By Lauren Fix, The Car Coach
“What’s in your trunk?”
We recently asked people in the parking lot of Walden Galleria Mall, Buffalo, New York. It’s funny and fun to see what people have in their vehicles and what they have to say.
Here are 20 items that should always be in your vehicle year-round. Gather the following together and place them in a box or duffel bag in your vehicle.
(And don’t buy the cheap ones either.)
Your best choice is to buy jumper cables and a power source that will permit you to jumpstart your battery without another vehicle. Regular jumper cables require two cars. If you have a power source, you’ll be able to quickly connect the red positive cable to the positive battery post and the black to the negative battery post, and then you can start your car by yourself. This is a safer choice than asking a stranger to help jumpstart your vehicle.
Flashlight with Extra Batteries
Alkaline batteries last longer than heavy-duty ones.
Tire Inflation Product
Flat tires are never convenient! A tire inflation product is a tire inflator and sealant, and it is a simple solution to a flat tire. It seals and inflates in minutes. Yes, this little gadget really will fix your flat tire, even on van, pick-up, or SUV tires
Extra Tip: If you drive an SUV, truck, or van, get the largest can or carry two cans. Larger tires require more product to seal and inflate the tire temporarily.
There is no need to jack up the vehicle. Just attach the hose to the valve stem, press the nozzle, and whizz—it seals and re-inflates your tire. Anyone can do this temporary repair in less than 15 minutes, which is less time than it usually takes for a tow truck to arrive.
Make sure to find a product that isn’t flammable and can be rinsed out of the tire. Tire technicians hate tire inflation products because it makes for a messy job.
First Aid Kit
And not a bag of bandages either. Get a real First Aid Kit. These can be purchased at mass merchandisers or build your own.
Safety Triangle or LED Light Flare
An emergency flashing triangle placed behind your car on the road’s side will let other motorists see you up to half a mile away and alert them that you need help. These triangles contain flashing LED lights housed inside a reflective plastic triangle, which easily folds down for convenient storage. An LED light source is a much safer and reusable choice and can stick to the car or be placed on the road.
Protein Snacks or Bars
These are in case you are stuck and have to wait for help. Candy bars don’t qualify as a protein because they can give you a carbohydrate rush and carbohydrate crash. Sugar eats can put you to sleep when you need to stay awake. Consider nuts, raisins, protein bars, dried fruit, or beef jerky. Try to find snacks that don’t contain a lot of sugar.
You can use the water for you or your radiator. Get a large bottle and put it in a sealed bag in case it leaks.
Stash one for every passenger who usually rides in the car. No matter where you live, you may need a blanket to keep warm. It also can cover the ground if you have to crawl under your car.
Cell Phone and a Car Charger
Most of us have cell phones these days, and it’s essential to have a car charger in case of an emergency. If you don’t usually carry a cell phone, it’s a good idea to have one for the car– inexpensive emergency plans are available. Your cell phone is also a beacon and can help emergency personnel locate you.
Road Service Membership
This is especially handy if you travel out of town. Even if you are a mechanical whiz, you may need it. Before you buy a road service plan, many new cars and trucks come with a road service program. Also, make sure that any road service program you have is kept up to date with your current plate number and car details such as color, make, and model, as some road service companies won’t help you if you haven’t updated this information.
There’s nothing like a roll of paper towels for cleaning the windows or wiping your greasy hands.
Long trips collect bugs, dirt, and grime on your windows and headlights. Make sure you can see where you are going.
Extra Washer Fluid
Great for those sloppy days and when you run out of washer fluid. Whenever you fill your washer fluid reservoir, put the remaining fluid in your trunk.
Use lined gloves for pumping gas, checking tire pressure, and adding washer fluid. Gas and washer fluid are poisons. Where have your tires been? What have you driven through recently? Why get it all over your hands?
Just don’t keep it in the sun.
You don’t have to be a mechanic to carry essential tools. Most of us can work with a screwdriver, hammer, and pliers if we have to.
If you crack a hose, electrical tape is a quick fix to get you to a shop or technician.
Even a cheap one will keep you dry.
Metal Coat Hanger
If your tailpipe is dragging on the ground and there is a shower of sparks and horrible scraping, a coat hanger will save the day. It’s certainly not elegant, but a coat hanger will temporarily help get your tailpipe off the ground. With the pliers in your regular tool kit, simply unwrap the hanger, crawl under the car (remember to turn off the engine and set the parking brake on level ground), and find the location of the exhaust that broke. Wrap it around the pipe a few times, looping through the clamp and twisting it at the ends. With luck, it will hold up just long enough to make it back to the muffler shop. There’s just something cool about using a MacGyverish trick like a coat hanger.
Winter Kit Supplements
When the weather turns cold, add these few extras.
First of all—BE PREPARED… Before the Winter Storm Strikes!
Thoroughly check and winterize your vehicle before the winter season begins. Plan your travel and check the latest weather reports to avoid the storm.
Carry a WINTER STORM SURVIVAL KIT:
- Hand warmers – instant heat packs (carry 4 per person, it’ll give you 8 hours of warmth if you’re stuck)
- An aggressive snowbrush and ice scraper – don’t skimp on one.
- De-icer washer fluid
- Blankets/sleeping bags.
- Extra clothing in case you get wet or need more warmth.
- A large empty can and plastic cover with tissues and paper towels for sanitary purposes.
- A smaller can and waterproof matches to melt snow for drinking water.
- Sack of sand or cat litter (for traction).
- Tow rope.
Other Winter Driving Tips
- Keep your gas tank no less than a half tank to avoid freezing the tank and fuel lines.
- Try not to travel alone. Let someone know your timetable and primary and alternate routes.
Lauren Fix, The Car Coach®, is a nationally recognized automotive expert, analyst, author, and television host. A trusted car expert, Lauren provides an insider’s perspective on a wide range of automotive topics and aspects, energy, industry, consumer news, and safety issues.
Lauren is the CEO of Automotive Aspects and the Editor-in-Chief of Car Coach Reports, a global automotive news outlet. She is an automotive contributor to national and local television news shows, including Fox News, Fox Business, CNN International, The Weather Channel, Inside Edition, Local Now News, Community Digital News, and more. Lauren also co-hosts a regular show on ABC.com with Paul Brian called “His Turn – Her Turn” and hosts regular radio segments on USA Radio – DayBreak.
Lauren is honored to be inducted into the Women’s Transportation Hall of Fame and a Board Member of the Buffalo Motorcar Museum, and Juror / President for the North American Car, Utility & Truck of the Year Awards.
Check her out on Twitter and Instagram @LaurenFix.