22 Tools You Should Keep in Your Car

Tools to Keep in Your Car

“Always be prepared!”  That’s the Boy Scout motto.  Most people keep their tools at home.  But if you aren’t at home, you probably drove your car to get to wherever you are.

Here are 22 useful tools you should keep in your car.

  1. 2-3 Gallons of Water – You can drink it when you’re thirsty, use it as a cleaning/rinsing agent, pour it into your car’s cooling system if it’s overheating, etc.
  2. Portable GPS – Being lost is not a fun feeling.  A GPS basically eliminates this possibility.  During a recent spring vacation to Costa Rica our Garmin GPS pretty much saved our rear ends on multiple occasions.
  3. Hand Sanitizer – Because there isn’t a sink and a bar of soap conveniently located in your car.  In my mind, hand sanitizer is a tool, a tool that prevents me from infecting my body with germs on a daily basis.  Keep yourself healthy!  Sanitize your hands regularly… especially before you eat.
  4. Multi-head Screwdriver – Take a look around.  I bet most of the manmade objects around you are being held together by screws.  Throughout your lifetime you’re going to need to tighten and loosen a whole lot of them.  And you won’t always be near your tool chest when these occasions arise.  Keep decent multi-head screwdriver with a wide assortment of screwdriver heads in your car and you’ll be prepared.
  5. Adjustable Wrench – If screws aren’t holding it together then nuts and bolts almost certainly are.  You will eventually need to adjust the bolts on office furniture, your vehicle, and other objects when you’re out and about.  A basic 3-piece adjustable wrench set should fit the bill just fine.
  6. Pliers – Your hands are not the most effective tool for gripping and maneuvering small objects.  That’s where pliers come in handy.  One set of pliers will not do the trick either. You’ll likely need a small assortment of pliers in various styles and sizes for different kinds of jobs.  At a minimum, keep a needle-nose, a heavy grooved, and a wire cutting pliers in your trunk.
  7. Hammer – The single greatest tool of all time.  The hammer has an infinite set of practical applications.  A good old 16 oz claw hammer will provide a lifetime of reliable service.
  8. Pen and Notepad – If you don’t write it down, you will forget it.  Regular note-taking is one of the most productive habits a person can practice.  Keep a pen and notepad in your car so you can jot down key ideas and information as they cross your mind.
  9. First Aid Kit – Human beings are not made of titanium.  When you or someone you care about gets injured, a basic first aid kit becomes the single most important thing you own.  And what good is a first aid kit that’s sitting at home when you’re not at home?
  10. Hands Free Set for Your Cell Phone – Why would any sane person drive one-handed while holding an odd shaped phone to their ear when they have the option to use a hands free set?
  11. Multi-Use Car Charger – Some multi-use car chargers (like this one) allow you to charge up to four devices at once.  This unit turns one auto cigarette lighter port into two, has two USB charging ports, and provides a heavy-duty 20 amp capacity.  Now you can charge your iPhone, iPod, and other electronics on the go.
  12. Prepaid Calling Card – A calling card basically allows you to call anyone, anywhere from any telephone.  They are particularly convenient when you misplace your cell phone or when you’re in an area that lacks cell service.
  13. Duct Tape – If it’s moving and it shouldn’t be, duct tape it.  Duct tape may very well be the second greatest invention after the hammer.
  14. Quality Sunglasses – Most people consider sight to be their most important sense.  Quality sunglasses protect the human eyes from being destroyed by the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.  This radiation can lead to short-term and long-term ocular problems such as cataracts, blindness and various forms of eye cancer.  So wear sunglasses when you’re out in the sunlight.
  15. Work Gloves – Unfortunately, human hands are covered with fragile skin just like the rest of the body.  Sometimes you need to use your hands to accomplish a task that requires a durability threshold beyond that of your exposed skin.  This is where a rugged set of work gloves saves you from a few days worth of blistering agony.
  16. Wind-up LED Flashlight – What happens if your car stalls at night on a dark road?  What happens if you need to search for something in a dark utility closet at work?  Always keep a wind-up LED flashlight (no batteries required) in your automobile.
  17. Rubber Bands – Rubber bands are simple, functional and versatile.  There is an endless list of practical uses for a rubber band.
  18. USB Flash Drive – One of the most practical accessories for a computer.  I can’t even count the number of times I’ve used my 16 gig flash drive to save some data from someone else’s system.  A USB flash drive is an essential tool you always need to have on you.
  19. Small Fire Extinguisher – This one is a no-brainer.  Completely useless until the moment the sh*t hits the fan and the world around you is burning to the ground.  If you don’t keep a fire extinguisher handy, you’re being foolishly optimistic.
  20. Leatherman – This is the all-in-one multi-tool you should never leave home without.  These little tools can handle a plethora of different jobs.  I personally own the Leatherman 830039 and I love it.
  21. Bungee Cords – Tie things down, wrap things together… Bungee cords are like giant rubber bands with hooks.  They’re darn practical to have out on the road when you need them!
  22. Spare Credit Card and Cash – Let’s go back to the Boy Scout motto again: “Always be prepared.”  If you lose your wallet when you’re out and about, it’s always nice to have a back-up plan.

