Saturday, May 2, 2015

22 Things to Keep in Your Car

If you have been following along you will know our youngest son is graduating high school this year and will be either going to college or an apprenticeship program, either one is going to require him to travel more than he ever has before. I have started assembling him a really good car kit. I mentioned a couple of these items in Self Reliance Gifts for Graduates, but they are worth repeating.

It doesn't matter if you just drive across town, across state, or across country. Eventually you will run into trouble. I know, I know a lot of people just pick up their phone and call AAA. That is a good option but sometimes it takes them a while to get to you. Wouldn't it be a good idea for you to know how to take care of yourself and how at least the basics of car maintenance and self reliance. 

You could be caught in a snow storm, a massive traffic jam, or countless other events that can range from a minor inconvenience to a major catastrophe. Having some basic supplies and some skill you can get yourself or your loved ones out of a bad situation. Building an emergency car kit can make you look like a hero. Having an emergency car kit does not make you a Doomsday Prepper, just someone who wants to be self reliant. What should be in this kit? I am so glad you ask.

Repair or Breakdown Items

1 A Good Jack.

A jack is the thing that raises your car up so you can change the tire if you have a flat. The problem is that most of the jacks that come standard with cars stink. They are difficult to use and can be unstable. A bottle jack is much easier to use and if you chock the tires properly are as stable as any. If you have the storage room a small floor jack is best. A small floor jack once you learn how to use them are the easiest and most stable of them all. Again you will still need to chock the tires. 

2. A Good Spare Tire

I was shocked when I first heard that many new cars no longer come standard with a spar tire. REALLY!?!?!?! Is it really that important to save a couple hundred dollars and a few dozen pounds? Even a do-nut spare is better than nothing. If you have a flat and they happen everyday, you will be thankful for that spare. Oh and learn how to change the tire. If you do not have a spare you can get one at your local auto dealer or sometimes your local tire store.

3. A Set of Jumper Cables

Also known as booster cables. You know what these are. Your dad or maybe your grandfather had a set. Jumper cables are two heavy gauge wires with a clamp on each end of both wires. These are used to help start a car that has a dead battery. If you don't know how to use jumper cables don't worry, There are plenty of videos on YouTube to teach you how.

If you are afraid to ask someone for help, you can purchase a jump pack. Just be sure to charge it every 6 months. Another note on jump packs. They are designed to help get your car started if the battery is a little low. If you keep trying to crank your car till the battery has run completely down, you may still be stuck.

4. Flashlight or Headlamp

You can never have too many flashlights, or at least that is my motto. Don't believe me? You could ask my wife and she would agree. They are great for around home, camping and really anywhere, but you will truly not appreciate their value until you are trying to change a tire after dark on a section of road with no streetlights. I keep both in my vehicle at all times. I really like my headlamp. A headlamp frees up my hands so that I can work on what ever I am having to deal with. If needed they are worth their weight.

5. Small Set of Wrenches

If you are handy at all a small set of wrenches are important. Something as simple as a ground wire becoming disconnected from your battery can leave you stranded. If you have a set of wrenches that ground wire problem becomes only a 2 minute inconvenience. There are several other ways that a set of wrenches can get you quickly back on the road again. You will need to know if you need a SAE or metric set of wrenches for your automobile. 

6. Safety Reflectors or Flares 

Even as I write this I feel like I am telling everyone to become "Safety Sam", but the truth is when you are out on the road safety is critically important. This is especially true on dark roadways and/or rainy nights. 

Safety reflectors are the orange triangles. They are designed to bounce light off of themselves and almost appear to glow. When placed at 10, 50, and 100 feet intervals from the back of your automobile or should I say the travel side of the road. (Note: This recommendation is not what is required for commercial drivers. Their regulations are different. If you drive a commercial vehicle, please familiarize yourself with those regulations.) They will warn people that there is a problem up ahead. 

Safety flares. There are several types of safety flares now, we are only going to cover two. The ones I like best are the traditional flares, you know the ones that burn for about fifteen minutes and then are gone. Why do I like those? Because they are multipurpose. You can use them for safety and you can use them to start a fire if conditions are not conducive to do so. There are also beacon flares. These are battery powered and easily stored. There is only one use for them, but for most people they would probably be the preferred choice.

7. Extra Fluids

This may not sound like it is that important, but it can be. You are not going to be able to do a whole lot if you have a radiator hose burst or you knock the oil pan out from under your car, but for less spectacular events having extras could get you to a repair shop or home. A small hole in a radiator hose can cause your car to overheat. As the coolant level goes down the temperature of the engine goes up. Being able to add a gallon of coolant could buy you several more miles of travel. The same is true of transmission fluid and oil if a small hole were to be knocked into their respective reservoir pans. 

Personal Comfort, Survival, and Sanity

8. Water

This should be true for everyone, but especially those that have and travel with children. If you were to breakdown and help were to be an hour or longer in coming you will be thankful for water. If the need to walk any distance occurs the need for water increases.

Plastic bottles are best even though they can have issues. Stainless steel bottles are durable but they are expensive and can get what I call canteen funk. It is a bad taste and smell. They do reduce waste, but no one can argue with the convenience of plastic and you can still reduce waste if you try.

Easiest is just keep a half case or more of bottled water. Use from it and when the supply gets low replenish. I like reusing one liter soda bottles. The plastic is thicker and is made to be able to handle high acid content drinks. That makes them more durable. Just rinse them out well and fill with water. Reusing the same container over and over reduces waste. If you have someone who is not a big fan of water you can always keep some kool aid instant packs or the little Mio things.

