What to keep in your car for emergencies

No matter who is driving you need to be prepared with an emergency kit. 

We all know who will be madder than a hornet on an August afternoon if the family gets stranded on the side of the highway without a proper emergency kit. I’ve driven across North America, and I know how to pack a car, especially supplies to help solve roadside misfortunes.

You know that feeling when pulling out of the driveway that you forgot something? Don’t get it on your next trip when you use this list for car emergency kit must-haves.


Personal Products

I grab a small zip-top bag and pack it with personal care products. Just in case I get stranded overnight unexpectedly.

  • Deodorant
  • Extra pair of underwear
  • Basic makeup, like mascara, powder, and lipgloss
  • Travel roll of toilet paper
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Contact holder + contact solution
  • *Lady* products
  • Travel toothbrush + paste
  • Dental floss or pics

29. A car jump starter for when you accidentally leave your lights on before heading into the function. It’s okay, everyone gets forgetful sometimes

Amazon So what’s in the box? You’ll get a GB40 UltraSafe Portable Lithium Car Battery Jump Starter Pack, heavy-duty battery clamps, a 12-volt car charger, a micro USB charging cable, a microfiber storage bag, and a user guide, along with a 1-Year Warranty. Promising review: “I use a Genius battery tender so this was the brand I searched for. Rattling around in the trunk for a year, it got me started without breaking a sweat. The second time I had to use it, my battery was dead at 6 volts out of 12. The little charger couldn’t start the truck and kept connecting and disconnecting with an overcurrent problem. I decided to let the device do its thing. I kept it on the dead battery for 15 minutes and it finally cranked over and started. Amazing. It took every drop of juice this little gizmo cold muster and it brought back a battery from the dead safely and automatically and got me unstuck. Best money spent. If it ever dies, I’ll replace it with the same brand without hesitation.” —Nameless Faceless One Get it from Amazon for $108.11.

15. A pair of pet hair-removing brushes that’ll leave you shocked by the amount of hair they pull from your seat or seat cover

Amazon Promising review: Really impressed with these! We have a dog that sheds like it’s his job and our car is always extremely difficult to vacuum. These really picked up the hair with minimal effort. I’ve also used on our home area rugs and got way better results than our Shark vacuum. Left the carpets feeling soft as well. I’d definitely recommend for any pet owner!”—jonathanc1222 Get a pack of two from Amazon for $24.

How to prepare for an emergency on the road

What to keep in your car for automotive emergencies

There are certain roadside rescues that you might be able to handle on your own if you have the right tools. Whether it’s a flat tire, vehicle breakdown or inclement weather, the following items will come in handy:

  • An inflated spare tire
  • Fire extinguisher
  • A toolkit
  • Jumper cables
  • Car manual
  • Windshield wiper fluid
  • Work gloves to protect your hands
  • Empty portable gas can

Make sure to assess your car maintenance needs based on personal conditions as well. For example, if you live in an area with snowy winters, make sure to have an ice scraper and snow brush on hand.

What to keep in your car for personal emergencies

Putting personal emergency resources in your trunk or glove compartment can provide you with some peace of mind. If your car breaks down, or if you have a minor injury, you know you have these items to fall back on. Here are some recommendations for things to keep in your kit:

  • Non-perishable snacks like protein bars, nut butters and cold cereal
  • Water
  • First-aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • General over the counter needs or prescription medicine you’d need on hand in an emergency
  • A blanket
  • Sweatshirt and sweatpants
  • Paper towels
  • Pen and paper

You can throw your kit into a box or backpack in the trunk and remember to switch out any items that may expire over time.

What Documents Should You Keep in Your Car? [FAQs]:

The last section was about what documents should not be kept in your car, and now in the next section, we are going to discuss what are the documents that must be kept in the car. There are people who consider keeping only the photocopies of the document or sometimes fail to update their documents, and this FAQs section is formed for them to understand the basic things about keeping the documents in the car. Read on:

Is It Mandatory to Carry Original Documents While Driving?

Many people ask the question – Do we need to carry original documents while driving? Well Yes! You must carry all your original documents along because photocopies can get tampered and the cops won’t adhere to them.If your country allows you to have digital copies of the documents kept on the respective digital apps approved by the government, then you can also upload your documents there without having to take the original documents.But if there are no such options, you have to carry your original documents along with you. And you must keep them safe inside your car so that they do not get damaged anyhow.

Should You Keep Your Car Registration in Your Glove Compartment?

