An emergency car kit is a good idea because most of us spend a significant amount of time in our vehicles. If we aren’t at home, we will likely be where our car is. With that said, medical supplies are your best bet to keep you and your family safe while on the road.
Is an Emergency Car Kit Really Necessary?
I keep our main 72-hour kit go-bag in our van, and for a long time, I worried if I had everything I needed in it and whether a separate car kit was necessary.
However, a few years ago, my blog readers began asking about my car kit. So, I gave it more thought. In doing so, I came up with quite a few scenarios that I was completely unprepared for. Actually, some emergencies are only possible when you are in your car—like getting stranded. As a result, I’ve revamped our car kit, and I’d like to show you what I’ve done.
Common Reasons For Car Emergencies
When you’re out cruising the streets, there are a few things you should be cautious of. Here are some of the main incidents that cause roadside incidents:
- Tire Blowout
Before you head out, make sure your tires are properly inflated. According to Goodyear, tires that are underinflated cause the tread in the tire to decrease.
We all have been out and about running errands, taking out the phone and we lock our keys in the car. This is one that you have to be very careful not to do because if you don’t have your keys, you can’t get you emergency kit out of the trunk. It’s a good idea to have a protection plan like AAA for situations like this.
- Car Batteries
Battery failure is one of the most common reasons for getting stranded on the side of the road. I would suggest that you keep some jumper cables in your car.
- Mechanical Failure
Unfortunately, you never know when your car might stop on you. The good news is, we live in a modern world where we can call for help if we have a breakdown. It’s a smart idea to have snacks in the car in case you have a long wait before help comes.
What I did not include in my kit:
- I usually have our full 72-hour kit go-bag in the car. However, I didn’t include things like clothes, blankets, medication, toothbrushes, and soap in it.
- I also didn’t add any shelter items. In most cases, I believe I could use my car as a covering for protection. Plus, my 72-hour` kit go-bag has shelter items in it.
What’s the Emergency Car Kit Helpful For?
I categorized my preparations into three separate categories and I’ll go over each individually.
1. Small everyday emergencies such as:
- Someone needs a band-aid
- A newly potty trained child needs to go to the bathroom and there isn’t one near
- My hair is driving me nuts and I need a hair tie
- I’ve got a headache
2. We are stranded for any number of reasons:
- The car breaks down
- We get stuck in bad weather
3. We have to walk some distance because:
- The car breaks down and we need to walk to the nearest town.
- There is a natural disaster and help will take a long time to come.
I need to note that I feel a situation where the entire family would need to walk for a long distance would be pretty rare. Even if there was a disaster, we might still be able to slowly drive our car to the nearest town. If we broke down outside of town, we’d likely call a tow truck.
However, If we were forced to walk to town, either my husband or myself would do it; the other would stay behind with the kids. I think in most situations, we would be able to better survive in our car than out in the elements. But since I know there’s a possibility that we would be forced to evacuate our car, I’ve included a few provisions if that happens.
3 Emergency Car Kit Ideas for 3 Different Situations
Alright, now let’s look at the products in each category!
1. Small Everyday Emergencies:
- A few bandages, alcohol wipes, and Neosporin
- Children’s Ibuprofen
- Adult Tylenol and Ibuprofen
- Feminine products
- 2 water bottles (my two girls are ADDICTED to water, which creates “mini-emergencies” all the time)
- Sippy cups
- An empty water bottle and a collapsible funnel (This is necessary when you have three kids that are out of diapers but still can’t “hold it” for long)
- Hand Sanitizer
- Empty Gallon Ziplocs (think soiled clothes or stinky diapers)
- Small Flashlight (LOVE these: we own way too many to count)
- A bag of random small stuff (chapstick, hair ties, pens, a safety pin, and rubber band)
- Diapers and wipes
- Cell Charger
Here are all of the supplies:
I put it all in this bucket (except for the napkins which went in the glove compartment):
And put it between the two front seats:
2. If we are stranded:
- Shop Towels (similar to paper towels, but much thicker and more durable)
- Windshield wiper fluid (we’ve run out in the middle of a snowstorm before…not fun or safe)
- Reflective Triangle
- Small Air compressor
- Work Gloves
- Tow rope
- Bungee cords
- Water Filter
- Large Flashlight with batteries taped to it (so they don’t get drained by being inside)
- Jumper cables
- Shovel / hatchet / hammer / saw Multi tool
- Duct Tape (it can fix anything, right?)
- Water for washing and cleaning (the water that has been in our car for over a year, so I won’t drink it, but I’ve labeled it for washing)
- Snow Scraper / Brush
I also have additional suggestions of items you may want to consider if you are stranded during a winter storm: Winter Car Kit
Here it all is:
I put it in this tub:
And put it in the back of the van with extra water, sheets for picnics, and our main 72-hour go-bag kit:
I’ve also set a goal to keep shoes in the car for everyone. I’ve always told myself this was unrealistic because I can’t afford to buy an extra pair of shoes for the kids each year just for them to sit in the car. But I finally decided that we can store our gym shoes in the car instead of our rooms. When we take them off, they simply go back in the car instead of our closet. We’ll see how it goes!
When we go on road trips, I take out everything but the tub and we pack our stuff on top of it. I chose that tub because. it is short and long which makes it easy to stack things on top of it. I know that would make it difficult to get to our things if we got stranded, but I’d rather deal with that stress than try to pack it on top of everything!
I’ve also included a few other items in different areas of the van. We are lucky to have a lot of little cubbies areas for storage in our van. Here’s what we store inside the car:
- A mini fire extinguisher
- A couple of small cans of freeze dried fruit
- Extra wipes
- Our tackle box first aid kit
- Our Grab and go binder
- Extra Blankets
- Map of the area
3. If we’ve got to leave the car:
I know that our full 72-hour kit go-bag is in the car, but I wouldn’t want to carry it is because it’s heavy. This bag has only what I think I might need to walk into town.
- Six water bottles
- Wipes and diapers (I keep the wipes in a Ziploc inside their carrier. Otherwise, they dry out after just a few weeks.)
- Granola bars
- Feminine Needs
- Pain killer
- Heat packs
- A small first aid kit
- Whistle / compass
- Crank flashlight/radio
- Toilet paper
- Garbage bags (to be used as ponchos if needed)
And I put it in this bag:
Where to Buy the Supplies:
- A lot of these items you might already have lying around the house. Take a look and I bet you’ll find things you didn’t know you had!
- You can also purchase a lot of them through the links above. The green links take you to the website where you can purchase that particular product.
- Most of it can be purchased at your local Walmart or Target
What To Do If You Have A Roadside Emergency
Having an emergency kit on hand is great, but there’s more to safety than having supplies. There are some important procedures that you need to follow in order to keep your family away from danger.
Get Off The Road: The first order of business is to get off of the street. If you have to pull over on a busy highway, make sure you exit from the passenger door. Also, if you have to walk away from your car, leave a note on the windshield with your cell number in case law enforcement checks your vehicle.
Display A Distress Signal: If you require help from the police, open the hood of your car and wrap a white cloth around the antenna or the door handle.
Lock Your Doors: If you have to sit at your location, make sure you keep your doors locked and your seatbelt on.
Use Precaution: Practice good judgment when accepting help from strangers. If someone volunteers to assist you, only lower your window enough to talk. If you already have help on the way, let them know and don’t accept their help. However, if you do need assistance, ask them to make a phone call for you.
Final Thoughts On Having An Emergency Car Kit
Putting an emergency car kit in your vehicle might seem a bit paranoid, but I promise it’s worth it. If the time ever comes when you need it, you’ll be glad to have it. Honestly, it’s not that far-fetched to believe that an emergency incident could happen while you’re in the car.
Severe traffic jams, bad weather, or a car accident can happen at any time, so make sure you’re prepared. I’d like to hear from you. Do you have a car kit? What supplies do you think are necessary to put in your vehicle?
How do you keep the water bottles from freezing during the winter?
Keep them in a cooler and they do okay!
In September, Mumbai had a flood with thigh high water. The streets in Mumbai are small and difficult to maneuver on a good day. I was home, but many friends were stuck in their cars for hours; some were stuck for 8 hours. Next monsoon, I sure many will be making a car kit of food and water.