While I’m sure this list could be expanded, these 22 tools are the tools I keep in my car.  And each of them has served me well over the years, saving me lots of frustration in my moments of need.

Photo by: Viernest


  1. andy sam says

    Hi Marc,

    I recently started reading your posts and really find them great! Please do keep the great work rolling! All your articles are very profound in thought and extremely resourceful.

    Regarding this article, I found this really awesome and thoughtful. Don’t you think umbrellas / rain-coats, tissues, towels, empty plastic bags / ziplocs, swiss knives would also fit the bill here?

    andy sam

  2. Joseph says

    Ummm, what about jumper cables??? SUPER important so that you can just ask somebody to do a quick jumpstart for you, instead of waiting for someone with jumper cables to show up. :/

  3. VagabondCyclist says

    As with any list of essentials, you can change it to fit your particular needs. The important thing is that you not leave out something because you think the chances of needing it are slim to nil–which is that one chance that kills you or at least makes you suffer a hell of a lot. Fact is, you could be in the middle of New York City during a major snow storm or on your way to grandma’s house for thanks giving, you’re car could get buried, and the city is simply too busy to get to you until morning. You could literally be camping out in your car, in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world, overnight.

    As an avid cyclist and outdoor guy who just bought his first car ever last year, I thought of a few things not mentioned in the article.

    If you’re going on a long road trip or if you live in a rural area, bring some kind of food which can stay in the car a long time without going bad. My favorite is Clif Bars. I always take at least two with me on the bike and keep one or two in the car, as well as of course when I’m hiking or something. Unlike most sports bars, these are real gut filling food and come in real food flavors.

    I also put four emergency mylar sleeping bags in my Honda Element. I’ve got four seats, therefore four emergency blankets.

    Suppose the battery dies or the car just plain wont start for some reason. If you’re really stranded, you need some way to start a fire, so at least bring a box of wooden matches if not a magnesium fire starter.

    And I’m wondering what ever happened to road flares. When I was a little kid, any car I ever got in had road flares in the trunk. Now they sell LED blinkers you can use, but I say stick with the good old fashion, multi-use road flare. After all, a road flare never has a dead battery.

    Glow sticks. Most last 8 to 12 hours–good for all night. Those huge ones they use in the movies only last about 5 minutes by the way.

  4. dave says

    Items I would include:

    Tool wrap. (Holding Most useful wrenches for your car)
    Small socket set with same is alternative also.
    screwdriver flat & Philips
    small rope
    jumper cables
    Fire extinguisher (especially if you can find 1 that doesn’t need to be replaced yearly)
    led signal flare.
    A compass and a paper map or laminated map.
    AAA Membership isn’t bad either.

    Also some dried meals come in handy if your stranded

  5. Dan says

    This was a great article but I agree that jumper cables are essential. Actually, having a credit card is a great idea because you might lose your wallet and need a towing service on the same night. That’s a pretty penny and I’m not sure if people will keep this much cash in their cars. If your car is stolen, one of the first things you need to do is call your credit card company and cancel the card – one of the easier calls you’ll make.

  6. says

    I’d say a small shovel should be on your list, especially during the winter months. This might look suspicious if you’re ever pulled over by the cops and you have a hammer, shovel, and duct tape in your trunk, but at least you’ll be prepared for anything. Also, a CB radio, inactive cell phone (which will still dial 911), and road hazard markers are good investments.


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