Things to Keep in Your Car

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A list of essential items to have on hand in your vehicle

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We spend a lot of our time inside our cars, to the point where they have become like second homes to use, and just as there are things you cannot go without at home, there are several things you need to keep in your car, too. In 2021, these range from absolute must-haves such as a spare tire or a first-aid kit, through to handy items like a blanket in case you break down somewhere cold, or emergency food and water to keep you going when the going gets rough.

List of Things to Keep in Your Car

The list of things to always keep in your car can be broken down into several categories. There are things to always keep in your car in case your car breaks down or you get into an accident, as well as less essential items, such as handy things to keep your car clean. Here is an easy guide for you to reference.

Jumper Cables

Car Emergency-Kit Must-Haves

These are the things you should always have on hand in case of a mechanical crisis:

  • Spare tire: No car should be without one. There are any number of reasons that a tire may burst, tear, or just deflate and you might not have the luxury of rolling into a gas station.
  • Tire jack: Unless you've been exposed to excessive amounts of gamma radiation, you'll probably need some mechanical assistance to lift your car to switch out the flat for the spare.
  • Sealant and tire pump: Sometimes, you need not replace the entire tire. If you have a minor puncture, then a little bit of sealant and an injection of air should be enough to see you to your destination. The best way to spot a slow leak is to check your tire pressure regularly.
  • Duct tape: The swiss army knife of the tape world, there is very little you can't do with duct tape. Whether sealing up a leaking pipe or a leaking artery, this is an absolute must-have in your toolbox.
  • Jumper cables: Tires don't take all the blame when it comes to breakdowns. Sometimes the fault lies with your engine or battery. In the case of the latter, jumper cables can give your car the kick in the pants it needs to get going again, assuming you can flag down a willing helper.
  • Oil and water: Gasoline isn't the only fluid needed to keep a car running. Keeping some extra oil or water around is just as important for keeping all the mechanicals running in order.
  • Fire extinguisher: In the event of a catastrophic malfunction, you may be faced with a fiery situation. And, considering how many combustible fluids there are in an automobile, the quicker you can put out a fire, the better.
  • Reflective triangle: You won't always have the time or ability to pull off to the side of the road, and depending on the nature of your problem, moving your car afterward may not be an option. An emergency triangle will ensure that other motorists take note of your plight and at least avoid causing any further harm. If you're lucky, someone may even pull over to give you a hand.
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Things to Keep in Your Glove Compartment

We have to keep a surprisingly large amount of documentation inside our cars, and there are not a lot of suitable places for it. However, the glove compartment is often overlooked, even though it is a great place to store things you need to keep in your car at all times. These include:

  • Your car owner's manual
  • Copies of registration and car insurance in the event of an accident or if you get pulled over
  • Car repair contact information or AAA card, also in the event of an accident
  • Vehicle maintenance history so that whoever does repairs on your car knows its history
  • Pen/pencil and notepad to take down any important information, such as the insurance info for the guy who rear-ended you
  • A personal phone book in case your phone dies and you need to make a call from a payphone, because who actually remembers phone numbers anymore?
  • Printed road maps, because technology can sometimes fail you and a good old-fashioned paper map might just get your where you need to be.
  • Work gloves to keep warm or protect your hands when doing DIY maintenance
  • A flashlight and spare batteries will ensure that you always have enough light in the event of a disaster, be it mechanical or medical in nature.
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First Aid Supplies

You won't always have the luxury of being able to seek medical attention from a qualified doctor when you hurt yourself out on the road. Thus, it is imperative that you maintain a well-stocked first aid kit. Here are the important things to keep in your car first aid kit at all times:

  • Bandages - both triangular and crepe rolled
  • Plasters in various shapes and sizes
  • Gauze dressing
  • Antiseptic spray and cream
  • Antihistamine medication
  • Painkillers such as aspirin or paracetamol
  • Disinfectant hand wipes
  • Distilled water
  • Disposable sterile gloves
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Safety pins
  • Any important allergy or chronic medications you require
The Important Things to Keep in Your Car

Things to Keep in the Trunk of Your SUV

Sport utility vehicles make for great campers, so some essential items to keep in the trunk when venturing into the great unknown include:

  • Inflatable mattress - Just in case you need to overnight somewhere without suitable sleeping facilities
  • Spare blanket - Helpful if you're driving far distances and needing to snooze in between shifts of driving
  • A pair of sensible shoes - Because hiking boots are not in vogue for every occasion
  • Tarp - To cover your prized ride or belongings in case the weather gets a little too wild out there

Personal Things to Keep in Your Car

Your car is your safe haven when on the move, so it's no surprise that it ends up accumulating some personality along the way. Here are just a few personal things for your car that give it that lived-in feeling:

