How to Build Your Own Car Emergency Kit

Stay safe and prepared for any situation on the road with a car emergency kit. Here's a guide on the item you need to build your own car emergency kit.
Written by Elaine Sulpy
Reviewed by Carrie Adkins
Whether you're traveling around town in inclement weather or going on a road trip, a car emergency kit can provide some comfort should you
get stranded
while waiting for assistance or for the weather to clear. It can also save your life should you have an
and become injured.
While there are many car emergency kits available for purchase, they typically have only a few basic necessities. For added comfort and safety, it is recommended that you supplement them with a few additional items.
Whether you choose to build an emergency kit or purchase a pre-made one, you can break down the items you want to carry into "must haves" and "nice to haves."
Determining what you want to carry with you depends on the length of your trip, how much space you have for the items, and just how comfortable you want to be in an emergency situation. Read on to learn what items you need to make an emergency car kit, with a little help from
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Must-have car emergency kit items

There are a few items that should always be in your car emergency kit, including:
  • Food and water. According to the Department of Homeland Security, it is recommended to have at least one gallon of water per person per day, for at least three days. As for food, bring at least one to two days' worth of non-perishables such as canned items (don’t forget a can opener), granola bars, and nuts.
  • Clothing. Bring at least one full spare change of clothes, including additional items for colder weather such as warm socks, gloves, beanies, and a sweater or jacket.
  • Blankets. Have at least one large, warm blanket to stay warm. It is also recommended to have at least one emergency
    foil mylar thermal blanket
    per person.
  • Flashlight.
    Hand-crank flashlights
    are certain to never run out of juice, and some even have optional USB chargers to charge cell phones or other devices. Battery-powered flashlights are just as useful.
  • First-aid kit. A
    pre-made first-aid kit
    is perfect for your car emergency kit. Or you can create your own. If you are on any medications, don’t forget to pack them as well. Be sure to refill and replace any missing or expired items before a long trip.
  • Jumper cables. Having your own
    jumper cables
    can ensure that you get a quick
    . Be sure you know the proper way to use them to avoid damaging both batteries and vehicles.
  • Basic tools. A small screwdriver and wrench or a multipurpose tool, in addition to electrical and duct tape, can be helpful with minor vehicle repairs.
  • Roadside kit. A
    roadside emergency kit
    typically includes flares and emergency triangles to alert passing drivers of a stopped or damaged vehicle. Some of the larger ones may also include tools, jumper cables, and first-aid kits.
  • Snow tools. If you live in or will be driving through an area with inclement weather, be sure to bring items such as an ice scraper, cat litter or sand, a shovel, and tire chains.

Car emergency kit extras

Beyond the absolute necessities, there are a few items that may make life a little easier, or at the very least more comfortable, should you be stranded in an emergency situation.
  • Charging devices. Power chargers and charging devices can store several full charge cycles for use on items such as as cell phones. Check out
    solar-powered options
    to reduce dependence on your car battery for device charging power.
  • Radio. A
    battery- or solar-powered radio
    , or a hand-crank device with AM/FM access, can provide important information in an emergency situation. Some also include flashlights and additional device charging ports.
  • Pet supplies. If you are traveling with any animals, be sure to bring pet supplies such as food and water in case you do not arrive at your destination as planned.
  • GPS unit. A basic GPS unit can help if you are stranded and need to locate the nearest town or service station. Some
    satellite trackers
    also provide an emergency alert option that can provide your location to the authorities.
  • Vehicle escape tool. Some emergency situations may require a quick exit or escape from your vehicle.
    Vehicle escape tools
    are devices that can be used to cut through a seatbelt and break a window if needed.
  • Fire extinguisher. A fire extinguisher can help stop small fires that may occur after an accident. If you do choose to use a fire extinguisher, it is recommended that you get away from the fire first and only use it from a safe distance away.
  • Spare batteries. These spares can power any of your electronic devices.

Other ways to stay safe

In the end, the ultimate hope is that you will never need to use your car emergency kit. Use common driving sense whenever you hit the road.
Keep your fuel tank full, ensure your vehicle is in good working order before hitting the road, and avoid areas with flooding, high winds, or other
extreme weather
to stay safe and avoid having to use your carefully prepared car emergency kit.
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