You Need a Car Emergency Kit. Here’s What To Put in It

No matter how much you love being in your car, you'll love it less if you're stranded. Keeping an emergency kit in the car, one with with all the right things, will help.

A Girls Guide To Cars | You Need A Car Emergency Kit. Here'S What To Put In It - Car Emergency Kit Fire Extinguisher Amazon Jill
See where this little fire extinguisher fits? Photo: Amazon

Being unprepared is your first mistake.

Confucius said, “A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble at his door.” We say smart women know planning is important, so we get it done. Consider this your nudge to make a car emergency kit or check the one you already have.

No matter how much you love your car, being stranded due to an emergency probably is not your idea of a good time. If you don’t have an emergency kit in your car, now is the time to add this to your to-do list. Whether you’re preparing for a big road trip or you’re getting your car ready for the winter season, being ready for the unexpected will help you navigate tough terrain when life throws you a curve ball. Here are the basics you need in your car emergency kit.

Related: 100 Things You Should Always Keep in Your Car

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Premade Car Emergency Kit.

If you don’t want to build your car emergency kit, there are many premade kits available. Photo: Amazon.

Premade Car Emergency Kits

If you don’t want to assemble a car emergency kit from scratch, here are several options for premade kits. These have most of the items you might need, although you might want to augment it with items such as a phone charger and food and water.

These emergency kits run between $30 and $100, depending on their contents. Please don’t purchase an emergency kit without knowing what’s inside. In other words, don’t just buy one on Amazon, toss it into your trunk and call it good.

Car Emergency Kit

The HLWDFLZ car emergency kit is a standout in pink. Photo: Amazon

Building Your Car Emergency Kit From Scratch? Here’s What You Need

If you don’t want to buy a premade car emergency kit, consider what you need to have in your home made kit.

Cell Phone Charger

Being out of juice is never a good idea, so confirm that you have an extra power supply and a charging cable to get you through any unforeseen situation. Try not to leave your house with a nearly dead phone, especially if you know you’ll be driving for a while.

Car First Aid Kit.

A car first aid kit can take care of minor emergencies and illnesses if you’re stranded. Photo: Amazon.

First Aid Kit

These come premade or you can build your own. A first aid kit should include the basics to address minor medical issues until you can get more extensive help if needed and a few over-the-counter medications if you or your passengers become ill on the road.

Basics include instant/chemical cold and hot packs, disposable gloves, scissors, tweezers, cotton balls and Q-tips, sterile eyewash, hand sanitizer, adhesive bandages and anti-bacterial cream. Also consider aspirin and non-aspirin pain relievers, antidiarrheal medication, cold medication, Calamine lotion or another remedy to treat insect bites or rashes, allergy medication, and sunscreen.

Also, add any medication you can’t be without for an extended period, such as an EpiPen for anyone with severe allergies. 

Here’s a selection of small premade first aid kits that are perfect to keep in your car:

If you use something from your car’s first aid kit, make sure you replace it once your emergency has been resolved.

A Girls Guide To Cars | You Need A Car Emergency Kit. Here'S What To Put In It - Blanket Car Emergency Kit Amazon Jill 2

A wool blanket like this one from Arcturus is a must for your car emergency kit. Photo: Amazon

Blanket or Warm Clothing

You’ll want to make sure you’ll be able to keep warm if you’re stranded without the ability to use your car’s heater. If you live in a cold, snowy climate, you’ll want to have heavier blankets and warm coats during winter, but even if you live in a milder climate, you should have something.

If you don’t bundle up for shorter trips in the cold or have a teenager allergic to outerwear, make a habit of enforcing the “Take a coat” rule. Throw in a beanie and warm gloves, too.

Related: A Fashion Emergency Kit For Your Car

Drinking Water and Snacks for Everyone In The Car

You’ll want to ensure you have food and water to get you through any waiting period between whatever emergency you encounter and receiving help. Stock on the side of caution and have enough emergency supplies for everyone in the car, so if you have a family of four but take most of your car trips by yourself, make sure you have enough rations for all four of you.

This doesn’t have to be fancy. Think about what snacks will get you through a three-hour wait for a tow truck when it’s snowing. Protein bars, nuts, jerky, and prepackaged cookies and crackers work great. If you usually travel with pets, include some emergency pet food and include your pet in your water rations.

Related: Travel-Friendly Snacks the Whole Family Will Enjoy

Kid-Specific Items

If you have little ones, make sure you have extra diapers and wipes. Most parents don’t leave the house without a stocked diaper bag, but Murphy’s Law says whatever car emergency you have will be after you use your last diaper. Keep a few spares in your car’s emergency kit – check them periodically to ensure they’re the right size.

Related: Car Seats and Winter Coats Don’t Mix

A Girls Guide To Cars | You Need A Car Emergency Kit. Here'S What To Put In It - Car Emergency Kit Fire Extinguisher Amazon Jill

See where this little fire extinguisher fits? Photo: Amazon

Fire Extinguisher

An engine bursting into flames is a car scenario no one likes to think about, so add one of these small-size fire extinguishers in your Amazon cart, put it in your car, and don’t think about it again unless you need it.

