Most people know it’s a good idea to keep a first-aid kit, jumper cables, and a spare tire in their car in case of emergency. But there are a few other must-haves that you may not have thought of — and, if you find yourself stranded without them, you could end up in trouble.
Whether you’re heading off on a long road trip or just running a quick errand on the other side of town, don’t leave home without putting these 8 items in your car.
1. A phone charger
Chances are, you never leave home without your cellphone or smartphone as it is. But it won’t do you much good in an emergency if your battery dies. To make sure you can make a call or use your smartphone’s navigational system anytime you need it, make sure to keep a car phone charger on hand at all times. Such chargers plug into your car’s cigarette lighter, and can be purchased for less than $10.
2. Flashlight with spare batteries
If you end up stranded on the side of the road after dark, a flashlight is a must-have, both for inspecting your car for problems and for lighting your way if you need to walk somewhere for help. Along with your flashlight, make sure that you keep an extra set of batteries on hand in case the ones in the flashlight don’t work.
3. Road atlas
Smartphones and GPS devices are usually great at helping you find where you’re going. But if you’re not able to get a cellphone or satellite signal, they won’t be any assistance if you end up making a wrong turn. Along with your modern navigation technology, be sure to keep an old-school tool with you: a road atlas. If most of your trips are local, an atlas for your state should be all you need, but if you frequently travel out of state, you’ll want to buy several for each state you’re likely to visit.
4. Emergency flares
If your car breaks down on the road, you could be at serious risk of being hit by a car that doesn’t realize you are stopped. Ensure your safety by purchasing a set of emergency flares, which you can place near your vehicle to alert passing traffic that your car may be in their path. Flare sets are available for as little as $25.
5. Bottled water
In an emergency situation, water is essential to prevent you from becoming dehydrated. Keep a 12-pack of bottled water in your car in case you find yourself stranded somewhere without access to clean water.
6. Protein bars and other non-perishable snacks
Make sure to keep some food on hand in case your car breaks down or you end up lost and far from civilization. Stock up on nutritious, high-protein foods such as protein bars, bagged or canned nuts, and beef jerky. These types of foods can last for months, if not years, but check them periodically to make sure that they are still edible, and replace them if they’re out of date.
Even inside your car, you can suffer from hypothermia on a cold night if you don’t have the proper insulation. Make sure to keep several warm blankets on hand to make sure that everyone in your car stays warm if you’re forced to shelter there overnight.
8. An emergency hammer
If you’re ever involved in a serious crash or your car ends up underwater, you may need to escape through your car’s window — so you’ll need a tool that can help you open it immediately in case of emergency. An emergency hammer, such as LifeHammer, costs less than $15, and can be mounted in your vehicle console so that you can reach it at a moment’s notice. Most likely, you’ll never need to use it, but it’s good to know it’s there just in case.