Car essentials checklist: everything you should carry in your car

Which is the car kit you can’t do without? Here are the products we think are indispensable for any road trip

As soon as we get a new car, whether it’s used or straight from the showroom, we start to swap over those cabin essentials we’ve gathered over the years – the long-loved products and gadgets that fill the glovebox, preparing you for any outcome. But what if you’re just building up your driving kit? Whether a new driver or someone wanting to take their car care more seriously, what should be the top choices from the hundreds of accessories available? We take a look at some of the best tricks for running your smartphone, the digital tech to help with tyre safety, plus the easiest way to keep your interiors clean and tidy. Here are our top 10 car essentials for the modern glovebox.

Navigation kit

Some kind of navigational tool is vital for all drivers. Even if your car has sat-nav as standard, chances are it will have out-of-date maps with poor traffic alerts. For standalone devices, look no further than the TomTom GO6100 (£299.99, tomtom.com). If you’re on a smaller budget, the smartphone app CoPilot (£29.99) is our favourite. And, for when technology lets you down, the trusty AZ Great Britain & Northern Ireland (£14.95, www.az.co.uk) is your saviour.

Cold weather kit

Scraping ice off the windscreen on a winter’s morning with a credit card is slow work, as well as bad for the fingers and plastic. Make sure your car is ready for that first cold snap with a de-icer. Prestone’s range has made a big impact in the UK market and is available in many big chains for under £2 (www.holtsauto.com).

Complete the job with a scraper – look for one that not only has a sharp edge for the ice, but also a rubber blade to shift any melted frost and de-icer from side windows. We like Halfords’ £2 Ice Scraper, Squeegee and Sponge (www.halfords.com).

Smartphone car kit

To get the most of the mobile tools available for driving, such as sat-nav and DAB radio, a phone holder is a necessary accessory. If the car has a CD slot, opt for the Olixar CD Slot Mount Car Holder (£12.99, www.mobilefun.co.uk). The Olixar Dash Genie V2 Universal (£12.99, www.mobilefun.co.uk) is a good suction alternative.

To ensure they don’t run out of juice, a USB adaptor will be required for the 12V socket. Our favourite is the Ring RMS18 (£14.99, www.ringautomotive.co.uk), which gives fast 3.5 amp charging, plus an extra outlet for an MP3 player or similar. 

Tyre care kit

Tyres are your car’s only contact with the road and key to whatever electronic safety wizardry is fitted, but they are often left uncared for. Key to their performance is the correct pressure and good tread depth. Our choice of gauges is the £17.36 PCL Digital Tyre Gauge (www.pclairtechnology.com), which is quick and accurate, plus it can be used at night with its backlit LED display. It also helps check the legal tread depth with its neat built-in probe.

Tyre inflation kit

Chances are your tyres could always do with a little inflating. They’ll perform better with the right pressures, last longer and give better fuel economy.

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While a footpump can be good for quick top-ups, the best all-rounder is a compressor that runs off the 12V socket.

Most effective is Ring’s RAC 635 (£25, www.ringautomotive.co.uk), which boasts a fast pump and air release on the hose for easy adjustment. The digital gauge is also accurate and easy to read.

Tyre repair kit

A puncture at some point in your driving life is almost inevitable. There’s a range of options available if you don’t have a spare wheel to hand, including using a puncture foam like Holts Tyre Weld (£5.99, www.holtsauto.com) or CarPlan’s Flat Mate (£9.49, www.tetrosyl.com) to seal the hole as a temporary fix.

Another option is a sealant with compressor to get you on your way, like Continental’s ContiComfortKit (from £22.95, www.care4car.com). The ultimate solution is our Product of the Year, the Bridgestone DriveGuard runflat tyre, made for any car with a tyre-pressure monitoring system. 

Car care kit

During any annual service or maintenance check, oil is likely to need refilling, but modern engines are fussy about not just the right rating, but also the marque-specific blend. Make sure there’s a litre bottle of the correct oil for your car in the boot.

The same goes for brake fluid and coolant, yet more likely to need topping up is the screenwash. Our pick is Angelwax Clarity (www.angelwax.co.uk), which comes in a boot-friendly one-litre bottle for £7.95. Perfect for the whole range of British seasons.

Emergency breakdown kit

A torch is a glovebox essential for a night time breakdown. The top choice is a headtorch, as it frees up your hands to tackle the repair. Our test winner is the Karrimor Sensor (£12.50, www.karrimor.com).

If you prefer a handheld device and want to avoid being stuck with flat batteries, our pick of the rechargeable units is the Coast Rechargeable HP7R (£57, www.bbb-leisureproducts.co.uk), while our wind-up winner is the Powerplus Barracuda (£14.95, www.johnlewis.com).

Car cleaning kit

It’s a good idea to keep a bunch of clean cloths in the car, packed into cabin bins or boot cubbies for any spills or leaks, while a microfibre cloth is a must have. Extend the clean-up kit with some ready-to-use wipes and tissues.

They clean quickly, whether  it’s shifting interior dust, grime from windows or bird mess from the roof. Great and convenient all-rounders that are easy on the pocket. Our wipes favourite is Big Wipes Heavy Duty (from £3.99, www.bigwipes.co.uk). 

Car safety kit

Find space in the boot for a hi-vis tabard and warning triangle if the car has not got one already – these are often a legal requirement in many European countries, and some even specify exactly where they have to be carried. You may also need spare light bulbs and a breathalyser.

For morning-after guidance, we’ve had good results with Alcosense’s range of breathalysers, (www.alcosense.co.uk); these start at £5.99.

What essentials do you carry in your car? Let us know in the comments section below...

Products editor

Kim has worked for Auto Express for more than three decades and all but a year of that time in the Products section. His current role as products editor involves managing the section’s content and team of testers plus doing some of the tests himself. 

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