Your vehicle can bog down anywhere and anytime. Sometimes even without any prior warning light/sign. Therefore it is very important that you keep a bunch of items that can help you in any emergency. Car emergency kit includes those essential items that you’ll need in case your car breaks down (because of any reason) and you are stuck somewhere.
Why You Need a Car Emergency Kit?
From 1992 to 2007, 65,439 search and rescue operations were carried out for 78,488 individuals in the United States National Parks only (source). Out of which 2659 could not survive and expired, 24288 were injured and rest were saved unharmed. That means an average 5230 people get lost somehow every year in the US only. These are the statistics for people lost in various situations. It does not include people stranded somewhere because of natural or man-made disasters.
Items included in a car emergency kit depend upon many factors, but its purpose is only to help you in an emergency situation. In case you are stuck somewhere or your car breaks down where no help is available or takes some time to reach, you should be able to survive till help actually arrives. Also, what if some other driver is willing to help you repair your car, but you don’t have enough / required tools to fix the issue? Also, it would be better if you have tools available so you can either repair your vehicle yourself or get it repaired from someone passing by if they stop to help you.
Other than that, if an emergency is declared in your area (maybe a natural or man-made disaster) and you may have to evacuate within no time. In such case, your car is your best bet to get to out of the area as soon as possible. If you have a survival kit already stored in your car or a bug out bag nearby, you can safely evacuate and reach nearby help station.
It also provides peace of mind that you are prepared and ready to meet any emergency situation. Therefore, we strongly recommend that you make a car emergency kit and permanently place it in your car. It might seem like a lot of stuff, but in an emergency, you’ll be darn glad you have it!
Difference Between Different Car Emergency Kits
Depending upon the requirement and number of items in it, we can divide car emergency kits into different categories.
- Basic Kit: This kit contains basic items that most of the car owners already have in their car.
- Regular Kit: Contains all the items of The Risk Taker’s Kit and also some additional items. Suitable for you if your office is just around the block and you don’t like to travel much. This is the bare minimum and must have a car emergency kit.
- Advance Kit: This kit contains all the necessary items that anyone can ever need on a road trip. It contains all the items in above-mentioned kits and additionally, it will also have other items that can be considered as far-fetched. Defensive weaponry and survival stuff specifically related to your travel area are also added to it.
Now comes the question, which car survival kit is suitable for you. We have created this detailed article that will guide you about the procedure of selecting items for a survival kit. This article provides guidelines using which you can create a survival kit for any situation. Basing upon factors mentioned in the above guide, we have made a list of items that we recommend to be included in basic, advanced and pro car emergency kits.
Basic Car Emergency Kit
You don’t even need to prepare this type of car survival kit because it is already in your car. Most of the people who don’t like to prepare for any emergency and are way too much optimistic own this basic kit. However, if you don’t travel much or your travel is limited to an urban area only, you can survive on these items. However, you must keep in mind that you are not prepared if an emergency is declared in your area.
- Spare tire
- Tire changing Kit
- Mobile phone
- Credit card / Cash
Regular Car Emergency Kit
All the items mentioned above plus following items.
Food and Water
1. Drinking Water: At least 3 liters of water is recommended. You can keep more if you have sufficient storage available. This drinking water bag comes in 2 variants with 5 liters and 10 liters capacity and is easy to store and move.
2. Water Purifier: In case your water reserve depletes and you have to procure water form other resources.
3. Food: Preferably non-perishable
4. Portable Blanket: You don’t know how much time you’ll spend in a survival situation. We recommend this thermal foil blanket. When folded, its size is around a regular magazine which makes it very easy to store.
