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What to Put in Your Year-Round Car Emergency Kit

CarShield Team

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If you’re reading this, you probably know that most people spend a generous amount of time in the car each day. That’s just for going about daily life: getting to and from work, picking up the kids, transporting groceries, going home from wherever you’ve been, and more. With that much clocked driving time, your car becomes a “living space” where you spend those accumulated hours. That’s why a stocked car emergency kit is a necessity!

Another reason you might be here is because you want to be ready for anything. When it comes to vehicular preparedness, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a list of things to pack into your car emergency kit if you want to have what you need if your car ever breaks down inconveniently (but, really, is there ever a “convenient” time?).

A List of Things to Keep You Happy and Healthy

You could think of this category a bit like you’d think of your carry-on at an airport. These items are meant to keep you and your passengers happy, safe, and healthy in case you have to wait for an extended period of time.

Shelf-Stable Food and Drinking Water

Nothing makes you hungry like anxiety (which you may be feeling if, for example, you’re worriedly waiting for help to get to you). It’s a whole new interpretation of the term “road snacks,” right?

When picking your food options, prioritize nonperishable, nutritious items with the potential to give you lots of energy. Some of these high-impact foods include beef jerky, dried fruit, nuts, granola bars, etc.

Vehicle Escape Tool

In a worst-case scenario, you may find yourself trapped in your car. Although there are a variety of reasons why your vehicle has you stuck inside of it, there are only a few ways for you to get out of it without heavy-duty tools. You may need a vehicle escape tool to cut seat belts or break windows for your own safety. Make sure you store this item in your center console or glove compartment—it’ll be useless to you if you’re in the car’s cabin and it’s all the way in the trunk.

First Aid Kit

This almost goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway. You need a first aid kit in your car, even if it’s that little mint-case-sized tin with a few bandages and some painkillers inside. Ideally, you’d be able to find a slightly more inclusive kit…but anything is better than nothing.

If possible, see if your first aid box can have as many of the following items as possible: antiseptic materials (cream, wipes, rubbing alcohol, etc.), adhesive bandages, gauze, medical tape, medical wrap, pocket knife, and whatever else you think might be useful. If you or your passengers have been injured in an accident, you’ll want to start administering help as soon as you can. Having these supplies on hand will help. Having a bit of first aid training will help even more.

One last thing to consider here is subjective to you and your passengers’ medical needs. You might need to keep a bottle of your usual pain medicine (e.g. ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc.) somewhere in the vehicle for emergencies. If you rely on any other medicines for your general health, consider leaving a small amount of it in your vehicle for emergencies. Before doing so, ask your provider about storage requirements for your meds. Avoid leaving them in the car if they cannot tolerate more extreme temperatures.

Other Ideas for Your Emergency Car Kit:

  • Rags or other hand cleaners (such as baby wipes)
  • Items to pass time (books, games, movies, etc.), especially if you are ever likely to have young passengers
  • Spare change or cash
  • Blankets
  • General car emergency kit: garbage bags, toilet paper, paper towels, etc.
  • Local and regional road maps if maps on your mobile phone aren’t available
  • Scissors and string or cord
  • A List of Things to Get Help

    Breakdowns and accidents don’t defer to your preferences for location or timing. They will happen when and where they happen, which could be when no one else is there to see it or where no one else is close by. The car emergency kit items in this category were selected to help you overcome that obstacle.

    Cell Phone and Phone Charger

    It’s probably moot to tell you that you should have your mobile phone with you, but that phone is worthless without a charge to it. Furthermore, having a dead phone during a crisis only makes a bad situation even worse. Always keep a charging cord and adapter in your car for emergencies (or even for daily use…it can’t hurt to use your drive time to keep your phone’s battery in a good spot).

    Attention-Getting Materials

    If you’re in a sticky situation, one way to help yourself get out of it is to try to snag the attention of any potential assistance nearby. To attract more attention to your vehicle when you need it, you could use flares or even brightly colored cloth (tied to your antenna or secured to a rolled-up window).

    We’re also throwing in reflective triangles here to help prevent other vehicles from colliding with yours if you experience a breakdown close to the flow of traffic.


    Don’t rely on your phone’s flashlight if you have one. Save your cell phone battery and pack a flashlight in your vehicle. Many experts recommend a battery-powered version with a supply of extra batteries in case you need them. Some car owners also opt for hand-powered torches when batteries aren’t an option.

