10 Safety Essentials to Keep in Your Car This Summer

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Road trips have been an American passion since the Griswolds packed up the family truckster and headed to Wally World. In 2021, about 85% of travelers intend to drive to their destination. If you’re gearing up to hit the road this year, be sure to read on. We’ve researched dozens of safety items to find the top ten things you should keep in your car.

1. Water

Emergency water
DATREX Emergency Water Pouch

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The hot temperatures of summer increase your risk of dehydration. This risk is further increased if you’re physically active during your road trip — like when you pack the car or change a tire. Make sure to stay hydrated by always keeping plenty of water on hand. Keep a case of bottled water in the trunk and store Datrex Emergency Water Packs in the glove compartment. Young children or older adults are particularly susceptible to dehydration, so encourage them to drink water frequently. Always be alert to possible symptoms of dehydration, like headache, sleepiness, and dizziness.

Although water is more important than food from a survival standpoint, it doesn't hurt to keep a granola bar or two in the car as well to ward of a bout of "hanger." 

2. Multipurpose tool

Multipurpose tool
Gerber 30-000469 Dime Mini Multi-Tool,

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You never know what tools you might need on a road trip — but you certainly don’t want to pack a full-blown toolbox. Instead, buy a multipurpose device like the Gerber Dime Multi-Tool. This all-in-one product features 10 handy tools, including needle nose spring-loaded pliers, scissors, and a retail package opener. Plus, it’s compact and lightweight, so it can be stored in one of your vehicle’s storage compartments, your pocket, or your purse.

Keep a flashlight in your glove box alongside the multitool so you can see what you're doing when making a repair. 

3. Warning devices

Anything from a mechanical breakdown to a traffic accident can render your car inoperable and create a dangerous situation for you and other drivers. Use emergency roadside flares or early warning road safety triangles (or a combination of both) to alert drivers to your disabled vehicle. To help avoid a breakdown on the road, have your vehicle thoroughly evaluated by a certified mechanic before your trip.

Road warning triangles
Deflecto Early Warning Triangle Kit

*Amazon.com price as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

Road warning flares

4. First aid kit

First aid kit

Whether you’re driving around town or across the country, it’s always a good idea to keep a well-stocked first aid kit in your car. Make sure your first aid kit includes bug repellent and sunscreen during the summer, and if a family member or pet needs prescription medicine, pack at least one day’s worth. You can create your own first aid kit or purchase AAA's 121-piece kit.

5. Pet safety restraints

An unsecured animal can be hurt during an accident or as the result of a sudden stop. They can also cause injury to passengers and impede driving. If you’re traveling with a pet who is not in a carrier, a pet barrier will contain them behind the rear seats of your vehicle. If you do not have an open trunk, secure your canine friend with a Kurgo seatbelt tether.

Car pet barrier

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Pet seatbelt tether

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6. Parasol


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When traveling during a heat wave, it's critical to stay out of the sun to avoid sun burn or heat stroke. But it's not necessarily safe or practical to sit in the car with the air conditioner running. Instead, pack a parasol or UV-filtering umbrella to create shade in any environment. 

7. Portable cellphone charger

Portable charger

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Travelers rely on their cellphones for everything from directions to restaurant recommendations. A cellphone is also a necessity if you need to call 911 or a tow truck. Keep a portable cellphone battery charger on hand in case your car stops working or you need to leave your vehicle. The Anker PowerCore 20100 Portable Charger is fast-charging, long-lasting, and compatible with a variety of mobile devices.

Keep the charger out of the hot sun for best results.

8. Spare tire and jack

Car jack

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A flat tire will derail even the best planned road trip. Make sure to carry a spare tire and a car jack that are in good condition. You’ll also want to pack a can of lubricant like WD-40 to help loosen stuck wheel lug nuts. If you’re planning a long trip, it’s a good idea to add roadside assistance (make sure it includes emergency flat tire replacement) to your car insurance policy. If you have to change the tire yourself, set out flares and warning devices before you get started.

9. Fire Extinguisher

Fire extinguisher
First Alert EZ Fire Spray
$29.59 (2 pack)

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Keeping a fire extinguisher in your car can help prevent a small fire from becoming unmanageable. Be sure the fire extinguisher is rated for Class B and Class C fires by the NFPA, and keep it strapped down in the trunk of your vehicle when not in use.

10. Portable Car Battery Charger

Car battery charger
DBPOWER 800A 18000mAh Portable Car Jump Starter (up to 7.2L Gas, 5.5L Diesel Engine) Battery Booster with Smart Charging Port

*Amazon.com price as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

No car emergency kit is complete without jumper cables or a portable battery charger. These dead battery chargers are a great alternative to traditional jumper cables because they don’t require you to use another vehicle’s battery. Portable jump starters or chargers are small, powerful, and inexpensive. Some even come with accessories like USB ports so you can charge your mobile devices.

See our list of the best portable jump starters to compare options.

Final word

A bit of forethought can go a long way toward helping your family enjoy a safe summer excursion. Stock your car with these safety necessities and hit the road well prepared this summer.

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Cathy Habas
Written by
Cathy Habas
With over eight years of experience as a content writer, Cathy has a knack for untangling complex information. Her natural curiosity and ability to empathize help Cathy offer insightful, friendly advice. She believes in empowering readers who may not feel confident about a purchase, project, or topic. Cathy earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Indiana University Southeast and began her professional writing career immediately after graduation. She is a certified Safe Sleep Ambassador and has contributed to sites like Safety.com, Reviews.com, Hunker, and Thumbtack. Cathy’s pride and joy is her Appaloosa “Chacos.” She also likes to crochet while watching stand-up comedy specials on Netflix.

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