Make sure you are checking your fire extinguisher at the recommended interval.

Flashlight with Extra, Fresh Batteries

Yes, we’re all pretty used to using the flashlight app on our phones, but if you’re truly stranded, you will want to conserve your cell phone battery as much as possible.

Grab this handy four-pack of mini flashlights for your household’s cars. Throw a spare in your purse or backpack. Make sure you check batteries periodically to ensure they still work.

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Jumper cables are an essential part of your car’s emergency kit. Photo: Amazon.

Jumper Cables or Better, a Battery Pack

Your car’s battery can die for a number of reasons: It needs to be replaced or someone leaves on an interior light or a door slightly open. If you can give the battery a charge, you can quickly be on your way, which is a reason to carry jumper cables. Or better, carry a battery pack; while jumper cables require another car to supply the power, a battery pack provides the power for you, as well as USB ports for charging other things. Either way, you can usually be on your way pretty quickly. These are also great to have in case you find yourself in the position to help someone else out.

Traction Aid For Cars And Suvs.

Traction aid for cars and SUVs. Photo: Amazon

Traction Aid

If you regularly travel to someplace snowy or sandy, or live somewhere where Mud Season is a regular thing, having traction aids in your trunk can be a day-saver. The old stand-by is sand, salt, or non-clumping cat litter to neutralize slippery surfaces, though they can melt or be quickly absorbed by wet surfaces. A more reliable solution are traction mats; place them under  under your tires in the direction you need to go. And keep footwear in mind when weather and road conditions are messy; if you’re stranded and need to get out of your car, slipping and falling on ice will only worsen your situation.

Ice Scraper and Snow Brush

Even those (like me) who live in warm climates will encounter the occasional frosty window. An ice scraper – a proper ice scraper and not your driver’s license – and a snow brush will help you clean your windows quickly and easily. Or, grab this scraper/brush combo.

Emergency Triangle Set

Get a set of three emergency triangles – included in many premade car emergency kits – and use them to alert other motorists to your disabled vehicle, if necessary. Only pull off to the side of the road in a true emergency. If you can safely reach a parking lot or escape a busy highway, do that.

A Girls Guide To Cars | You Need A Car Emergency Kit. Here'S What To Put In It - Safety Vest Car Emergency Kit Amazon Jill

This safety vest from XIAKE comes in a variety of colors. Photo: Amazon

Reflective Safety Vest

Pulling off on a busy highway or in an area where other drivers can’t see you is dangerous; it’s usually advisable to stay in your car with the emergency flashers on until help arrives if you can’t be outside it safely.

And if you have to pull off the road, find a place with good lighting, near businesses and other people; you’ll be safer. A woman alone with a broken-down car is a magnet for predators.

However, if you have to be outside your vehicle when it’s dark or in bad weather, wear a reflective vest to increase your visibility so others can see you. And, although no one would call a reflective vest a must-have fashion accessory, this one we found on Amazon does come in a nice, bright pink. It comes in several other color choices, too. 

Make sure you purchase your vest large enough to fit over your outerwear.

A Girls Guide To Cars | You Need A Car Emergency Kit. Here'S What To Put In It - Elextridy Expo Trunk Space In The Kia Ev9 Kim S

There is plenty of space in the Kia EV9 to keep your car emergency kit. Photo: Kim S.

Rotating Your Stock and Checking Your Emergency Supplies

Do a periodic check of your car emergency supplies and make sure everything is in good working order. You obviously can’t leave a cell phone charging block or conventional batteries in your car for an extended period and expect them to work when needed, so make sure you’re rotating or checking these items regularly.

Rivian'S Cabin Climate Control Keeps Pets Safe And Comfortable In Cab. Photo: Kymri Wilt

Being prepared with a car emergency kit will help all passengers in times of distress. Photo: Kymri Wilt

Other Safety and Preparedness Tips

If you don’t know basic car care skills, such as how to use jumper cables or change a flat tire, put these things on your list of things to learn. Or, when the emergency is bigger than your kit can handle, keep your roadside assistance plan information on your phone, in your glove box and in your handbag. 

Know how to use your car’s connected services; most new cars have an app and an on-board call button that allow you to talk to a human if you run into trouble. OnStar, BlueLink and others offer extended services by subscription, complimentary basic services for a few years and emergency services for free.

Always make sure someone knows your plans. This can be as simple as sending the friend you’re meeting a text when you leave the house, to investing in location tracking apps, such as Life 360, that allow you to see the physical location and other details about those you assign to your circle. 

And then, head out on the road and enjoy the ride!

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Jill is the oldest mom with the youngest kids pretty much everywhere she goes. She has a 29-year-old daughter... More about Jill Robbins