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Assembling an Emergency Car Kit: The Basics and Beyond

Published: October 2018

Whether it's a summer road trip, a winter commute or just a little excursion with the kids, it's never a good time to be stranded on the side of the road. That's where an emergency car kit can help. Filled with essentials to help you weather a range of calamities, it's a stowaway in your trunk that can offer peace of mind.

Here's a rundown of the basics — a number of add-ons you may not have thought of — so you can build out a roadside emergency kit you can rely on.

Reflective triangle on roadside behind car.

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Basic Emergency Car Kit

Every car kit should begin with some general emergency supplies. Here are some of the essentials recommended by the National Safety Council and Ready.gov:

  • Spare tire, wheel wrench and jack
  • Jumper cables
  • Basic tool kit and/or multipurpose tool
  • Local road maps (in case your GPS and phone are without power)
  • Flares or reflective triangles
  • Blankets
  • Car cellphone charger
  • Drinking water
  • Food (nonperishables, like protein bars or dried fruit)
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Duct tape

Ready.gov also suggests keeping emergency numbers in your phone so that you can contact family, your auto insurance company and roadside assistance or a towing company.

Customize Your Kit: Other Helpful Supplies

You can probably picture a scenario where a basic kit simply isn't enough. Is there a baby in tow? Are you driving in snowy season? Here are some additional car supplies recommended by Ready.gov, the American Red Cross and The Survival Mom, that may help:

Baby Items

A few essentials can save the day if your normally well-stocked diaper bag runs short. Consider keeping these items on hand:

  • Formula
  • Bottles
  • Diapers
  • Diaper cream
  • Wipes

You may also want to supplement with additional items that make sense for your own baby, like a blankie, toy or pacifier.

Pet Supplies

If your furry friend is a frequent car companion, it makes sense to stow these supplies for him, too:

  • Pet food
  • Water
  • Feeding/watering bowls
  • Leash
  • Chew toy or other comfort item

Sanitation Items

It may not be the first thing you think of, but basic sanitation items can be very helpful when you're stranded in the car. Having these items on hand may be helpful:

  • Four-pack of toilet paper
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Feminine products
  • Zipper bags in various sizes to hold trash and wet items

Weather Gear

Consider adding these items to your kit depending on the season and weather:

  • Ice scraper and shovel
  • Sand or kitty litter (to aid tire traction)
  • Hand/foot warmers
  • Rain ponchos
  • Battery-powered fan
  • Sunblock
  • Winter/summer hats
  • Insect repellant

Boredom Fighters

Sometimes it takes a while before you or a professional can repair your vehicle and get you back on the road. A few distractions can help keep tempers in check:

  • Deck of cards
  • Books
  • Notepads and pens

Once you assemble your supplies, you'll want to store them in sturdy container, like a large vacuum-seal bag or a plastic storage bin. But don't just forget about it. Experts say it's important to check and refresh supplies once or twice a year, so they're in good condition for whatever the road throws your way.

Related Resources:

Our pages are filled with helpful tips and information about the topics that most of us face in our everyday lives. We focus on safety and maintenance issues with regard to your home, auto, apartment, motorcycle, boat, small business, finances and more. Please recognize that a particular tip may not be effective in every circumstance and that taking preventive measures cannot guarantee any outcome. We encourage you to use your own good judgment about what's appropriate for you and your property and always consider safety.
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