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How to equip your car for emergencies

Take the junk out of your trunk and put this gear in instead.

A portable jump starter is one of the best high tech tools for roadside emergencies.

Summer road trip season is that liberating time when we actually leave the HOV lane and drive farther than Costco. It's also a time when you need to be ready for emergencies on the road in unfamiliar or remote places. Instead of using your car's trunk as a free storage unit, clear out the junk and replace it with this comprehensive list of gear that will prep you for almost anything. Watch the video, and then use our checklist below to gather the gear. 

  • Jumper cables or a portable battery pack made for cars: The former never needs charging, but the latter frees you of having to find a Good Samaritan. 
  • A quart of oil and bottle of coolant: Honestly, if you drive a late model car you'll probably never need these on the road but if your car is 10 or more years old, pack them.
  • A fire extinguisher: Get the dry type, rated A-B-C, to cover almost any kind of fire in or around your car. 
  • Roadside indicators: This used to mean smoky, sulfur-smelling flares but today you should look into folding reflective triangles or flashing LED light pucks. 
  • A radio: An FRS family radios, like the ones you may already own, should be packed away with a fresh set of batteries stored outside the radio. Bonus points: Get your ham radio license and handheld dual-band radio and really be able to reach someone. 
  • Flashlight: Ideally, one with no batteries. Get a rechargeable LED flashlight that lives in a charging mount. Bonus points: A headlight for your head, which is real handy when both hands are busy fixing something in the dark.
  • A tool kit: Even if you don't know what to do with it, a kindly stranger might. 
  • Duct tape: Everything you've heard about it, short of neurosurgery, is true. 
  • A ready spare tire: If your car has a spare, make sure it's not flat. If your car uses a slime & inflator kit instead, make sure the slime hasn't expired. And if your car has run-flat tires, you're all set. 
  • First aid kit: Spend the $25 to get a good one, not the silly one you got for free at the office CPR training fair. And carry a tourniquet made from the rubber tube of that exercise band you never use. You may never need it, but when you do, you really do. 
  • Towels and gloves: A box of nitrile gloves make every roadside problem more palatable, and those blue-paper shop towels are second only to duct tape in usefulness. 
  • High-vis windbreaker: Takes up almost no room, and you'll thank me when you're replacing a tire on the driver's side in the rain at night. 
  • A thermal blanket: Do not count on running your car for heat.
  • Pen and paper: Keep a set separate from the ones in your glove box, which always get lost.  
  • Energy bars and bottled water: Both will be gross after living in your trunk for years, but if you're stranded for a long time you'll devour them with relish.