Emergency conditions can happen at any time. You never know when you might find yourself facing a worst-case-scenario situation in your car. A mobile emergency kit is a great way to make sure you’re ready for anything.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Is a Car Emergency Kit?
- Best Items to Put in a Car Emergency Kit
- How to Make a DIY Car Emergency Kit
You might already have a ‘bug out bag’ or an emergency kit at home. It’s a good idea to have a separate kit just for your car. Plus, there are specific things you may need on the road that you wouldn’t need in your home kit.
Roadside emergency preparedness is a must for drivers of all experience levels. No matter where you live, an emergency can strike at any time. In this guide, we’ll share an ultimate list of items to put in a DIY car emergency kit just in case.
What Is a Car Emergency Kit?
A car emergency kit is as the name implies—it’s a bag or kit of things you can use in case you find yourself in an emergency situation in your car.
What emergencies might strike while driving?
- Car accident
- Snow, rain, hail, or bad weather
- Medical emergency
- Breakdown or vehicle damage
- Road blockage
Any of these things can leave you in an emergency situation where you need to react quickly. Whether you need to take action to fix your car, help someone in a medical crisis, or simply have enough supplies to wait for help to arrive, it’s important to be prepared.
Best Items to Put in a Car Emergency Kit
To begin, these are the items recommended for all cars in case of emergency. These are basics for all types of vehicles and drivers, no matter your climate.
1. Spare tire
It’s a good idea for a car to have some kind of spare tire in case of a flat. This spare tire needs to be inflated (or come with an inflation kit), and you’ll also need tools to get the tire on your car without needing assistance. This usually includes a wheel wrench and a tripod jack.
Remember that spare tires can go flat without you noticing. Always check your car periodically to make sure your spare is in good condition.
2. Jumper cables
A dead battery can strike when you least expect it. Even if you don’t need the cables, it’s not uncommon to encounter someone who needs a jump. Jumper cables are inexpensive, and they come in handy in a pinch. Make sure you know how to use them and keep instructions handy.
3. Reflective cloth or cones
If your car breaks down on the side of the road, it’s not always easy to keep your car visible. This can become dangerous, especially if you’re working on your car. Store reflective materials or cones in your emergency kit so that you can easily be seen day or night.
4. Flashlight and batteries
You never know when you might need a flashlight. Keeping a small flashlight or headlamp in your car along with extra batteries is a must. A flashlight has many purposes, including providing light while working on your car at night and notifying others of your location.
5. Compass and local road maps
A compass and map aren’t just for hiking. If you’re lost on the road and don’t have cell service, a compass and local road map will help you find where you’re going. They’re also helpful if you find yourself needing to walk somewhere after an accident.
6. First aid kit
A first aid kit should have basics like gauze, tape, antibiotic ointment, aspirin, a blanket, tweezers, and so on. You can put a kit together yourself or purchase a ready-made one.
7. Nonperishable food and water
Though unlikely, there are times when you might find yourself stranded on the road for an extended period of time. It might take a while for first responders to locate you, and you’ll want to have food and water for the wait.
Choose nonperishable food that’s high-energy, like unsalted nuts, hard candy, and dried fruits. Also, include a supply of safe drinking water. Also, make sure to have a plan for your pet if you travel with your furry friend often.
8. Phone charger
We’ve all experienced our phone dying when we least expect it. A cell phone charger that you can use in your car makes it easy to charge your phone on the go. You never know when you might need directions or to call for help.
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9. Duct tape
There are few things in life duct tape can’t fix. While you might not ever need it, this is something you should always have on hand in your car, just in case. From holding up a broken bumper to fixing a crack in your window’s glass, you never know when it will come in handy.
10. Rain poncho
We’ve all driven through unexpected downpours, but what happens if you have to walk? If your car breaks down in the rain, you might need to walk to find help, but don’t want to expose yourself to cold rain. A small poncho that folds up is perfect for storing in your car.
11. Emergency documents
It’s also essential to have a plan for how you store important documents in your vehicle. These documents include insurance, roadside assistant information, emergency contacts, and vehicle registration. Secure these documents somewhere easy to find, like your glove department, in a safe organizer, so they don’t get lost.
