32 Emergency Essentials to Always Have in Your Car

You know that saying, “It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it”? Well, that applies to what’s in your car in an emergency.

The best time to prepare your vehicle for just about any possible situation is before it happens. 

Maybe you’re a parent sending your child off in their own car for the first time, a new car buyer, or you simply haven’t thought about it yet. No matter where you’re at in your car-ownership life, it’s time to review what’s inside your vehicle and make sure you have these 32 emergency essentials easily accessible.

1. Five Light Sources

The first thing you’re going to want to do is to get your vehicle (and yourself) visible. It may be daylight when you first pull over, but if you’re stuck there for a while, you don’t want to be trying to dig for lights at the last minute.

Keep various light sources in your trunk, including a flashlight, headlamp, and appropriate batteries. Check on the batteries every six months or so and ensure they aren’t corroding.

Add flares and a reflective triangle to this kit. If you’re stranded in the dark, these will come in handy to let drivers know you’re there. Some people use emergency traffic cones, although others don’t like them because they’re large and will take up a lot of room in the trunk. Reflective triangles do a similar job without taking up that space, which matters if your trunk is full or you’re preparing your motorcycle for emergencies in case of an accident or breakdown.

2. Eleven Tools

Next, there are some must-have tools that come in handy for most occasions. 

If your car won’t start, you’ll want to have heavy-duty jumper cables on hand in case the vehicle that wants to give you a jump doesn’t have any. Or, skip waiting on another car and invest in a portable power bank. You need an electrical outlet, and the power bank charges the car quickly.

Make-Your-Own 10-Item Toolkit

You never know when you’ll need a specific tool to help someone else or fix something in your vehicle, but some are more commonly used than others. Grab each of these ten items and put them together in a makeshift, handy emergency vehicle toolkit.

  • A tire pressure gauge and can of Fix-a-Flat in case of a leaking tire
  • Duct tape (you know it fixes pretty near everything)
  • A flat heat and Phillips head screwdriver
  • A multi-tool
  • Strong scissors
  • A bungee cord and cable ties

Finish your kit with heavy-duty gloves and a rain poncho if you’re working on your car in inclement weather.

3. Nine Safety Items

Accidents happen, and they don’t have to be vehicle-related. If someone in your car or around you is hurt, do you have anything on hand to help them? And if your car is stuck somewhere for a day or two or longer, would you be able to survive without outside help?

We don’t want to think about these considerations, but not too long ago, a storm in Virginia shut down part of I-95 and stranded hundreds of people overnight. The snow made it impossible to send help, and the freezing temperatures were dangerous for those stuck in their cars.

9 Safety Items to Pack

These types of situations are rare, but they do happen. To be prepared for an extended event without help, or an injury or illness in your car, grab a first-aid emergency kit as your foundation for your safety preparation. Then, add these seven more items, and keep them easily accessible:

  • A seatbelt cutter (make sure this stays within your reach)
  • An emergency whistle
  • A survival blanket
  • A small case of water
  • Non-perishable food (with a can opener if necessary)
  • Protein bars
  • Water purification tablets

Not quite as vital, yet still important, is your hygiene. If you’re in a disaster situation, staying clean can help you avoid infection and disease. 

Keep a hygiene kit with a travel-sized shampoo and conditioner, razors, shaving cream, soap, sanitary napkins, and toothbrushes and toothpaste. Finish the kit off with sealed facial towelettes and tissues.

4. Seven Types of Cold Weather Gear

Extreme temperatures can be deadly if you’re stuck in them for too long. The best thing to do in the heat is stay covered under shade and hydrated using the water you packed in your kit.

If you’re traveling in cold weather, the emergency essentials include more climate-specific items, like these seven things. 

A shovel and ice scraper in your car are must-haves. Then, get a vacuum-sealable bag and fill it with thermal blankets, gloves, winter hats, and hand and body warmers. Add one for each person in the car, seal the bag, and store it out of the way.


The original Boy Scout motto is Be Prepared, and following that as a car owner can help you with almost any emergency. These supplies will hopefully never be used, but it’s better to have them just in case.


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