Many of us treat our cars like a home away from home. Yet frequently we don’t have even the most basic equipment to cope with the unexpected. So I’ve created my own list of in-car must haves. These are the essentials that I carry in my car and I recommend that you do too. You can buy most of them for less than a fiver. It could end up being the best money you’ve ever spent.
First aid kit
I read somewhere that fewer than one in five of us know even basic first aid. I like to think that I do know the basics and I always carry a first aid kit just in case. For a start, you never know when something as simple as some bite or sting cream will come in handy. Equally, if you’ve got kids, plasters can be needed when you least expect it. And if you have bandages at the scene of an accident and you don’t know what to do with them, someone else might.
Your phone is your link with the outside world. But as phones have got more complex, so battery life seems to have decreased. And Sod’s Law dictates that when you most need your phone, it’ll be at the end of a long day when it doesn’t have any battery left. A charger is a simple way of ensuring you’re always in touch.
You’re probably thinking: “Why does he carry a torch, hasn’t he got a mobile phone?” Yes I do have a mobile phone, and it does have a torch app on it. But that torch really eats battery life. Plus, if I’m looking around under the bonnet you can really shine the beam of a good pen-style torch to exactly where you need the light.
Tread depth gauge
Tread depth gauges are another bit of kit that cost just a couple of quid but they could save your life. The more tread depth wears down beyond 3mm, the more stopping distances increase. And if your tyre tread wears lower than 1.6mm you could be in line for three penalty points and a £2500 fine.
Keeping your tyres in good nick is vital. Under-inflated tyres don’t have the grip or stopping power of tyres with the right amount of air in them. They can deflate suddenly or blow out because they overheat. And Michelin reckons a tyre that is consistently 20 per cent under inflated will have a 20 per cent shorter life span than it should have. The pressure gauges you find on garage forecourts lead a hard life and they’re rarely regularly calibrated. The answer is to buy your own. Keep it in your glove box and you’ll be able to accurately gauge if your tyres need air and how much.
Carrying a high-viz is the law in many continental countries and I believe it should be over here too. If you are stranded at the roadside, visibility equals safety: you can never be too visible. That’s why our technicians have reflective strips all over their uniforms. A reflective jacket will cost as little as £2 from the internet and it could save your life.
If you have to do anything to your car at the side of the road, you’ll find the parts you’re dealing with are filthy, even if they look clean. A pair of proper work gloves will help you to grip metal tools and protect your skin from sharp metal corners. Most importantly, when you’ve finished changing a wheel or whatever you’re doing, you simply take the gloves off and you won’t get the controls of your car filthy.
You can pick up a cheap plastic poncho from the supermarket for a couple of quid but they have multiple uses. Obviously if you break down in the rain and have to walk somewhere it’ll keep you dry. But it will also act as an impromptu set of overalls if you have to change a wheel while you’re wearing your best work suit. Or you can use it as something to kneel or lie on if you need to inspect underneath. Lastly, if you’re stranded and you have to wait to be rescued, it’ll help to keep you warm if you haven’t got any spare clothes with you.