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Emergency Preparation and Survival Kit for Cars

Prepare for road trip and adverse weather by have a car survival kit available for getting stranded by a snowstorm, car accident, or car maintenance issues.Prepare for a Road Trip

Everyone should have a few basic items on hand for a potential car emergency.  Whether you just have a flat tire or need to notify someone you are running late, be smart, be prepared and have a survival kit on hand.  This is especially true when planning for a road trip.

  • Check tire pressure and stow a gauge in your glove box
  • Carry all the necessary fluids for your car, including 2 quarts of motor oil, brake fluid, power-steering fluid (if applicable), automatic transmission fluid (if applicable), a gallon of water, windshield fluid (a mucky windshield is unsafe), and a gallon of antifreeze. Also carry a funnel and keep a few rags on hand in case of spills
  • Your car’s manual, which should be in the glove compartment already
  • Keep extra car fuses on hand. There are several types, so make sure you have the right ones for your car
  • Cell phone car adaptor at all times
  • If your wheels require a special security key, make sure that’s always in your car
  • Roadside assistance membership cards such as AAA, Better World or GM Motor Club
  • Spare tire (in good condition), along with a tire jack and tire iron – are needed to replace a flat tire
  • Whether protecting yourself from the sun or the rain, an umbrella is an item that should always be kept in your car.
  • Emergency phone numbers on a laminated card – Contact information should always  be on hand.

Plan for an Emergency (cold, hot, or off-road accident)

Suggestions for what to keep in your car for emergencies.  These are only suggestions and can be modified for your own needs and tailored for the type of weather you may experience.  Prepare for a car disaster with a 72-Hour period.  Recommendations for your survival kit are below.

Survival and Vehicle Emergency Tools

  • A cell phone – Fully charged cell phone. Cell phones have significantly cut down on your chances of being stranded on the side of the road.  Cellular carriers are required by law to complete 911 calls from any cell phone even if you are on a prepaid phone and are out of minutes.
  • Hazard triangles or flares – When pulled over on the side of the road, it is especially dangerous to be hanging out on the side of the road at night. Ensure that you and those around you are visible when you pull over to the side of the road by using road flares or at least a reflective triangle.
  • Jumper cables – At least 10-12 feet long.  Jumper cables, because dead batteries happen to the best of us. Alternatively, you can pack an emergency battery booster so you don’t have to rely on a Good Samaritan coming along.  The message is that having a means to kick start your battery is important.
  • Tow strap/rope – Check your owner’s manual for tow weight.  To use a tow strap/rope, you just attach one end of the tow strap to the front of the car that you want to pull and the other to the hitch on the back of your car. The stranded driver stays in the dead car, puts it in neutral, and steers and brakes while it gets towed to its destination.
  • Small shovel – You may have to dig out of mud or snow.  A design that folds makes storage easier.  If you get stuck in the snow or ice, you can use the shovel to dig some snow out and place some dirt, or of your traction supplies, under the tire to get moving.  Or if you get stuck in a hole, use the shovel to dig out and put something under your tire(s).
  • Bag of sand, cardboard or carpet remnant to place under tires for traction
  • Windshield scraper – Can be used to keep your vision clear
  • Knife – The uses for a knife are too numerous to name but may be critical in nature
  • Liquid Latex/tire inflator or sealer (like the Fix-a-Flat) – For sealing small holes in tires or to slow a leak long enough to get additional help.
  • Fire-starters, such as waterproof matches or a flint – If you do become stranded and need to build a fire, a means to generate a spark or flame is needed
  • Multi-tool that can serve as pliers, flat and Phillips-head screwdrivers, and an adjustable wrench.
  • Weather radio (solar or self-powered) – Helps you keep informed regarding ongoing and anticipated weather conditions
  • Seatbelt Cutter Window Breaker Emergency Escape Tool – Needed if you get trapped in your car
  • Paper maps – You may not have cellular service so have paper maps available to prevent from being lost of find your way after losing your way
  • Portable air compressor – If putting on a spare tire is too difficult, you may be able use a portable air compressor to get back on the road. If the damage to the tire is not severe, the compressor fills your tire up enough to allow you to drive for additional help
  • Set of tire chains – Know how to install these beforehand
  • General purpose utility rope – The uses of rope are numerous
  • Light sticks – These are great to keep the kids entertained but also helpful for keeping track of them after dark.
  • Survival and first aid manuals – If you are uncomfortable with your ability to implement survival techniques and first aid procedures, be sure to have a how to manual in your vehicle.


