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17 Essential Items You Should Always Keep in Your Car

From basic to high-tech, this gear will help keep you safe on the road.

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car under hoodAlexxndr/Shutterstock

Be Prepared for Emergencies

Whether we’re commuting to work or taking a road trip with some friends, we spend a lot of time in our cars. Unfortunately, cars aren’t perfect. No matter how well you take care of your vehicle, they tend to have unforeseen problems from time to time. There are also unpredictable factors like the weather or other drivers that could leave you stranded in your car on the side of the road at an inopportune time. It’s important to be prepared, and to help with that, there are a handful of essentials that you should keep in your car at all times.

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Anker Car Chargervia

Multi-Device Charger

This 18W dual port charger includes a USB A as well as a USB C port for newer cell phones. It works fast too, shaving off an hour and a half of charging time with two phones (or other devices) plugged in at the same time. There are a ton of plug-in chargers for you car available for a lot less, but this one is made by Anker, one of the more reliable brands in this space. It’s also designed to protect your phone from overcharging and overheating. With more than 4,100 reviews on Amazon, it’s got a stellar 4.8-star rating too.

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Noco Boost Plus Gb40 1000 Amp 12 Volt Ultrasafe Lithium Jump Starter BoxVia

Car Jump Starter

Jumper cables are always good to have in car, but if you end up with a dead battery in the middle of nowhere you’re dependent on being able to dial up roadside service or wait for a good Samaritan. That’s why it’s good to have a jump starter like this 1000-amp, 12V model from Noco. Small and mighty, it’ll start a dead battery and have you on your way in no time. Safe and easy to use, this jump starter can even charge with a built-in USB port. There’s even a flashlight built into it.

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No spill gas canvia

Gas Container

An unexpected storm could leave you deadlocked in traffic, far from civilization. Should you run out of fuel, having a gas container on hand will help you get to the nearest service station and back to your vehicle. This two-gallon, no-spill version is an Amazon pick.

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Prestone Washer Fluidvia

Windshield Washer Fluid

Between salt in the colder months and pollen in the warmer months, plus everyday dust and grime, you probably go through plenty of windshield wiper fluid. What you don’t want is to be caught without it, so keep an extra gallon in your vehicle. This Prestone wiper fluid works year-round.

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AAA safety kitvia

AAA Winter Readiness Kit

This handy kit for severe winter weather contains all you might need should you get stranded in your vehicle during the cold weather: a folding shovel, ice scraper, blanket, fire starter, and more. Not looking to buy a whole kit? Make sure to add the components you want to your trunk.

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Wool Fire Retardant Blanket Via Amazonvia

Wool Blanket

If you’re stuck in your car in the winter, it can get cold fast. There’s a list of winter gear that you should have in your car when you’re traveling, from extra hats and gloves to another coat. But the most basic item to always have stashed somewhere in your vehicle is a good wool blanket. You can wrap up and keep your body heat trapped under the blanket. Another advantage wool has is that it will keep you warm even if it gets wet. This one measures 90×66-in., which is big enough for two people to share.

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You should always have a can of fix-a-flat (or two cans for larger tires on SUVs and trucks) in your car. You can use it to patch up a punctured tire until you can get to a repair center. However, the can itself has to be warm to dispense, so keep it inside the car, not in the trunk, or warm it over the defroster before using.

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magnetic pocket flashlightvia

Flexible Flashlight

This lightweight flashlight has a flexible neck that allows you to twist and wrap it. With six ultra-bright lights, it’s also handy when you need to peek under the hood on the side of the road on a dark night.

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Spare tireKris Petkong/Shutterstock

Spare Tire

A spare tire in the trunk used to be a standard feature. But nearly a third of car manufacturers no longer include spares with new cars. So before you head out, make sure you get one that’s right for your car. And if your car has the space for it, get a full-sized spare, not one of the little donuts. It’s also worth reacquainting yourself with how to change a tire as well as how to fix a flat. Both seem simple, but if you haven’t done either one in awhile, you might be surprised at how unfamiliar it feels when you’re doing it on the side of the road with traffic speeding by.

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Rubber wheel chockvia

Wheel Chocks

Should you get a flat, having these heavy-duty wheel chocks on hand will help keep your tires in place while you change your tire.

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Scissor jackvia


You’ll also need a jack if you’ll be changing that tire. This best-selling model from Torin is compact and very reasonably priced. Some cars will already have a jack and a lug wrench as part of a built-in tire-changing kit, but you should check to make sure all the parts are there. Plus, you might want to upgrade from the included kit.

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Lug wrenchvia

Lug Wrench

You’ll also require one these wrenches in case of a flat to unloosen the lugs on the tire. This heavy-duty universal lug wrench has four socket heads and works for a range of sizes.

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Escape Toolvia

Escape Tool

While no one likes to think about it, it’s good to be prepared for the worst. This multi-purpose escape tool allows you to slice through seat belts or smash through a car window.

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Fire extinguishervia

Fire Extinguisher

Another item you hope you’ll never have to use, but it’s good to have an extinguisher on hand in your vehicle in case of a fire. This one works against both flames sparked by flammable liquids like gasoline and oil and for electrical fires. Plus, it’s lightweight and won’t take up too much room.

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Portable GPS trackervia

Spy Tec

If car theft is common where you live, you might want to invest in a Spy Tec. A device the size of a matchbox, the Spy Tec allows you to keep tabs on your vehicle at all times from a computer.

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First Aid Kitvia

First Aid Kit

If you get a scrape along your travels, you’ll be happy to have this kit on hand in the car. Though lightweight, it’s got plenty of Bandaids and gauze in addition to tools like scissors and tweezers for those tiny mishaps.

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Traction Matvia

Tire Traction Mats

Stuck in the snow? You’ll be glad that you have one of these tire traction mats in the car. Much more convenient than chains, both sides of these mats feature cleat-like spikes that grip both your tire and the snow to give you traction. And once you’re out of the snow, they fold up for easy storage.

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Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest