Roadside emergencies are hard to predict. But it’s easy to be prepared for them by putting together an emergency car kit.
"Becoming stranded on the roadway not only puts a damper on your travel plans but can create a hazard for yourself and others on the road," says Aldo Vazquez, AAA NCNU spokesperson. "Stay ready and safe by anticipating the unexpected.”
Of course, whatever roadside trouble you run into—whether it’s a flat tire on a city street or a stall on a rural lane—you can always call AAA for emergency roadside assistance. But keeping a few essentials in your vehicle can provide safety, comfort, and peace of mind until help arrives.
To build your emergency car kit, start by considering the basics: safety, warmth, sustenance, and communication. Next, take into account the season and the conditions in which you’ll be driving.
“During cold winter months, consider including additional blankets as well as thick socks, gloves, boots, and a warm hat,” says Chris Hohnbaum, AAA Field Operations Manager and Emergency Road Service expert. “In summer, swap those items for cooling towels, a baseball cap, and sunscreen.”
No matter the weather, there are certain items no vehicle should be without. Some should be stashed in your glove compartment within arm’s reach. Others should be stored in the trunk (perhaps in a backpack, in case you need to leave the car and travel on foot).
Here’s a handy checklist of emergency car kit musts—and where to keep them in your vehicle.
What to Keep in Your Glove Compartment
- Properly fitting cloth mask for every member of your household
- Disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer
- Battery-powered cell phone charger
- Pen and notepad (for swapping information in the event of a collision; writing down emergency phone numbers; or jotting down mile markers, geographic features, or other landmarks to help emergency workers locate you)
- Tire gauge (check pressure once a month; keeping tires properly inflated is important for performance and for safety)
- Paper maps of unfamiliar places you’re traveling (in case GPS is unavailable)
What to Keep in Your Trunk
- First-aid kit (including gloves, bandages, antiseptic ointment, bug spray, tweezers, and gauze pads)
- Warning triangles or flares
- Reflective vest
- Jumper cables
- Jack, lug-wrench, flat board to place under the jack, and other tire-changing tools
- Motor oil (a quart or more)
- Coolant (a gallon or more)
- Empty gas can
- Drinking water (in non-plastic containers such as sealed glass bottles, metal cans, or reusable water bottles you bring along each time you drive) and a portable water filter
- Electrolyte drinks
- Protein bars or other nonperishable snacks
- Warm blanket (such as a space blanket)
- Rain poncho
- Sturdy shoes (in case you need to walk over rough terrain)
- Small tool kit (screwdriver, pliers, and a wrench)
- Extra batteries for flashlight and cell phone charger
- Duct tape, cable ties, and fuses (for stopgap repairs until your vehicle can be professionally serviced)
- Hand-crank radio (particularly important during a natural disaster like an earthquake)
- Lighter or matchbook
- Seasonal gear (such as snow chains, ice scraper, and/or a small shovel, in case you have to dig a tire out of the mud or snow)