The first thing most of us do when we get a new car is start customizing it. We put funny decals on the back glass, hang up our favourite air freshener, and maybe even splash out on cute seat covers and such. What we may forget to do is put in the basics, the things we really are going to need. So here's a checklist to make it easy.
1. Sunglasses. Who likes to drive with their eyes half shut hoping not to run into something because the sun is so bright you can't see? I don't. I try to make sure at least one pair of sunglasses is in the car at all times.
2. Kleenex. It's great for runny noses, cleaning condensation from the back glass, wiping off dipsticks...pretty much indispensable.
3. Baby wipes. Even if you don't have a baby these are a must! They're great for getting sticky stuff (think donut glaze, chocolate, that black goo that rubs off onto us from our car doors) off easily, and they're also great for cleaning up the car interior quickly.
4. A blanket or blankets (depending on how many people you usually ride with). You never know when the heater is going to suddenly stop working or the car is going to break down in winter. In some areas a blanket in the car could save your life!
5. Jumper cables. Because none of us are perfect and sooner or later you are bound to leave your lights on by accident. And because batteries get old or come disconnected. And because it's nice to be able to help others who need a jump.
6. At least one bottle of water for every person who will be riding in the car regularly. Obviously, this is great because if anyone gets thirsty, you'll be ready, but it's even better if you get broken down in the middle of nowhere. It is also important because it gives you plenty of water to put in the radiator or thaw frozen windshields. Just be careful to replace the water as it is used up and change it out often in hot summer months.
7. A first aid kit is best, but if you're like me you may not be able to fit one in under the car seat (or at least, if it goes in, it's probably not going to be able to come back out again). The bare minimum is a box of bandaids of various sizes and some hand sanitizer.
8. Feminine hygiene products. This is mostly for women and those who have female passengers, of course, but I have heard that maxi pads make amazing, life-saving bandages, so guys, think about including some in your glove box too.
9. A bag for garbage. I use a plastic shopping bag hooked around my gear shift and then remove it, tie it up, and throw it away when it is full. It's simple, cheap, and it keeps you from trying to drive with fast food cups floating around amongst your feet!
10. A tire pressure gauge and, if possible, a portable air compressor. I have seen so many cars that were tricked out with the latest speakers but didn't have a tire pressure gauge. Unless you really like the excitement of blowouts and having to wait while flat tires fill up all the time, this really is a necessity. There are cheap air compressors the size of a portable radio, which plug into your car's cigarette lighter. I think mine cost about $20. When you look at how much it costs to use the air at a convenience store, $20 is a bargain.
11. A spare tire and tire iron. I think that one speaks for itself!
12. A pair of comfortable shoes that are good for walking. You don't want to have to hike three miles to the nearest convenience store or call box in high heels or stiff dress shoes!
So there you have it, my top 12 things that you really really need to have in your car. Depending on where you live, you may need to add items like chains and sand bags. I'm a Floridian so I'm a little fuzzy on all of that cold weather stuff.
And did you notice that I did not include a smart phone on this list? That's because, while a phone is good in emergencies, it is not to be used while driving. I wish I had a dime for every time I've nearly been mowed down by someone texting or talking and driving. The drivers never seemed to notice what a close call they had had either. So please be careful, folks, and only use your cell phone when you're safely parked somewhere! "OMG IKR?" makes for pretty pathetic last words.
So what is the item you keep in your car that you couldn't do without? What necessary item did I forget? Let me know in the comments section!