It's always a good idea to get your car in order. Would you have what you needed if your car broke down? Or if you were stranded somewhere? Check out our list of things you should have in your car - then knock on wood that you never need to use them.
For roadside emergencies and repairs:
Tire changing supplies
The number one item on our list is actually a collection of items - a spare tire, tire iron, lug wrench, tire jack and some WD-40. If you've got these essentials on hand, then you've got everything you need to change a tire should one go flat. A can of fix a flat could also come in handy.
A dead battery can take you by surprise, so don't rely on a good Samaritan to supply jumper cables.
You know, that book that came with your car that you never looked at? Keep it in your glove compartment. You never know when it might come in handy.
Tire pressure gauge
So your tire needs air. Great! You pull up to the air compressor at your favorite gas station, and... wait, how do you know when you've added enough air? Did you add too much? How lucky that you've stashed a tire pressure gauge in your trunk.
Great for everything from temporary auto repairs to roadside first aid, duct tape is a no-brainer.
Sure, you can walk to the nearest gas station when you run out of gas, but then how do you get the gas back to your car? It's probably not wise to keep a full gas can, though, so bring an empty one.
Windshield wiper fluid
I have two terrifying words for you: Winter Splashback. I can say with authority that there is nothing worse than driving across Virginia in a snowstorm with passing semi trucks constantly kicking road slush up onto your windshield, and then running out of wiper fluid. Been there, done that.
Heaven forbid your engine ever catches fire, or a campfire jumps its boundaries. But if you're thinking of the giant, heavy wall-mounted fire extinguishers you see in schools and corporate stairwells, you'll be pleased to know there are much smaller, more portable options on the market.
For health and safety while stranded:
First Aid Kit
You never know when you're going to need a first aid kit.
Flashlight or mini-lantern
Ever tried to change a tire in the dark? Or lose your wedding ring under the seat?
If you might be traveling off the beaten path, it's a good idea to keep a few non-perishable, melt-proof, calorie dense food items in the car, like energy bars, granola bars, dried fruit
A couple of bottles of water can literally save your life when you're stranded and facing dehydration.
You're already having a bad day, so make sure that night drivers can see you when you're pulled off onto the shoulder to help prevent it from getting any worse.
Thick cloud cover, tree foliage, tall buildings and mountains all can block a GPS signal, and your battery isn't going to last forever.
Especially in the winter:
Ice scraper and snow brush
A traction helper
The debate over whether you should use a carpet remnant, kitty litter or sand seems to be way more heated than it needs to be, but whatever works for you, keep it handy.
Quick cleanup options are a good thing. Wipe bugs off of windshields, grape jelly off of little faces and fingers - you know, all the usual stuff.
Notebook and pen
Jot down directions when you're lost. Or your contact and insurance info after a minor fender bender.
A roll of quarters
For unexpected tolls, parking meters, etc.
Plastic grocery bags
Yes, these too. While the reusable totes are great for porting your stuff, you wouldn't want a carsick passenger to puke into one of them. Also great for cleaning out the car on the go - just fill up the bag and toss it in a dumpster. Or stashing muddy shoes you don't want mucking up your floor mats.
I've gotten more mileage out of an old comforter that I stashed in the car than anything else on this list. It's warm on cool nights. It's a great picnic blanket, It covers the back seat when I have wet and muddy passengers or pets in tow. The ideal car blanket is one you've got buried in a closet somewhere.