What Should I Keep in My Car when I Go on a Road Trip

Some 30 years ago, I remembered my dad stocking the car with a warning triangle and 10 gallons of extra gasoline. Although not exactly a car safety kit, these provisions did see us through long road trips. What should I keep in my car today? As automotive technology has moved forward and gas stations are a lot more plentiful, there are some changes to the must-have items anyone should keep in a vehicle.


Sure, a car jack and spare tire are the ideal setups, but there are some folks who do not know how to change a tire. More importantly, it can be quite dangerous to set up shop on the side of a busy highway. Fix-A-Flat is a temporary repair that gives you about 100 miles to find yourself a tire shop for a permanent fix. Keep a couple of cans in your trunk to ensure that you do not get caught in a bind when you lose air in two tires during your Death Valley road trip.

Jumper cables

When your battery dies, a friendly fellow motorist may be able to at least get you up and running so you can reach a service station.

Fire extinguisher

Pick a product that will extinguish oil and gasoline fires.

First aid kit

There is no need to raid your medicine cabinet at home. Auto supply stores sell prepackaged first aid kits that pretty much have everything you need for basic wound care. Just be sure to replenish the supplies as you go.

Emergency overnight kit

Whether you are driving through Death Valley in July or Mammoth Lakes in December, plan on getting stuck on the side of the road for a day. You may get lucky and flag down another motorist sooner. Then again, you may not. Your overnight kit should include a tent, a sleeping bag rated for cold weather, a change of clothes and shoes, two gallons of water, and some ready-to-eat meals.

There are a few additional things to keep in your car for winter. Defrosting washer fluid, an ice scraper, tire chains, and antifreeze are always important. Since the things to have in your car during winter take up space in summer, simply put them into a plastic tote and remove them as the weather warms up.

You may notice that a toolset is conspicuously absent from this list of must-have items. While it is great to have tools on hand, they will only help you if you know your way around under the hood. If your car engine is a complete mystery to you, do not start messing around with nuts and bolts.

Bring along things that you know how to use in an emergency. You will get more mileage out of these items than a car safety kit stocked with tools you may have never seen before.

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