5 Auto Tools You Never Knew You Needed

There’s nothing worse than being stranded on the side of a desolate road without cell phone service or a car in sight. Unfortunately, most people don’t learn the misery of this experience until it happens to them first hand. Instead of experiencing what it’s like to hike for miles back to that gas station you passed forever ago, or sleeping in your car overnight while hoping for more traffic in the morning, be prepared for these worst-case scenario situations.

There’s plenty of different ways you could theoretically get stranded: a dead car battery after a long backcountry adventure; an overheated engine in the middle of a desert drive; an empty gas tank after taking the wrong turn in the mountains. It might sound unrealistic, but it can happen to anyone—and usually when we least suspect it.

Be ready for any roadside situation with these five auto tools you never knew you needed until it was too late.

Portable Charger

Hopefully, dependable jumper cablesare high up on the list of auto tools that you should know you may need in an emergency situation. Dead batteries are one of the most commonly faced problems by car owners, whether they’re due to the car’s faulty manufacturing or a light left on for too long—so make sure you have jumper cables and know how to use them.

But what about your other electronic devices? A portable charger can be a game saver when it comes to preserving the last leg of your cell phone battery that you’re desperately hanging onto. It could also charge your multimeter (one of the basic tools you need for emergency car repairs, used to measure voltage, current, and resistance) in order to determine and solve the problem at hand.

A Tow Strap

If your battery dies and you’re in the middle of nowhere, a heavy duty tow strapmight be able to pull you to safety. These guys can typically haul up to 10,000 pounds—just be sure to attach it to the right type of vehicle at the right type of hitch.

Note: A tow strap is different than a recovery strap. The latter is a piece of winching equipment that’s used to recover vehicles that are stuck in sand or mud because the nylon material offers elasticity when pulling a load. If you’re a fan of raw, off-road fun, make sure to add one of these to your list—just because you drive a 4x4 doesn’t mean you can’t to get stuck in a mud hole or dive into a ditch.

Kitty Litter

Kitty litter (or sand or salt) might not sound like an auto tool—but it could be if you find yourself stuck in the snow! Most of these materials are pretty cheap, so if they’re not already available around your house, they come in large quantitiesthat are sure to last you an entire winter. Those with rear-wheel drive, stash your gritty substance in the back of your truck and the added weight might give you enough traction to avoid getting your tires stuck in the first place. If litter, sand, or salt sound like too much of a messy hassle, you can always pick up an easy-to-use traction matfor the front wheels.

Flashlight

Whether or not you plan to pop open the hood, walk back to town, or wait in your car overnight, a flashlight is a critical safety item you should always have in your car. Not only can you use it to see your surroundings, but you can also use a strobe flashlightto notify your roadside presence to oncoming traffic who might not be able to see you and your vehicle in the dark. Just remember to stash spare batteries on hand (unless you can charge it with your portable charger!).

Radio

Many apps offer roadside assistance, but if you’re stuck without reception, they’ll do you no good. You need a reliable radio to call for help in extreme emergency situations—and we’re not talking about the stereo on your dashboard. A hand crank radio will be your safest bet because it doesn’t require batteries and can reach long-range frequencies.

These five tools only scratch the surface of the list of items you should have in your car at any given moment. Use them as inspiration for additional tools you should think about adding to your emergency preparedness kit.

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