Many of us think of “car essentials” as those items we always keep stocked in our center consoles and door pockets, like chapstick, napkins, and phone chargers. But there are a few other items you shouldn’t leave home without, and these will be far more useful if you find yourself by the side of the road.

Here are our top 5 essentials for every car. A few granola bars wouldn’t hurt, either!

  1. First aid kit: Beyond basic adhesive bandages, a good first aid kit also includes individual packets of antibiotic ointment, antiseptic wipes, a roller bandage, aspirin, tweezers, and a pair of non-latex gloves. Store everything in a waterproof or zip-top bag.

  2. Hand-crank LED flashlight: If you run into an issue with your car at night, you’ll be happy to have this with you. Having a hand-crank flashlight eliminates the need to rely on batteries with limited power. To get attention from oncoming traffic, a LED flasher is best for signaling distress.

  3. Tire-changing kit: Your spare or donut tire won't do you much good if you aren't equipped with the tools to get the flat tire off and the new tire on. Make a small kit including a jack, jack stand, and lug nut wrench, and invest time in learning how to use these tools properly before you're faced with a bum tire.

  4. Jumper cables: Don’t rely on others to have jumper cables -- it’s always safest to have your own set. Select a 10-gauge cable that’s at least 8 feet long and has a rating of at least 250 amps.

  5. Blanket: If your car stops running, sometimes the simplest item is what separates a hassle from a full-blown epic out on the road. Wool works well, or opt for mylar, a lightweight plastic that retains 90% of body heat.

Bonus item: A pair of strong work gloves. These will come in handy if you need to jumpstart your car, install tire chains, or perform just about any emergency roadside fix.

This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as What Essentials Do I Need to Keep in My Car? and was authored by Maddy Martin.


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