from water, as trash bags, and an almost limitless list of other uses as well.
First aid kit
A first aid kit is important, but you probably want to make your own. Most kits you will find available for sale are way to basic and just include a bunch of bandaids and other stuff that only works for super minor incidents. You will want a kit that can handle taking care of a car accident or other serious injury until emergency services can get there. My first aid kit includes the following items:
– gauze/ bulky dressings
– RATS Tourniquet
– butterfly bandages
– Athletic tape
– neck brace
– forceps, tweezers
– Wound Wash
– Alcohol Wipes
– latex gloves
These items might be useful if you are in a more rural area, especially with harsher winters:
Tow Rope / come along
Winter clothing / Warm Clothing