If you, like many of us, place stock in the wondrous abilities of old takeaway wrappers, discarded socks and forgotten water bottles to get you out of a car jam, allow us to suggest a few more useful items to keep in your car in case of trouble.
A few simple and inexpensive items that live in your car can prevent a minor inconvenience from turning into a serious situation. Think of it as a bug out bag for your car.
Here’s our essential car kit list that allows you to expect the best but plan for the worst.
As the saying goes - if you don't like the weather in Melbourne, wait 10 minutes, but Victoria isn’t the only state with unpredictable conditions, and there’s nothing worse than getting caught outdoors in nasty weather.
Keep an umbrella or emergency poncho in stowage for those times when you must leave the comfort of the cabin in harsh weather. Pro tip - a small stash-away type can live in a small plastic shopping bag, giving you somewhere to stash said umbrella when it's wet. But don't forget to dry it.
Why? You'll find out if you don't... pew!
2. HI-VIZ VESTS
Some European countries like France require by law that cars have enough high-visibility vests on board for every occupant. That’s just how important these simple safety devices are regarded.
If you have to get out of the car for any reason in unexpected circumstances, it makes a lot of sense to make yourself as noticeable as possible to other road users.
And, like life-jackets in a boat, it's best if you have enough for more than just the captain.
They’re, cheap, compact and readily available so make sure you have this simple item with you at all times.
3. SPARE TYRE/ TYRE REPAIR KIT
Every car should carry a method of moving the car to a safe place in the event of a puncture. In some cases, this is a full-size spare wheel or smaller space-saver type.
Either way, make sure it’s pumped up and roadworthy, otherwise it’s nothing more than dead weight, like that troublesome ex or your deadbeat boss.
A warning triangle is also a great idea. Most European cars have them stashed in with the jack, so see if yours has one - otherwise, they are around $15 from a main street automotive parts supplier.
As well, throw a pair of gardening gloves or cheap mechanic's gloves in the wheel well, because wheels get really grotty.
Read next: The best car accessories
Alternatively, some modern cars are supplied with a mobility kit, which attaches to the valve of your tyre and pumps in goo to seal minor punctures and re-inflate the tyre, allowing you to at least drive the car to a safer place than the roadside.
Aftermarket versions are available and can be a wise addition to your car kit, especially if you frequently venture into remote areas.
Be warned, though, they can be messy to use, so stash it in another plastic bag with an old rag. You'll thank us later.
4. OWNER’S MANUAL
An owner’s manual is an essential item to have in your car. It contains vital information about servicing, emergency procedures, parts, fluid capacities, and countless other important facts and figures.
Increasingly, car manufacturers are electronically incorporating the owner’s manual into the information and entertainment systems - and there's always Google - it but it’s a good idea to make note of a few specific functions just in case the on-board systems are unavailable.
Knowing how to charge a flat battery is one good example, or resetting the tyre pressure indicator light.
5. Fire extinguisher
Yes, we know, you're not trained to be a fire fighter. However, with very decent extinguishers popping up on sale at stores like Aldi and Anaconda with amazing regularity, the addition of a small extinguisher in your car boot is not the silliest idea in the world.
For as little as $30-40, an extinguisher can... well, extinguish a small fire before it becomes big and ugly and impossible to put out without the help of pros.
And if you think fires are a rarity, park on top of long grass on a hot day and see what happens... just make sure the extinguisher is firmly secured, though, and that you know how to use it.
Whether its' your phone’s flash, a high-quality LED flood light or a cheap torch, this vital tool can shine a light on a plethora of predicaments.
Whether it’s tricky night-time breakdown, a twilight puncture or a lost contact lens, you’ll be happy this gadget is in the car. It’s a good idea to keep some spare batteries with it, too.
Torches are not just useful to see with but also allow you to be seen easier at night. If you’re trying to attract attention after dark, a torch is very effective.
Read next: Essential items for long journeys with kids
Snap-light sticks are a variation on the same theme with similar advantages. While these chemical sources of light are not as bright or directional as torches, they are cheap, need no batteries, have no electrics/electronics to fail, are completely waterproof and will remain active for many years.
Squirrel one away in a storage pocket and you’ll be delighted if you’re ever caught in a dark fix.
7. FIRST-AID KIT
One of the most important things to store in a car, a first-aid kit is also a legal requirement in some countries.
Some manufacturers provide these in new cars, some don’t. If you don’t have a first-aid kit, get one, because having the essentials on-hand to provide basic medical assistance can go a long way, particularly if you’re on the road a lot.
Most four-wheel drivers will never go out bush without plenty of spare water for engine problems or to drink if you’re stranded miles from anywhere, but this addition doesn’t just apply to off-roaders.
Even something as small as a 2.0-litre bottle thrown in with the spare wheel can be the difference between life and death in serious situations. And if you do go bush, make sure your washer bottle contains only water, and not screen-cleaning soap.
9. USB CABLE/POWER BANK
Smartphones aren’t very smart with a dead battery. Keeping a dedicated charge cable in the car is not just convenient day-to-day, it also means your phone will have power in an emergency.
Keeping a small power bank (above) charged and in the vehicle is also smart.
If the car suddenly loses its electrics, you’ll still be able to power phones and other electrical items.
10. SOMETHING TO WRITE WITH
How many times have you been in a situation where you’ve desperately needed a pen or pencil? The details of people involved in an accident, the number plate of a vehicle involved in something suspicious, or just the web address of an ad you’ve heard on the radio... keep a good pen in the glovebox and it’ll save you from using your good lipstick to write on your hand. Hey, we’ve all been there.
WHAT NOT TO KEEP IN THE CAR
Spare keys kept anywhere in the car are not only useless when you really need them, but also one of the most common ways cars are stolen. Spares should be kept securely away from the car but not so securely that you can’t remember where.
Mobile phones are the modern day Swiss army knives but never rely exclusively on a phone as your only lifeline. You can be sure that when you need it most, the battery will below or worse, flat. Make sure you have alternatives to all your essential phone functions such as emergency numbers, maps and addresses.
Whatever you choose to keep in your car, make sure every item has a place. Don’t leave any item that even looks vaguely valuable on display to opportunistic criminals and large or heavy objects should be secured to prevent them from becoming a hazard in the event of a crash.