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Equally big problems in assembling a car emergency kit are what to include and what to exclude.

Our checklists, and the prioritization formula in part one of this series, will help you make the right decisions.

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What to Include in a Car Emergency Kit

Part 2 :  Four Checklists of What to Include

Illuminated emergency marker cones are very useful for protecting your vehicle if it is stalled on the side of the road at night.

This is part two of a three part series on creating an in-car emergency kit.  Please also visit

1.  How to Decide What to Include in Your Emergency Kit
2.  Four Emergency Kit Checklists
3.  Your First Aid Kit and Other Considerations




The ultimate emergency kit is to tow a second car, while being simultaneously shadowed by a fully equipped team of paramedics in an ambulance.  But unless you are the President of the United States, you probably can't justify such an approach.

However, with some careful selections, you can create a practical emergency kit for your car that will contain sufficient items for most problems you are likely to encounter - and some you're less likely to encounter too.

In this second part of our series, please now read through the four checklists of almost 60 different categories of items to keep in your car.

The Checklists

Here's a series of comprehensive checklists, suggesting many reasonable things that you may or may not choose to keep in your car with you.

Please let us know if you have other suggestions for things to keep in a car emergency kit too.

We have provided three columns for you to mark items off in, one each for Summer, Winter, and for Special Needs/Travels.

Because there is a large number of items listed, we have split them into four different checklists.  You should work through each of them to create your own personal list.


Emergency Checklist 1 : Items for the Car

Item Smr Wtr Spcl Comments
Spare Gas       Or maybe just an empty container and a siphon tube.
Antifreeze       If you've ever had radiator issues, you'll need to keep some anti-freeze.
Windshield washer fluid       Something we take for granted - until we run out!
Other Fluids       If your car consumes some fluids (such oil, brake fluid, or transmission fluid), maybe you need to keep some in the car.
Hoses and Belts       Useful if you know how to replace them and if your car is getting on in years and miles.
Other Spares       Ask your dealer if there are any user-replaceable spare parts you should keep in an emergency kit.
Fuses       Keep at least two of each fuse type your car uses.
Jumper Cables       And/or an emergency starting battery (but these require ongoing maintenance).
Tire Pressure Gauge        
Tire changing tools       Your car should come with a jack and tools for tire changing.  But it pays to check they are all there.
Foam tire sealant       Good in an emergency.
Towing strap       Make sure it is strong enough for your car, and also make sure you know how to attach it to your car (both front and back) for recovery.
Fire Extinguisher       Readily accessible.  1A10BC or better, or a 5lb or larger ABC type.
Multi-tipped screwdriver With a selection of tips for different types of screws.
Pliers with side cutter built in       Long nosed.
Adjustable spanner       Better still - a complete set of sockets in metric or US sizes (whichever your car needs).
Duct Tape       Maybe electrical tape too, but if you're limiting yourself to the bare essentials, duct tape will do in almost every case.
Protective gloves       Keeps your hands clean.
Liquid cleaner       For when your hands aren't kept clean!
Towel(s)       For cleaning engine parts and for cleaning you.
Owner's manuals       Make sure the manual(s) that came with the car are still with the car, consider getting extra workshop manuals too (helpful if you have an unusual car that needs repairs away from a dealership.



Emergency Checklist 2 : Items for Your Safety and Comfort

Item Smr Wtr Spcl Comments
Traffic Cones or triangles or flares       Roadside workers are killed way too many times each year by cars hitting them.  You need to make your car as visible as possible to protect it and you from being hit by passing traffic and inattentive drivers.
Hi-viz jacket       One of those safety jackets or vests that you see people wearing.  Preferably waterproof.
Blankets       Thermal 'space' blankets take up very little space/weight; regular blankets are nicer.  Enough for everyone who may be in your car.
Walking Shoes       Not such an issue for men, but if you're a woman in high heels and need to leave a stalled vehicle, you might appreciate having a pair of sneakers in the trunk.
Ponchos       Or other rain protection gear if you need to leave the car.  An umbrella (the bigger the better) can also be very appreciated if, eg, changing a tire in the rain.
Flashlight(s) and batteries       You should have at least two flashlights, and they should use LED bulbs not regular bulbs (longer life and less likely to break, plus they use less battery power).  Keep spare batteries for them, too.
Car charger for your cell phone       Keep chargers for your cell phone and those of other family members.
CB radio and external antenna       If you're going somewhere with unreliable cell phone signal, consider taking a CB radio with you too.  Most truckers still use CB radios so you should be able to reach someone for help sooner or later.  Keep spare batteries too, and hopefully also a car power adapter.
Battery powered AM/FM/Weather radio       In case your car's radio is inoperative.  Also spare batteries for this.
Pen and Paper       And/or a pencil - pencils never dry out.
Swiss Army Knife       One with a bunch of different tools on it.
Paracord       100 ft or more of 550 Paracord takes up little space and can be useful many different ways.
List of emergency contacts, details, numbers       In case your cell phone is dead, you'll have a hard copy of essential names, numbers, accounts, etc.
Self Defense Items You are not in a time, place, or circumstance of your choosing.  Many stranded motorists have been attacked because of their vulnerability.  Include whatever you legally can - pepper spray or a pistol.



Emergency Checklist 3 : Items for You

Item Smr Wtr Spcl Comments
Water       Ideally in protected glass bottles, else in plastic.  Replace regularly to keep fresh and free of plastic contaminants.
Food       Some long life shelf stable foods such as energy bars or nuts - and of course, this is your excuse for some chocolate too.
Toilet Paper       Tissues of any kind may come in handy.
Book, Cards, Games       Something to do if you're stranded for many hours.  That lengthy non-fiction book that you keep meaning to read and never do - maybe keep it in your emergency kit.
Emergency Cash       Keep some dollar bills and some $20s too.  It has happened to me - getting to a gas station, nearly empty, only to find I had the wrong trousers on, and neither cash nor credit cards with me.
First Aid Kit       A topic in and of itself - see the third part of this series for a discussion on what to include in your first aid kit.



Emergency Checklist 4 : Extra Items for Winter

Item Smr Wtr Spcl Comments
Boots or galoshes or overshoes       If there's any chance of ending up walking in snow, you'll want something more than loafers.
Chains       Yuck.  No-one likes putting on chains, but sometimes there's no alternative.  It is best to practice putting them on in warm dry daylight, too.
Tarpaulin       Some sort of ground sheet so if you are putting on chains or otherwise kneeling/lying on the ground, you'll not get too wet/cold/dirty (everything being relative!).
Shovel       Useful for digging yourself out of the snow.  A reasonable handle length will help getting snow away from under the car if you bottom out.
Cat litter       Sprinkling this on an icy surface can help with traction.  Sand works well too, but is much heavier to carry.
Ice Scraper        
Warm clothing       Coats, hats, gloves, hand warmers, maybe more blankets too.


What to Keep in Your First Aid Kit

The biggest unexplained item above is your first aid kit.

Whether you need to treat a trivial cut or scrape, or a life threatening injury, and whether you merely seek something to stop blood from dripping on the seats and upholstery, or if you need to staunch a river of blood from an artery, we've put together a comprehensive list of suggested items, in part three of this series.

Please click on now for how to design and create your emergency first aid kit.

Part of a three-part series

This is part two of a three part series on creating an in-car emergency kit.  Please also visit

1.  How to Decide What to Include in Your Emergency Kit
2.  Four Emergency Kit Checklists
3.  Your First Aid Kit and Other Considerations

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Originally published 27 April 2012, last update 30 May 2021

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.



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