  • Pen and paper – For taking notes on accidents, writing down directions, and more.
  • Binoculars – Can be helpful in identifying your location, looking for others who might be able to help.
  • Collapsible nylon bag or small backpack – If you ever have to leave your vehicle for safer ground, this will enable you to take the most essential items with you.
  • Zip-top bags in different sizes – These come in handy for holding dirty laundry, dirty diapers or trash, and can even be used to hold water.
  • Small pair of scissors that can be used for personal or medical aid  needs.
  • A disposable camera – Helpful for documenting an accident.
  • Flashlight along with spare batteries and bulbs – Good for providing light at nighttime when 1) putting on a spare tire, 2) jump starting another car, or 3) exchanging insurance information.
  • Electrical and duct tape – There are so many uses for tape so it is smart to have this staple product on hand.

Bodily Protection

  • Reflective emergency blanket/sleeping bag or fleece blankets.
  • Hand/Foot warmers – Your small appendages are most likely to experience frost bite so keep them warm.
  • Jacket – The weather can change quickly so having a jacket can keep you warm and comfortable.
  • Gloves, wool socks, and a pair of boots – You may have to walk in order to find assistance so having the right accessories can make the difference between success and failure.
  • Floppy cotton hat – Protects you from blazing sun.
  • Sunblock – Protects you from sunburn.
  • Face mask – Even a simple dust mask can help you if there is a forest fire, high level of smog, or you have allergies.
  • Bug repellent – Bug bites may not sound like a big deal but if you have a reaction or get an infection from a bite, a simple bug bite can become a health emergency.
  • Lip balm – Chapped lips from the cold or heat can lead to cracking and bleeding.
  • Bandannas – Wrapping your head or neck helps to control sweat or maintain your body temperature.
  • Rain gear – You may have to face the elements in order to repair or free your car or even walk to find assistance so having the proper attire is important.

Health and Hygiene

  • A meal kit –  suggestions below
    • Energy bars. Choose high-calorie options; they’re lightweight but provide the calories you’ll need in a small dose.
    • Almonds and/or shelled sunflower seeds
    • V-8 juice
    • Sport drink, premade or a mix
    • Peanutbutter in foil packets
    • Dried fruit
    • Applesauce/fruit cups
    • Hearty, whole wheat crackers
    • Hard candies
    • Tuna packs
    • Dry cereal
    • Jam/jelly cups
    • Trail mix. Make sure there’s no chocolate (which would melt in high temperatures)
  • A gallon of bottled water or a case of water bottles or cleaned 2-liter soda bottles, refilled with tap water, and tightly capped. These bottles can be reused.  You never know just how long you’ll be stranded.  Water filter like the Life-Straw or PurifiCup, which are both lightweight and highly portable.
  • Medications – Unless going on vacation, make sure you only pack medications that are not temperature sensitive.
  • A first aid kit – Whether you’re cleaning up a head wound filled with glass shards or fixing a minor injury, it is good to have a first aid kit.
  • Paper towels or a hand towel – With a potential need to deal with automotive fluids and no idea how long you may be stranded, paper towels and hand towels can be used for many things.
  • Tissues or a roll of toilet paper – This is probably obvious, you can only wait so long to use the restroom so having some tissue on hand is a smart idea.
  • Change of clothes – also an emergency item, because if you get drenched in rain or snow, it’s no good to sit around like that.
  • USB mobile device charger – Your cell phone cannot stay charged forever so have a means to recharge without a car batter.
  • Hand sanitizer – To prevent the potential for getting sick, have some hand sanitizer on hand.  Store in a quart-size zip-top bag to avoid leakage.
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss – Travel sizes make these easier to pack. Pack a set for each member in a zip-top bag labeled with each person’s name.
  • Plastic tablecloth or tarp – This can be used as a sanitary surface for meals.
  • Trash bags – These are good for lining an emergency potty, which could be a 5-gallon bucket or a toddler potty.
  • Bar of soap – You may have access to water so for maximum hygiene, pack a bar of soap in a zip-top bag or soap box.
  • Disinfecting wipes – Wipes are great for sanitizing surfaces. This may be needed for food preparation or medical treatment.

Safety and Security

  • Cash, coins – Power outages also take out ATM machines. Having cash for gas, a restaurant meal or hotel room might put you ahead of those who only have a debit or credit card.
  • Disposable camera – This could be very helpful in documenting a car accident, license plates, injuries or storm damage.
  • Pepper spray – This is good bear spray if your travels take you through bear country.
  • Fire extinguisher- Know how to use it.
  • A whistle – If you can’t be seen you can make yourself be heard.

Comfort and Entertainment

  • Deck of cards – Great way to pass the time.
  • Foam ear plugs – You may need a break from the sounds around you or need some peace to handle stress.
  • Books on CD, paperbacks – Another great way to pass the time.
  • Inspirational or motivational book – These type of books can keep you motivated and help you handle stress.
  • Battery-powered fan – It may not be air conditioning but a little breeze can make a difference.
  • Folding chair(s) – Since there is no way to know how long you may be stranded, a little more comfort goes a long way.