    Either way, the flashlight is your multi-purpose tool that will help you find your way around in the dark, take a closer look at the inner workings of your vehicle, and potentially flag down help. If you have to walk to another location at night to get the help you need, then your flashlight will also help make sure that other drivers see you walking in a place where it may not be common to see pedestrians (e.g. edge of the highway).


    Even if you don’t typically listen to the radio, there may be a local radio station which can deliver crucial news to you in the event of a natural disaster or community-wide catastrophe. And, if that’s happening and you’re in your car when you need that information, there’s an increased possibility that your car radio already isn’t working. Having an extra radio will help you get around that. Make sure you have an additional power supply for your radio (e.g. batteries) if applicable.

    Extra Ideas for Your Emergency Essentials Kit:

  • Compass
  • Reflective materials
  • A List of Things to Help Your Car Out

    If you’ve been in an accident, remember that your car has also been through it with you. If possible, use the tools below to work out a solution (even if it’s temporary) to get back on the road.

    Car-Jumping Tools

    Dead battery? Get around that with one of the following tools for your vehicle emergency kit:

  • Jumper cables
  • Booster cables with a fully charged battery
  • External battery charger
  • Any of these items can help your car’s battery get enough juice to get you out of a problematic situation and over to a shop to see what happened to your battery. That is, if you don’t already know what drained your battery by accident. (Here’s your friendly reminder that all interior lights in your vehicle should be off when you exit the car.)

    If you have a plan through CarShield, though, complimentary 24/7 roadside assistance is included in the benefits available to all plan members. If you’ve enrolled in your protection plan before your car battery dies and your obligatory waiting period is over, then you won’t even have to think about who to call when your car won’t start! Just call CarShield!

    Basic Tool Kit

    Keep a general collection of basic tools in your car’s emergency kit for any small repairs your vehicle may need. Even if you think you don’t have the mechanical know-how, do keep these tools around anyway. You really never know when a credible YouTube tutorial and a few simple tools will get you through a bad day on the road.

    If you’re just starting up your tool kit, here’s a list of standard gear to consider:

  • Socket set
  • Wrench set
  • Screwdriver set
  • Torque wrench
  • Pliers
  • Zip ties
  • Wire cutter
  • Knife
  • Rubber mallet/hammer
  • Tire Care Gear

    Tire issues are one of the most common reasons your car may be sidelined. There are a variety of items you should keep in your car for when this happens. They include:

  • Spare tire
  • Tire pressure gauge to check if your wheels are low on air
  • Foam tire sealant to plug up minor punctures
  • Jack, jack stand, and lug wrench to swap tires
  • Even if you’re not comfortable with changing the tire on your own, having these tools in your emergency car kit will help ensure that those who assist you will have the right tools to work.

    This is another great example of how having a plan through CarShield as part of your car’s emergency kit can make your life so much easier. If you pop a tire, you can just contact CarShield for your complimentary roadside assistance. Then help will be sent directly to you (whether or not you packed tire car gear in your car)!

    More Ideas for Your Emergency Car Kit:

  • Gas can (many gas stations will have one to sell you, but you could always just use your own)
  • Small fire extinguisher (5-pound, Class B or Class C type) in case of car fire
  • Tow chain
  • Rope
  • Duct tape
  • Something to Help You Recover from Repairs

    Accidents and breakdowns happen in every season. The items we listed above are not exhaustive of your options to get your vehicle back in functioning condition again, but they’re a great starting point.

    Additionally, even the most well-maintained car has the potential to break down and leave you high and dry. When that happens, a protection policy through CarShield will help you take care of the bills for parts, labor, and taxes to fix your car. CarShield will also help you find the right local expert for your specific car repair. That way, you can entrust your vehicle to a professional you can trust.

      Published By  
    Sarah Solomon
    Senior Editor & Copywriter at CarShield

    Sarah is the senior editor and copywriter at CarShield. Her relationship with cars began when she started racing in the local Soap Box Derby as a kid. Now, Sarah gets to drive more complex vehicles—which is great even though she doesn't earn trophies for driving anymore. She writes out of St. Louis, MO.

    Since having CarShield, Bill has had 2 claims on his Ford F250 to save over $2,000 in repairs.
    Since having CarShield, Bill has had 2 claims on his Ford F250 to save over $2,000 in repairs.

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