Your boot is a location that gets used a hell of a lot, from bringing home the shopping to carrying the golf clubs, from those bulky boxes from IKEA to the presents for the family at Christmas, what would we do without it!
So I asked around the office here to find out what should you have in there, the key items that will help you out when you’re stuck or the things your friends will thank you for should something drastic go wrong. I’m going to split them into three categories:
- ‘Essentials’ – These are the ‘must haves’ the things that you will be lost without unless you have them.
- ‘Very Handy’ – These are the items you’ll proudly tell your mates are ‘very handy’ to have. Not super essential but you’ll find a use for them.
- ‘Nice to Have’ – These are for all you who like to have the lot in your boot, the types of things that other people would never expect you to have but will no doubt be perfect when the occasion arises.
Essentials – What they are and why you need them!
- 1 Litre Oil Top-Up: Keeping your oil topped up to the correct level is crucial to the up-keep of any car. It’s the lube that keeps all parts running smoothly so if it runs low or even runs out, you will have problems. You should check your oil level regularly (only when the car is cold) and adjust if it’s below the recommended mark on your dipstick.
- Tyre Inflator: Last thing you want is to be stranded because of a flat tyre. Often it might be slow puncture that a simple inflate will allow you to get to a tyre repair centre. There are two types of tyre inflators you can buy, my personal favourite and the one in my boot is the Draper 12v Mini Analogue Compressor. It’s small and won’t take up space and you’ll be able inflate a fully flat tyre in 10 minutes. Super handy as it works off the cigarette lighter. You can also get a regular foot-pump like this Draper Twin Cylinder one, but of course it will take more effort and time.
- Extendable Wheel Brace: Dead handy tool to have when changing your wheel. The wheel brace that comes with all cars is generally too short to get the nuts loose easily, especially in the rain. With an extendable brace you’ll have more leverage to get it off, making the job a lot easier. Believe me, your hands will thank you after!
- Replacement Jack: The jack is a tool that comes standard in all cars, but often you’ll find that it’s missing, especially if you buy a second hand car. So make sure you have a replacement jack at the ready, you’ll often pick up the exact one for your car from a breakers yard.
- First Aid Kit: Another essential kit to have is a mini first aid kit, full with plasters, bandages, tape, alcohol swabs, scissors etc. This is a perfect example of the type that should be tucked away in your boot for any mini mishaps!
- Warning Triangle & Hi-Vis Jacket: I’m mentioning these together because more than likely you will be using them together. They’re a requirement in many countries, and really should be in your boot in case you need to pull in to attend to your car on the side of the road. These two items are for the benefit of other road users as much as yourself, warning them of ‘danger’ ahead and are a real must to keep all parties safe
- Lock Nut Wheel Key: Only for use with alloy wheels, but an incredibly important little key that helps you take your alloy wheels off. Typically you will have 5 nuts in total, with one that works in a similar way to a door key works – it’s unique for security reasons and must be opened with a specific lock nut adaptor (or key!) that fits perfectly into it. Again, they usually come with the car, and can be found along with the spare wheel, but if it’s missing and you need to remove your wheel, then you have a problem, usually a costly one where it has to be forcibly removed! Replacement ‘keys’ can be purchased, ensure you have it.
- Bottle of Water. It’s simple, costs very little but could literally save your life. If you’re sick, dehydrated, stranded or hungover you’ll be glad you have one stashed away that you can get your mitts on. Also, if your windscreen washer runs out it can be a ‘life saver’ in allowing you to clear your windscreen enough to get to a garage and top-up properly. It can even be used to top up your coolant in an emergency and give you hands a wash after you access the engine bay! The uses go on and on.
‘Very Handy’ Items – Not purely essential, but dead handy to have.
- De-Icer / Ice Scraper: Frosty mornings usually mean a little delay to your schedule while you defrost your windows. The quickest, safest method is using some de-icer to quickly melt the ice and frost while the car heats up.
- Rags: Cut up that old t-shirt you have into small segments and use them as rags in your boot. Dead handy for checking the level of our oil, cleaning up a mess inside the car, or even giving it a quick polish before you pick herself / himself up on that first date!
- Umbrella: Living in The UK and Ireland means that rain can strike at any time. In fact a wise man once said that ‘any fool carries an umbrella on a wet day, but the wise man carries it every day’ Grab a small one, and pop it in the boot, you’ll be using it!
- Boot Protector: All boots have a carpet interior, which means it will get dirty, damp, mucky and if you happen to spill a yoghurt on it…smelly! Best way to avoid all that and keep your original carpet sparkling is to buy a boot liner / boot protector. Made of tough rubber, with a lip around the edge, it traps the lot; muck from sports gear, sand from the beach, the mess left after the dags or puke from the young wan! Simple hose down, and it’s back to new again!
- Jerry Can: If you haven’t had the misfortune of running out of fuel then you’re lucky, but when it happens, it’s a pain and can leave you in a right mess. Having to purchase yet another jerry can to put the fuel into will make you even more angry, especially when you know you have 5 at home in the shed! Best option in my opinion, to avoid smell and taking up room, is this Collapsible Jerry Can – expands to 10 litres but small enough to fit snuggly in beside the spare wheel.
