10 Things to Keep in the Trunk of Your Car
If the only thing in your trunk is a spare tire, there’s a long road ahead to being fully prepared
Is the trunk of your car stocked with the supplies you’d need to stay safe on the road if your car broke down, you had an accident or you got lost?
If you’re like most people, you’re lucky if you have some jumper cables and a roadside emergency kit in addition to your spare tire and jack. But if you run into trouble, you may be awfully glad to have some of these other items.
Related: How to Change a Flat Tire
First aid kit. If you’re a soccer mom, having this in the car will make soothing game-related cuts and scrapes easier. If you’re in a car accident, it’s there to treat minor injuries. You can buy a first aid kit or build your own.
Fire extinguisher. About 164,000 vehicles caught fire on U.S. highways in 2013, according to the National Fire Protection Association. For your car, choose a fire extinguisher rated for “B” (flammable and combustible liquid) and “C” (electrical) fires, according to the Federal Emergency Management Association.
Since a crash can send loose objects flying through the cabin, keep the fire extinguisher in the trunk, according to Shaun Kildare, PhD, director of research at Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
Fluids for your car. Store a container of antifreeze and two or three pints of motor oil in the trunk. You might as well include brake, transmission, steering and windshield wiper fluid. If you run out on the road, they won't do you any good sitting on a shelf in your garage.
Water for you. If your car breaks down in a hot climate, you’ll need to stay as hydrated and cool as possible. “Having clean water on hand to combat the effect of temperature, especially if stranded during the summer, could be lifesaving” says Kildare. He also notes water can be used for cleaning wounds and topping off radiators. It can’t hurt to also throw in some nonperishable snacks such as granola bars.
Warm clothes and a blanket. On the flip side, if you get stuck in winter weather, have something to bundle up with. Hypothermia kills an average of 10 drivers or passengers annually according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Another 126 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning. For instance, if a driver rolls up the windows with the engine running to use the heater, deadly gas can build up in the passenger cabin.
“Having a blanket on hand would reduce the odds of needing to run the vehicle in conditions which could increase the risk, for example, if stranded by heavy snow,” says Kildare.
Related: How to Winterize Your Car
Flashlight, road reflectors and light sticks. You may need to search your trunk in the dark, flag down help or keep drivers from crashing into your stalled vehicle — or yourself. If your flashlight includes a hand-crank to power it up, you'll never have to worry about the batteries dying.
An empty gas can. Approved gas cans are red. Buy one at an auto supply store or hardware store or online. Never keep a can filled with gas in your trunk. Just use the empty can to fetch gas from the nearest gas station if you run out.
A set of tools. Include jumper cables, electrical tape, duct tape, fuses, screwdrivers and wrenches. Use jumper cables to charge the battery “only if you know how to connect them properly,” says James Aubrey Solomon, who directs defensive driving courses at the National Safety Council. Otherwise, you risk an electric shock or fire.
If your car breaks down on the road, don't try repairing it unless you know what you're doing. Call for roadside assistance instead. Every year, many people are crushed, electrocuted, burned, cut or otherwise harmed while working on a vehicle, according to Kildare.
Snow and mud gear. If you live in snow country, carry tire chains to grab the roads. A traction mat (or sand or kitty litter) can get you unstuck if your tires are mired in snow or mud. You’ll also want a shovel and ice scraper. Keep a lock deicer in your purse or elsewhere on your person in case the locks freeze shut.
A phone. This can be your usual cellphone, but keep it in the glove box or the trunk as you drive to avoid distracted driving. (If it's very hot or very cold out, don't leave it there too long or you could harm the phone.) “First and foremost, a means of communication is important in order to contact the authorities and emergency services,” says Kildare. Plus, if your phone has a camera, you can take pictures of an accident for insurance purposes.
“Include a list of emergency and family phone numbers,” suggests Solomon. Print a hard copy and keep it in your glove box in case you lose your phone or need someone to call for you.
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