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With the new year only days away, the automotive world is buzzing about the latest"must-haves" in the car for 2016, like self-parking, improved smartphone integration and mobile device features that make handheld device usage safer behind the wheel.

While all of these items are cool to have on board, they won't be able to get you out of a jam should the car break down. The following "must-haves" can, however - which is why you should never drive away from home without them, to paraphrase the age-old American Express slogan.

Whenever you hit the roads this winter - no matter how short the trip may be - make sure you have these five items in your trunk, ready to use when the unexpected happens.

1. Spare tire
Models of yesteryear almost always had spare tires built in to the undercarriage of the trunk. Whether to save money or space, however, spare tires aren't as common as they used to be. If you're in the market to buy a new car, vehicles that come equipped with a spare are strongly recommended. Even though tires are more resistant to sharp objects and blowouts, they're not impenetrable. You may also want to buy a spare tire repair kit, as tires are useless without the appropriate tools.

2. Winter coat
If on a cold blustery evening the engine breaks down or you run out of gas, you won't have the fuel needed to keep the interior warm while you wait for assistance. Keep an unused winter jacket in the trunk so you can wear it if the engine won't turn over. It can literally be a lifesaver if you have to walk on foot for help.

3. Jumper cables
Though they may look rather pedestrian, jumper cables are perhaps the most extraordinary item to keep in the car, if for no other reason than that they can literally inject life through another vehicle's running engine. In a matter of seconds, a dead battery is brought to life, once the clamps have been attached to the appropriate terminals.

4. Ice scraper
Another unremarkable must-have in the car is an ice scraper. When snow is coming down in sheets, the windshield wipers may not be enough. Having an ice scraper - along with a brush to broom away snow cover - will help you keep the windshield free from obstructions.

5. Owner's manual
Every car has one, but few have actually read it. The owner's manual - usually found in the glove compartment - is something you should try to familiarize yourself with should you be in a predicament. Take a look at the table of contents in the front of the booklet, where you'll find various "how-to's" on what you can do to ensure that you and your car are safe on the road.

Many of today's vehicles now have top-of-the-line safety technology that few know how to use. The National Safety Council has a website - MyCarDoesWhat.org - that delves into some of these features and how they work, like anti-lock braking, cruise control, lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring.

Article courtesy of Selective Insurance Group, Inc. 
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