Accidents happen all the time, and there are a variety of other ways you can get stranded out on the road. A flat tire, a dead battery, and changing weather conditions can all leave you stranded in a situation that might have you feeling pretty helpless. Even worse, if you get stranded in a remote location that doesn’t have a lot of traffic and where cell phone reception is slim to none, your difficult situation may have taken the dreaded turn into a dangerous one.
Don’t let this get you down - you have options. As long as you’re prepared with provisional items that can be stored in the trunk of your car, you can make your unwelcomed roadside situation less stressful, or better yet, less dangerous. You might even be able to get yourself back on the road without having to call for help.
Remember that every situation is different and that this list is provisional. If you live in a place where certain weather conditions have an almost daily impact on your life, you might want to adapt this list to suit your specific needs. Here is a list of essential things you should always keep in your trunk.
Part 1 of 1: Eight items you should always keep in your trunk
When you first purchase a car, whether it’s new or used, you might think it’s ready for all the things the road can throw at you. You might be wrong - check to see what it has and what it doesn’t have. Make a list of provisions you think will make your life on the road a whole lot easier.
Item 1: Spare tire and tire accessories. You should always be prepared to change a damaged tire, or repair a flat.
When you purchase a car straight from the lot, it will most always have a spare tire. When you purchase a car from a private party, it might not come with a spare.
In any situation, you should check to make sure you’re riding with a spare tire. If you don’t have one, each time you drive is a gamble, and probably not one you want to make. You should purchase a spare tire immediately.
It also doesn’t hurt to have a tire repair kit in your car.
While you’re at it, throw a tire pressure gauge in your glove box as well. They’re inexpensive and they take up very little space.
Item 2: Jumper cables. Jumper cables are an important tool to have in the case of your battery dying on the road. If you can flag down a friendly motorist, you can start your car with the power of another car battery.
From there, you can get yourself to the nearest auto shop where you can purchase a new battery, instead of being stuck on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck.
Item 3: Various engine fluids. You should always be checking your fluid levels to make sure they’re full - but you never know when something might start leaking, especially if the leak is slow and steady.
Having extra fluids handy might keep you out of a situation that causes costly or irreparable damage to the engine. Consider having these fluids on hand:
- Brake fluid (clutch fluid, if your car is manual transmission)
- Engine coolant
- Engine oil
- Power steering fluid
- Transmission fluid
Item 4: Owner’s manual. If something goes wrong with your vehicle, you may isolate the problem and have all the necessary tools to repair the issue - but you may not know where on the vehicle you need to be working. This is where your owner’s manual comes in.
This book should be in the glove compartment already; if it’s not, check online and print it out, or ask your local dealer for another copy.
Item 5: Duct tape. The benefits of duct tape are, well... subjective, and sometimes the situation in which it is needed comes at a time when no other remedies are handy - kind of like a band aid.
Maybe you’ve been in an accident and your fender is hanging off, or the hood of your car just won’t close. The bumper may be half broken, and dragging on the ground. Maybe your car is absolutely fine and someone just asked you for duct tape.
Duct tape can come in handy in all of these situations, so throw a roll in your trunk.
- Warning: If your car has been hit and the body is mangled, using duct tape is probably the last remedy you would want to consider to be able to drive it safely - and, of course, “driving” here means driving straight to a body shop. No one should put themselves or others in danger by driving down the road with a piece of the body that could possibly fall off at any time; in many cases this can be illegal as well. Please: mend the damage if necessary, and get it fixed by a professional as soon as possible.
Item 6: Repair information. You have insurance, and you might have AAA - keep all of this information in your glove box just in case you need to contact either of them.
Also, if you have a local repair shop or body shop (or both) that you use when things go wrong, have that information in the glove box as well.
Item 7: First aid kit and provisions. Safety and survival should always be at the top of your list, especially if you live in - or are travelling to - an area that can be greatly affected by weather or a remote location.
Do you have the tools you need if you become stranded in the snow, or on a remote back country road? You should absolutely have either a prepackaged first aid kit, or one you have assembled yourself. You should have all of the below items, and they should be abundant where necessary:
- Anti-itch cream
- Aspirin or ibuprofen
- Bandages and band-aids of different sizes
- Medical tape
- Rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide
You should also have the following provisions if you plan on driving through remote locations or extreme weather conditions:
- Blankets or sleeping bags
- Car cell-phone charger
- Cardboard or carpet pieces (to help the vehicle regain traction if it’s stuck in the snow)
- Energy bars and other non-perishable foods
- Extra clothes and towels (just in case you get wet)
- Flashlight (with extra batteries)
- Ice scraper (for your windshield)
- Map (of wherever you are, or wherever you’re going)
- Multi-tool or Swiss army knife
- Matches or a lighter
- Paper towels and tissues
- Radio (battery operated with plenty of replacement batteries)
- Shovel (small one for helping dig the car out of snow, if necessary)
- Spare change/money
- Water (and plenty of it)
Item 8: Tools. It can be frustrating to come across a problem that you know how to fix, but you don’t have the tools you need to fix it - so you have to sit and wait for help to arrive, when you could have been on your way in a matter of minutes. A set of wrenches and/or socket wrenches that match the different sizes of the bolts on the car, including battery terminals, might come in handy. Also, consider having pliers, needle nose pliers, Allen keys, and screwdrivers.
- Tip: Sometimes rust and dirt and grime make bolts impossible to budge. Keep a can of WD-40 with your tools just in case.
If you have all of these items and tools, and you have to know how to use them in different situations, you’re well on your way to being prepared for almost any road condition. When you take steps to be prepared, if you do end up in a difficult situation, it will be much more manageable and much less dangerous than if you had none of these tools and provisions. If you do find yourself stranded on the side of the road and are unable to remedy the problem yourself, a certified mechanic from YourMechanic will be able to come to you and diagnose the problem to get you on your way. Here’s to safe traveling!
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How to Stock Your Car With Essential Items and was authored by Brent Minderler.