If you are travelling with your original documents and wondering where is the best place to keep your car registration paper inside the car, then know that it is the glove compartment of your car. Yes, it is a safe place to keep all your legal documents in one place. Though, by the name itself, it can be understood that it is the place to keep ‘gloves’ inside the car but those days are gone when drivers used to use it for the same purpose!Now, the best corner to keep your car registration document inside your car is the glovebox. There will be less chance of it being damaged or stolen when you keep it inside the glove compartment.

Why Shouldn’t You Keep Your Title in Your Vehicle? There are many instances of car road accidents or cars being stolen in different countries. And when you have your car title vehicle kept inside the car, and it gets misplaced, you will fail to prove your car ownership after everything is sorted. It is the primary document that proves the ownership of a car’s owner. So, it has been stated above in this article that the vehicle title must always be left behind at home while you are going out in your car. So, now you know why shouldn’t you keep your title in your vehicle.

The Comfort List

This list of items will ensure you stay comfortable in the car on any journey!

  • Blankets
  • Neck pillows
  • Lumbar back support
  • Sunglasses
  • Air freshener
  • Padded seat covers
  • Awesome foot mats

A key item that I never hit the road without is this Lumbar Back Support. I suffer from lower back pain whilst driving and this helps me maintain a better seated position

Car Emergency-Kit Must-Haves

These are the things you should always have on hand in case of a mechanical crisis:

  • Spare tire: No car should be without one. There are any number of reasons that a tire may burst, tear, or just deflate and you might not have the luxury of rolling into a gas station.
  • Tire jack: Unless you've been exposed to excessive amounts of gamma radiation, you'll probably need some mechanical assistance to lift your car to switch out the flat for the spare.
  • Sealant and tire pump: Sometimes, you need not replace the entire tire. If you have a minor puncture, then a little bit of sealant and an injection of air should be enough to see you to your destination. The best way to spot a slow leak is to check your tire pressure regularly.
  • Duct tape: The swiss army knife of the tape world, there is very little you can't do with duct tape. Whether sealing up a leaking pipe or a leaking artery, this is an absolute must-have in your toolbox.
  • Jumper cables: Tires don't take all the blame when it comes to breakdowns. Sometimes the fault lies with your engine or battery. In the case of the latter, jumper cables can give your car the kick in the pants it needs to get going again, assuming you can flag down a willing helper.
  • Oil and water: Gasoline isn't the only fluid needed to keep a car running. Keeping some extra oil or water around is just as important for keeping all the mechanicals running in order.
  • Fire extinguisher: In the event of a catastrophic malfunction, you may be faced with a fiery situation. And, considering how many combustible fluids there are in an automobile, the quicker you can put out a fire, the better.
  • Reflective triangle: You won't always have the time or ability to pull off to the side of the road, and depending on the nature of your problem, moving your car afterward may not be an option. An emergency triangle will ensure that other motorists take note of your plight and at least avoid causing any further harm. If you're lucky, someone may even pull over to give you a hand.

Home Equity Line of Credit

You might be able to use a portion of your home’s value to spruce it up or pay other bills with a Home Equity Line of Credit. To find out if you may be eligible for a HELOC, use our HELOC calculator and other resources before you apply.

A bright reflective vest

Keep a bright reflective poncho in your car. Stranded on a busy road? Wearing it can keep other drivers from sideswiping you. And, of course, it’s great for handling those pesky raindrops when the sky opens up. There are some waterproof safety vests with hoods that work as well.

Things to Keep in Your Car for Babies and Toddlers

While most moms and dads carry a diaper bag with extra goodies, it's always good to have some fundamentals on hand in case this gets left behind somewhere

  • Wipes and extra diapers – essentials you can't go without if your diaper bag gets lost or you simply run out
  • Disposable diaper bags – for getting rid of fragrant surprises or simply to collect trash that needs to be disposed of
  • Portable changing mat – for hygienic and safe baby changes when you're out and about
  • An extra toy or two – in case you leave his/her favorite teddy behind by accident, and to entertain them during the car ride
  • Safety seats – age-appropriate car seats that ensure your little one's safety at all times

A knife

Critical for everything from clearing away debris from your wheels or bumper to starting a fire, a durable and sturdy knife is another indispensable tool for your car. Check your state’s regulations concerning knives to make sure the one you buy is legal for you to possess.

