What to Keep in Your Car in Case of Emergency

Over 17 items you should keep in your car in case of an emergency. This post helps you set up an emergency car kit so you can stay safe on the road.

Emergency triangle reflector for the car on the side of the road

As you are working on building up your emergency set up in your home, one thing to remember is emergency kits for your vehicle. The emergency kit for the car.

You have to think it through and decide what an emergency kit in the car means to you. I will tell you what it means to me.

I envision it as being used if our vehicle broke down while we were driving it or if we needed to help someone else who was broken down.

My purpose is not to sustain us through a natural disaster. That isn’t a bad idea to have a lot in the car–some people will even keep their 72 Hour Kits in the car–but my purpose is to help our family stay safe if we broke down.

From a practical standpoint, we do not have space in our car for all of us, a full emergency prep situation, and basically anything else (including groceries).

The first thing you need to do when compiling your list is think about the type of driving you do. Do you drive basically just around town? Do you take road trips?

What are roads like where you drive? It is best to be prepared for the worst, or course, but I would guess most of us don’t have a whole lot of extra space in our vehicle for storing lots of supplies.

There are some basics that are a good idea no matter what your driving habits (like a flashlight or a first aid kit). Also, I think a great frame of mind is to keep things on hand not just so you can help yourselves, but so you can help others in need, also.

Here are some good basics to keep in your emergency car kit.

Standard First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is just a good idea for anyone, but especially parents. Kids need band-aids all the time. You will use a first aid kit often.

Our first aid kit is not fancy. It is just your basic first aid kit.

You can get a bit more fancy than we have. We once had a lot of money left to spend in our flex spending and decided to get some amazing first aid kits. But after consulting with our friends who range from nurse to paramedics, we decided it was unnecessary to spend over $100 dollars on a first aid kit.

We just bought a new (er) vehicle, and switched. Of course, the first day we were driving it, I gave myself some very deep paper cuts and we hadn’t moved over the first aid kit. You just never know when it will come in handy.


We always keep a couple of blankets in our car. If you broke down, they would come in handy if it was cold or if you wanted the kids to try to sleep.

You could also spread the blanket outside to sit on if it were nice weather and it was safe to be on the side of the road.

I use our blankets frequently at soccer games when it is suddenly cold, so we use our blankets pretty regularly.

There are a variety of blankets you can get out there. Emergency blankets like the one shown here take up very little space and retain up to 90% of your body heat. These are blankets you want in your 72 hour kit.

For me, I chose to go with extra blankets we had in the house. We have a large wool blanket plus a small blanket for each child in the vehicle.

Flashlight and Batteries

No matter where you drive, a flashlight is a must.

This is helpful in a variety of situations, including if you get a flat tire. Light is always a good idea.

We really like Mag-Lites, but any flashlight will do. Don’t forget the extra batteries. Flashlights and batteries can be kept in a center console or in the glove box.


It is a good idea to keep some tools in your car, even if no one in your family knows how to use them.

You might get someone to stop and help you who knows how but doesn’t have them.

There are lots of ranges in price for these tool kits. Of course, the kits tend to contain very inexpensive, cheap tools. These are not nice tools you are buying. But they should do the job.

You can get inexpensive roadside tool kits that really have basically anything you would need in an emergency situation.

There are also kits that contain only tools that less expensive. My husband is a mechanical engineer as well as a mechanic, and he says a cheap tool kit is just fine for this situation, and some are rather nice (for the money).

Jumper Cables

Now when it comes to jumper cables, you do actually want a nicer set. Everyone needs jumper cables.

The heavier the cable, the better.

You can tell its heaviness by the gauge number–you want it low. Heavier cables transfer electricity better than smaller cables, which is crucial when starting a vehicle.

We have a cheaper and smaller cable in our car because the engine is smaller and doesn’t take as much to start.

In our SUV, we have a nice large cable because it is bigger. While a nicer set is better, cheap jumper cables are better than no jumper cables.

My husband says 2 is hard to find. 4 is about as heavy duty as you can get easily. 6 is a good middle ground and he would avoid anything higher than an 8.


Reflectors are good for if you are doing something like changing a flat tire in the dark on the side of the road–especially if you are changing on the side that is by the cars driving by.

This is an item I would consider a very good idea, but not necessarily a necessity. If you are building your kit slowly, it wouldn’t be the first thing in it, but as you add things, I would add it at some point.

Tow Straps/Ropes

Tow Straps are important if you are ever stuck, like in mud or snow.

I think most people who live somewhere with heavy snowfalls each year have been pulled out with a tow strap at some point in life :).

Now, you can do straps or ropes. My husband likes straps better. He says they are stronger, take up less space, and not as stretchy. Stretchy is bad when you are trying to pull someone out.

Even if you drive a car, keep a tow strap so a passing truck can pull you out if needed. Not all truck drivers will carry tow straps because they have 4 wheel drive. With tow straps, you can get hooks or loops–we recommend hooks.


It is a good idea to keep on hand essential fluids for your vehicle. We keep oil, washer fluid, antifreeze, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and brake fluid in case we run out.

