Car Maintenance and Emergency Preparedness

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Check out these easy organizing tips for emergency preparedness — both big and small — that you might encounter when on the road.


This month’s Zone Defense assignment entailed getting your travel and transportation “stuff” in order. And this month we’ve done a lot of that. We made two road trips totalling 630 miles, had house guests twice, pulled out sleeping bags for a number of occasions, and hit the beach and local parks more than once.


But honestly? Except for finally unpacking my suitcase from our trip out of town two weeks ago, I couldn’t think of what to do for my zone defense work. Until I looked at the Scourge and realized that hubs had already done  a lot of the work. Yay!

In the past couple weeks, he’s done the following:

  • wash
  • dejunk
  • vacuum
  • replace the brakes, rotors, and bearings

Isn’t he amazing?! He saved us a ton of money doing it all himself. The Scourge is now a total pleasure to drive, all neat, clean, and able to stop on a dime.

The “problem” with this — and I say “problem” with quotation marks — is that the Scourge was left completely empty. Look!

empty back

This is a good problem to have, actually. I get that. At the same time, it’s not realistic to drive around with six kids ranging in age from 4 to 16 without some kind of backup.

What will I do if I need to blow my nose and I can’t find anyone’s sweatshirt lying around in the backseat?

What will I do when I get to the store with no shopping bags?

What will I do if I open the window one foggy morning and all kinds of water drips on the door locks and auto-window panel, threatening to short it all out and I don’t have anyone’s grubby sock to clean it up with?

Where is my hand sanitizer and my chapstick?!

You get me, right?

I love the clean car. Love it! But, I also know that it needed to be stocked to make our future road trips and simple runs to the store a little more convenient. So, I set about stocking the Scourge.

Here’s what I did:

junk from car

Sort the stuff.

I sorted through all the clutter that had come from the glovebox and console. Wow. Lots of junk. Half of it was repair records from the previous owners that I could file elsewhere and not cart around with us. A lot was trash. The rest got put away or relocated.

snack box

Create a snack box.

Recently, we went to a local amusement park in the late afternoon. We’d had lunch and didn’t think we’d be hungry, but we were. Lamenting the fact that we didn’t pack snacks, we succumbed to their $4 soft pretzel. My land! Not again.

I’ve got a snack box packed with nonperishables: protein bars, crackers, fruit bars, paper towels, straws, and plastic spoons. Now we’re set.

While we probably won’t need them in a true emergency, it’s nice to know that in the case of earthquake, fire, or tsunami, we’ve got some victuals on hand. A small case of water bottles in on my list to add to the supply.

glovebox helps

Pack a kit for travel emergencies.

I’ve had the gps lose its signal before. I’ve found myself at a parking meter without coins. I’ve needed to write a note and not had anything to write with. I’ve accidentally left my wallet at home.

All those problems are now solved with a few things packed in a cute little folder:

  • maps
  • notepad
  • pens and pencils
  • quarters
  • petty cash
  • a tire gauge
  • extra fuses
  • the local train schedule

first aid and meds for car

Assemble first aid supplies.

On both of our road trips this month, our kids needed meds for allergies and fever. I ended up going to a local pharmacy and paying the going rate. Now, I have a small apothecary with me in case we need it, including bandages and extra sunglasses, because, yes, we’ve bought those on vacation before, too.

7/1/13 Edited to add: A reader suggested in the comments that storing OTC meds in the car was unsafe. I have contacted a number of friends who are medical professionals. The jury is split three ways: no, yes, and I don’t know. I am going to do further research. In the meantime, I’ve removed the OTC’s from the car until I find a definitive answer. Please use your best judgement. I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV.

Pack a just-in-case bag.

I also included a “just-in-case” bag which has extra sweatshirts and socks for everyone. It also holds a blanket and an umbrella.

Car Maintenance and Emergency Preparedness

I loaded into the back: a roadside emergency kit, the snacks box, the just-in-case bag, my shopping bags, and our pool/beach bag.


In the glove box is a red folder with registration and insurance, our blue pouch o’ stuff, and some barf bags for the girls.


In the center console is the first aid, sunscreen, and a nail file.

You never know when you’ll need to file your nails.

Basically, my car is like one big purse. And you can’t carry around an empty purse, now, can you? It’s interesting to note that since I packed our emergency kits last fall, I’m more aware of what we might need in the event of a real emergency. So many of the items that I added to the Scourge’s load are supplies that would come in handy if we experienced a natural disaster away from home.

This is how we got on Zone Defense this month.

How ’bout you?

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  1. Growing up in Nebraska we always had supplies in the trunk in case we got stuck in the snow. These were the days before cell phones and you might wait sometime before help arrived. In the winter I always have a thermal blanket (these are individually packaged and are folded to about the size of a deck of playing cards); disposable hand warmers; dry socks; ice scrapper; a can of de-icer; and a bag of cat liter (for traction when stuck in the snow). Year round my husband keeps a tool box, tie down straps and ja ack in the trunk.

  2. My car was totalled in a crash this week – yes, I’m alright. So is my little one who was with me.

    But cleaning out the car in the lot when we heard it would be be scrapped – oh my! I also use it as a big purse and try to be prepared for everything – I will be using your list to stock my new to me car

    Oh! And a frugal tip from the body shop – when the man escorting me to clean it out heard I planned to buy the exact same car with my insurance proceeds [it was only 7 months old – wah – and I adored it and had researched it to death] he prodded me to take the car mats – we would never have thought of that! They were the good ones and great to have spares or not buy them again if the new car came with lesser mats. Maybe I’m an idiot LOL – but it was the farthest thing from my mind

    1. Glad you and your little one are all right! And I don’t think you are an idiot — my car was totaled in a crash this “sprinter,” too, and when you’re cleaning it out at the impound lot, you really just want to get the job done and stop being reminded of the incident. (And be careful of the mice who’ve moved in through the broken windshield during the couple of days it sat there… sigh.)

  3. our minnesota climate can span across more than 100 degrees within a single year.

    i’m uneasy about packing ointments, water, medicines, ice packs, or even glow sticks for that matter, in my car.

    except for some bottled water which i can swap out once a quarter, my guess is to keep a pencil pouch of those more perishable items in my bigger purse with me at all times. hey, if i’m out on a date with my hubby and the car goes out – it’s now his problem. again, thanks for the radar pointing.