Have a driver's license long enough and you'll need no reminder on the number of ways these streets can ruin your day, or worse, kill you (gasp!). Everything from that inconspicuous pothole a couple of feet ahead, to an out-of-control 10-wheeler can monumentally unsettle up you and your ride. So with that in mind, always drive out prepared.
By prepared, we're not just talking about the mindset and skills behind the wheel. Sure, being defensive, staying alert, and extensive driving experience come in at first, and these will keep you in check for the most part. But when s*** hits the fan (and there's always a chance it will), you'll thank yourself going the extra mile and packing these tools along for the ride:
1. Reflectors. This is as much for your safety as it is for your fellow motorists. Simple roadside repairs and tire changes can spiral into serious car accidents in the absence of an early warning device. Always place one if you're stalled on a less-than-ideal part of the road.
2. Flashlight/batteries. You'll never know when you'll need to work on your vehicle in the dark. Yes, smartphones these days come equipped with them, but real work requires real light, and that tiny bulb on the rear of your Samsung smartphone isn't going to cut it.
3. Jumper cables. Contrary to what you may think, there are more ways to drain your battery than by simply leaving your lights on (old battery, defective alternator, etc.). The best way to ensure you're back up and running is with a good, reliable pair of jumpers.
4. Basic tools. These are common items in most toolboxes. They're for any loose nuts, bolts or screws you might run into. Buy a set or two—combination wrenches, socket wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers etc.—and throw them in the trunk just in case.
5. Tire replacement tools/tire pressure gauge. Common sense. Flat tires can occur at any time and on any surface. At the very least this consists of a jack, a lug wrench and, of course, a usable spare tire. Always make sure your spare is in proper working order.
6. Multi-tool. They're light, portable, and perform a variety of functions. Most come with a knife, screwdriver, needle nose pliers, wire cutters and a file. They come in all shapes and sizes, from wearable ones, to the classic Swiss army knife. Some are equipped with up to dozens of tools, too.
7. Tow strap. If ever you need to unstuck yourself after messing up. Be sure to know how to use one and in a safe manner. Also, ensure they're in good condition before using them, and be familiar with their attachment points. You're putting yourself in danger otherwise.
8. First aid kit. Even a small one with only the most basic first aid essentials—some gauze, bandages, tweezers, scissors, creams, ointments and medication—will do. Of course, be familiar with its contents and how to use them, too.
9. Automobile escape tools. For extreme cases. Some emergencies will require you exit your vehicle in a hurry, and some situations will make it difficult for you to do so (seatbelts can jam). By escape tools we mean a seatbelt cutter and window breaker. Many car escape products offer both in a two in one package, with some even including a flashlight or other features.
10. Fire extinguisher. For when things get too hot. We're sure you've come across images of vehicle burning to the chassis in the middle of a highway. The faster you can put out a flame, the less the chance you'll be towing away a worthless pile of charred metal.