Luck = Preparation + Opportunity
I believe fortune favors the prepared.
Think about emergencies – a blizzard, a storm, an engine failure miles from civilization.
When you are stranded on the side of a road…
Or accidentally run over a deer…
Or find yourself locked out of your car…
What do you do when life throws you a curveball?
The promise of roadside assistance can lull us into a false sense of security, disregarding the need to prepare for a roadside breakdown. Creating luck in these instances requires preparation.
How do you prepare?
Read on for a list of 10 essentials items to carry in your car in preparation for the unexpected.
Essential Tool #1 – Spare Key
All car owners have at some point experienced the anxiety caused by misplaced, stolen or forgotten car keys. It's inevitable.
Store a spare key on the body of your vehicle.
It might seem like an unnecessary precaution, until that fateful moment when you realize you've locked yourself out of your vehicle.
Hide-a-key is at the top of the list because misplaced car keys is a phenomenon that even the most organized person cannot escape.
My children are quite capable of locking themselves in the car, but this one precaution saves me the hassle of breaking open the window if that situation ever occurs.
Your key runs on batteries? Having a spare will be a godsend on the day the battery runs out on the original key. Keeping a copy of the key at home is a prudent measure, but in times of emergencies, the ease of accessing a key from the car will save time, potentially money and frustration.
Essential Tool #2 – Spare Tire
Ensure your spare tire is ready for use.
In an age of rapid-response motor-assistance, why waste the time changing your own flat tire? What if your moment of need arises in an area that is not easily accessible?
Instead of waiting on roadside assistance, get accustomed to the jack in your car. A jack is used to elevate the body of the car, primarily to facilitate a tire change.
Follow these steps for safe use of the jack:
- Park your vehicle on level ground, ensure the handbrake is secured and put your car in Park (or first, for manual transmission).
- Place the jack under the part of the car that needs to be raised. Refer to the owner's manual to find the proper place to position the jack.
- If you have a scissor jack – insert the wrench over the knob and raise the car by cranking. For hydraulic jacks, pump the handle all the way up and down using smooth even strokes.
- Use jack stands to hold your vehicle up. Lock them in place and lower the jack. Avoid using stones, bricks or boxes as a substitute, they are likely to break under the weight of the car.
- Ensure the vehicle is securely resting on the jack stands. Change your tire(s).
- Replace the jack and remove the stands. Finally – lower the car to the ground. Crank the wrench in the opposite direction for a scissor jack or use the handle on a hydraulic jack to turn the pressure release valve.
Essential Tool #3 – First-Aid Kit
You can create your own first-aid kit for around $10.
Things to consider when assembling a first aid kit:
- Family – Princess bandages work wonders for young girls and comic book heroes magically make the pain go away for young boys. Consider who else, apart from you, may require first-aid.
- Specific risks – Going camping or bushwalking? You might need to include ointments and bug sprays too.
- Special medical needs – Do you or someone in your family have allergies or specific medical issues? Ensure the kit contains the right materials to address your needs.
Include a booklet or download an app on your phone that explains how to use the first-aid kit. As a parent, preparing your kids for emergencies will ensure they are better protected. Train them on basic first-aid skills.
Here's a basic list of what to include in your first aid kit:
- Bandages – assorted bandages, athletic tape, gauze pads, butterfly bandages, ACE bandages.
- Medication and ointments – prescription medication, Ibuprofen and antibiotic ointments.
- Tools – tweezers, scissors, pocket knife and a small mirror.
- Miscellaneous – antiseptic towelettes, ointment to treat burns/bee-stings, tick remover.
- Additional tools – basic splint, forceps, ice pack, thermometer and a sling.
Essential Tool #4 – Jumper Cables
Knowing how to use and owning a working set of quality jumper cables is a must for drivers. Expect that your battery will fail to fire up at some point in your driving life.
If the winters are frigid where you live, jumper cables are going to save the day for you more often than you would expect.
When you connect jumper cables, electrical power is temporarily borrowed from a charged battery to get a dead engine started. Once the engine starts running, it should generate enough power to recharge the dead battery.
A wire gauge (thickness) of 4, 6 or 8 is preferable. Avoid jumper cables with thinner wires.
Essential Tool #5 – Bright Jacket
At night and on occasions when the visibility is poor on the road, a reflective jacket alerts other drivers from a distance if you have a breakdown and need to stop by the roadside.
When you need to change tires by the roadside, a reflective jacket keeps you safe by alerting other motorists of your presence.
The jacket also protects you from the cold and can be used as a blanket for your kids.
Ensure that the jacket is water-resistant.
Store it someplace in the car that is easy to access so that you can put it on without having to get out of the car.
Essential Tool #6 – Tool Kit
A tool kit in your vehicle is handy for quick fixes or repair work, just in case you need to make a few tweaks under the hood.
Or in the unfortunate event of a collision with a deer.
The Stanley kit has all the basics: measuring tape, hammer, screwdriver set, ratchet set, hex keys, and more.
A great starter set at a great price.
Essential Tool #7 – Water & Food
Nobody hops into their car expecting to be deprived of either food or water for too long. For regular trips, store a bottle of water in your car – prevent dehydration if you get stuck somewhere and have to wait for a while.
In the case of an emergency, you can last a day and a half without water and maybe a week without food.
Store a packet of emergency MREs (the instant food that heats up with just water) in the car. To cover your water requirement, store pre-packaged bottles to satisfy your thirst for a few days – a gallon of water is recommended daily.
Essential Tool #8 – Flash Light
A large flashlight can be dropped, run over, used as a hammer, used to pound tent stakes into the ground and constantly take on road trips.
It also doubles as weapon when required.
If you have a smaller flashlight, remove the batteries and store in a small bag.
Essential Tool #9 – Extra Wallet
It's just as easy to accidentally leave your wallet behind along with your car keys. In the event of a theft, having a backup option for your wallet will keep you going temporarily.
My emergency wallet holds a few notes, an expired license and a credit card. If you store a spare credit card in your car, ensure it has a low spending limit and use it at least once in 6 months to keep it valid.
You could also make a photocopy of your current driver’s license and store it in the wallet. Just in case your need to show some form of id.
Essential Tool #10 – Map
There are places your signal coverage is going to let you down. Instead of getting frustrated, pack a map in our vehicle. A physical map, not your GPS.
Why? Because when you are on the road, you quickly realize how many areas are either out of network coverage or lack the resources to connect you to an online map.
Other Essentials To Carry In Your Vehicle
- Tissues – Carry a pack of sanitizing wet wipes to clean up spills, a common occurrence if you travel with young kids.
- Business cards – When you run out of business cards, it's always easier to run to the car for a backup supply.
- Book – An interesting read will keep you occupied when waiting for a friend at a coffee shop. The paper also doubles as fuel for a fire in an emergency situation. Just make sure you read before you burn..
- Phone charger – For obvious reasons.
- Mini grooming kit – When you have to freshen up on the move, a grooming kit is going to save you time and keep you looking fresh even after a long day at the office.
- Windshield ice scraper – Especially if you live up north, or in an area where freezing is common.
- Tunes – Yes, there's the radio, but I prefer having a selection of songs in the car for an inspired moment (or when inspiration is required).
- An umbrella – Don't get caught in a sudden downpour with no protection outside your car.
- Tire Chains – If you live in an area with heavy snow or ice, this will help with traction when rubber just won't cut it.
If you live in a city, store an old backpack in your car with a spare set of clothes. This is also an emergency item, because it's no good to sit around in wet clothes if you get drenched in snow or rain.