Anything can happen out on the road, but if you travel smart and keep your car stocked with a few essential tools and supplies, you'll be ready for whatever comes your way. Multi-piece prepackaged kits are available, but if you want to get started now, here are 6 basics to have in your vehicle wherever you go:
1. Tire pressure gauge. We've talked about the importance of taking care of your tires. Improperly inflated tires can affect everything from fuel efficiency to tire longevity and even steering. Having a gauge on-hand lets you keep close tabs on the health of your tires. Don't forget to check your spare tire periodically, too — it won't do you any good if it's flat when you need it.
2. Jumper cables. Nobody likes to be stuck with a dead battery, but it's happened to many of us at one point or another. A pair of jumper cables and the assistance of a good Samaritan can give your battery the juice it needs to make it to a qualified repair center.
3. Paper maps. Technology is great, but when batteries run out and cell signals are out of reach, it's a good idea to have a low-tech alternative on hand. A paper map directs you regardless of your circumstances.
4. An ice scraper. Even if you're in an area that doesn't freeze over very often, a small ice scraper will be more efficient than trying to de-ice your windshield with your hands or the edge of a credit card. An ice scraper is particularly helpful if your area sees a lot of freezing rain that can encase a windshield in ice.
5. Rags. Your engine's oil level and consistency can tell you a lot about how it's performing. And you can only get a clean dipstick reading if you wipe it clean beforehand. Give your clothes a break and keep a spare rag nearby for just this purpose.
6. Food and water. If you regularly travel across rural roads and other "off the beaten path" locales, it could take a while for help to find you if you run into car trouble. Having a supply of basic nourishment on-hand can keep you hydrated and healthy while you wait out assistance.