Car Emergency Kit

It happens to all of us at some time or another. We get stuck in the snow, run out of gas, the battery dies or something else happens.

These things may occur at any time in any place and certainly have for me over the years.

I have a kit to address as best I can the situations that may occur, however more needs to be done and it'll take time and resources to do it.

As in any kit, work your way up to improve upon what you have, or to get started if you haven't.

In the winter you should always have a strong square tipped shovel. Strong means steel and perhaps aluminum, not plastic. Aluminum isn't as impact or pressure resistant as steel, so I'd go for steel, which is what I have in my car. I have often used my shovel in the winter time and have had this shovel for years. It is still holding out despite some hard use. And get a real shovel, not some camping shovel or collapsible one. You are not making cat holes to bury your waste. You want something that can take the pressure of cutting and hacking into hard packed snow and ice, and that can move enough snow every time you shovel.

Any list you can find on the internet may be useful for what to have in the trunk of your car, and as any other list of emergency supplies some may be better suited for your needs than others.

I have a tool kit, air compressor, winter shovel, jumper cables etc. I have a duffel bag with diverse supplies in it. I also have separately a backpack with supplies in it in the event I had to leave my car behind and a backpack permits you to carry things more easily. The duffel bag is used to organize things that will stay in the trunk, things that won't be carried on my back if I needed to leave.

I'll give some ideas below however it is in no wise complete, but basic. Add to it as you see fit. Perhaps you don't need a snow shovel where you live, but jumper cables are good for everyone as an example.

Adding some food and water as appropriate to your environment remembering the drastic temperature changes that may occur such as in places like Canada, very cold in the winter and can be very hot in the summer. Food takes a beating in a trunk so to speak with these temperature fluctuations. If you use SOLAS approved lifeboat rations it is very resistant to temperature changes and can last up to 5 years. Water freezes AND expands in the winter cold, so think about it.
I'll take it in three parts to break this down.

The first part being what you can put in the car compartment including the glove compartment.

The second part is dealing with the trunk, what you can put in a duffel bag to organize things, as well as loose items that don't fit in the bag such as a shovel.

The third part is also dealing with the trunk, and will be the portable kit which you can bring with you in the event you must leave your car behind. There may be other things you may wish to add to what you'll find below.

First Part: Car compartment and glove compartment.
You can place the following in the car compartment:
  • Window breaker with seat belt cutter (or in glove compartment). Some models go on keychains.

You can place the following in the glove compartment:
  • Headlamp with batteries (be careful about hot summer days and batteries however!)
  • First aid mask with nitrile gloves. Just a note, become first aid certified to know how to perform simple techniques that may help save someone.
  • Window breaker with seat belt cutter (or in car compartment). Some models go on keychains.
  • A quality whistle. You can have one on your keychain.
  • Tire gauge.
  • Fuses for fuse box.
  • Replacement bulbs.


Some things can go on keychains and therefore you may want to consider making a little keychain kit as well.

Second Part: Duffel bag and trunk.

In the duffel bag you can place the following:
  • Emergency Road flares
  • Emergency triangles (collapsible triangular reflectors)
  • Work gloves
  • A few basic tools
  • Spare clothing (avoid cotton particularly if you are in a cool/cold or rainy climate). Wool and synthetics are good.
  • Spare footwear, like boots. Safety shoes or boots are good as well.
  • A small crowbar
  • Air compressor (150 psi - 250 psi rated)
  • Jumper cables
  • Emergency candles (40 hr to 120 hr). Other candles may be used as well, but theses specialized candles are better.
  • Emergency blanket (wool or fleece)
  • Ration of food and water (water freezes and expands when frozen in the winter so think about it)
  • First aid kit
  • Tow rope or tow strap
  • Tarp (9' x 12'). Orange is visible if you need to be seen, green, brown and camouflage are less visible if that is needed.
  • Bungee cords
  • A good knife
  • Duct tape
  • Glow sticks (light sticks, cyalume lights)
  • Rope. Put a few kinds, such as paracord and regular rope. Different sizes, different purposes.
  • Wire to attach or hold things together that rope isn't good for, like in the engine compartment where rope may burn or melt.
  • Zip ties. Get quality ones, because some of them tend to be fragile and break when bent.
  • Some may put an extra fan belt and a radiator hose with clips.
  • An axe may be useful at times especially for offroaders. (A folding wood saw like a Bahco Laplander goes in the backpack)
  • Foam tire sealant
  • Radiator sealant
  • Rags and/or paper towels. Moist hand wipes (Towelettes, Wet Ones) are good to clean off grime off your hands.
  • Rain coat.