  • Face mask - with the current global health crisis, you should never go anywhere without it.
  • A bottle of water and some snacks - for those longer road trips or even when running errands around town.
  • Emergency makeup - if you're a woman or a teenage girl (or even a metrosexual man), it never hurts to have a little bit of touch-up makeup on hand
  • Brush - always useful if you need to freshen up before a meeting

Things to Keep in Your Car for Babies and Toddlers

While most moms and dads carry a diaper bag with extra goodies, it's always good to have some fundamentals on hand in case this gets left behind somewhere

  • Wipes and extra diapers - essentials you can't go without if your diaper bag gets lost or you simply run out
  • Disposable diaper bags - for getting rid of fragrant surprises or simply to collect trash that needs to be disposed of
  • Portable changing mat - for hygienic and safe baby changes when you're out and about
  • An extra toy or two - in case you leave his/her favorite teddy behind by accident, and to entertain them during the car ride
  • Safety seats - age-appropriate car seats that ensure your little one's safety at all times

Winter Accessories to Have on Hand

While not essential, there are numerous other items that might be worth keeping around just in case. You never know what might be useful, so here are the top things that online driver reviews suggest you keep around:

  • Things to keep your car clean, such as paper towels in case of a spill, windshield washer fluid, or even some polish
  • In winter, it definitely helps to keep a blanket or jacket in the car, and a foldable shovel might come in handy if you ever find yourself snowed in
  • Similarly, if a sudden downpour should hit, you'll thank yourself for packing an umbrella or a raincoat
  • Some emergency food supplies might come in handy if you break down overnight. High-calorie food that provides a lot of energy is your best bet, but be sure to pack some bottles of water, too.

Many Car Owners Also Recommend Having the Following on Hand

The center console armrest is another great place to store your odds and ends, especially those that you like to keep within reach at all times. Some of the top things to keep in your car can be stored here, including:

  • Your mobile phone charger - there is also often a USB port positioned within the cubby so that you can keep your device safe while it charges.
  • Bottled water - not all door pockets can fit a bottle of water, and the armrest cubby might actually keep it cooler
  • Tissues - because there is nothing worse than having a runny nose during a long trip
  • Roll of quarters - you might not be able to sweet-talk your way past the toll booth attendant, so remember to keep cash on hand

This comprehensive guide to essential items to keep in your car will go a long way to helping you in times of crisis, or just to make your day-to-day commute easier. For even more tips, be sure to read our guide on what to keep in your garage.

FAQs

What things are you required by law to keep easily available in your car?

While there are a lot of things you should keep in your car, only a select few are legally essential. You must, at all times while operating a motor vehicle in the USA, have a valid driver's license, a copy of your car registration, and your car insurance information.

What are the most important things to keep in your car?

A simple beginner's checklist of things you should always have in your car includes: a car emergency kit with a spare tire and tire-changing tools, a properly stocked first-aid kit as well as your medical information in the event that paramedics need to rescue you, legal documentation such as your license and registration, a fire extinguisher, and emergency contact info in case you lose your phone and need to call for help.

How do you keep things cool in your car?

The best way to keep things inside your car cool, is to keep your entire vehicle cool. There are some pretty simple ways to do this, as well as a few life hacks you may want to consider. Firstly, be sure to avoid parking in direct sunlight whenever possible. Covering your dash and steering wheel also helps to keep the ambient temperature down, and using a sunshade or window visor further helps in this regard. You can also rely on a solar-powered fan when on the move, since it won't draw from the car's electronics, which can actually increase overall heat instead.

How do you keep things in your car from freezing?

In particularly cold areas of the US, it is actually possible for certain liquids to freeze inside your vehicle. When it comes to the water flowing through your engine, you should be using anti-freeze. However, for bottles of water or other liquids inside your car, you may need to resort to a cooler. Yes, you hear correctly. Coolers are more climate-controlled than a steel box. The plastic maintains the internal temperature far better, especially if you warm it up before storing your food and drinks inside. This will help offset the slow cooling process a bit and prevent your goods from freezing or potentially exploding.

What are the essential things to keep in your car in case of an emergency?

In the event of an accident or a breakdown, there are a number of tools and gadgets that can make your life a lot easier. A fire extinguisher will come in handy if you have a particularly explosive accident or your engine overheats to the point of combustion. If you simply have a flat, some sealant and a tire pump might solve the problem, or you can replace the tire with a spare and your tire jack. In either case, a reflective emergency triangle will help steer other motorists away from your vehicle and reduce the risk of further harm. Should you break down in the middle of a blizzard, attaching some colorful material to your car antenna can help emergency teams to locate you, although flares do the job even better. If you live in an area where it can sometimes take days for emergency response teams to reach you, it is imperative that you keep enough non-perishable food and water on board to carry you through.

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