Car Emergency Kit List

When assembling a car survival kit to pack in your car, the key is to expect the unexpected. Encountering a heavy storm on a mountain overpass, getting lost in a back country, crashing in an area without cell service, or encountering flooded roads are all potential scenarios. Start your kit by assembling basic emergency supplies.

Download a Car Emergency Kit  Checklist

First aid kit

A first aid kit in your car helps you treat injuries and ailments on the road. A kit can contain bandages, cotton pads, medical tape, curved scissors, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic wipes, ibuprofen and antihistamines, hot and cold packs, and tweezers. Additional items can include instructions for CPR and other first-aid treatments.


Water, of course, is a necessity. If possible, keep a supply in your trunk: one gallon per person per day for three days.

Non-perishable food

Packing food in your kit will keep you fed in an emergency situation. Non-perishable foods like granola bars, nuts, soup, jerky, and dried fruit are great options.


Cold weather can bring an extra layer of danger if you’re stranded and your car won’t start. Make sure to pack a blanket for every person in your household.

Seat belt cutter and window breaker tools

In an accident, a seat belt can jam or car doors become unusable. A seat belt cutter and window breaker tool can help passengers escape, especially if the risk of a fire is present.

Fire extinguisher

After an accident or with some kinds of breakdowns, engine fire can be a risk.

Cellphone and charger

Keep a cellphone (and extra cellphone charger) to call roadside assistance or AAA for towing in case of a breakdown, accident, or weather disaster.

Duct tape

Duct tape is the ultimate tool. It can serve multiple purposes, including:

  • bandaging a large wound
  • insulating hot car parts during repairs
  • temporarily containing engine leaks
  • serving as an emergency seat belt
  • holding a muffler or bumper in place
  • forming a makeshift cup for water

Yellow or red duct tape can even act as temporary taillights.

Roadside Emergency Kit List

A smartphone is useful in a jam — but batteries can drain, signals get spotty, and cell towers occasionally go dark. Even with a working phone, it could be a long while before help arrives. A well-prepared roadside emergency kit will get you through unanticipated events when help is unavailable. Include these items:


Include a heavy-duty, waterproof flashlight and extra batteries in your kit to help you see under the hood or out in the night if you’re stranded.


Every roadside emergency kit should contain basic tools. You can remove hubcaps with a screwdriver or tighten battery terminals with a wrench or pliers. A multi-tool, pocket knife, and WD-40 are also useful.

Road flares or reflective triangles

During an emergency, road flares or reflective triangles let other motorists know a hazard is ahead, and flashers signal that you need help.

Tow strap or tow rope

With a tow strap or tow rope, other motorists can pull you out of a ditch or mud on the side of the road.


If your car overheats too badly, it can crack your engine. Be sure to have coolant to refill your radiator when needed.

Jumper cables

If your car battery drains and professional help is out of reach, jumper cables can make the difference between being stuck for hours or days. Many people are happy to stop and offer a jump to a stranded motorist with a dead battery when needed.

Tire gauge

Use a tire pressure gauge to keep an eye on your tire pressure, especially when traveling in extreme hot or cold weather.

Spare tire

A blown tire can happen anywhere and should be replaced immediately with a spare tire. Many cars come equipped with a spare, but not all, so make sure you’ve got one. They’re often stored in a recess under the floor of the trunk.

Tire iron and jack

A tire iron and jack are usually stored in the trunk with the spare, but check beforehand to make sure they’re there, and that the tire tool or lug wrench will fit the lugnuts on your tires.

Aerosol tire sealant

Fix-a-flat or another aerosol tire sealant is great in a pinch to seal smaller leaks. You may be able to drive a short distance on a tire filled this way.

Winter Car Emergency Kit List

Winter comes with special dangers that motorists should be prepared to handle. You don’t need to carry your winter car kit year-round, but during the colder months, the following items help you navigate wintry road conditions.

Non-clumping kitty litter

Non-clumping cat litter is useful in wintry conditions, helping the car gain traction out of slippery spots. A bag of litter also helps add weight in your trunk to stabilize and improve traction.

Ice scraper and snow brush

Even without snow, freezing temperatures can create a thick layer of ice on windows. Keep a heavy-duty ice scraper with a snow brush on the other end to remove snow from the rest of your vehicle.

Foldable shovel

Have a foldable shovel on hand to dig out snow from under tires before you spread kitty litter under them.

Hand warmers

From using tools to dialing a cell phone, it’s difficult to do anything to help yourself if your fingers are frozen. Even worse, frostbite is a severe danger. Make sure you pack chemical hand warmers, which can provide heat from 1 to 10 hours.

Emergency blanket

An emergency blanket is an item you don’t realize you need until you need it. It’s a shockingly versatile tool that can prevent body heat loss, collect water, serve as a rain poncho or makeshift shelter, work as a flotation device, or reflect light to signal for help.

Storing Your Car Emergency Kit

Store your car DIY car emergency kit in an easy-to-grab duffel bag or plastic bin in your trunk or backseat floor, or a built-in toolbox, if you have one.

Food should be stored in a food-grade bucket or plastic dry cooler, which you can include inside your car or as a separate container with your car emergency kit. Be sure to check your kit every 6 months to update expired items.