You can place the following loosely in the trunk according to your trunk layout. Some things can be placed in a small box.:
  • Winter shovel. A strong, steel, square bladed one.
  • Sand, salt or cat litter for the winter.
  • Tire traction plates, and/or chains or the like
  • Spare tire, full size according to the season. Not the tiny spare tire. If you have a car I understand you'll most likely need to use the small spare due to space restrictions. If you have a larger vehicle, take a look and see if you can.
  • Extra oil. Put the one you are using for the time of year you are in. In colder climates a different oil is used than during summer months.
  • Radiator fluid. You can dilute it with water in advance.
  • Fire Extinguisher

Third Part: Backpack.
You can place the following in the backpack. Well actually I'll refer you to another page for this one. But please read on for more information first.

Now here is the thing about the backpack. It should be similar to that of a 72 hour kit. However, it doesn't need to be. You can make what is called a get home bag (GHB). This bag is usually for up to a day or two, enough to get you home.

I'll ask you to check out the link for Get Home Bags Kit to get the information you are looking for.

Just a note here, that you can till put some food and water rations in the trunk of your car, even though the GHB will have some. If your ordeal requires you to stay in your car, or you are more than two days from your home or other safe haven for supplies, you will have food and water in the car to carry you through a little longer.

Please have a look at the pointers I placed in the sidebar to the right for some pertinent information on car emergencies.


Car Survival Kit / Car Emergency Trunk Kit
Winter Car Emergency Survival Kit -- IS YOUR FAMILY PREPARED??? | 13 Lucky Items For Winter Driving
Car Survival Kit- School of Self Reliance

Some Pointers

Before considering to leave your vehicle, think it through carefully particularly in the winter and in the desert areas. In the winter people have died due to the cold, not making it to their destination. And in the desert areas, it has happened that people have left their car to go to a distant highway or town, only to succumb to dehydration and heat stroke.

Sometimes you are better off remaining in your car which can act as a shelter until help arrives.

Remember the Elements of Survival (Priorities of Survival), in that they may apply to an urban scenario as well as a wilderness scenario, and everything in-between for that matter as well. This means that you may need to signal your presence to others to let them know you are in trouble and need assistance.

Emergency communications are important, therefore it can be good to have a ham radio, FRS/GMRS or even a CB if that is all you have with you in the car as well.

Have a fully charged cellphone with a power bank and/or a 12 V accessory adapter for the cigarette lighter socket to recharge from there. It won't drain your car battery that much for light use of your smartphone, however if for any reason your battery dies, it would be good to have a power bank. Use your car batteries power sparingly, especially if you had run out of gas and may need to signal using the headlights, or honk the horn etc.

Spare the gas that is left in your car if you went off the road by not leaving the car on continually, even in the winter. Use the dome light sparingly. It is preferable to use a headlamp or flashlight instead. Glow sticks can be used for this as well as for signaling. Make a light windmill by attaching the glow stick to the end of a rope about two or three feet long, and twirling it in the direction you want to attract attention from.

Leaving your car hood up, placing an orange cloth on the antenna, using your hazard lights or a sign in the window or side of the road, are all methods of attracting attention. Flashing your lights and honking the horn are others.

If you use a candle in the car, or you are stuck in the snow and use the engine to warm you up, crack the windows just a bit for fresh air and to ventilate any carbon monoxide that may build up in the cabin. Be certain that the muffler isn't blocked by snow, and if you know you have a muffler leak and/or a hole in the floor, carbon monoxide can enter all the more easily. Open the window a bit less on the upwind side, and a bit more on the downwind side. This is so that you do not lose all the warm air in your car. However, make a judgment call according to your circumstances.

Smartphones are notorious for being power hungry, unlike the 'dumb phones' of old.

Did you know that if you have an old phone lying around that isn't connected to a specific carrier, that in some places it is required by law to still have access to 911 emergency calls? Just leave the old SIM card in there, but it isn't necessary to. Check your region to see if this is available to you. Some people do not want a mobile phone but they may consider having an unactivated one in their glove compartment.