10 must-carry essentials for your car

By: Andy Newbound


I recently had a breakdown. Don’t worry, not the sort requiring intensive psychotherapy. My car broke down, that’s all. At night. Miles from anywhere. And my mobile phone had run out of power.

I know…disaster!!! Perhaps if I’d had the foresight to pop a cheap portable phone charger in my boot, I might not have had to walk several miles to the nearest village to use a phone.

However, it was during the long, cold walk back to my car that I began wondering what other handy items I should carry in my boot. Here’s the Top Ten list of Emergency Essentials I came up with (I now carry them all).

1. Portable mobile phone charger

Yes, I’ve learned my lesson. Almost every driver now carries a mobile phone and these can be an essential way to get in touch with help if your car breaks down, you have an accident, or you simply find yourself lost or stranded.

However, your phone is just a lump of useless plastic if it’s out of power, so it’s a great idea to carry a portable phone charger with you. You can pick these up from as little as £5 and they will breathe life into your phone when you need it the most.

1. Torch

Take it from me, being stranded somewhere in the dark is no fun at all. A torch allows you to throw some light on your situation, assess any damage to your car and perhaps even give you the chance to make a simple repair. Being able to see clearly also helps you get your bearings, check out the immediate environment and can even make you feel considerable safer.

Don’t think you can rely on your mobile phone for light. Few things drain your battery power like a torch ‘app’ – better to save your power for more important things, like calling the rescue services - and using light from your screen only illuminates a small area.

3. First-aid kit

Accidents happen and it’s always a good idea to be prepared. Pack a basic first aid kit and you’ll be able to help yourself, or others, if you’re involved in or come across any kind of emergency situation.

4. Road map

Again, don’t become over reliant on mobile phone technology. You may think that your SatNav can always get you back on track if you take a wrong turn, but technology isn’t infallible. It can run out of power or stop working. And there are still many areas in the UK without a mobile phone signal.

Carrying an old-school printed roadmap means you’ll always have a way to navigate your way through even the most remote locations. So you’ll never be completely lost, wherever you find yourself.

5. Food and water

If your car breaks down, or you find yourself stranded in poor weather conditions or somewhere remote, it can sometimes take the rescue services hours to reach you. The last thing you need is any additional worries about becoming unwell through hunger or thirst.

To help keep your energy levels high, make sure you carry fresh drinking water and a stock of food. Choose portable, high-energy snacks such as granola bars, flapjacks, nuts and crisps – anything that’s well package, with a long shelf life.

6. Warm clothing

In harsh weather conditions, or just late at night, a stationary car can become a cold place. To stay safe, you should only run your engine for 15 minutes in every hour, so don’t expect your car’s heater or air-conditioning to keep you warm.

That’s why packing a heavy winter coat/jacket, a sweater and a thick warm blanket is a good idea. Also include a woolly hat, gloves, thermal socks and perhaps even a set of reusable gel heat packs.

7. Jump leads

In the cold, dark months of winter, we put a lot of pressure on our car batteries. Lights, radio, heater and air-con – they all drain power. And if we make the simple mistake of leaving our lights on, even for a short period of time, we can find that our battery becomes flat and the car won’t start.

Such a simple mistake can leave you stranded, so keeping a set of jump leads in the back of our car can be a simple solution. With the help of a friendly driver, jump leads can help bring your battery back to life and kick-start your engine in minutes.

8. Shovel

If you’ve ever found yourself stranded in snow or ice, you’ll know that a good shovel can feel like a life-saver. Digging yourself out of a snowdrift or clearing a patch of ice is easy work with a shovel, but near impossible without. And it doesn’t take up too much room in your boot either.

Add a small bag of sand or even cat litter to spread around your tyres, and you shouldn’t find yourself entrapped by snow and ice for too long.

9. Duct tape

This may seem like an unusual choice, but a roll of duct tape can help with so many things. It’s strong, durable, flexible and once it’s stuck securely, it’s almost waterproof.

Duct tape has so many uses, from temporary repairs to your car, emergency fixes and also first aid. As a ‘just in case’ addition, it’s up there with the best. It’s small too, so there’s no real reason not to include it.

10. Screen wash fluid

Safe driving depends on good visibility. If you’ve ever found yourself on a long distance drive during rainy conditions, you’ll know the value of a clean windscreen.

In addition to screen wash, carry at least a litre of water too. This should give you enough fluid to get you to the end of your destination, or at least the nearest service area where you can re-fill your car’s water reservoir.

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