12. Fire extinguisher
Having your vehicle catch on fire is a nightmare. A fire extinguisher is the best way to stay safe if the worst does happen, and it helps you react quickly and effectively.
Best Items to Put in an Emergency Car Kit for Snow
Do you live in a climate where snow is possible? Even if there isn’t much snow, driving in any kind of frosty weather means there’s a higher risk. You could find yourself trapped in a snowbank or with a vehicle breakdown in the cold. These things are must-haves if you drive in a cold climate.
13. Candle-powered heater
If you’re broken down or stuck in winter weather, keeping your car warm is a must. Eventually, you’ll run out of gas, and you need an alternative way to stay warm. You can make a simple, DIY candle-powered heater with a metal can, small candle, and a lighter. Keep these supplies handy, and you’ll find this to be a surprisingly effective heater in a car.
14. Safety absorbent
Safety absorbent is a way to help your car gain traction if you’re driving on ice or you find yourself stuck. You can make some yourself with cat litter, but having store-bought safety absorbent works even better. You can purchase some at any auto store or online.
While you likely won’t want to keep this in your car all year long, a shovel goes a long way in the winter. If you need to dig snow from your car’s wheels, a proper shovel helps you do this much faster. A foldable shovel is easy to store in your vehicle.
16. Warm hat and gloves
When you’re stuck in a car in freezing cold weather, staying warm is a top priority. An extra hat and gloves can keep you or a guest protected if you’re stranded in the cold for any amount of time. Though small, it can make all the difference.
17. Warm blanket
Last but not least, a blanket keeps you warm while you wait for help to arrive. This is a great idea to include with any first aid kit, but an extra blanket for yourself or a loved one in an emergency never hurts. Because it’s likely to get dirty in your car, choose one you don’t mind getting messy.
How to Make a DIY Car Emergency Kit
You don’t need any fancy kit or equipment to make a DIY car emergency kit. You likely already have many of these things around your home or already in your car. From there, follow these steps.
Step 1: Choose a container
You’ll need a container to keep all your must-haves out of the way and organized. This keeps them from getting mixed with grocery bags, luggage, or other things you’re driving around in your car.
The most common option for a DIY car emergency kit is to pack everything in a plastic bin or sturdy box. This gives you enough space for heavy-duty equipment, but everything is still safely stored in its own spot.
Step 2: Customize your kit
Now it’s time to gather everything on the list that suits your needs. Consider your climate and vehicle type. For example, suppose you have an electric vehicle. In that case, you might not need to add jumper cables to your emergency car kit. Similarly, if you live in a warm climate, you might not need a snow shovel.
It’s also good to recognize that your kit might change throughout the year. If you live in a seasonal climate, having a separate kit for wintertime is a good idea since your emergency needs change with the seasons.
Step 3: Familiarize yourself with your items
Make sure you know how to use the things in your kit before an emergency strikes. Because you might panic in an emergency, knowing how to change a tire, dig snow, and fix a flat is a great idea.
Don’t be afraid to print simple guides, maps, and how-to articles to keep with your DIY emergency car kit for extra security. This ensures you’re never confused about how to take care of the basics.
Step 4: Review safe driving tips
Last but not least, the best way to stay prepared on the road can’t be found in any kit. It’s all about knowing how to drive safely in extreme weather — or staying off the road altogether.
Familiarize yourself with what to do if you get in an accident or find yourself stranded. Learn when you need to turn on your hazards and when it is safe to leave your vehicle. You might also wish to invest in roadside assistance through your insurance.
Alternative: Purchase a pre-made kit
Lastly, there are also premade emergency kits designed for cars. These are a great option if you want something ready-to-go or don’t have time to put a kit together yourself.
The Inex Life Roadside Emergency Kit has 112 pieces to help you stay safe on the road. However, you’ll want to check your kit to make sure it has the things you’ll need specifically for your situation. You can always add anything that’s missing.
Stay Prepared on the Road
Just as you look up emergency flights last-minute, you’ll also want to be prepared for anything that might happen on the road. Driving is something most of us do every day, but it can turn dangerous in just a second.
Being prepared is key. Put together your own DIY car emergency kit just in case. Though you might never need to use it, it’s always good to be prepared for uncertainty. Accidents and bad weather can strike at any time, and you’ll want to have what you need if the time does come.