What to Put in your Car Emergency Kit

We may be more fuel-economy-minded than ever, but Americans still drive a total of more than three trillion miles a year, which is around 15,000 journeys to the sun and back! Not surprisingly, a car breaks down every couple of seconds (not the same one each time, we hope!). Mostly, we are able to get back on the road swiftly, but there are times when we have to endure a longer wait, either because we don’t have the right equipment to get going again or because weather conditions won’t allow it. Sometimes, too we can get stuck in traffic for extended periods or stranded when we run out of fuel.


Of course, it’s impossible to plan for every type of emergency, but a wise motorist can eliminate or reduce the impact of most of them by carrying a well-stocked emergency kit. What goes in that really does depend on the type of journey you’re making, but let’s think right up to the most extreme type where you could become isolated. Here’s what you need:

Communication: A cell phone and, in case you’re out of range or battery power, a shrill whistle. Pen and paper.

Visibility: A powerful flashlight with extra batteries; candles; a ‘Help’ sign; roadside flares (follow safety precautions).

Fuel: A spare can of gasoline; a pack of firelighters (you can get some that don’t need matches or kindling); a cigarette lighter and/or matches.

Comfort: Sleeping bags, gloves, hats; hand-warmer packs; socks; a pocket-size waterproof poncho, and waterproof footwear.

Accessories: A multi-purpose (Swiss Army style) knife, duct tape, rags and paper towels; foldable shovel; cat litter for tire traction.

Car stuff: Antifreeze and deicer, toolset including screwdrivers, pliers and wrenches; an emergency tire repair kit and inflator; jumper cables.

Liquid: Bottled water.

Food: High energy, high calorie candy bars. You can buy special 3,600 calorie food bar packs, sealed for longevity, for around $10.

First Aid: Of course! You never go without it do you? The simplest thing is to buy a ready-made auto first aid kit.

A lot of stuff right? But you can buy a large PVC sealed container for storage. You’d be surprised how tightly you can pack things. Keep perishable stuff on the top and replace it regularly. You might opt for two kits, carrying the essentials at all times and packing the second one for long or remote journeys. You can also buy some ready-made kits that contain many of the items mentioned above. Just do an online search for “car emergency kit”. A good one will cost around $75 to $100.  Oh, and don’t forget the auto manual. It belongs in the car not the file cabinet! And, of course, never set out on any long journey without checking road and weather conditions first.

Don’t forget to ask your local insurance agent to make sure that you have roadside assistance coverage on your auto insurance policy!

image courtesy of: State Farm on Flickr

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