How To Pack An Emergency Kit

For commuting or traveling any great distance by car, packing an emergency kit may make the difference between getting back on the road soon, or being stuck where you are for some time.

Such protection is something that every vehicle should have (along with a well-equipped first-aid kit). Yet most people carry only a few of the basic items they need to help them get back on the road quickly and safely if the run into a problem.

Above all, always carry the necessary equipment for changing a tire―a working jack, an inflated spare tire, a lug nut wrench or tire iron, and pipe for leverage. These items should always be stored in their designated place in your car's trunk or hatchback.

Your emergency kit should include:

  • Roadside flares
  • A first-aid kit
  • Work gloves or latex gloves
  • Two quarts of oil
  • Jumper cables
  • One gallon of antifreeze
  • Brake fluid
  • Extra fuses
  • A blanket
  • A flashlight with fresh batteries
  • A Phillips head screwdriver
  • A flat head screwdriver
  • Vise grips
  • An adjustable wrench
  • A pair of pliers
  • A tire inflator
  • A tire pressure gauge
  • Some rags and a funnel
  • A roll of duct tape
  • A roll of paper towels
  • A spray bottle with washer fluid
  • An ice scraper
  • An AAA or roadside emergency card
  • Triangle reflectors and flares.
  • A pocketknife
  • Bottled water
  • Granola or energy bars

You can use a cardboard box or large plastic container (such as a milk carton) for storage, so that it doesn't roll around in the trunk and you can quickly find what you need in an emergency. If space in your car is at a premium, you can use a basic version of the emergency kit, with a small first-aid kit; two roadside flares; a quart of oil; extra fuses; a flashlight; a multipurpose tool commonly containing pliers, wire cutters, a saw, a bottle opener, screwdrivers, files and an awl; a tire inflator, some rags, a pocket knife, and a help sign.

Several companies and organizations offer pre-assembled emergency roadside kits that contain essential items in a small, convenient carrier. You may also want to add a few of the items listed above to suit your needs.

Some definitely optional items to consider for your emergency kit include a Swiss Army knife, a good book, a pillow, a bathing suit, some tasty snacks, and a beach chair.

If you live in an area with freezing temperatures during the winter, you should also keep a collapsible shovel in your car in case you have to dig your way out of ice or snow.

Your Dress Rehearsal

Before you actually find yourself in an emergency situation, take time to become familiar with the items you've collected and how to use them correctly, because simply having in them in your possession is not enough. After all, it is easy to become flustered when the unexpected happens, and many of us (both male and female) are not too mechanically inclined.

Finally, having an emergency road kit may mean the difference between sitting on the side of the highway waiting for a tow truck or being able to make your way to your destination or suffering an injury of some sort.

Remember that the most important item at your disposal is your own good judgment. (For example, stopping to change a tire in the high-speed lane on the interstate is an invitation to disaster.)

Some Other Precautions

In addition to preparing your emergency kit and knowing how to use every item in it, consider the following common-sense guidelines to protect yourself and your family when you are on the road.

  • Try to move your car completely off the road before taking any emergency measures.
  • Do not stand near the edge of the highway while you are checking your vehicle.
  • At night, turn on your flashers to signal that you need help.
  • In daylight, raise the hood and tie a white cloth on the antenna or door handle of your car.
  • Set out flares if you have them.
  • If you have to repair your car at night, wear a fluorescent safety vest.
  • While waiting for help to arrive, stay inside your car with the windows up and the doors locked.
  • Do not accept a ride to any destination from a passing motorist.

Provide Feedback