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The Complete Guide to Assembling a Top-Notch Car Emergency Kit

The average American spends a considerable amount of time in their car per year…290-plus hours, in fact!

When we spend all this time in our vehicles, the likelihood of us experiencing some form of emergency goes up considerably. Unfortunately, too many people don’t prepare themselves for that eventuality.

Don’t be caught off guard! Here’s our complete guide to setting up your own car emergency kit.

Some basic car emergency kit supplies on the road near a car

Basic Emergency Supplies

Car-Compatible Phone Charger

In case of just about any emergency, you want a car-compatible phone charger in your car emergency kit.

Your phone is your lifeline in any emergency, especially if you’re stranded for some length of time. The last thing you want is for it to die on you in your hour of need!

If your car doesn’t have a USB port, you can get an adapter that plugs into your car lighter.

Power Bank

In case your car’s power quits on you, having a power bank can save the day.

A power bank is a handheld power source you can use to charge your phone and other devices.

Make sure the power bank is fully charged itself before you stash it in your car, and make sure it’s compatible with the type of charger you use for your phone.

First Aid Kit

A basic first-aid kit is the bare minimum you need in your car emergency kit.

There are other items you should add in case of specific emergencies, but we’ll discuss those shortly.

If your chosen first aid kit doesn’t have space to hold extra supplies, consider getting a larger container to keep everything in.

Water and Food

Water and food are an important addition to your car emergency kit for any emergency.

Water should be your top priority. Always keep water bottles, gallon containers, or pouches in your car.

If you can, store non-perishable foods in your kit as well. Things like granola bars, jerky, or even emergency rations are good choices for this.


A flashlight can assist with weather emergencies, repair emergencies, or any emergency that occurs at night.

It’s best to have a source of light on hand in case you need to illuminate the innards of your car’s engine or flag down help in the midst of poor visual conditions.

Jumper Cables

Jumper cables are a basic necessity everyone should have in their car, not just as part of their car emergency kit.

If your car battery dies on you, leaving you stranded, jumper cables are likely going to be your only hope to bring it back to life.

These cables can prevent what could otherwise become a full-fledged emergency.

Gas Can and Funnel

In case of fuel issues, you always want to keep an empty gas can and a funnel in your car emergency kit.

If you run out of gas and end up stuck on the side of the road, this will allow you to head to the nearest gas station, fill up your gas can, and return to fuel your car.

You can do this by sticking the funnel in your gas tank and pouring the gas in.

What You Need for a Winter Emergency

A woman and child standing in the snow next to a car with a safety road triangle near it. Winter car emergency concept.


When trapped out in the cold, blankets are a must for keeping your body temperature up and preventing frostbite or hypothermia.

In addition to regular blankets, add some wearable thermal blankets to your kit. Thermal blankets are designed to preserve body heat.

Winter Gear

Winter gear such as hats, gloves, and snow boots are important for a few reasons.

Firstly, like blankets, they offer extra warmth and protection from the dangers of cold weather.

Secondly, if you have to venture outside the car for any reason, you’ll want to have better-than-average winter wear available to you.

Cat Litter

This item might sound out of place in a car emergency kit, but it will actually be one of the key players in your attempt to get unstuck!

If your car can’t get any traction on snow and ice, you can spill cat litter around your tires to create traction of your own.

Ice Scraper

If you end up stuck in one place for some time during a winter storm, ice could quickly end up gathering on your car’s exterior. If you do manage to get unstuck, you still won’t be able to drive safely without clearing the ice away.

Keep an ice scraper in your car emergency kit to ensure you’ll be able to restore visibility before driving.


In the midst of a blizzard, it’s extremely difficult to see anything in front of you, let alone a car stuck on the side of the road.

To keep yourself and other drivers safe, include reflective triangles in your car emergency kit. This will pierce through the heavy snow and let other drivers know to steer clear.

Snow Shovel

In addition to cat litter, a snow shovel is extremely helpful when you need to get yourself free from a snow bank.

You don’t have to keep a giant one in your trunk. Instead, get a compact snow shovel that won’t hog your entire storage space!

Hand Warmers

Hand warmers are a perfect way to provide extra heat to your extremities safely. You can protect yourself from frostbite by keeping these hand warmers in your pockets, gloves, and/or boots.

What You Need for a Health Emergency

Man reaching for a car first aid kit.

Baby Aspirin

If you suspect that you or someone else in the car is having a heart attack, you’ll want to have baby aspirin on hand.

Make sure you or your passenger chews the aspirin before swallowing; do not swallow whole. It won’t be effective fast enough if you don’t chew it.

Keep at least 160 mg worth of aspirin in your car emergency kit at all times. This is the recommended dose when a heart attack is suspected.

Emergency Contact Sheet

In case you are incapacitated or otherwise unable to share your emergency contacts (or call them yourself), make sure you have a list of their names, numbers, and relationship to you close at hand.

One way to do this is by labeling their numbers in your phone as “ICE”–In Case of Emergency. This will probably be the first place your first responders look.

Otherwise, you can keep a physical list in your car or wallet.

Medications and Health Conditions Sheet

We aren’t usually thinking our clearest in the midst of a traumatic situation, and we can easily forget important information. When you’re being treated by paramedics, they will likely ask you about medications you’re taking and health conditions you may have.

