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What to Keep in Your Car in Case of Emergency

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author photo by Autotrader June 2009

Most of us have had some kind of automobile-related emergency, ranging from the trivial spilled beverage to the more serious engine fire or tire blowout.

Many drivers keep first-aid kits, road maps and the like in their glove compartments, but what essentials can you keep in your car to help if you're stranded somewhere with no access to food or water? What if your engine dies or you become trapped in your vehicle underwater?

Whether you're driving a mile from your home or traveling across the country, always have emergency equipment on board with you. Consult our recommended supplies list to help you outfit your vehicle for any potential on-the-road dilemma:

Auto Escape Tool — In case your car is submerged in water, this handy gadget has two small steel tips designed to break a window with one or two blows, and a sharp blade to slice through seatbelts. Some models are fluorescent, which makes them more visible in the dark or under murky water. Usually this tool can be clipped to your keychain, or attached to your visor.

 Blanket — Use it to cover hot car seats in the summer months, or to stay warm should you get stranded in the winter.

Can Opener — Anyone who's ever been stranded with cans of food and nothing to open them with knows the importance of one of the world's most basic kitchen appliances.

Cell Phone Charger — Buy a cell phone charger that works in a car lighter.

Cleaning Items — You need wet wipes, tissues and plastic trash bags — good for trash or a carsick child.

Extra (Hidden) Cash — It's best to forget about this stash of cash until you absolutely need it, maybe to purchase a few gallons of gas or to pass through a toll booth.

Fire Extinguisher — A fire extinguisher is a must if you're driving an older car prone to having an overheated engine.

First-aid Kit — Get two that are well-equipped — one that can easily be reached from the front seat and one for the back seat. Each should contain antiseptic; cleanser and ointment packets; bandages; scissors; tweezers; gauze; instant cold packs; latex gloves and a first-aid guide.

Flashlight — Purchase a wind-up flashlight, and you'll never have to worry about dead batteries.

Jumper Cables — Look for the compact, coiled type that fit neatly into their own bag.

Liquid Latex — This miracle-in-a-can seals small holes in tires.

Matches — If you have to stay overnight in your car and make a campfire somewhere beside it, the last thing you want to worry about is how to start a fire rubbing two sticks together.

Meal Kit — Keep non-perishable items like packs of crackers, dried fruit, peanut butter, energy bars and even canned tuna with pop-top lids in your car at all times.

Maps — The old, still-difficult-to-fold standby works wonders, even if you think you know where you're going.

Pencil and Notepad — You might need this in case of a car accident, so you can jot down the other drivers' information, or for writing down instructions from 911 or directions.

Snow Scraper — You might also need a small shovel and a snowbrush. But if your area primarily deals with ice conditions, a snow or ice scraper will do.

Telephone Book — Or program the number to Google 411 into your phone — 46645. Just send a text with the business name (or a general term), city and state to this number, and the address and phone number will be sent back to you — for free (though standard text message rates apply).

Towel — This is helpful for spills or protecting steering wheels and seats from the sun.

Warning Light or Road Flares — If you're in an accident — especially at night — make yourself more visible to rescue personnel and other drivers.

Water — Carry a plastic jug full of water to drink and a spray bottle to provide a quenching mist in extreme heat. In case your engine overheats, that water can also be the lifesaver for your car.

Whistle — If you're stuck somewhere that you can't be seen, at least make yourself heard.


Read more information to help you stay safe:

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What to Keep in Your Car in Case of Emergency - Autotrader