Change of Clothes

This one might seem strange to you at first. The main reason for this is in case you get wet. This way, you can change out of wet clothes and into dry clothes. It might also be nice if you are stranded for more than a day.

We don’t keep extra clothes in the car regularly. We just have extra clothes if we are traveling.

Extra Shoes

Again, in case they get wet. I would do sneakers–good walking shoes. That way if you need to walk for whatever reason, you can. I doubt every time you drive somewhere you wear good walking shoes (I know I don’t), so this way you have them if needed.

Seasonal Clothing Items

The emergency car kit needs to be slightly dynamic. Your tools and tow ropes can sit and collect dust unless and until you need them, but your clothing needs to be rotated and updated.

For children, you need to update to the correct size. For the family, you need to make sure the clothes are appropriate for the weather.

For winter, you might have beanie hats, gloves, and socks. For summer, you might have sun hats and something you could use to fan yourselves with (like paper).

When we were gathering beanie hats for our 72-hour kits and car kits, we just waited for them to go on clearance after the winter season was over. We got each hat for less than a dollar.

You can also jackets for each person. We do light jackets because if it is really cold, we always take our winter coats with us.

A tip for those of you with more than one child, you can use hand-me-down jackets as emergency jackets.

Both Kaitlyn and McKenna have old jackets of Brayden’s. They are boy jackets, but in an emergency, no one cares (the girls don’t care anyway at this point, but you see what I mean). Fashion is of no consequence in emergencies 🙂


Water is very important to sustaining life. We always keep bottled water in our vehicle, and while we have never faced a true “emergency,” we have faced what would be considered emergencies by our children who are super thirsty and can’t possibly wait 20 more minutes until we get home.

We have also done things like go to the zoo and forget to bring water with us, and instead of paying ridiculous prices for a bottle of water, we could bring in our own from the vehicle. It comes in quite handy.

We also use it when we get to a soccer game and realize we forgot water. Having water in the car is great!

We keep a couple of Life Straws in the vehicle for emergency situations. They don’t take up much space at all and could be used in a pinch.


I also like to keep an extra sippy or bottle for the children still prone to spilling. They stay drier and aren’t going to spill water that is suddenly quite precious.


This one is harder to stock up on, I think. One idea is an MRE. That might be a bit overkill.

You could keep a box of granola bars in the vechicle (just keep it a kind that can handle the heat).

We keep a bag of candy we can suck on and a package of gum in the family vehicle at all times. That can tide us over if we are STARVING. You know, kids.

Something else you could do is just make sure you have food if you are going on a long car ride. If you are riding to the grocery store and back, extra food is not vital. If you are driving somewhere that is traveled lightly or has limited cell phone service, bring food.

If you are traveling during inclement weather, bring food.

For every day, you could simply keep a box of crackers or something. When I have babies, I am sure to keep some formula in the vehicle so I can feed baby if needed and for some reason I cannot breastfeed.

Diapers and Wipes

We keep extra diapers and wipes in the vehicle. These come in handy quite often.


I think most people keep an umbrella in the car. If not, add one. These often come in hand in day to day life.

Life Hammer

This is something I would consider optional for most people. It is quite inexpensive (15 dollars) and can come in handy if you are trapped in your car–so not a bad idea at all. We have one in each vehicle.

Lots More

There are a lot more tools out there you can get your hands on. If you are interested in more ideas, you can see the Bestsellers in Automotive Safety on Amazon.

Organizing Your Emergency Kit

So how do you organize all of this stuff?

Some of it, like the flashlight or life hammer, naturally goes in the glove box or center console. Maybe you put it in a picket in the door.

Others, like an umbrella, might fit nicely under a seat.

For our fluids, we have a small, heavy-duty tote. That way they can’t spill on the carpet and can’t stink up the vehicle.

We also put our tools, cables, tow straps, etc in there. We then have a smaller tote or a heavy-duty canvas bag for the extra clothes. You can get them at Walmart.

For baby stuff, we have a diaper bag with diapers, wipes, and other kid stuff so we can access it quickly and efficiently.

Making This Work

Many of these things need to stay in your vehicle at all times. Items like clothing and hats, however, do not need to. If you are short on space or money and can’t feasibly leave these items in at all times, you can keep a list of items to add to your car before a long trip when they would be more needed.

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5 thoughts on “What to Keep in Your Car in Case of Emergency”

  1. After my stepson threw up in my car in the POURING rain, I never left home again w/o a car-emergency-kit. At least have: 1/2 roll paper towels, a garbage bag (for pukey clothes among other uses), scissors (I would have like to CUT that shirt off him from the back – ICK!), bottle of water, extra shirt and shorts, Clorox wipes.

  2. I am really enjoying these readiness preparedness posts.This totally wasn't an emergency, but the other night I went out on a date with DH and wore high heels. Well, we didn't see a movie like planned, and instead went to a carnival. I had to stand in line for 1 hour total and my feet were killing me. Boy, had I wished I had a spare pair of comfy shoes in the car!

  3. This blog is very good & informative.I have gain so much information from this blog.I like your blog.Thanks for the post.I am waiting for your new post.Fomblin YL-VAC fluids


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