10 Must-Have Items You Should Keep in Your Car (and Probably Don’t)

Posted on September 22, 2016

The back of an SUV with 10 items in it: a map, a roll of duct tape, bottles of water, granola bars, a notepad and pen, a multitool, a book of matches, a can of WD-40, a container of wet wipes, and a container of kitty litter

OnStar is all about the safety of you and your family, and we want to help you prepare for whatever might happen.

Despite our best efforts, emergencies happen. And while any OnStar Member can contact an Advisor for Emergency Services if they’re ever in need, it’s still a good idea to keep your vehicle well stocked with essential items. Of course, there are the obvious — a windshield scraper and brush, flashlight, jumper cables, first-aid kit, blanket and tire gauge. But some aren’t quite so obvious. Here are 10 items you should always keep in your car:

  1. Disinfectant wipes: An absolute must-have, this versatile tool can pick up spills, clean dirty hands and dust your dashboard.
  2. Kitty litter: We originally suggested this as a way to absorb and eliminate odors quickly if a child or pet gets sick in the car. But our readers reminded us of a very important use: spreading it on ice or snow for traction during winter.
  3. Pen and paper: Even in the digital age, a pen and paper can help if you’re at the bank, leaving a reminder note, or jotting down your brilliant idea that will change the world.
  4. Energy bars: Highly caloric, non-perishable, and some of them are actually even tasty! Having snacks on hand can make a long road trip more bearable and provide some energy if you’re stranded and waiting for help to arrive.
  5. Bottled water: Stay hydrated during long car rides. Be sure to replace these periodically in order to keep your supply fresh, and try to keep the bottles in a dark, cooler area of the car — especially during summer.
  6. Maps: OnStar can help get you wherever you’re going with Turn-by-Turn Navigation,1 but it’s always important to see the big picture. Having U.S., state, and county maps on hand can help you find your way.
  7. WD-40®:2 Not only can you loosen a lug nut or lubricate a door latch with it, you can remove stuck license plate bolts and screws, and even remove dog slobber from your seats and dashboard — bet you won’t find that listed in its uses on the can.
  8. Duct tape: They say it can fix just about anything, whether it’s holding your muffler in place, reattaching a mirror, or just getting the dog hair off your clothes.
  9. Utility knife/multitool: A multipurpose tool can get you out of many a sticky situation. The more you’re willing to splurge, the more options you’ll have.
  10. Matches: Keep some safety matches in a freezer bag so they’ll stay dry. Be sure to not get the strike-anywhere matches, as you don’t want to cause an accident.

When we first published this list, our readers suggested some great ideas for items that weren’t in our original post. Here are five of the best:

  1. Portable tire inflator: This suggestion comes from Kevin Haendiges and is a great idea for a backup. In the event of a flat, OnStar can send out Roadside Assistance3 within minutes. But if you can’t stay where you’re parked, or if you just need a bit more air in your tires, a portable tire inflator is a great idea. Many also come equipped with gauges.
  2. Emergency escape tool: A number of readers suggested this item. In the event of an emergency, having a tool that can break a window or cut a jammed seatbelt could save your life. Many can even fit on your keychain.
  3. Zipper storage bags: Joyce Villano suggested these multitaskers, which are great for saving snacks for later, protecting your vehicle’s interior from messy foods, or storing dirty/oily tools or parts for your car.
  4. Foam cooler: This suggestion from Renee McCall can easily pack a picnic or serve as a storage spot for your emergency gear.
  5. Extra inhaler/EpiPen®:4 Reader Nicole Baum made this suggestion, and if you have asthma or allergies, having one of these items on hand can literally be a lifesaver. Be advised: All medication should be stored only as directed.

Did we miss anything? What must-have item do you always keep in your car?