Updated June 5, 2021 . AmFam Team
Filling up your gas tank, changing your oil and having the right car insurance in place are all responsibilities as a car owner. Another way you can be responsible — and better prepared for an emergency — is by keeping a car emergency kit in your vehicle. Having a well-built car emergency kit can help you when you face the unexpected by keeping you safe, getting you back on the road quicker and helping you stay less stressed in an emergency.
We spend a lot of time every day driving in our cars. From accidentally sliding off the shoulder of an icy road to managing minor medical issues at a state park, there are a lot of emergency situations you’ll encounter on the road. Here are a few examples:
Because situations like these may require immediate medical attention or specific tools, you should think about building a car emergency kit for yourself. A DIY car emergency kit can help you be better prepared when the unexpected happens. With one, you’re more likely to have the right tools on hand to make repairs. And with the right stock of medical supplies in your car, odds are you’ll be able to more easily attend to medical emergencies.
A comprehensive car emergency kit contains all the equipment you’ll need in case of common roadside emergencies like a flat tire or depleted battery. However, there are some “must have” things you should definitely include in your kit that can help you in a variety of situations. Here’s our go-to list of what you should have in your car’s emergency kit:
Use it in case of emergency as a light for repairs, to read your owner’s manual or as a signal for other motorists. Check batteries every month or two. Hint: Pack a few extra batteries — they last longest when stored in cool places. Remember, your smart phone probably has a flashlight too!
These items help warn other drivers to potential hazards in or near the road. It’s especially important to use warning lights or you hazard flashers during the night or when visibility is limited.
Every driver should have a first aid kit in their car in case of injury. Here are some items you should definitely include:
Take a peek at our safety checklist of other must-haves for staying safe and protected while on the road.
A good blanket can help keep you warm if extreme weather conditions leave you and your car stranded. Shop for a quality, light-weight blanket that can provide insulation and heat to protect you from the elements. You may want to consider investing in an “emergency blanket” that can double as a sleeping bag as well.
If your battery dies or your car won’t start, it takes just a few moments to get a jump if you already have the cables in hand. Need a refresher? Check out our step-by-step guide to learn how to jump start a car.
Although jumper cables will jumpstart your car if another vehicle can help, what if another car isn’t nearby? That’s when a portable car charger can be a huge help. They’re easy to operate, so consider investing in one of these to boost your battery when the unexpected happens.
Everyone’s favorite short-term fix-it. Use duct tape from your car emergency kit to secure up a dragging bumper, a cracked window or temporarily seal a leaky hose.
Store a waterproof drop cloth and a compact umbrella with your tire changing kit. They’ll provide a dry surface to work on or rain cover when you really need it.
You'll need these to change a flat tire. They should already be part of your tire changing kit, but verify they’re working right — if you haven’t seen them for a while — especially before a road trip.
Won’t you be relieved to have an extra fuse if you blow a fuse that runs windshield wipers or lights? Your owner’s manual can help you locate your car’s fuse boxes and tell you what fuses to use where.
Keep it on your key chain, or store it in your glove box — use this tool to break a window if your car becomes submerged. Some flashlights even have them. Ask for them at any auto parts store. The good ones will also contain a protected knife that can help you cut a seat belt in emergencies.
A quick check lets you know if your tires are inflated to the right level or let you know if you need to fill them up. Check out our car maintenance tips for more info on how to quickly and correctly check your tire pressure.
Philips head and flathead screwdrivers, wrench, pliers and socket wrench are must haves in a car emergency kit. A multi-tool device is also handy if space is limited.
You never want to find yourself out of important car fluids when needed. The ones you should consider having on hand are:
Keeping these in your car prevents you from having to find a store or running to a mechanic.
A tow rope — or tow strap — can be used to secure your vehicle to another. If your car needs to be towed and contacting a tow truck isn’t an option, this tool can save a lot of time and money.
Car fires can be very dangerous, so always make sure your vehicle has a fire extinguisher. Make sure your extinguisher is classified as both class B and C. This means it can effectively put out the most common types of car fires that are caused by gas or another flammable liquids — and electrical fires too.
Keeping a supply of non-perishable foods in your emergency kit be a lifesaver if you’re stranded on the road. Consider keeping food and drink like these in your kit:
Once you’ve assembled all the basic items needed for your emergency car kit, make sure you inform your family. Let them know where they can find everything and the safety kit’s physical location. Be sure they’re familiar with the tools in the kit, like the flares and fire extinguishers. That way you and your entire family will know what to do when the unexpected happens — while out on the road.
Your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) is always there to help protect you when you’re on the road or at home. Ask them about our Travel Peace of Mind Package including Emergency Roadside Assistance so you can travel with confidence wherever the road takes you.