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Drivers Reveal The Life-Saving Items They Always Keep In Their Cars

Cameron EittreimMarch 26, 2021

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19: Blanket

Things can get very cold for drivers during the winter months. Breaking down without any blankets in the car is certainly a risky proposition. Reddit user u/benwinsatlife described why they’re such an important item for a driver to have. “Surprised I had to scroll so far for this. Blankets are important if you break down in a cold rural location, but also if you get too lit at the party you can sleep it off before driving home. The update looks like folks are saying you can get arrested for sleeping in your car. Please avoid getting a DUI by using your car blanket to make a blanket fort. If the cops don’t know the secret password you have no legal obligation to let them into your blanket fort (probably). P.S. Be aware of your local statutes”

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It always helps to have an emergency blanket somewhere in the car. No matter if you go for an expensive one or just a standard blanket, anything is better than being stuck on the side of the road without warmth.

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18: Sleeping Bag

Blankets are a great option, but a sleeping bag is a second great choice for staying warm. A Reddit user detailed just how warm their zipping sleeping bag got. “Oh man, I’ve got one of these for backpacking, and honestly it’s too warm most of the time. Wind up sleeping with it fully unzipped, three limbs sticking out. It’s especially awkward because it’s a mummy bag so it doesn’t just fold open neatly. Still, I’m glad that I have it when the temperature starts dropping past 50.” Photo Credit: Gear Junkie

There are sleeping bags for just about every condition. Getting one that’s designed for subzero temperatures is a smart choice. The thicker the sleeping bag, the more comfortable it will be and the more warmth you’ll get out of it. Likewise, a sleeping bag will save you a lot of grief if you need to camp out for a night.

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17: Warmer Clothes

Having extra clothes for the snow is also an important thing to have in your car. Blizzard-like conditions can create a snowpack in a few hours. A Reddit user told a story of how a few college girls froze due to a lack of the right clothes. “I live in a more urban area but frequently travel into the mountains for work. I throw in a gallon of water, a sleeping bag, and a change of clothes suitable for mountain weather. A firefighter friend has pulled several dead bodies out of car accidents where the accident only killed the car – the people froze to death. One that sticks out is a pair of college-aged girls heading up to meet friends at a house in Tahoe.

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“They drove up wearing bikini tops – in winter – and froze to death after sliding off the highway. I don’t know if they had warmer clothes they just didn’t change into or if a friend had their bags in a separate car, but he was pretty bummed out about that one. If those girls had a wool blanket, sleeping bags, or coats they’d have been cold – but alive.” As you can see, extra clothes are important to keep around in the snow or cold.

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16: Bottled Water

Driving in any type of hot weather can be dangerous, especially if you don’t have any extra water. A Reddit user told a story of when being without water had sad results. “I live in a desert community near Death Valley. One summer maybe 10 years ago, a woman and her 11-year-old son were traveling the 30 mile stretch of desert between the main town and a smaller nearby town when her car died. There was and is still no cell service on that road and I guess no one stopped to help, so they ended up stranded. They were only stranded for a few hours, but it was 120F and they didn’t have water.

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“The son quickly succumbed to heatstroke and died. Ever since that happened, I have packed a day’s supply of freshwater for each person in the car before any trip out of town. I have my normal emergency kit as well, but the water is something I have to be mindful of because I can’t keep it stored in my car, especially in the summer months.”

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15: Non-Perishable Foods

Water is an important emergency thing to have on hand, but so are non-perishable foods. Reddit user u/whymypersonality described why it’s important to have some light snacks in your vehicle for emergencies. “Another good thing that doesn’t help with ALL accidents but can help some is some form of no-perishable/not quickly perishable comfort food, like potato chips and granola bars! Shock is a serious possibility in an accident and you may need something to help jump start you back into drive.

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“Some form of easy to swallow digestible that is familiar can help with that. I always have a few granola bars and snack-sized original lays in my glove box+center console and there’s usually a box/bag of both in my trunk too. Sadly you can only keep the dips bars in the winter because they’ll probably melt in the summer but I also really like the nature valley crunch ones so I didn’t have any issue with it.”

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14: Phone Charger

A phone charger is important in our connected world. One Reddit user cautioned that drivers should obviously keep a spare charger handy. “A “spare” charger. One that you know it’s in good condition and will work in case of emergency. Chargers in a car tend to get beat up and fail.” Keeping a spare charger that’s in good condition will ensure that you always have a charge. It is also important to make sure that you have a charging port handy.

