It's a cold, windy, and slushy winter day, so of course that's when your car decides it doesn't want to operate properly. Are you prepared for a flat tire, a dead battery, or the results of a collision? How about a loose screw or a blown fuse? Now is a good time to make sure you've got the tools you'll need to deal with any car trouble. We've compiled this list of the best tools and supplies you'll want to keep in your trunk.
In Case of Emergency
First Aid Kit
Work on a car long enough and you'll need to dress a pinched finger. The Medique 61-Piece First Aid Kit ($12.33 with free shipping via Prime, a low by $6) could be a lifesaver.
If you car ever catches on fire, you're best advised to clear the area as fast as you can. If, however, you have a smoldering cigarette ash on your back seat or another minor flare-up, the Kidde Auto Fire Extinguisher ($18.98 with free shipping via Prime, a low by $8) is the perfect tool to prevent a fire from getting out of hand.
Flares, LED, Flashing Light, or Road Reflector
If you're broken down along the highway, take a tip from the truckers and carry flares, a reflective triangle, or LED flashing lights to warn other cars. The AAA Emergency Warning Triangle ($12.54 with free shipping via Prime, a low by $15) is an excellent investment in safety.
Multi-Head Screwdriver and Wrench
A nice combo piece such as the Milwaukee 11-in-1 Multi-Tip Screwdriver ($9.88 with free in-store pickup, a low by $6) and the Irwin VISE-GRIP 7" Locking Pliers ($8.99 with $5 s&h, a low by $2) are great sized tools for your car repair kit.
Lots of people wear a single glove when they pump their gas in order to keep the smell off their hand. Add its mate and you'll have a pair handy for working on your car, too. The G&F Premium Leather Palm Gloves ($5.99 with free shipping via Prime, a low by $4) are durable and easy to clean.
It seems no one ever gets a flat tire on a sunny, dry, warm day. To be prepared for the dark, carry this head-mounted 1-Watt 30-Lumen LED Head Lamp ($4.99 with free shipping, a low by $3) with good batteries.
Tire Air Pressure Gauge
A properly inflated tire not only gets better gas mileage and provides better traction, but it also is less likely to be punctured. A fun alternative to the standard gauge are these Set of 4 Tire Pressure Valve Gauge Safety Caps ($18.90 with free shipping via Prime, a low by $2) that change color you when tires become low on air.
Snow Brush and Ice Scraper
A good snow brush can be your best friend, unless you're the kind of person that just clears a little hole in the windshield allowing you to only see what's immediately ahead of you. Thankfully most snow brushes come with an adequate ice removal tool on the other end, too. Or you can arm yourself with something like the IceDozer Plus Ergonomic Ice Scraper ($14.95 with $5.95 s&h, a low by $4). The IceDozer is big and rugged, ready to deal with ice that is thick and slick.
Stuck and Stalled Solutions
Empty Gas Can
Who among us hasn't at some point run out of gas? When you need to hitch a ride to the gas station, having your own gas can will make the process less painful. The Briggs 5-Gallon Enviro-Flo Gas Can ($17.98 with free in-store pickup, a low by $2) is a nice 5-gallon size can. However, don't under any circumstances make a habit of carrying fuel in your car; it can become a fireball in an accident.
In the dead of winter, you don't want to get stranded with a dead battery and not have jumper cables. You'll also then be prepared as the Good Samaritan to provide a jump to another in need. These Coleman Cable 12" 8-Gauge Medium-Duty Booster Cables ($20.57 with free shipping via Prime, a low by $8) are good to keep on hand.
Portable Battery Charger
Even if you've got the aforementioned jumper cables, if no one is around to help, you'll need the Jump-N-Carry 900 Peak Amp Ultraportable 12-Volt Jump Starter with Light ($64.95 with free shipping, a low by $8) to crank up any reluctant vehicle battery; it even comes with a built-in flashlight.
Don't want to mess with changing a tire? Pennzoil Fix-A-Flat Sealant 12-oz. Can ($7.49 free in-store pickup, a low by $1) is an aerosol can that when sprayed into a wheel fills the tire and seals the leak from the inside. Fix-A-Flat is good for a temporary fix.
If you live in a climate or terrain where you might get bogged down in snow or mud, having a shovel on hand is a necessity. A durable, foldable shovel like the Smittybilt Black Tri-Fold Shovel ($14.99 with free shipping via Prime, a low by $11) stores neatly and can get you out of a tough spot.
Salt, Sand, Kitty Litter, or Traction Mats
Sand, salt, or clean kitty litter will also help provide traction if you get caught in snow. And if you have a rear-wheel drive vehicle, storing these materials in your trunk over the wheel well can help increase traction. Traction mats are also great. They are plastic troughs that you can lay down in front of your wheels to provide traction when stuck. The Set of 2 Maxsa Foldable Traction Mats ($25 with free shipping, a low by $2) are suitable in muddy and icy situations.
Nothing is more frustrating that having car problems on the road and realizing that the tool or supply you need is back home in the garage. Take a few minutes now to equip your car with the necessary stuff, and you can drive with one more valuable tool: peace of mind.
Note that this feature has been updated since it was originally published last year.