How to Kit Out Your Very First Car

Things that could make all the difference after you’ve passed your driving test and got behind the wheel.

Here at Steering Clear, we nearly always say this, but learning to drive and passing your driving test really is genuinely exciting.

It opens up a whole new world of possibilities and independent travel. And of course, your very own name on the car registration document and the insurance documents means that you are now officially grown up! Not unlike joining the property ladder and buying a dishwasher for the first time, being a car owner is an enjoyable, if not daunting rite of passage. Welcome to adulthood.

And welcome to the possibility of things going wrong. A breakdown, or an accident. Being stuck somewhere, perhaps even for several hours or even overnight. What should you have in the car to be on the safe side?

Or maybe just on the practical side to make your life easier?

Time to Go Shopping?

Don’t go mad in Halfords. (Other vehicle specialist retail outlets are available.) Here’s our handy guide to how to kit out your car for the very first time. These tips apply to all ages of vehicle, but it’s common sense to know that the older your car, the more likely you are to need certain of these.

Shop around for good prices.

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1. A Jump Starter Kit

Especially if you have an older car, these are handy to keep in the boot. Not only will they start a car with a flat car battery, these handy kits also charge mobile phones or laptops; very handy if you get stuck at the roadside and your mobile phone is flat, too.

How do they work? Basically, there’s a battery inside a case that incorporates a handle, a charging port and pair of alligator cables. You attach the cables to your car’s own battery terminals, and you should get enough juice to turn over the engine. The kit needs to be charged, though.

Top tip: Read the instructions and find out what goes where when you buy the kit. A flat battery is stressful, and you want to feel in charge of what you’re doing.

2. A Torch

The biggest, most powerful one you can afford, please. Or even two of them – torches aren’t expensive. Having light when you most need it, either to fix something or to enable you to seek help late at night could save your bacon.

3. Spare Coolant, Oil and Windshield-Washer Fluid

Very handy to have these to hand, just in case. It’s also worth checking that your supplies are topped up. You don’t need these things until you need them, and then you will really need them.

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4. Ice Scraper

During warm weather, you’ll wonder why on earth you’re keeping an ice scraper in the car.

However, believe us, once the temperature starts to drop, that little plastic thing is still the quickest and most efficient way to remove ice from the windows on your car. Again, if there are two of you, having more than one could be handy and get the job done quicker. Don’t forget – ice is cold, so keeping gloves in the, err glove compartment (is that what it’s for!?) could keep your fingers warm on those crisp cold mornings.

5. A First Aid Kit

Emergencies can and do happen in a split second and it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Minor wounds that are left unattended could risk infection, and a first aid kit in the car could provide relief. Good quality sunscreen or insect repellent could save the day if you’re out on a picnic.

The AA do a good one, by the way

6. A Blanket and Warm, Waterproof Clothing

If you’re stuck in your car somewhere and it’s cold, you’ll know about it. It can be very uncomfortable and if you have someone who’s elderly or unwell with you, potentially dangerous.

If the engine works, you could keep turning on the heating, but that’s not always practical or even possible. If you need to leave the car to seek help for any reason, you’ll be glad of that sensible coat you didn’t in your wildest dreams think that you’d need.

Blankets are handy, too. You don’t need to spend too much to get a good one.

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7. A Spare Tyre and a Jack

You never know when a puncture will happen. It happens to most, if not all of us at some stage in our driving lives. And, it will happen to you. Whilst you may not have the skills to change a tyre, that nice RAC or AA person (or whoever helps you) will not be expected to bring spares with them. So, make sure that yours is there – especially if you’re buying a car second hand.

(Talking of the RAC and AA, if you’re a member, make sure that you keep the telephone number and your membership details to hand.)

8. Maps – One of those UK-Wide Ones

OK, so everyone has sat navs these days. They’ve gone from scarce to scarcely unusual, and of course, most mobile phones have apps that point you in the right direction – for free. We’ve almost lost the art of map reading, it seems.

Well, we shouldn’t. Maps are great for overall route planning and they put your journey in context (you can “see” where you’re going). Essentially, should your mobile phone battery die or the sat nav give up the ghost, you’ll be super-pleased that your trusty map doesn’t rely on batteries or chargers.

What else?

Keep a big bottle of water in the boot, plus some snack bars. Also, keep your insurance details to hand. Let’s hope you’re not involved in an accident, but you never know.

So, the above are the key essentials. We’re going all Boy Scout. Be prepared. Drive Safely.