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Many times we forget to keep a charging port in our vehicle and a charging cable is useless without this. Doing something like this will make ensure that you have communication even if you’re stranded out in the middle of the desert.

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13: Money

Being stranded on the side of the road is not fun, but neither is being stuck somewhere with no cash on hand. A lot of smaller communities around the country don’t have access to credit card terminals or ATMs. The worst thing ever is being stuck somewhere that you can’t use your debit card as currency. Keeping emergency cash on you during a long trip is key to surviving these types of trips.

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Remember the saying, “cash is king.” That still holds for a vast portion of the country that hasn’t moved into the current times. If you don’t want to be stranded without a viable form of currency, it makes sense to keep some added cash in your vehicle.

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12: A Headlamp

It would make sense to keep a headlamp on you for vehicle repairs in the dark. A headlamp enables you to be able to work hands-free. Reddit user u/NatasEvoli shared their strategy of keeping two headlights in their automobile for when they are needed. “I keep two headlights in my car just in case. It helped on numerous occasions while driving in the dark.” There are a variety of different headlamps on the market. Most offer bright LED light and can be found in the camping aisle.

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There are some instances where a headlamp would be impractical, but for the most part, you’ll be able to get the job done. Keeping a headlamp handy in your car at all times will save you a lot of frustration in the long run.

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11: Toilet Paper

Believe it or not, drivers want to keep some toilet paper handy if you get stranded. Being able to relieve yourself without making a mess is a satisfying feeling, especially when you are stranded. A Reddit user described how keeping toilet paper in their car helped them out in a bind. “I keep toilet paper in my car. Initially, it was just something I figured I was likely to forget camping. Then covid hit. Americans panicked and bought out ALL the toilet paper. I ran out before stores had finally restocked. Then I remembered the roll in the car. It saved my week.”

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You don’t have to go all out and buy a large pack of toilet paper, but a reasonable couple of rolls will do you good if you become stranded. Toilet paper is also handy to keep around if you don’t have paper towels and you want to clean up a mess.

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10: First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is important for any kind of injury, but there are other helpful usages as well. One specific Reddit user described a health scare that required exact treatment. “Various combinations of those will take care of just about anything minor, with an alternative for anyone with a sensitivity to something. I’m not bad enough I need to carry an epi-pen, but if I get stung by a bee I need a couple of Benadryl or I get real wheezy, and friends have appreciated minor pain relievers and decongestants when were out places or camping or whatever.

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“Caffeine will potentiate any of the pain relievers too, and it’s more convenient than stopping for coffee and being stuck in a McDonald’s drive-through line for 35 minutes at 11:30 pm for just coffee only for you to be pretty sure they poured you decaf and there’s a cop car behind you in line so you can’t yell at them or smoke your tires on the way out or…” You never know when you might need a first aid kit containing multiple solutions.

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9: Caffeine Tablets

This is probably something that most of us haven’t thought about, but caffeine tablets can be increasingly useful. A Reddit user described why caffeine helps drivers stay focused and can save lives during a long trip. “Also, 1-2 small caffeine tablets. (or 5-hr energy) Many times during long road-trips, you lose focus and there are no coffee-stops on the way. Having access to caffeine can save lives!” Being able to stay alert during a long drive is crucial to your safety and the safety of other drivers on the road.

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Likewise, it is important not to abuse caffeine tablets either. Being able to moderate the usage to the safe degree to get to the next destination is the best method.

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8: Maps

Everyone uses GPS on their phones for the most part nowadays, but that doesn’t always have a reliable signal. One Reddit user swore by paper maps. “Paper maps. Even if they are 5-10 years out of date (and mine are) they’ll get you out of where you are stuck (or two where you need to go) even if your phone is dead. Learn how to read them before you need them.” Paper maps are still sold at most service stations and travel centers, learning to read one isn’t very hard.

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Having the ability to read a map in a time of crisis will ensure that you make it to your destination safely. Even if you are on foot a map will help you get to safety, with pinpoints for locations such as police and gas stations.

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7: Extra Gas Can

Planning a trip through the desert or a long distance can be stressful enough as it is. But can you imagine running out of fuel? Keeping a little bit of gas in the trunk for a long trip could be the difference between running out and making it to your destination.

