Must Have Items for Your Car Emergency Kit (A Checklist)

Must Have Items for Your Car Emergency Kit (A Checklist)

Most of us spend a lot of time in our cars, and I feel that it’s necessary to have an emergency auto kit aka auto survival kit in every automobile we drive in addition to our every day carry kits (EDC) and concealed carry handguns.

A handgun won’t be of much use when you need to change a tire, get you unstuck, or change a burnt-out fuse for a new one so that you can get your lights or wipers working and get back on the road and to your intended location.

One of the worst on the road breakdowns that I can remember is having a flat tire in winter with the temperature setting right a freezing with a mixture of freezing rain and sleet pouring down as I changed the tire.

By the time I had finished loosening the lugnuts, jacking up the car, finishing taking off the lug nuts, and then removing the flat tire, and putting the inflated spare tire on and snugging the lug nuts, unjacking and then finished tightening the lug nuts. I was soaked through and miserably cold.

It was, an awful (and dangerous with all the ice and uneven footing) experience… mainly because that happened years ago and I wasn’t properly prepared and didn’t have anything but a jack and spare tire.

Granted even now I’d not want to have to change a flat tire again in those weather conditions but even so, it would be a better experience if I do because now I’m more prepared and would at least stay dry because I have a poncho in my auto emergency kit and a change of clothes.

Below are lists of items for two different kits: the deluxe and basic. Choose the one that best fits your needs and budget also feel free to modify the contents list below to match your location and personal driving habits.

Basic Auto Preparedness KIT

❏ Duct tape
❏ EDC kit (your phone, knife, handgun, lighter etc.)
❏ Fire extinguisher
❏ First aid kit
❏ Fix-a-Flat
❏ Folding shovel (I love this one that’s on
❏ Hand cleaner, waterless (e.g., GoJo)
❏ Jack and lug wrench
❏ Jumper cables
❏ Spare tire
❏ Toilet paper
❏ Water (drinking), 1 gallon

Deluxe Auto Preparedness KIT

❏ Change of clothes, depending on the season
❏ Rain Poncho
❏ Duct tape
❏ EDC kit (your phone, knife, handgun, lighter etc.)
❏ Energy bars or similar food
❏ Fire extinguisher
❏ First aid kit
❏ Fix-a-Flat can
❏ Flashlight and extra batteries
❏ Folding shovel (I love this one that’s on
❏ Fuses for your vehicle
❏ Hand cleaner, waterless (e.g., GoJo)
❏ Hose clamps
❏ Ice scraper
❏ Jack and lug wrench
❏ Jumper cables
❏ Light sticks, two or three are enough
❏ Matches
❏ Motor oil, windshield washer fluid, engine coolant; 1 gallon each
❏ Road flares
❏ Sleeping bag or wool blanket (weight appropriate for the season)
❏ Socket set
❏ Spare tire
❏ 12-volt portable air compressor
❏ Special needs items: prescription medications, eyeglasses, hearing aid batteries, and items for infants if applicable (e.g., formula, diapers, bottles, pacifiers)
❏ Tire chains for snowy climates
❏ Tire plug kit (this one on is nice)
❏ Toilet paper
❏ Tools: flat-head and Phillip’s head screwdrivers, pliers, vise grips, and adjustable wrench
❏ Tow chain or rope
❏ Water (for drinking), 1 gallon
❏ Whistle
❏ Wire

Finding a place to store all of this gear inside your vehicle yet out-of-the-way can be a bit tricky depending on the type of automobile. My truck is a double cab with several different storage compartments including storage areas under and behind the seats, so it’s just a matter of placing items where they will fit (and remembering where each item is so I can get to it quickly if needed).

If you drive a car with a trunk then it’s easy… just organize everything neatly in a plastic tote (get one with a tight-fitting lid and preferably one that locks down) and secure it in the trunk of your car.

Vehicle Safety Tips (from

  • Keep your gas tank full in case of evacuation or power outages. A full tank will also keep the fuel line from freezing
  • Install good winter tires and ensure they have adequate tread or any jurisdiction-required chains or studs
  • Do not drive through flooded areas. Six inches of water can cause a vehicle to lose control or possibly stall. A foot of water will float many cars.
  • Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
  • If a power line falls on your car you are at risk of electrical shock, stay inside until a trained person removes the wire.
  • If there is an explosion or other factors that make it difficult to control the vehicle, pull over, stop the car and set the parking brake.
  • If the emergency could impact the physical stability of the roadway avoid overpasses, bridges, power lines, signs, and other hazards

Also Read:

Well, folks, that’s it. If you have any questions, comments, and or suggestions then please post those in the comments section below…

M.D. Creekmore

I've been interested in self-reliance topics for over 25 years. I’m the author of four books that you can find here. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about prepping, homesteading, and self-reliance topics through first-hand experience and now I want to share what I’ve learned with you.

10 Responses

  1. Gordon Rottman says:

    I think a spare pair of windshield whipper blades should be included, especially if ice and snow are expected. I once totally wore out wiper blades in about four hours of sleet and ice forming on the windshield.

  2. Gordon Rottman says:

    I have found the “jack board” to be priceless. A square of 5/8 or 3/4-inch thick plywood 12 to 16 inches square stowed in the bottom of the trunk or under a car seat. When the road shoulder is muddy, soft soil, sand, loose gravel, or snow and ice , it supports the jack rather than sinking into the ground. Paint it a bright color from your leftover paint to find it in the mud and even use as a daylight warning marker.

  3. Penrod says:

    Good list, M.D.

    I’d add winter clothes, especially mittens, insulated boots, and balaclava hat. Blankets or a sleeping bag, and candles and matches, because one can get thoroughly stuck in very cold weather. Sometimes one is driving in cold weather and not prepared with proper clothes because the drive doesn’t require them under normal circumstances. Or a passenger is short on proper clothes.

    Also, trying unsuccessfully to get unstuck can get one plenty wet or sweat soaked, so dry winter clothes can be a lifesaver even if one is dressed for the weather.

  4. NotMyAsphalt says:

    And a roll of paper towels.

  5. INPrepper says:

    Don’t forget a GHB of which some of the items listed can be placed in. So the things are all in one place. I am not saying hoofing it away from the vehicle should be done in every circumstance but it is better to have a GHB and not need it than need it and not have it. Just my 2 pennies worth.

  6. dennis ward says:

    Good list for the car, but you forgot one or two things I discovered are essential.
    1. I recommend a small hand towel/rags for multiple uses.
    2. A few paper towels/paper napkins folded up and stuffed into a handy compartment.
    3. Pen or pencil and note pad in case you need too hoof it and want to leave a note?
    4. Something I have always carried, a pair of light leather gloves.

    Thanks for all your good advice as I did find a couple of things I do not have in my car.
    Good advice make sure the jack works as it should. And maybe a few bungie cords too.

    Dennis Ward

  7. Gordon Rottman says:

    Besides paper towels, an important and useful items are disinfecting towelettes in an airtight container. About the nastiest things we do in modern society it pump gas at a public service station and squidgy our windshields with a squidgy in fouled water full of dead bugs. Its essential to clean one’s hands afterwards.

  8. GA Red says:

    Thanks for the list! Saving a copy for reference.

  9. Oren says:

    Catching up on my reading today. Good article and good thoughtful comments. Next step is to inventory items I already have, assemble them and put them in the truck.