Emergency Tools and Items to Keep in Your Vehicle:

It can happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter who you are, but if you’re a frequent driver, you may end up stuck on the side of the road, on the verge of an emergency, when you least expect it. It’s best to stay ready and to be prepared for when the time comes. We’ve curated a list of items to keep in your car that can make any roadside emergency seem like no big deal. Check it out!


• Spare tire, lug wrench, jack lift

• Jumper cables

• Tool kit

• Flashlight and batteries

• Roadside flares and reflectors

• Tire inflator / air compressor 

• Bungee cords, straps, tow rope

• Tape (duct, electrical, gaffer, painter)

• First aid kit

• Non-perishable food – nuts, dried fruits, candy

• Drinking water, water bottles

• Cell phone / car charger

• Tissue, paper towels

• Blanket

• Pen, paper

• Hand sanitizer

+10 BONUS items:

• More snacks!

• Tarp, plastic bags

• Backpack

• Army knife

• Towel

• Shovel

• Whistle

• Ice scraper

• Compass

• Battery-powered or crank-up radio

Graphics by Animator Julian Bruno

Additional Items:

• Headlamp

• Car escape tool

• Travel toiletries

• Clean socks

• Raincoat

• Umbrella

• Warm clothes, hat and gloves

• Local road maps

• Fire extinguisher

• Predator escape tool

Well, this turned out to be a pretty extensive list. It’s no Doom’s Day Preparedness Kit, but it’s definitely a good enough supply list to get you around your state for a few hundred miles. Other than this, all you need is motivation and power for your vehicle to get around. And a vehicle, of course.

Best of luck on your journeys! 

What do you keep in your vehicle?

A DETAILED explanation...

Spare tire, lug wrench, jack lift.

Unless you’re a AAA member or have roadside assistance included with your insurance plan, you’ll need to know how to change a flat tire in case of an emergency on the road. It’s not too difficult. You’ll need an inflated spare tire, a lug wrench and a jack lift. Check out some of these quick tutorial videos on YouTube and TikTok (A, B, C) ☆ ☆ ☆

Jumper cables

When your car won’t start, there is a good chance that it’s because your battery is out of power, or that the connectors on the positive and negative terminals on your battery have been compromised. Have a set of jumper cables stored in your trunk. Even if you don’t need them, chances are you’ll come across someone on the road in dire need of assistance. Check out this quick tutorial here for how to use jumper cables to start up a dead car battery!

Tool kit

Screwdrivers, pliers, a wrench, hammer, needle nose pliers, electrical tape, nuts and bolts, a tape measurer, wire cutters, loppers, putty knife – the basics. Store your travel tool kit under one of the passenger seats. I usually leave my power tools at home. For more ideas on creating a fully functional tool kit check this out!

Flashlight and batteries

The last thing you need is to be changing a tire or searching for a lost object outside of your vehicle, in the middle of who knows where, in the dark. Be prepared with a flashlight in your car, and don’t forget spare batteries! AA and AAA batteries are both great to keep on hand; but check to make sure you have batteries compatible with your flashlight. Also, consider a using a headlamp to keep your hands free when you’re working in the dark.

Roadside flares and reflectors

Flares and reflective triangles are a good safety measure in case you have to pull off to the side of the road at night to get out of or work on your vehicle. These signals, alongside your hazard lights, should alert other drivers on the road to steer clear of your presence. You must be seen!

First aid kit

Knowing first aid is an absolute must whether at home, at work or on the road. Make sure to have at least a small first aid kit stocked with bandages, gauze, pain reliever, scissors, antiseptics, antibiotics, and a first-aid manual.

Non-perishable food – nuts, dried fruits, candy

In case of “hanger” or emergency hunger, keep small, easily storable foods on hand in your vehicle! Non-perishable foods like granola bars, trail mix, candies, chips, crackers and dried fruits are great options to stash away. 

Drinking water, water bottles

Water is absolutely vital to life. You need to have some in the car. Enough for several passengers. Bottles can also come in handy too.

Cell phone / car charger

Nobody likes carrying around a dead phone. In bad weather or dicey situations you can let your people know where you are for your own safety.


I recommend carrying a roll of either electrical, duct, gaffer’s or painter’s tape. These tapes are strong enough to hold together materials on your vehicle. Painter’s and gaffer’s tape don’t leave much residue. 

Tire inflator / air compressor 

Tire inflators usually plug into the cigarette lighter in your car. They are lifesavers in the case of an impromptu flat. It saves so much time and energy to blow up your tire automatically over the process of mechanically changing one. These tire inflators are usually between $40-60 and are about the size of a dictionary – perfect for trunk or under-the-seat storage.

Tissue, paper towels

Have tissue or paper towels available in case of small spills or a spout of allergies. Bless you in advance!


You have no idea the amount of times clean socks in the car have come in hand throughout my life. And I’m only in my twenties. Maybe when I’m older I’ll stop caring, but for now I keep a spare pair or two of clean socks in my glove compartment. And with the number of shoe-free households these days, it’s nice to have a spare pair of cool socks on hand, in case of emergencies. 