Do you keep both your and your husband’s 72 hour kits in your car at all times? Doesn’t his kit have some things in it that yours does not?
Yep. His is in his track and mine is in our van. We’ve packed them accordingly.
You have given me a great idea for Christmas gift giving this year. Many of my grandchildren drive their own car so my plan is to put together a car kit for them. Thanks for your inspiration.
thanks so much
Misty I have to say this is the most comprehensive article on emergency car kits, that I have seen. I really appreciate the way you broke everything into categories for ease when preparing. Know wonder you are my favorite site and I do enjoy your pins on Pinterest as well, Kudos. Rhonda/TX
Yay! I’m glad it was helpful! Thank you so much for your kind words. They mean more than you know!
how do I print the list for the car normal and emergency?
#3 My small SUV doesn’t have a lot of space so if my husband and I are going on a day trip away from are car we have a small back pack with our Go-bag/72 hr. bag, which we can fill from the Go-bag and whatever we have in our picnic basket or the SUV, it really saves on space.
Meds in the car can become damaged/ degraded / toxic in the heat, some in as a little as a week if you’re talking summer in the southwestern US areas. An insulated container, and only keeping a few at a time of each in smaller finger pot style containers labelled with at most “replace by (6 months from date today)” are a very good idea. Nothing worse than thinking you’re helping, only to have given someone more of an emergency by using expired meds, or one’s lime aspirin or Tylenol which can become dangerous if not stored properly
Great tips and ideas Amii. Thanks! I had heard that meds could lose their potency, but never heard that they’d become toxic. Do you have any info on this I can read?
Tetracycline is the only medication that becomes toxic if stored for long period of time thatIhave heard of. Other solid medication can be stored for many years. If used after expiration date they may loose alittle potency. I do not store children’s liquid medication for more than a year past expiration date. You can mixup adult form with water for children. I buy the weakest strength of each antibiotic in order to make mixing easier and also the grandkids might be able to swallow a tablet whole or mixed in their food if they need it.
‘re:flashlight, storing the batteries without draining- alternatives
Human powered or solar flashlights are becoming quite common and inexpensive, or, if you want to use one you already have in order to consume less, store the batteries IN the flashlight, using electrical tape to cap the end of the last battery and the spring of the flashlight- think of the tabs that come in toys etc that include the batteries, it just stops the connection so you can store the batteries in place instead of taking up more room, which means less chance they will get lost or be in the way… thinking of you, big ole 4 D cell taking maglight.
Amii, if you have a suggestion for a high powered solar / human powered flashlight I’d love it! I have quite a few, but they are all pretty weak sauce next to a battery powered one.
And I LOVE the idea of using the electrical tape to cap things. Smart.
I have a goal zero camp light- it can charge via solar panels (plugs to usb cord, included) has a crank, and it crazy bright, with adjustments to make the charge last longer.(48 hours on low) best charging comes from plug in of course, but it does have the other options for extended outages.
I have a bunch of goal zero products in my home, but hadn’t thought about moving them to my car kit. Thanks Amii!
And sorry it took me forever to get back to you! My computer crashed and I’ve been dealing with that for a while!
Only other thing I can think of is a jumper box has its own power in case no other vehicles around to get ya going. My dad has one it is wonderful,,, some even come with air compressor feature 🙂
I’ve seen those. Gonna go see if Amazon carries one. Thanks Luci!
Try it out. Mine is old and would not start my car. I will try again before buying a new one. I never tried when it was new other than the light and air compressor.
Please use caution putting the first extinguisher in the door of your vehicle. A number of fire extinguishers work by displacing the oxygen and/or dispersing powder with the intent to suffocate the fire. If your vehicle was struck in the door, the fire extinguisher might explode releasing those chemicals all over your passenger. None of that is something you want to inhale as you’re gasping from the shock of the accident and it would make it incredibly hard for the first responders to locate injuries. Plus, since the contents of the canister are under pressure, there’s always the chance that any damage caused to the container may turn it into a projectile causing injuries of its own. You may want to move it farther into the interior of the car where it is more protected in case of an accident or move it to a compartment further away from passengers.