In case you’re not in the right state of mind to accurately list all of them, especially if you have family members with their own medications and conditions, make comprehensive lists and keep them in your individual wallets or glove box.

EpiPen And/Or Allergy Medication

In case of an unexpected allergic reaction, keep allergy medicine in your first-aid kit.

If you or a family member have a known severe allergy, it’s best to keep a spare EpiPen in the car…provided you live in an area with fairly stable temperatures.

Severe heat or cold exposure can ruin an EpiPen. If you don’t want to risk damaging it, keep the EpiPen in something you will remember to take with you every day, such as a lunch bag or purse.

Spare Inhaler

If you or a family member are asthmatic, keep a spare inhaler in your car emergency kit. If an attack hits while you’re out and you don’t have your inhaler on you, you’ll want a spare close by.

What You Need for a Weather or Water Emergency

Person driving in heavy rain.


You want to include a radio in your car emergency kit to keep yourself apprised of any changes or oncoming dangers in severe weather situations.

Window Breaker

If your car becomes submerged in water, the best way to escape is to roll your windows down before impact or immersion. However, sometimes there isn’t enough time to do so.

In these cases, you need a car window breaker on hand in order to escape a sinking car.

Windshield Washer Fluid

The worst time to run out of windshield washer fluid is when you’re trapped in bad weather. Always keep some extra on hand in case you run out at an inopportune time.

What You Need for a Repair Emergency

A woman changing a flat tire.

Spare Tire

If you can have a spare tire ready to go in case of a flat, that’s ideal. If you don’t have room in your trunk, you can always buy a spare tire mount to put on the back of your car.

Tire Patch

If a spare tire isn’t available–or more than one tire pops–it’s smart to include a tire patching set in your car emergency kit as a backup.


If you can fit it, a full toolbox will make your life infinitely easier in the event of a roadside repair.

Car Jack

Changing a tire requires the use of a car jack. If you don’t have one in your car emergency kit, you’ll ber stranded on the side of the road even if you have a spare!

Duct Tape

If all else fails, duct tape will step up and be your hero.

In most cases, duct tape can at least hold your car together until you can make it to the nearest car repair shop. It’s certainly not a permanent fix, but it’s better than nothing.

What You Need in Case of a Crash

Two cars that have collided in an accident.

Insurance Information

Particularly in the case of minor car crashes, you’ll want to have your insurance information as easily accessible as possible. This will save you time and hassle when trying to trade information with the owner of the other affected car.


In case of wounds that are bleeding heavily and unable to be staunched, a tourniquet is a key piece of any car emergency kit. Tourniquets often save lives in car crashes.

Bandages and Dressings

Bandages and dressings are basic first aid items that should be included with your first aid kit. However, you may want to stock extras just in case.


Antiseptics are crucial for preventing infection while treating wounds. Antiseptic spray is the cleanest and most effective method, though you can also use antiseptic wipes.

Burn Gel

Car crashes can result in friction burns, chemical burns, or burns caused by exploding elements in the car. Having burn gel on hand will ensure you can treat these injuries without issue.

Medical Gloves

Having gloves on hand in your car emergency kit is crucial for preventing infection or the spread of bloodborne pathogens.

Always sanitize your hands and put gloves on before attempting to treat someone who’s been in a crash.


In order to cut bandages and open other medical supplies as needed, you will need scissors.

You also may need to cut through clothing in order to properly bandage a wound or a apply a tourniquet.

Seatbelt Cutter

When you get into a crash, your seatbelt is designed to lock in place as a safety feature.

However, this makes it extremely difficult to extricate someone from a crashed car.

A seatbelt cutter should always be kept close at hand in your car emergency kit. While you shouldn’t attempt to take anyone out of a crashed car without the assistance of paramedics, you can help speed the process along by having it cut when they arrive.

First Aid Guide

First aid guides often include guidelines to numerous medical emergencies, from heart attacks and strokes to anaphylaxis and performing CPR.

This should be kept in your basic first aid kit, but it’s especially important to have on hand in the event of a crash.

Hand Sanitizer

Ideally, you’d always want to wash your hands before giving someone first aid. However, in the event of a car crash, you won’t have the option to do so.

Hand sanitizer is the next best thing. Try to track down a hand sanitizer with no less than 60% alcohol content. Higher is better.

Car Emergency Kit FAQ

Are pre-made car emergency kits worth it?

Pre-made car emergency kits don’t include everything on this list, and the items they do include are usually lower-quality.

However, if you’re building a car emergency kit on a budget, they can help you acquire more of these items at a lower cost. Having something is always better than having nothing!

How often should I replace supplies in my car emergency kit?

As a general rule, go through your first aid kit and other health-related items every six months. Water and rations should be swapped out once a year.

What should I avoid including in my car emergency kit?

Do not include any gas-powered burners or space heaters in your car emergency kit. Because the car is an enclosed space, you run the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning or asphyxiation, depending on what gas is used for the fuel.

Now That You’re Prepared, Hit the Road with Confidence!

A bag with car emergency kit supplies in it.

With a comprehensive car emergency kit, you can take on anything from a ten-minute trip to the grocery store to a weeks-long road trip adventure!

For more information on using common items for survival, visit our Everyday Items section now!