Travel toiletries

Mouthwash, deodorant, lotion, a spare brush — all sorts of hygiene products are great to have on the go and in case of emergencies. Cute, spontaneous date tonight? You’re going to want that tiny travel bottle of mouthwash in your car, believe me!

Army knife

A Swiss Army knife, multipurpose tool, whatever you want to call it – you never know when you may need a little knife: to slice a lime on the beach, carve your initials into a tree, maybe you need spare tweezers or a screwdriver–these little tools are a lifesaver.

Car escape tool

There is always a fluke chance that in the case of a car emergency you won’t be able to open your car door to escape. Having a car emergency tool like a window breaker or seatbelt cutter can help you exit your car in a jam. Consider your car escape options in the case of an emergency.

Tarp, plastic bags

If you need to keep something dry or clean use a tarp. If you need to store garbage or wet objects use a plastic or eco-friendly (plastic-like) bag. Bags and tarps are great to have in case of someone feeling sick, in case of a broken window that needs emergency patching or to pitch a make-shift tent. The uses are endless! A folded up tarp and a few bags take up very little space and can fit underneath a seat cushion.

Predator escape tools

Call them what you will, but you never know if you’ll be in a jam and need to defend yourself. I’d recommend taking at least one beginner’s level self-defense course. It also may not be a bad idea to carry a bat, a key-chain defense tool, pepper spray or mace, brass knuckles, a taser or some other sort of protection tool in your car for long trips. 


Blankets are a very versatile and handy car item – great for extra warmth in case you have to wait for help overnight, or if you need extra seating space at the park or beach! 

Pen, paper

Great for writing notes and signing bills. It’s just good form to have a writing utensil on hand.

Hand sanitizer and wipes

There are germs on everything and now more than ever is the time to take extra precautions to protect yourself and your hygiene. Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer around for everyday use away from home. Sanitizing wipes come in handy on the road too, you never know when you’ll be in need after an unexpected spill.

Bungee cords, straps, tow rope

Have cables and straps to bind down any objects you may be hauling. The last thing anyone wants to see on the road is a loose object flying off of another vehicle. Secure your objects. Carrying tow rope is a good idea in case you or another vehicle on the road needs assistance in getting out of a rut.


Keep dry!

Warm clothes

You’ll want warm clothes in case you get chilly on the road or in case you have to leave your vehicle and walk for help. Keep a spare sweater, hat and gloves in your car for yourself or any other passengers.

Ice Scraper

In colder climates frost can build up on windshields overnight. Resourceful people use their credit cards to scrape off the ice but that’s not the best idea. Unless you have a metal card, it can break! Library cards are better to use, but not many people carry library cards these days. Just invest in an ice scraper! They only cost about a dollar. Store one in the glove compartment during the colder seasons. Using an ice scraper with the defrost mode on in your vehicle will clear up your windshield in a few minutes. 

Battery-powered or crank-up radio

Great for good tunes and to stay informed locally, if you end up in the middle of nowhere.

More snacks

You already know. You need sustenance to stay bright and clear headed! And who says no to extra snacks? Candies, health bars, chips, crackers, dried fruits, nuts – anything non-perishable will do. Remember: this extra stash is just for emergencies. Feel free to clear it out and restock it every season!


If you get stuck in a rut, dirt, sand, ice, snow, anything – a collapsible shovel may come in handy. Also, wooden floor planks, or other traction materials like sand or cat litter, can also come in handy to get you out of a slippery situation. And so can tire socks.


A drink could spill, someone may get sick, an unforeseen mess may arise – all of these problems are better resolved with a towel. Fold one up and pop it into your trunk! (Or under the passenger seat if you don’t have a trunk.)

Fire extinguisher

Fires are started everyday; live on the safe side. Carry a small fire extinguisher in your vehicle in case something flares up – and know how to use it. Check out this quick tutorial here!


A bright colored or reflective raincoat will keep you dry and visible at night. 


Keep gloves on hand in case of cold weather, for first aid, and in case you have to do some mechanical work on your car and don’t feel like getting grimy.


A headlamp is a very resourceful version of a flashlight. It wraps around your head, keeping your hands free. I highly recommend getting one. 


Remember in the film Titanic when Rose had to pry a whistle off of a frozen body floating in the Atlantic to call for help? She was rescued of course, but save yourself from a similar trauma by keeping a whistle in the car if you ever need to call for help but don’t have the voice.


Your cell phone should have a compass application on it, but if not, or if your cell phone is unavailable, it’s a good idea to keep a real compass in the glove compartment for travel direction. A compass combined with the use of local road maps can help you find your way if you end up lost. At night, you can use the stars for guidance. Consider reading a sky guide like this one: Stars and Planets by Ian Ridpath and Wil Tirion.

Road maps

Your cell phone could die or be out of service range, so make sure that your car is equipped with some local road maps too.  I’m not sure why the most ‘guidance-based’ items were saved for the end of this list but they are very important.

Are we forgetting anything? What do you keep in your car!


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