SimpleCarGuy here and today I will go over the must have items to keep in your vehicles for emergencies at all times, what to add in the winter and when going on a road trip. Of course, this will heavily depend on the type of car you own or where you live, so adjust accordingly.
We will start with the must haves. I think that every car should have jumper cables or a portable battery jump starter. Dead battery is probably the number one cause of engines not starting and even leaving a light on in the car overnight may prevent your car from starting in the morning and that’s why this is number 1 for me. I like the cables, because there is no additional maintenance, but you will need another car for these to work, so not ideal. With the portable battery, you will have to check every 6 months or so and make sure it’s still fully charged and maybe recharge it if needed. Luckily most now have an indicator LED for a quick check. Another advantage to these tiny portable devices is the size and extra functionality. The biggest benefit for me is that in case your phone dies or you need to recharge another device, you have a powerful battery bank ready to go. For this reason, I carry a little breakout USB cable that supports most of the devices I could think off. The very minimum here is to have a cable to charge your phone.
The second most common way to get stuck is with a flat tire, so you will need something for that. If you have run flat tires, you probably don’t have to worry about any of these, but in all other cases, I would recommend carrying an air compressor or even a manual tire pump. I’ve cracked a rim before on the terrible roads of Chicago and this came in very, very useful in getting me home safely. You can also throw in a tire pressure gauge if your pump doesn’t have it and a tire patch kit if you hit a nail or a screw. A pair of plyers can come in handy to pull out said nail or screw. I wouldn’t recommend a fix-a-flat or that liquid tire patch stuff as it makes a mess and doesn’t work most of the time.
If you drive BMWs like me, you know not to leave the house without a good BMW scanner! These can save your butt and get you home safe. Modern cars can go into a limp-home mode for almost any reason and a lot of times all that is needed is clearing of codes to get you back on the road. Check out my video on how to pick a scanner for more info, but I recommend keeping a vehicle specific scanner or one that will be able to scan each module on the car and show live data for each of those modules as well.
Staying on the theme of BMWs, I also like to keep a quart of oil and some coolant in the trunk of the car. A lot of older BMWs burn a quart of oil every few thousand miles and when you get that indicator to add more, you already have it in your trunk. Having fluids ready to go is a good idea no matter where you live and if you live in a hot climate, you can’t go wrong with having some concentrated coolant as well.
Another important fluid to keep in your car is water, not only can you drink it if needed, you can add it to your coolant concentrate in emergency when adding to the radiator and even use it for washing off bird droppings from your pristine paint before the sun bakes those on destroying your clear coat! Many, many uses, obviously.
Tools/ Tool kit
This next part really depends on you and how handy you are, but you should have some kind of tool kit. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should have a mechanics tool set in there, but a few items like gloves and a good flash light would definitely help with changing a tire. In case you hit your bumper on something and it starts to hang, but it’s not bad enough to call a tow truck, I would also recommend having some duct tape, zip ties, super clue, a lighter and a good knife.
If you are worried or if you live more in the country, where help is less accessible, you should add a high visibility vest, some road flares or glow sticks and a basic tool kit for quick repairs on those dimly lit country highways.
That about covers everything to do with the car, so let’s talk about some personal items as well. It’s always a good idea to have some toilet paper or a pack of baby wipes and tissues as well as a pack of cleaning clothes. Some people choose to add a change of clothes as well, but I think a waterproof poncho, a blanket and an umbrella is all you really need.
The last few items here may be the most important, so it’s a good idea to include these as well. To start with, a small first aid kit can help you and many others in many different situations. Anything from a scuff while changing a tire to a burn or cut. I’d recommend building your own if you are into this stuff, but one of these very basic kits is a good start. The second safety item to have is a fire extinguisher. I have these small cans I keep in the car, but it can be any fire extinguisher that works for cars. If you have an electric car, make sure to get a bigger unit and one that works on batteries
Another item that can come in useful is a glass breaker and maybe even a belt cutter. Most of the time they come as a combo unit, but I like this pen glass breaker. As unlikely as it is, if you drive into water, it’s almost impossible to open the door, so one of these can save your life.
The last advice here is to have good insurance that includes roadside assistance and a couple tow truck company business cards that you trust.
I know it sounds like a lot to keep in your car, but a lot of these items come in different kits and can easily be organized in the trunk of a car. As an example, my ‘survival kit’ that someone gifted to me has a lot of the items mentioned here and if I can fit all of this stuff in my Z4 without too much trouble, so it shouldn’t be a problem for any other cars either. Here is what it would look like in the back of a small SUV.
FOR WINTER USE:
Winter brings some extra challenges in certain parts of the country, so there are a few extra items you should add to the kit to carry with you daily. Obviously, you’ll need an ice scrapper and a brush to get rid of the snow, a small collapsible shovel if you get snowed in while parked somewhere and some traction aids. A small box of kitty litter, old floor mats or even some cardboard will get your out of slipper situation.
As a precaution I also like to add a warm blanket or thermal blanket and some winter clothes and a disposable hand warmer that may come useful if you have to wait for a tow and the car won’t start or run, better have it and not use than need it and not have it as the saying goes.
If you have AWD:
Of course, if your car is all wheel drive and you feel helpful, I’d suggest throwing in some two straps and clevises (d clamps) to help pull people out. When I had my BMW 550 with all-wheel drive, all I had on top of the already mentioned items.. was my phone. I have never gotten stuck in that car other than trying to get out of my driveway with over a foot of compacted frozen snow.
If you DON’T/Rear Wheel Drive:
Now, if you are crazy enough to drive a rear wheel drive car in winter, what you should have is.. a set of really good all-season tires at the very least and ideally top-quality winter tires to help with traction and control. A tow strap and a hook are always a good idea so that the guy with AWD can pull you out, if needed!
OPTIONAL IF YOU’RE PARENOID or LONG TRIP:
So, we have talked about a lot of different items and we haven’t gone overboard yet.. but if you are slightly paranoid or going on a long trip into the mountains in winter, you can definitely add a few more items. Here is what I’ve seen people recommend!
Add a proper tool kit that includes a small socket set, screw driver with interchangeable bits, adjustable wrench, some DW40, parts that commonly go wrong on your car like ignition coils and good working gloves.
Traction aids can also be upgraded to Max Traxx or cheapo Amazon versions of that as well as snow chains for those tough terrains.
That’s about all I have for your guys today. I know some of this may be over the top and not needed on most daily drives, but tow trucks aren’t always ready to help and cars do break down in the worse time. I’ve had to help a friend out before during a small blizzard as all emergency units and tow services were helping other people and the wait time was at least half a day. On that note, let me know what else you keep in your car in the comments down below and I’ll see you guys in the next one!