I hadn’t even thought of that April. THANK YOU! I’ve moved the extinguisher to the center of the car.
I have one more suggestion for you–extra Benadryl (or other OTC antihistamine) tablets and cream. We do a lot of day hikes in good weather, and it always seems like someone ends up bug-bit or into the poison ivy.
Also, I found out the hard way that I had developed an apple allergy–on our way home from an amusement park, having a lovely bowl of caramel apples (my last)–and my throat almost closed up before we found a convenience store to replace the Benadryl we “thought” was in the car.
Not everyone has that sort of issue but there are enough people who do–you might end up saving someone else! Obviously anyone who has an issue serious enough to need an Epi-pen should make sure to have a spare of those when going out!
Thanks Stacey! Great tips. I do keep Benadryl in my first aid kit. I’m glad I”ve never had to use it! Wow, an apple allergy??? Who would have thought?
Benadryl is a good antihistamine except it will cause drowsiness and decreased reaction time for about two days. I only use it for children who would benefit from extra sleep (such as chicken pox). Allegra, Zyrtec, and Claritin work better and an all be purchased without prescriptions.
One summer on our long car trip we got stuck behind an accident on the interstate. No exit close by and more importantly no bathroom or privacy outside the vehicle. After some time passed my 4 year old couldnt hold it any longer. After combing the vehicle for ideas I found an old (unused) diaper. Worked perfectly!! Even now I keep a few diapers stashed for that “just in case” moment.
Great tip Kat! Thanks so much! (and sorry for my very late response)
There is one thing that I would like to suggest for if you get stranded. A tarp with some tie downs (think shelter). If you are stranded in hot weather the last thing you would want to do is stay in the car with the little ones. Setting up shade for the car or for a place outside could be lifesaving. Heat stroke is very bad.
Sorry for the late response. I’m on vacation and a bit behind! (-:
Thanks for your help in this area. We live only 40 miles away from the wildfires in Colorado, and this info is extremely helpful right now. It gives you some peace of mind to have some things with you, and a small softside folding cooler has helped us more than once, with some water, easy to carry, and if the smoke gets bad, you can put some water on a hankerchief over your face and nose to lessen the effect of the smoke, especially for my little boy. Thanks for your ideas and guidelines, I especially appreciate the lists of what your family has done, because than you don’t have to think so much to get things together to help your family. Thankyou.
You are welcome Kelly! Thanks for your additional tips. I pray your situation improves soon!
I just found your site and it is Wonderful!! I love how you repeat the cycle and that by reading people’s comments, I can learn even more. In this economy, it is so important to take baby steps or you will feel overwhelmed and might give up. Thank you for the great ideas and links! 🙂
The comments are the best part Deb! So many knowledgeable people here!
Talk about timely, just last weekend my husband and I with 2 of our granddaughters (4 yo twins) traveled to another state for the weekend. The weather turned bad and we ended up coming home early. Keeping one eye on the weather I realized that we were not prepared for an emergency. We did not have extra water or snacks for the girls. I always keep a first aid kit in every car. We made it safely home but before we go on another trip I will be creating an emergency kit for the car. I have 2 weeks to get ready because we leave for Hilton Head, SC. Thanks for the list and I will let you know if I think of anything else to add to it. 🙂
Personal experience is the best teacher / motivator ever! (-:
This is a great post, Misty, and very timely for my family as we are getting ready to travel for a couple weeks. I have quite a few of the things in your everyday emergencies list in my purse at all times anyway, but it would be more useful to just have a set in each vehicle, especially for DH.
This time around, my travel emergency kit has to look a little different since we’re going by air. So far, it includes OTC meds, bandages, ointment, a tiny sewing kit, safety pins, printouts of our flights, phone numbers for our airlines, relative’s phone numbers, tissues, and snacks raided from our regular emergency kit. We’ll have to carry our important documents anyway since we’re flying. I wish I had tiny flashlights to include.
For the curious, the light travelers at another blog I love have had this discussion a few times before:
The small flashlight that I linked to (the link) is my all time favorite Aimee (not that I’ve tried every one out there), but I do really, really like it!
this is such a fabulous idea! i always have good intentions to put something like this together… but now i just need to act on them! this list is very helpful!