Car Emergency Kit: What You Need for Road Trips and Emergencies

What’s in your roadside emergency kit? A first aid kit? Safety essentials for the car?


AAA Members know that their AAA Roadside Assistance offers them protection and peace of mind 24/7, everywhere they go. But AAA still recommends that everyone, including members, keep an essential road trip safety kit on hand to aid in case of breakdowns, crashes, fuel emergencies, severe weather and for long or unplanned trips. After all, there’s no such thing as being too prepared for the unexpected.

Your car emergency kit may consist of one large kit that you keep in your vehicle, or several smaller kits you can have nearby to grab in an emergency. The important thing is to think through some of the scenarios that may necessitate emergency car supplies, and plan accordingly.   

Vehicle-Specific Emergency Kit Essentials

Prepare a kit that contains tools and equipment that are specific to your vehicle and can assist you at the point of breakdown or with a flat tire, dead battery and minor mechanical repairs.

Some of the items that you should consider including in an emergency vehicle kit specifically for the vehicle include, but are not limited to:

  • Nylon tow strap – If stuck in a ditch or ravine, this strap can be used by another vehicle to pull you to safety.
  • Work gloves – Appropriate work gloves will protect your hands and improve grip during tire changes and minor mechanical repairs.
  • Waterproof patch and seal tape – This easy-to-use tape can prevent patch holes in sunroofs, cargo cases or other areas of your car where water enters or leaks occur. 
  • Reflective safety vest – Reflective safety gear helps oncoming vehicles see you from a mile away or more. 
  • Class B or C fire extinguisher – Made specifically for vehicle fires, B- and C-class extinguishers address flammable liquids, oils and electrical equipment.
  • Power tire inflator, tire repair kit and tire jack – These tools are necessities for reinflating tires, patching tire holes and changing a flat.
  • Jumper cables or compact jump starter – Battery jump equipment is some of the most essential to keep on hand for roadside emergencies. If you don’t want to rely on the help of another vehicle, choose a compact jump starter instead of cables.
  • DOT-approved flares or warning triangles – Placed at various points behind your vehicle, these triangles notify drivers of your position, even in low-light situations.
  • Multitool – Used for cutting seatbelts, tightening screws and performing minor repairs, a multitool is a must-have for every vehicle emergency kit.

Once you’ve prepared your kit, take time to learn how to use the items you’ve included. Consider printing instructions to the more unfamiliar items and store them in your kit in case your phone dies and you’re unable to search for instructions, for example, on the safe way to use jumper cables.

Finally, fasten the kit securely to an appropriate area of your car to lessen the risk of anything heavy or sharp flying loose in the event of a crash.

Car Kit Essentials for Leaving Home in a Hurry

Severe weather events are becoming more common. Wildfires, flash flooding, dangerous windstorms and mudslides are just a few of the events that can force people out of their homes and onto the roads quickly.

According to AAA and the  American Red Cross, it’s a good idea to keep a bag of the following items on hand that you can grab in a rush and place in your car as needed:

  • Cell Phone Car Chargers – back-up chargers are important to have on hand.
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Reflective or warning triangles—to place outside of the vehicle to signal a breakdown.
  • First-aid kit – well stocked with instructions for a variety of health emergencies.
  • Medications – Call your doctor or pharmacy and request an extra medication refill to keep on hand for emergencies.
  • Non-perishable snacks and water – Pack nutrient-dense foods such as granola bars, seeds and nuts, plus one gallon of water per person for three days. Don’t forget a manual can opener and utility knife.
  • Personal essentials – Prepare your car kit with the same travel-sized toiletries you’d pack in carry-on luggage, as well as extra eyeglasses or contact lenses and solution.
  • Dusk mask – Depending on your location, including a few dusk masks in your kit can help to filter contaminated air from fires or even a local wildfire.
  • Cash – Keep a couple hundred dollars in a combination of small bills and quarters in your emergency grab bag.
  • Copies of important paperwork – Store copies of birth certificates, drivers’ licenses, passports, and social security and insurance cards in a waterproof bag.
  • Ice scraper or snow brush and shovel – in colder climates in situations where the vehicle is unable to navigate in the snow or ice.
  • Gloves, extra coats or sweatshirts, hats and blankets – in case of a breakdown in cold weather or a high elevation location that is susceptible to cold or icy weather.

Car Kit Essentials for Varying Seasons and Your Pets

Consider preparing and alternating a few different kits for different seasons. In colder-weather emergencies, thermal gear, a heavy-duty blanket and hand warmers are important items to add to your emergency road trip kit.

Other items like sand or kitty litter can also help you get free, providing traction for your tires if you get stuck in the snow. In warmer months, a wide-brimmed hat, temperature-resistant snacks, rain wear, insect repellant and one gallon of water for every person and pet in your vehicle.

If you are traveling with pets, consider their seasonal needs as well; protective paw wear for hot pavements or snow, collapsible water bowls, first-aid ointments and itch relief sprays, and proper bedding and blankets. For AAA advice on pet or service-animal travel safety tips, click here.

Preventative Maintenance Reminder

While emergency car kits can help keep you safe and get you back on the road quickly in a variety of unplanned circumstances, it’s still best to conduct routine maintenance on your car to avoid having to use the kit. Most new vehicles come with an owner’s manual that explains in simple language all your car’s features, as well as its suggested maintenance schedule. If your vehicle didn’t come with an owner’s manual or if you have a used vehicle, you can find most owner’s manuals online.

As part of your preventive maintenance routine, be sure to check for recalls. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), owners may not always know that their vehicle has been recalled and needs to be repaired. NHTSA’s VIN look-up allows you to enter a Vehicle Identification Number to see if there are any outstanding safety recalls in the last 15 years. You can search for your vehicle at and sign up to receive alerts via email at Safety recalls are generally handled for free by car dealers of your vehicle’s brand.

Don’t forget if you are a AAA Member you and have access to a phone while in your car, you can reach out to AAA by calling 1-800-AAA-HELP.

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