5. Gloves: For working on the car, building shelter, cold weather, etc.
6. Ponchos: You can use this in the case of rain as a raincoat and also build a shelter with little modifications.
7. Hand Wash / Soap: You can not ignore personal hygiene in any situation.
8. Tissues/Napkins: For cleaning spills or to use as tinder to build fire.
9. Feminine Hygiene Products: If you have/are a female with you.
10. Fix-A-Flat (Puncture repair kit) including Tire Pressure Gauge: A lot of the time people ignore it until they have a flat, and then discover the spare is flat, too. You can fix a flat with this small kit. You can keep a track your tire pressure with this tire pressure gauge so you don’t run into tire problem at an unwanted location.
11. Cat Litter: It works as well as the sand beneath the tires for traction and weighs less. In case you have not packed anything with you, you can use car mats as litter and get your car out. But this may not work in every situation.
12. Tow Chain: In case your car breaks down and finally someone is ready to tow your vehicle to safety. Must get a sturdy and reliable tow-chain; preferably the metallic one.
13. Folding Shovel: In case your car is stuck in mud or ice, it can help you get it out by breaking up the ice. Also useful if you have to dig a cat-hole as a shelter. This multi-function military standard entrenching tool might be a good idea for your car emergency kit.
14. Reflective tape / Reflective Triangles / Glow in the dark sticks: In case your car breaks down, you need something to mark your location for safety. We suggest you have three that are placed 50 feet apart to warn oncoming traffic. Wearing this reflective safety west is also a good option.
15. Car Emergency Escape Tool: If you are in an accident, car emergency escape tool can help you get out of the car easily.
16. Basic Car Repair Tool Kit: Normally pliers, wrench, screwdriver are enough to take care of minor car problems. This universal wrench can come in handy in various situations or you have this mini car repair kit.
17. Fire Extinguisher: Standard class ABC
18. Always maintain at least ½ tank of gas
20. Whistle: In case you have to signal someone/rescue party. You can get it from any convenient store.
22. First Aid Kit: You can choose it as per your requirement. If you use any prescription medicine, must include it in your first aid kit. Have at least 48 hours supply of any medications you use. If you are diabetic, have all necessary supplies, including packs of sugar and some long-lasting carbohydrates as well. We have got some basic first aid kits that you can check out.
23. Multi-Tool: It can be something like a Leatherman Tool or a Swiss Army Knife.
24. Wire Saw: This commando wire saw can easily cut through bone, wood, and plastic.
25. Duct Tape: Because you can fix a lot of things with duct tape. This is a special cloth tape which is waterproof too; it might be a better option.
26. Extra Cell Phone: We recommend keeping an extra cell phone (even a cheap one will work too) secured in your car. Occasionally make calls with this extra phone to make sure it works properly. Do not bother to make test calls to 911 because you can still call emergency services even if the phone is out of service. I can not start telling you its benefits because you already know how a cell phone can be a life-saver. After you call for roadside or emergency assistance, turn your phone off to save the battery. ONLY use it when it is needed.
Light and Energy
27. Cell phone car charger: In case charging runs out.
29. Extra Batteries: For flashlights, cell phones or any other devices you might have.
30. Lighter / waterproof matches / Magnesium Fire Starter: You can find various types of fire starters here. Here I would recommend you to check out this amazing article that explains different techniques to build fire without matches.
31. Durable Bags: You have to store your car emergency kit in this bag so it must have sufficient capacity. You can check these tactical bags that are extremely durable and have sufficient quantity. For a regular car emergency kit, we recommend this go bag that has a huge 45 liters of capacity.
32. List of Emergency Information: Keep important emergency information in your glove compartment and place it on the seat or dashboard if you get stranded. It should include emergency contact names and numbers, a list of medications and illnesses you/they might have (diabetic, heart condition, etc.) so emergency rescuers have that needed information to treat you if you should become unresponsive.
How much of this you decide to get might depend on the condition /type of your vehicle.
Advance Car Emergency Kit
As there are a lot of items in this type of kit, therefore, we are going to split these into subsections.