Category 2: Emergency and Safety Equipment

Here’s a quick reference list of the items you may need:

  • First aid kit.
  • Emergency escape tool.
  • Fire extinguisher.
  • Flashlight
  • Multi-function tool.
  • Matches or an alternative fire starter.
  • Energy bars.
  • Water bottles.
  • Maps.
  • Reflective triangle.
  • Gas can.
  • Tire traction mat.

You could check out our guide to the best car emergency kits for collections of all the items you may need in one handy kit, or you can choose to seek out the pieces individually.

Let’s look at each item in detail to see what they are used for and why you should have them in your car:

First Aid Kit

You can buy a pre-assembled first aid kit for your vehicle. This will include a wide array of items to cover many different emergency situations.

Be sure to store this in an easily accessible location within your car, just in case you need quick access to it.

Emergency Escape Tool

We don’t wish it on anyone, but in case of an accident, you don’t want to get trapped in your vehicle. You need to have a tool to cut your seatbelt and/or break a window to get out fast.

Make sure you keep it where you can reach it easily from the driver’s seat.

Fire Extinguisher

A fire extinguisher is a must-have item since vehicles can easily catch fire during an accident, or if leaks and components failures occur.

We would advise to source one of the best car fire extinguishers you can find, always keep it within reach. Make sure to prioritize your safety and that of passengers, before the car.

Car Flashlight

Most modern phones have a light, but it’s still a good idea to keep a flashlight handy in your vehicle to cover the times You may be stranded in a dark, isolated place with a dead mobile phone!

Make sure it’s always fully charged. Keep spare batteries too if the flashlight requires them.

Alternatively, a manually-charged flashlight can be a great solution. These require you to manually wind a handle in order to generate a charge for power.

Multi-Function Tool

These are improved versions of the classic Swiss army knife. Depending on the situation, you may need a variety of tools.

The good thing is that multi-function tools are compact in size, contain everything from screwdrivers, pliers and a knife, to scissors and even spanners and tweezers.

Matches or an Alternative Fire Starter

Matches, a lighter or an alternative fire starter can come in handy, and not only to light a cigarette. You may need to keep yourself warm or signal for help.

Energy Bars

Hopefully, no matter the emergency you won’t be stranded for long, but it’s always better to have some non-perishable food with you in case no help reaches you for many hours or even days.

Energy bars and other such items can keep for a long time and come in handy if you’re stranded far from civilization.

Water Bottles

Water is even more important than food if you are stranded.

Experts advise keeping at least a case of drinking water in your trunk. You’ll be glad you thought of this beforehand, especially if the weather is very hot.

Local Maps

Even if everyone uses their cell phones now, you may be stranded somewhere with no signal.

An old-fashioned map will never leave you high and dry. Make sure to take a map of the local area you’re visiting.

Reflective Triangle

This breakdown tool is for when your vehicle dies on the side of the road, to alert other road users of your situation.

If you cannot move your car to a safer spot, put the reflective triangle down as per the included instructions. It should be far enough behind your vehicle to alert other drivers and prevent them from hitting your car.

Some kits come with three reflective triangles. They’re to be placed at 10, 100 and 200 feet from the rear of your vehicle for extra safety.

Gas Can

Gasoline is highly flammable, and its fumes are toxic. But if you’re driving very long distances in places where service stations are rare, you may need extra gas.

Just make sure the can is perfectly closed and doesn’t leak. Also, never keep it inside your car, not even in the trunk. The safest place is on the car rack on the top of your vehicle. This way, you will not suffer any consequences from inhaling gasoline fumes.

For standard car users though, keeping an empty can in your trunk is a good idea so you can hitch a lift or walk to the nearest gas station to get gas if you do run out and your vehicle stops.

Tire Traction Mat

Use it if your vehicle is stuck in mud or snow and the traction from the tires is not sufficient to move.

Just place it in the path of your tires to free your car. Don’t accelerate too much, a little bit of gas will be enough to get unstuck.

It’s also helpful to know that you can replace this with cat litter, sand or cardboard if in a pinch.

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Final Thoughts

We’ve seen that to be prepared for any situation when driving, there is a long list of things to keep in your car. You need to think ahead and pack them before they’re needed, so they can you help you in emergencies.

We’ve given you four main categories of items above, from vehicle repairs to safety and personal hygiene products.

We’ve also explained in detail when and how to use each item. We’ve got you covered in any driving related emergency, from basic first aid to extreme weather conditions.

Always better to be safe than sorry!

Some of you will likely have some more items in your car that you find indispensable. What do you always take with you that you cannot do without? Let us know in the comments section below. Also, feel free to ask us if you have any additional questions.

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