13 Things to Pack For Your Next Road Trip

There’s nothing like hitting the road for an adventure to see some new country or visit some old friends. A good road trip can turn into a bad time pretty quickly if you’re not equipped with the right tools. Take a look at this list to give you some ideas for what you should pack for your next extended road trip.

Items to Bring For Your Road Trip

It never hurts to be prepared. If you have the extra space in your vehicle, here are some things that would be very helpful to take with you on your next extended road trip.

1) Spare Tire

It’s important to have a spare tire on hand, especially if you don’t have run-flat tires. Your spare tire should have its tire pressure checked at the same interval as the rest of your tires, so it’s ready to go when you need it.

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Some spare tires are part of the vehicle’s tire rotation schedule. Check the owner’s manual to see if you have a full size spare that needs to be rotated with the rest of them.

2) Floor Jack

If you get a flat tire, you will need a jack to lift the vehicle. Compact jacks work OK, but a floor jack is much faster. If you have the space, a floor jack could save you valuable time, allowing you to spend less of it by the side of a busy road.

3) Tire Iron and Torque Wrench

You’re going to need some way to remove and install the lug nuts on your spare tire. Most vehicles come with a small tire iron, so check to make sure you have yours at the very minimum.

Since tire irons are pretty short, it may be difficult for some users to adequately tighten the lug nuts after changing a tire. If you want an easier tire changing experience, consider bringing a torque wrench with a longer handle. Longer handles give you more leverage, and the torque wrench ensures your lug nuts are tightened properly.

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Tips for Tire Iron Usage

If you only have a tire iron with you, kick the left side of the tire iron downward to apply more torque than you can with just your arm. Hang onto something so you don’t fall over if the nut breaks free suddenly.

Most lug nuts are torqued to some value between 75 and 110 foot pounds on a passenger car. If you do some simple math, you can use your weight and the length of the tire iron to figure out how much weight you need to put on the tire iron to return the lug nuts to proper torque.

Torque is a measurement of the force applied a given distance away from the rotation axis. In this case, the lug nut is the rotation axis and the tire iron is the moment arm.

If you don’t like math, just make sure the lug nuts are as tight as you can get them. You don’t want your wheel coming off while you’re driving down the freeway. Re-check the lug nuts within 100 miles using a proper torque wrench.

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4) Tire Pressure Gauge

It’s important to regularly check your tire pressures. If one tire has significantly less air than the others, there’s a good chance that tire has a puncture from a nail, screw, or other piece of debris from the road. That tire will likely continue to leak air until it is patched.

Tire pressure gauges are very cheap and can be purchased from any auto parts store, and often truck stops as well. They are so small, it’s a great idea to keep one in the glovebox of each of your vehicles.

5) Tire Inflator or Air Compressor

If you have a slow leak, you may be able to get away with driving to a tire shop to have the tire patched. Having an air compressor on hand will help you replenish the lost air each time you stop, so you can avoid destroying the tire due to underinflation.

As you move from climate to climate, tire pressure may fluctuate by several PSI due to temperature and elevation. Using a tire inflator ensures you are always driving with the correct tire pressures. This optimizes the handling characteristics and fuel economy of your vehicle.

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6) Jump Starter

What happens if your battery dies and there are no cars around to get a jump? Jumper cables are compact and extremely handy, but they only work if there is a donor vehicle around to give you a jump.

A jump starter is nearly as portable as jumper cables and allows you to jump yourself without any help. Many of these products also offer additional features, such as a phone charger and a compact air compressor.

7) Vehicle Fluids

Many cars burn oil. As you drive, using the brakes will slowly drop the fluid level in the brake master cylinder reservoir as the brake pads wear. A slow leak in a system could leave you with a dangerously low fluid level.

If you’re away from home for an extended period of time, it’s a good idea to have these fluids handy so you can continue your journey uninterrupted. If your engine oil level drops too low, the consequences could be catastrophic for your engine. That would end your road trip in a hurry.

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Consider packing a quart of oil and a small container or two of brake fluid. Automatic transmission fluid is often used for both the transmission and for hydraulic power steering systems.

8) Distilled Water

Distilled water is extremely handy. Not only is it good to have some water around in case you’re thirsty or need to wash your hands, you can replace lost coolant with distilled water. There’s no need to carry coolant if you have distilled water on hand.

Distilled water actually cools better than a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water. If you decide to only run distilled water, it’s a good idea to buy some water wetter, or a similar product. Water wetter lubricates the water pump and prevents corrosion inside the cooling system.

9) Maps

Everyone has a phone, but not everywhere has service. If you get lost in an area that has no service (or lose your phone), it can be wise to have a paper map on hand to help you get back to civilization.

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An alternative to a paper map is a second charged phone or GPS with a downloaded map of the area. Google Maps can often navigate even without service if the map has been downloaded.

10) Duct Tape and Zip Ties

It’s incredible the number of problems you can solve with just duct tape and zip ties. Perhaps you hit an obstacle in the road and the bumper needs to be secured. Maybe you sprung a leak in a radiator hose and need a quick fix.

Duct tape and zip ties are so small and versatile, you may as well keep them in the vehicle at all times.

11) OBD2 Scanner

If your check engine light comes on, an OBD2 scanner can give you peace of mind knowing which component is likely at fault. Some codes indicate a serious issue, and others can wait until you get back home.

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If you don’t want to buy your own OBD2 scanner, you can always seek out the nearest auto parts store. Most auto parts stores will scan for codes for free.

12) Common Hand Tools

If you work on your own vehicle, consider bringing the hand tools you use to complete various jobs. What do you need to change the brakes, for instance? Which tools did you use on your last job?

Common tools you may want to bring include a metric socket set, pliers, screwdrivers, and box end wrenches. Don’t forget any specialty tools that may be harder to find, such as Torx bits.

13) First Aid Kit

Now that you’ve taken care of the car, don’t forget to take care of yourself and your passengers! Consider packing a first aid kit with bandages, medicine (both over the counter and your prescriptions), eye wash, tweezers, scissors, and a tourniquet.

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There are many items you can put in a first aid kit, so check with a medical professional for their recommendations. This is especially important if you have a known medical condition.


A little preparation goes a long way in ensuring the success of your road trip. While you plan your trip, take some time to figure out which of these items you will also be able to fit in your vehicle. It’s better to have it and not need it than the other way around.

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