Car Care Special Section: Keep these essential items in your car

Published on Wed, Mar 14, 2012
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When you think of car safety, you probably think of airbags and seatbelts. We often overlook the smaller items that can go a long way to keeping things under control in an emergency situation. It doesn’t take much money or time to stock your car with the following items that will help you until the tow truck arrives.

Registration and insurance card

Even the best of us get pulled over for some reason or another. The laws vary state to state, but most require you show registration and proof of insurance when that happens. Don’t make the nice policeman mad by not having the proper documentation on you. Your insurance card and all the information it contains will also be mighty useful if you get into a fender bender.

Owner’s manual

The hefty owner’s manual found in your glove box is probably the first item to get moved out when you need room to store your iPod connector and GPS unit, but you never know when you’ll need it while on the road. In it, you can find all kinds of information from an explanation on the warning light that just illuminated or the type of oil your car requires – bits of knowledge that you’d rather not guess at when the time comes.

Jumper cables

Leave your lights on overnight? Yep, we’ve done it too. In fact, most drivers have experienced the sound of sharp clicks instead of an engine turning over at one time or another, but those who have jumper cables don’t need to panic or have to rely on the tow truck. If you have cables within reach, flagging down a fellow driver and connecting the leads is all it takes to get your car going again.

Distilled water

We can’t live without it! Keeping a container of water in your car will help stave off dehydration while you wait for help to come. In hot weather, it can also be used to top off your radiator so your car doesn’t overheat – just be sure to use distilled water instead of tap water to avoid rust formation.

First-aid kit

We keep Band-Aids, antiseptic cream and a variety of other first-aid items tucked away in a medicine cabinet at home, so it makes sense to have a first-aid kit in your car too. You’ll dive into it to cover up that paper cut on your kid’s finger or to administer more critical first aid in serious situations.

Duct tape and rope

Duct tape and rope have about a million uses, and while they can create a mean cat’s cradle and impervious wallets, they also tend to help in automotive situations. The two inexpensive items may not save your life, but duct tape can help you hold your glove box closed if the latch breaks and rope can be used to strap down a piece of furniture you’re transporting across town. They’ll just make life a little easier.

Blanket or large towel

Anything large enough to cover you and provide extra warmth will do the job here. A space blanket occupies very little space and will  keep you nice and toasty if the heater breaks or you have to spend the night in your car, when staying warm is a priority.

Swiss Army knife or Leatherman

These handy little multi-tools are so compact there’s no reason not to have one in your glove box. From screwdrivers to tweezers, you’ll always have a tool suited for the job at hand.

Tire pressure gauge

Maintaining the recommended pressure in your tires is important for a number of reasons – fuel economy stays on target and your tires are less likely to blow out. Having a tire pressure gauge in the car means you can quickly check the pressure anywhere, and you won’t have to rely on the potentially inaccurate ones at the gas station.

Energy bar


If you’ve ever spent three hours stationary on the highway because a trucker decided to spill his entire load of canned goods across four lanes, you’ll know exactly how important having a snack in the car can be. No one wants to resort to scrounging for food in the seat cushions, and feeling lightheaded from hunger while driving probably isn’t the safest option. A snack or energy bar goes a long way when waiting for a tow truck to reach you as well.

Napkins, tissues or paper towels

We tend to do a lot of eating and drinking in our cars – it’s only natural when we spend so much time in them. But spills also happen, and so do marker stains, runny noses and even bouts of crying – hey, everyone’s had a bad day, right? Be able to give friends a lift with dignity by keeping your car, your kids and your face clean.