March 20 is my eighteenth birthday, which marks my one year anniversary with my 2005 Silver Nissan Sentra. Last year around this time, my mom, who is eternally prepared for any situation, gathered me a “Car Essentials” kit, which now resides in my trunk. At first I thought it was ridiculous. When would I ever use a blanket? Why should I keep $5 in quarters in my dash? Over the course of the year, I’ve used these eight items more than I ever imagined I would. I’m the friend people come to when they need a band-aid, their car battery died, or they forgot their breakfast. Now I want to share mine (mostly my mom’s) list, so others can be just as prepared.
1. First Aid Kit – As an accident-prone individual, I have restocked the Band-aids in my car’s first aid kit multiple times. My friends and I often take advantage of the kit, which I stocked with Band-aids, antiseptic, hand sanitizer, gauze, tweezers and nail clippers.
2. Jumper Cables – How many times have you or your friends left the headlights on? Or not completely closed the car door, causing the interior lights of your car to stay on for hours? Simple mistakes such as these suck the life out of a car’s battery, leaving the driver stranded. Jumper cables are a given car necessity, and many drivers have them, but HAVING the cables and knowing how to USE the cables are very different. Don’t assume the other driver will know how to correctly connect jumper cables. Improper connection of jumper cables will fail to start the dead car, or worse, can ruin both drivers’ batteries. When you get your own set of cables, take the time to learn where your battery is and how to use them.
3. Water bottles/breakfast bar – As high school students, especially seniors, we tend to hop into our cars at at 6:55 a.m., roll into our parking spots at 7:22 a.m. and sprint to class to avoid being swept. When it comes to early mornings, breakfast is low on the priority list, but by second period stomachs are rumbling. Having a non-perishable (or non-meltable) snack and drink on hand is always a good idea.
4. Blanket and Jacket – Though we don’t have many blizzards in North Carolina, the sudden onset of arctic weather is always a possibility, and keeping a rain jacket or winter coat in your trunk is always a good idea. It may be seventy degrees today, but by next week we could have snow on the ground.
5. Flashlight/batteries – Suppose you’re driving down the road one night and suddenly your car sputters and comes to a stop. Your battery is dead, leaving you with no head lights, no interior lights, and only a cell phone screen to light your way. Having a flashlight and extra batteries in your car (at easy reach) will keep you out of the dark until help arrives. Many websites recommend duct taping the batteries to the handle of the flashlight, so they won’t get lost.
6. Ice-scraper/Ice melt – More times than I can count this winter, I walked out to my car to discover a solid coating of ice on my windshield and back-glass. Because I only became a car-owner in March of last year, and I previously rode to school in my mom’s (garaged) car, I had never experienced the winter weather. I usually cranked my car early and turned the heat on high to let the car do the work, but after several close-calls with the warning bell, I invested in an ice-scraper.
7. $5 in quarters for air in tires, tire gauge – If you car is getting bouncy, feels funny when you take sharp turns, or the weather is fluctuating, it is important to check the air in your tires. Riding on your tires when they don’t have enough air causes them to wear prematurely, and puts drivers at higher risk of getting a flat tire. Most gas stations have air pumps–at $1 per minute–but do not provide a way to measure the air pressure already in your tires. Invest in a digital tire gauge and know how much pressure should be in your tires (the exact weight can be found in your owner’s manual).
8. Pen, paper – Basic, but not many people have them. If you’re ever in an accident, a pen and paper are essential. Drivers need a place to write down contact information, license plate numbers, and insurance information of the other party involved. Plus, if you hit someone in a parking lot, you can be a good citizen and leave a note with “Sorry” and your contact information.