Car trunk essentials
Be ready to handle minor car emergencies by carrying these essentials.
Even if most of your driving is close to home, making certain you have car trunk essentials keeps you and your family safe no matter where you are. Even well-maintained cars can blow a tire or develop a sudden glitch. You and your passengers will feel much better if you are prepared to handle minor emergencies until you can get help.
Here is a list of car-trunk essentials:
Jack: You may not be in a good physical condition to change a tire yourself. But having the correct jack for your car may make the difference between having a mechanic change your tire on site or having the car towed. Not all jacks are the same. If you bought your car used or the original jack just vanished, find out what you need and keep it in your trunk.
Lug wrench: A lug wrench that you carry should be the right fit for your specific car. This is essential for removing the nuts holding your wheel. If yours is a foreign car, you may need a different lug wrench from that used on an American car.
Spare tire: Spare tires need to be right also. Your choices range all the way from a doughnut to a matching tire already mounted on your car's kind of rim. The doughnut monikor describes a small, pre-inflated tire mounted on a hub which can replace your flat tire. A doughnut can usually be used for up to 50 miles of driving in an emergency, although handling your car may require extra care. Doughnuts save space. In fact, the tire-storage compartments on some new cars will only hold a doughnut not a full-sized tire. Doughnuts also give you a bit of time to comparison-shop for a new tire.
Others prefer a full-sized tire. Unmounted, it will require removing the old tire from the wheel and setting the full-sized one on. A mounted full-sized tire takes more room in the trunk but means a faster change. Choose whatever version is right for you. Every three months nudge your spare tire hard to make sure it is staying inflated.
Flares and flashlight: Especially if your car problem includes a dead battery, flares and a flashlight are essentials. Even in daylight, flares set in the road warn other cars to watch out for you. At night they may save your life. At night you may need a flashlight to see the buttons on your phone, directions on your map, under the hood and into the trunk. Even on a bright sunny day it seems to be dark under the hood.
Battery-jumper cables: These can be invaluable, but with a caution. Incorrectly clipped between the batteries of your car and another, cables can cause explosions or fires. Make sure you know the positive and negative posts on your battery, and make sure the other driver helping you also knows which is which. If either of you is uncertain, it may be safer to wait for help.
Empty gas can: The only thing more frustrating than carrying your empty gas can to the gas station and back to the car is coming to the gas station empty-handed and finding they have gas but no gas cans to sell. Never carry a filled can in your car.
Two kinds of water: First you'll want to keep a gallon jug for the car. If your car has overheated, the radiator may be dry. Cool the car, remove the radiator cap and add the water slowly. This may be enough to let you limp to a nearby gas station. Carrying a jug of coolant will also help. Always keep coolant in its original container. Never open the cap or add liquids to a hot radiator. The other water is for you, a single large bottle or several small ones, which are valuable on a hot day.
Rain poncho, gloves, old sneakers, rags or a roll of paper towels: A poncho and gloves protect you while you try to figure out what's wrong or while you set flares. Sneakers make it easier to walk for help. Rags or towels make it easier to poke around if you need to. An old umbrella helps, too, whether you're walking in rain or hot sun.
Old blanket: Waiting can get chilly when you have no heater.
Not-quite-essentials from experienced drivers: First-aid kit, moist wipes to clean hands, paper and permanent markers to make a dashboard sign if you must leave the car where it might be ticketed (print big), money to cover a tow or a taxi, crackers or dried fruit to snack on.
Be sure to check your essentials when you check the spare tire. The first day of each new season is a good time to make sure you have everything you need. Happy driving!