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Just make sure you don’t keep too much in your trunk. It can evaporate over time. Also, it could begin to smell and leave toxic fumes in the vehicle.

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6: Rucksack

Having a bag complete with everything that you’ll need is an important step in preparing for the worst. One handy Reddit user detailed the entire rucksack kit for nay driver to survive a roadside shutdown. “Get the home bag, which is a cheap rucksack containing hiking boots, spare clothes, emergency money, first aid kit, waterproofs, food, water, multitool, foil blanket, lighters, compass, wind up radio/power bank/torch, and a head torch. If something happens and I’m stranded by the side of the road, or I have to walk 15 miles home, I will have all the stuff I need in one bag.”

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While it might take up trunk space, a rucksack ready could be of a lot of assistance in the worst situation. Remember, the items that you keep inside of it should be carefully chosen.

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5: Radiator Patch

Perhaps the most important thing for your vehicle other than running is keeping the engine cool. You never want to be stranded with a busted radiator hose, especially in the desert. One Reddit user discussed how important having the right fix for this on hand actually is. “I read someplace “all it takes is one burst radiator hose and you’ll understand why they don’t call it Inconvenience Valley.” A small thing of radiator patch is only a few dollars and it will potentially save you from being stranded.

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Most radiator patches can be purchased at an auto parts store, but you can also find them at travel centers along the highway. It doesn’t matter what brand it is because if you have a small leak it can usually patch it until the next stop.

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4: Coolant

Of course, you should always have a jug of coolant in the car as well. Engine coolant is different than water and it won’t become frozen in cold temperatures. Coolant also has a higher boiling point than traditional water, which is why it works better for an overheating vehicle. The amount of time you can get out of a jug of coolant greatly depends on the conditions around you. Once the coolant becomes mixed with a dirty solution, it will become contaminated and not useful.

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Storing an unopened bottle of coolant in your trunk will ensure that you get the proper usage every time. Antifreeze is an important part of what you need for your vehicle to run right. You’ll also be grateful that you had antifreeze handy for when the worst happens.

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3: Dash Cam

Dash cams are still a fairly new thing in the automotive world, but these compact cameras can mean the difference between you being liable for an accident or not. What also makes the dash cam unique is the fact that it can be set to always-on mode. A Reddit user described their excitement at getting one. “Couldn’t wait to get a dash-cam. My Dad got me one Christmas 2019. It was a Rove brand- he also bought me a large Samsung MicroSD card to go with it.”

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Driving a high-profile car? Well, a dash cam can be the perfect way to protect that investment. There is minimal installation needed, and the thing will record in loops when you’re away from the vehicle.

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2: Seat Belt Cutter

No one wants to be involved in a car accident and there are situations where it is life-threatening. One lucky Reddit user described how this particular item essentially saved their life. “Never had to use the business end, but the cutter is the reason why I still have legs after the only bad accident I’ve ever been in (the engine block collapsed shortly after I got out of the car). EDIT: Because I was asked how the engine block collapsed; I was hit by a drunk driver in an F-350, and the angle of the collision destroyed the front part of the car – the block collapsed because nothing was holding it.”

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The seat belt cutter can mean the difference between the driver getting to safety or being stuck in the vehicle. Once a vehicle has been compromised it’s only a matter of time until an engine fire or worst starts. Seat belt cutters are a great tool to have that helps drivers walk away from a crash intact.

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1: Road Flares

This entry should come without question if you are on a dark roadway and happen to break down. Road flares are useful to have and can mean the difference between a driver seeing you or not. A Reddit user told a story of how using flares could have prevented a mess. “I had a former boss who whiteness a huge pile-up while helping a stalled vehicle. A stalled vehicle just on the downward start of a hill in the snow. Once people could see the car it was too late they would slide. Somehow he managed to avoid it, pulled over, and was going to help the person get their car off the road. After a few minutes, another car came along and bam, right into the other car.

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“Then a few minutes later another. He said before any emergency vehicles could show up 5 or 6 cars were involved in the wreck. He didn’t mention injuries, but I would imagine there had to be some at-least minor ones. And he said the next day he went out and got road flares. He swears if they had had some and put them near the top of the hill they could have avoided the fist could wreck and had enough time to clear the road. He also now buys flares for every new employee he hires. And has a page in their orientation book about emergency vehicle supplies people should have. So the situation had a huge impact on him.” Road flares are easy to come by and there are now LED models that you don’t even have to light.

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