9. Snacks

This is another big one if you have children. I cannot tell you the number of times we were going somewhere and one of the children would announce that they were hungry. Packs of sandwich crackers were my go to when the kids were small. Now that the children are older I keep things that are a little more substantial. Beef jerky is always a big hit. Food helps calm the nerves and gives you energy to keep going.
Why is keeping snacks in your car important? Last year the was a pop up snow storm. No one was really expecting it to be much. But it quickly shut down the interstate systems in both Birmingham and Atlanta. I know people who were stuck on the interstate for 19 hours. Having some food in the vehicle would have really come in handy.

You know what your family likes and is willing to eat so choose accordingly. 

10. Non Electric Entertainment

This one is crucial if you have children or grand children that travel with you. Imagine if you were stuck on the interstate like in the example above with children. Children can get bored pretty quickly. A bored child is a difficult child. If you had coloring book and crayons or travel board games, it could take a lot longer before the child or children get bored. Believe me there are only so many times you can play I Spy and it be thrilling. This can really be a blessing.

11. A Way to Charge Your Cell Phone

Communication is key in any emergency situation. The last thing you would want to happen in an emergency would be to loose that ability to communicate to loved ones. I doesn't matter if you just have one of the DC powered chargers or the nicer power packs that can be charged in advance. All of these are nice to have and you will have to decide what is best for your situation. 

12. Toilet Paper and Probably a Bucket

Back to all of the people who were stranded on the interstate for up to 19 hours, I don't know about you but I cannot go that long without having to use the toilet. Depending on what needs to be done this situation could be easier for us guys and then again possibly not. Having a roll or two of toilet paper with you can make a world of difference.

Most of the time we guys can just head for the bushes and get done whatever needs doing. For ladies and children having a bucket and several plastic bags with you can make a bad situation a little better. A small 2 to a 2.5 gallon bucket is best. Just line the bucket with a plastic bag, do your business then dispose of the bag.

13. A Change of Clothes

I always keep a change of clothing with me. I have had pants rip and instead of having to leave work and go home or go somewhere and buy a pair of pants I have an extra pair with me. If your work is strenuous or there is the chance that you could get very dirty, a change of clothes just makes sense. I change out what backup clothing I have dependent on the season. Right now I have a pair of long heavy pants, insulated socks, thermal undergarment, t shirt, and an extra toboggan cap. Once again if you travel with little ones it is a good idea to have a change of clothes for each one of them.

14. Blankets

Not only do you not want to get cold, but the last thing you want to hear is Mom/Dad I am cold from a child. Keeping a blanket in your car is a great practice to get into. Now, I personally like the Emergency Blankets that are made of Mylar. Why? Because they are light weight, take up very little space and there are tons of uses for them. That may be another post in the near future. But there is something to be said for a traditional blanket or throw especially with children. There is something comforting in a fuzzy, warm blanket.

15. Poncho or Umbrella

I am not a big umbrella fan, I am of the mindset "a brave man likes the feel of nature on his face, but a wise man knows when to get out of the rain". A cold rain can cause your body temperature to drop which can put you at risk for hypothermia. Not a good thing. If you were to have to leave your car in the rain to walk for help an umbrella or poncho becomes priceless.

16. Towel

One good thing about this one is it can be a towel that has been demoted from the bathroom. For cleaning up, drying off, padding something. Several uses and just a good idea.

17. Fire Extinguisher 

I will never forget a little over 15 years ago, my boys and I were driving down the road when all of a sudden the truck just quit on me. We were able to coast into a parking lot and not be right on the side of the road. My boys were small, so we sat there just for a moment when I realized the truck was on fire. I hopped out and got my boys out of the truck and far enough away from the flames that if something worse were to happen they would have been okay. I am not a frantic kind of person so as soon as I was sure everyone was safe I started trying to work on the situation at hand. I really had no way to fight the flames. By the time the fire department arrived the truck was totaled. Who knows? If I had had a fire extinguisher in the truck I may have been able to save it. I will be honest. I need to get one now.

18. First Aid Kit

First Aid Kits are one of the things that people either tend to have one that is too small for their needs or go way overboard. You can purchase them pre-made or assemble them yourself. My rule of thumb is not to have anything you do not know how to use, but have enough items to handle several small injuries and at least one big injury. Also include over the counter medications for common ailments i.e. headaches, stomach aches, allergies, etc.

19. Feminine Hygiene Products

For me traveling alone, this is not that big a deal. But if I am traveling with my family it can be a very big deal. My wife and daughters sometimes need these and if they are not able to get them no one  is happy. Plus there are a lot of uses for them such as for first aid and for fire starters.

20. Hand Sanitizer

A lot of people keep this on hand all of the time. I really haven't tended to do so until recently. With all of the sickness that is going around I have been a little more conscious of keeping my hands clean. If you are going to have to eat, you will want to clean your hands and if you were to have to deal with a diaper you will too. Not to mention that most of the hand sanitizers are a very high percentage of isopropyl alcohol. It can be used to help start a fire as well.

21. Sunscreen.

Around here this one is very important in the summertime and for those with fair complexions. No one wants to deal with a sunburn on top of being stuck in a major traffic jam or being broken down on the side of the road.

22. Wet Wipes. 

Important for everyone, but critical for those with small children. Wet wipes are great for cleaning up messy faces or any other body part and sometimes that is exactly what you need. They are really handy if you have to do some repair work and want to clean up.

There you go. 22 things to keep in your car. I hope you found this post simple and straight forward. Did I leave anything out? I would love to hear your suggestions in the comments on this post.

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