Most of us take our cars for granted, just assuming that they’ll always get us to our destinations safely and without any trouble. But as the old, painfully annoying adage goes, things happen. Weather could force a car off the road. A pothole can cause a flat. Even something as simple as a traffic jam can throw a driver off the plan for the day.
While these issues can be hard to predict, it isn’t tough to be prepared for them. The following 14 things you may have never thought to keep in your car can help prepare you for almost anything on the road.
1. Cooking Spray
You'll never use a frying pan while at the wheel, but keeping a can of cooking spray in your car is still a good idea—especially in winter. If the forecast looks bleak, pull out the spray, then open all your car doors. Spray the rubber seals along the edge of the door, making sure to give each one a good coating. The oil will prevent melting snow from sticking to the seal, so you won't have to play tug-of-war with a door that has frozen shut overnight.
2. Kitty Litter
Cats may have nine lives, but your car's supernatural abilities are decidedly limited. Instead of hitting the gas when you're stuck in ice or snow, grab a bag of kitty litter from your trunk and sprinkle it in front of your tires. The grains act like gravel, giving you just enough traction to get back on the road. Just be sure to grab the non-clumping variety as it offers the most traction and won’t plug up the tire tread.
3. Plastic Bags
Ice is one of winter's hazards—both on the road and on your car. It's always best to park in your garage or covered carport to help prevent ice from forming on your windshield and rear view mirrors. But for those who are stuck with parking en plein air, here's a clever trick: Just open up a few plastic bags and slip them over your mirrors. The plastic covering will keep most of the ice and snow from sticking, making those frigid mornings way less frustrating.
Nighttime driving can be dangerous as a result of factors like insufficient street lighting and poor night vision. When you take all of those hazards into consideration, you know that the last thing you need are foggy headlights. If you're having trouble seeing the street, you can turn to an unlikely ally: toothpaste. Just keep a small tube in your glove compartment. If you notice that your lights could be brighter, dab some toothpaste on a cloth, and rub it in to erase dirty buildup.
Note: Most toothpastes will do in a pinch, but for the best results, use white toothpaste with baking soda.
Anyone who's ever shoveled out the driveway after a foot of snow knows that thick socks are a winter must. But did you know that your car could use some help staying toasty too? Simply lift the wipers so they’re in the upright position and slip a pair of long socks over them and then tie a plastic bag around them before a storm, and they'll keep the blades from accumulating ice. If the storm is supposed to be windy, refrain from lifting the blades to their full height as it can increase their wind resistance.
6. A Lighter, Empty Coffee Can, and Tea Lights
A lighter, empty coffee can, and tea lights are three items that go together for one purpose: keeping you warm in the unlikely event that your car breaks down in the winter. Place the tea-light candles inside the empty coffee can, then light. This should give you around 4 hours of light and a wee bit of warmth while you call for help.
7. Razor Blade
Be sure to store a razor blade or utility knife in your glove compartment. Blades are handy for cutting things in an emergency, such as cans or even seat belts. As well, some people swear that razors do wonders to clean a bug-splattered windshield when there's no squeegee at hand. If you do take a razor to your window, though, take care not to scratch the glass—that's one nick that will never heal.
8. Duct Tape
This miracle product can do just about anything, and that includes patching up your car in an emergency. If your fender is flapping in the breeze, duct tape can hold things together temporarily while you drive to the shop for a more permanent fix.
9. Chalkboard Eraser
Foggy windows can be annoying and sometimes even dangerous. Keep a chalkboard eraser in your car to wipe them down from the inside without leaving streaks behind.
10. Red Bandana
While a white flag is an age-old sign of surrender, a red flag, or in this case a red bandana, can raise a warning. When tied to your antenna, a red bandana indicates to other drivers that you need help. And, if your car gives out in poor weather when visibility is low, that bright red spot could help other drivers spot your car from afar, even as snow is piling up around it.
Related: 8 Quick Tips for Solving Winter Woes
11. A Sturdy Trash Bin
Don’t underestimate the importance of a bin for garbage and other needs. First, a sturdy trash bin can keep the car neat and tidy, and prevent water bottles from rolling around on the floor where they can become a hazard. Also, in a pinch, a trash bin can double as a tote, keeping small parts and fuses organized for roadside emergency repairs.
12. Spare Fuses
Vehicle electronics are pretty advanced these days, but they still use fuses to protect themselves from electronic overload. If you notice the dash lights, headlights, power seats, or something else in the vehicle give out on you during a road trip (particularly in very wet weather), there’s a good chance a fuse blew. Luckily, it’s an easy repair if you have some spares on hand.
13. Comfortable Shoes
In most cases, it’s smarter to stay with a broken down vehicle than huffing it back to a gas station on foot. But, if you do choose to walk for help, it’s better to do it in a comfortable pair of sneakers or hiking boots than a pair of heels or dress shoes. You’ll have better footing and be more likely to avoid injury. From late fall to early spring, consider keeping a pair of snow boots in the car as well.
14. First Aid Kit
Just about everyone knows to keep a roadside emergency kit in their vehicle, but what about a first aid kit? After all, the roads can be dangerous. Having what it takes to keep someone safe until help arrives can save their lives—whether it’s for yourself, your passengers, or someone else on the road.
Clever project ideas and step-by-step tutorials delivered right to your inbox each and every Saturday morning—sign up today for the Weekend DIY Club newsletter!