1. Wet Wipes
2. Hand Sanitizer – Also good for lighting fires
11. Toilet Paper
12. Extra pair of Clothes: In case you get wet or dirty.
13. Extra Socks: Much more important than you might think. When you are digging out your car, you’re going to have to help the next guy because he just helped you. Your feet will get wet and they may freeze in case you live in a cold area. Dry socks on cold wet half-frozen feet will energize you like a defibrillator to the chest. Next is more dry socks, because those will get wet too
14. Coats or Jackets: When it’s only a little cold outside, you can use these instead of the vehicle’s heater and save fuel.
15. Spare Shoes: in case yours get wet or damaged.
16. Sleeping Bag: In case you can’t reach your destination before nightfall
17. Sewing Kit: Needles(various sizes), threads (various thickness) and scissors are enough
18. Some more Food: Anything with a very long shelf life. You’ll still need to rotate it. High fat, High carb, fast digesting food will be perfect. Shoveling, Staying warm, pushing cars, and trudging through 7 feet of snow are incredibly taxing. Just so you know, MREs in cars over an extended time is a bad idea. I learned that the hard way.
19. Metal Cup: This is an amazing titanium cup that is very durable and is also perfect for boiling water.
20. Fold up Stove & fuel tablets
22. Jumper Cables: Also known as booster cables. You need these in case your car’s battery dies and you need to jump start your car.
24. Brake Fluid
25. Power steering / Transmission fluid: In case of emergency you can even use 1 fuel for both the components. Their composition is almost the same.
26. Electric Fuses: Get only those which are specific to your car model
27. Jerry Can: For some extra fuel
28. Windshield Washer Fluid: This is a special fluid that keeps your windscreen free of dust and water for quite some time.
29. Heavy Duty Tool Box: Your requirement of this item depends upon your level of expertise with car repair. If you don’t know, then don’t spend stupidly on useless items. However, if you have a general knowledge of car repair and are confident that you can carry out any repair then you must consider it. This is a toolbox with 123 pieces with various gauges and tools.
30. Physical Map: Nowadays there are many mobile applications that can help you. But you can not rely solely on these apps because your phone may not last that long in case of an emergency. Get an atlas of your country and a detailed map of the local area.
31. Ziplock bags
33. Ice Scraper for the winter season
35. Paper, Pencils
36. Portable Radio and Wireless set
39. Power Bank: To keep your mobile phone charged even if your car dies down.
40. If you have children, have appropriate snacks/food and drinks for them also. Also, keep a supply of storybooks, coloring books, crayons, or other games to keep them occupied.
41. If you will have a pet in the car with you, be sure to pack enough food and water (with a water bowl), and a bone or toy to keep them occupied.
How to Pack a Car Emergency Kit?
It will be better if you place large items and items you won’t need ready access to at the bottom of your kit. Items which may be needed frequently must be kept at the top. We recommend that you keep car emergency escape tool hanged at rear view mirror or keep secure with some duct tape at a hands distance. In the case of an accident, it will make your escape easy. Tell all passengers about its location and contents so they may also use it in the case of an emergency.
You don’t have to keep all the items in your car year round. Have an ’emergency box’ in your garage or front closet and put it in your car when you plan a long trip or hazardous weather is potentially expected (never trust the weatherman though!)
Food items can be packed and put in the car before you go out on the road. If you are taking water bottles, pour 1/3 of the water out in case they freeze. That way, when the ice expands the bottles won’t rupture.
Things to Avoid In a Car Survival Kit
Spill-able food, loose flammable material, explosive, illegal items as per country and state laws. Preferably keep the food and water separate from the rest of the items. Never put oils and batteries in the same bag to avoid any fire hazard.
Some extra Tips about Car Survival Kit
– Must check your survival kit once every month and replenish the deficiencies
– Don’t feel the need to buy everything at once that is what paralyzes some folks to not building a kit. I’m building mine a few pieces at a time.
Note: This was a long topic and I took a lot of time to finalize my research and compile it. There must be many errors in this article that me and my editor both may have skipped. If you happen to find any, please let us know so we can fix it. Your feedback will definitely help us improve and will also motivate us for our next guides.