- Antifreeze / Coolant: In most cars, water is used to cool the engine, but in extreme temperatures regular water will either boil or freeze and so additives will need to be added to ensure neither happens. This is where your antifreeze / coolant comes in – coming together as the one solution and costing about €5 for a bottle. It’s something that is always in your car as standard, but if you notice that the temperature guage is showing overheating then it’s probably time for a top-up.
- Duct Tape, WD-40 & Cable Ties: Yes it’s time to tap into the inner McGyver in you with this trio of ‘fix anything’ essentials. Hold on, tie down or lube up whatever is giving trouble until you can get it properly fixed!
- Spare Fuses: If your radio goes dead, your indicators stop working or a light goes out it’s usually as a result of a blown fuse. Changing them is a job you can do yourself, but you have to have them first! Few things to remember – check your user manual first to find where the fuse relating to your problem is, then before taking the fuse out, take a photo of all the fuses so you can replace them in the proper places and if you can help it, check one at a time. You can purchase a mini kit for only €2.
- Jump Leads: You left the radio on and the battery’s dead! Tick tick tick is all you get…and you’re in a rush. Then jump leads will get you on the road in 5 minutes. Remember to follow the correct procedure when ‘jumping’ it. Here’s our handy ‘How To’ video on how to do it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlSihfHNMlI&index=23&list=PLD5D35CDB61B2AA76
- Emergency Mobile Phone Battery Pack: The last thing you want if you get stranded in the middle of ballygobackwards is a dead phone along with a dead car!. This power pack can be your saviour for getting in touch with someone and there are lots of battery packs to choose from, ranging in price and quality.
‘Nice to Have’: Won’t be needed in a crisis situation but will be nice to have if the occasion arises.
- Windscreen Wash: Water can work just fine to clear your grubby windscreen, but if you want an extra clean windscreen then I’d highly recommend getting some windscreen wash. It will help removing those pesky bugs that get welded on in the summer as well as all the other grime from the road. Usually comes pre-mixed or as concentrate that you add yourself to some water. **Be careful of the quality of water you use – try to avoid hard, limestone water as limescale will build within the washer bottle in your car, clogging it fully over time. Collecting rain water for this use is a great, cost effective solution.
- Baby Wipes: Surely they are up there as the invention of the last 20 years!? I could never list all the uses for them, but they are awesome to have in the car. Simple things like cleaning your hands after you put some air in your tyres or even removing the annoying diesel off your hands when you top up on fuel. Need we mention the mess kids can leave in the car…let’s not, we all know how bad it can be! A pack or two in the boot, and you’re laughing.
- Gloves: Similar to the point above, avoiding a mess is primary for lots of people. A box of disposable gloves can be an easy way to keep your hands clean and hygienic if tinkering with the car.
- Blanket: You’re thinking of a romantic, spontaneous picnic in the country sun right? Well it could be handy for that, but it’s more for the other extreme, when you could get caught in that mad snow storm and you need to keep yourself and the kids warm. Even worse if you break down in that weather, then you’ll definitely need it!
- Torch: Those of us who have grown up on country roads with no street lights will be able relate to this. You hear a rattle at the back of the car and you need to investigate, you hop out and can see very little, bar the area around the brake lights! This is where a little mini torch can come in handy. Of course you could also just use your phone….but then the battery goes low, and before you know it you’re going back to point 18 to get you home!
- Tow-Rope: Tuck it in beside the spare wheel for the emergency of towing or getting towed. Make sure the rope is strong enough when you buy it so that it won’t snap, any hardware shop will be able advise you on the best type.
- Shopping Bags: Ever since the law came in where plastic bags were no longer free, people have taken to the ‘bags for life’. You should always have a few in the car in case you need to make the impromptu trip to Aldi to pick up the dishwasher descaler, pint of milk and a 24 piece drill bit set!
- Multi-Tool Kit / Penknife: A little pocket tool kit like this MacGyver set has a multitude of uses, and replaces the need to have a bulky tool box as it comes with screwdrivers, pliers, saw and wire cutters. This one even contains a bottle opener, but remember to never ever drink and drive.
- Sun-screen: Only applicable on the odd summer day where we get sweltering temperatures, but our North Western European skin can’t handle the burn! So having a bottle of factor 20 in the boot is always welcome to limit the burn and keep your skin healthy.
- Tyre Gauge: Similar to point number 2, this can simply tell you the air pressure in your tyres. It’s a handy little gizmo that you can obtain a reading from in seconds. If you have suspicion that it’s low on air pressure this will confirm it for you.
- Tyre Weld Puncture Repair: A pretty awesome invention for that dreaded flat tyre. This is a ‘get you home’ solution where no jack or tools are required. Simply screw the connection tube on the can to the valve on the tyre and allow the contents of the can to flow into the tyre. It then gets to work at locating and sealing the puncture while also inflating your wheel enough to get you home! Genius
- Condoms: Well what can I say but….Johnny’s got you covered!