Keep Useful Stuff in Your Trunk

What's in the trunk of your car?

Garbage? Some old clothes? Some weird junk you never use?

Flat tires happen. Breakdowns happen. Spontaneous fun breaks out. Here are 10 things everyone should have in their trunk to be prepared.

1. A spare tire, jack, lug wrench and everything else needed to change a flat. And make sure you know how to use them. You'd be surprised how many people remove this stuff, or have never glanced at the owner's manual to check out the process.

2. Jumper cables. Again, learn how to use them. Biggest mistake Hooking negative to negative. The negative cable should NOT be hooked to the inoperable vehicle's battery when jump starting a car. It should be hooked to a "ground" on the inoperable vehicle, such as the engine block.

3. A flashlight. A cheapo disposable one will do, as long as you check periodically that it works.

4. An umbrella and/or lightweight rain poncho.

5. A comfortable sweatshirt.

6. A Swiss Army knife or multi-tool kit, such as the Leatherman Pocket Survival Tool.

7. An old blanket. You can kneel on this to change a tire, spread it out for a picnic or bundle up in a true emergency.

8. A pair of comfortable old shoes. Sometimes, the car gives out and you just gotta walk. Or the shoes you're wearing are killing you.

9. A bottle of water and a few granola bars. You'll probably never be in true survival mode. But if you are, be ready.

10. One of the following A basketball, football, softball and glove, kite or inline skates. Part of being prepared is being prepared to have fun.

Sound like a lot of stuff? It's probably no more than the senseless junk you have in there now. And you can pack much of it together in a box or zippered bag.

There's something else you should keep in your car, although not in the trunk A cell phone. You might not like to talk and drive, but cell phones are invaluable in an emergency.

(c) 2004, The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.). Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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