12 Items To Include In Your Car Emergency Kit

car emergency kit
Source: Mr. Heisenberg/Shutterstock

The average American family spends approximately 6% of their waking hours inside a car.

Therefore, it is very likely that at some point they find themselves in an emergency situation: anything from a flat tire to a fierce winter storm can become a lot more serious when one is unprepared.

A little forethought when packing a car emergency kit can go a long way in minimizing the damage after an accident—and, perhaps most importantly, can even help prevent said accidents from ever happening in the first place.

With a good emergency kit in your car, most of the problems you can encounter while on the road will be easily solved. It all boils down to being as well equipped as possible. For that purpose, here’s a comprehensive list of all the car emergency kit fundamentals.

The Essential Items In A Car Emergency Kit

1. First Aid Kit

First aid kits are essential in any car emergency kit, whether you’re going on a long trip or just driving around the city. Many companies offer them pre-packed but, if you want to assort is yourself, don’t forget to include bandages in various sizes, gauze pads, antibiotic cream, alcohol, sharp scissors, gloves, painkillers, a thermometer and tweezers.

Most retail first aid kits include a first aid manual, which is a very smart item to keep in your car emergency kit. No medical training is necessary: the items in your first aid kit will provide basic assistance while you wait for professional help to arrive.

2. Flashlight

A good flashlight is an absolutely vital item in any car emergency kit. If you have to change a tire by the road, read a map, check your engine, or simply signal for help, this reliable and affordable item can be extremely useful. Make sure to also include additional batteries, or buy one powered by sunlight or a hand crank- preferably the latter, considering you might need it at night.

3. Jumper Cables

A dead battery is one of the most common complications when out on the road, but this shouldn’t be a major problem if you have a decent set of jumper cables in your car emergency kit.

It is also sound to keep your car’s owner’s manual around: prudence is crucial when handling electrical equipment, and a failed attempt at jumpstarting your car can cause significant damage to its battery and engine. For proper and safe use of jumper cables, protective glasses and gloves are recommended.

4. Reflectors

Reflectors, as well as a high visibility safety vest, can help prevent some serious accidents from happening. If your car broke down, or if you stopped for any reason and need to exit your car, place reflectors behind it, facing oncoming traffic. You’ll increase your car’s visibility and other drivers will have no problem avoiding you comfortably. The same principle applies to the vest. Both items are considerably cheap, so there’s no excuse not to include them in your car emergency kit.

5. Fire Extinguisher

Even though you’re not legally obligated to carry a fire extinguisher in your car, no emergency kit is complete without one. A 2 to 5 lbs powder fire extinguisher is enough to put out most car fires, but if you’re looking to get one, remember to check that its ranking is ABC. This ranking indicates that such extinguisher is suitable for A, B or C class fires – the letters signal the kind of materials that originated the fire. Fire extinguishers are a little expensive, but they can last from 10 to 15 years when properly looked after.

6. Money

Aside from all these items, keeping a little money in your car can be exceptionally useful. It needn’t be too much, simply enough to take a taxi to work or back home, or to buy some food should you be far from the nearest ATM. Keep it hidden in your glove compartment or someplace similarly conceited, for having it visible from outside can be enough to tempt robbers.

Additional items

Be prepared for everything by including these items in your car emergency kit:

7. Food And Water

If you find yourself stranded in the middle of a deserted road, miles away from any restaurant or convenience store, a few cereal bars can be of use while you wait for help. Dehydrated food packs, granola, an assortment of snacks, canned food and trail mix are all equally good ideas. Make sure everything has a long shelf life, or else keep the food stock in you car emergency kit regularly updated. Even more importantly, keep a few gallons of bottled water there as well.

8. Blanket (Or A Sleeping Bag)

Blankets serve many purposes: provide warmth, shelter, comfort. If you have to spend the night in your broken down car, a blanket lessens the discomfort. If you are stranded during a blazing hot day, you can use it to create shade and sit under it. Additionally, should you be involved in an accident, a blanket can help reduce the shock of children and injured passengers. A wool blanket is especially recommended, for they are flame and odor resistant.

9. Tools Needed To Change A Tire

Flat tires are common and, nowadays, most cars come with a spare. However, not everyone keeps the necessary items to change it in their car emergency kits. Necessary items are a jack, a lug wrench, and wheel wedges. Your flashlight can also prove very useful. These items are usually included when you buy a car. If you don’t have them, purchase them as soon as possible.

10. Cat Litter

However odd it may sound, cat litter is indeed a good addition to your car emergency kit. This is because, when you’re stranded in the snow, sprinkling cat litter under your tires can provide the extra traction they need to pull out.

11. Car Escape Tool

A car escape tool is a simple and compact item to accomplish two things: cut a seatbelt and break a side window. If, after an accident, you are locked inside your car, a car escape tool can be the difference between life and death. Emergency services won’t arrive instantaneously, especially if you’re outside city limits, so keeping one of these in your car emergency kit is the smart choice.

12. Tow Strap

If you are trapped in a ditch, you will need a tow strap to pull the car out. Purchase one that can support your car’s weight (this information is usually printed on a label) and keep it in your car emergency kit. Once you’ve found a helpful driver to tow you out, read your car’s manual in order to find out how to attach it properly.

Other Additions

Some people recommend adding books or other forms of entertainment to your car emergency kit. While obviously not essential, having a book or a deck of cards can prevent you from running your cell phone battery out too quickly. It follows that a cell phone charger might be a good idea as well. Toilet paper, hand sanitizer and extra clothes are also frequently listed. If you are on medication, you should include some of it, as well.

No two car emergency kits look the same, so make sure you tailor yours according to your needs and the roads, legislature and climate you’ll be traveling in.