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Car Emergency Kit Essentials: 9 Must-Have Items

More often than not, an emergency kit is seen as a bulky box that tumbles around in the trunk and takes up cargo volume. If you have one, you've probably never checked the contents since you purchased it. If you don't, you probably never thought about buying one.

However, the reality is that an emergency kit can keep you safe on the road and even save your life in the event of a breakdown, an accident or simply during a storm so intense you have to pull over and stay put for an extended period of time.

You might think that an emergency kit is only useful in the winter, but that's not true. Hazardous road situations can happen year round. They just tend to become more complicated in the winter due to the elements.

Whether you're thinking about purchasing a ready-made emergency kit at a big box store or even putting together your own, there are many essentials you should include.

Let's go over some of the important ones, broken into two parts: car-related essentials and personal safety gear.

Car-related essentials

Booster Cables and/or Battery Pack: Every good emergency kit should have a set of booster cables and/or a battery pack in case the car’s 12-volt battery needs a jump. Even if you own a fully electric car, booster cables are also useful because EVs use a 12-volt battery to power the accessories. Either way, if your battery is dead, your car won’t start!

Basic Tools: You should always keep a set of basic tools in your emergency kit. Items like a hammer, screwdrivers, and pliers can help you solve simple problems without having to call for roadside assistance. A roll of duct tape can also come in handy for on-the-go fixes until you get your car to a certified mechanic.

Flashlight: A good flashlight is also part of the key items you want in there. Being stuck on the side of the road in complete darkness comes with its own unique set of challenges and hazards. Keep some fresh batteries and replace them every year if needed. Flares can be useful too, especially if you’re in a spot where you need to be seen.

Tire Change Tools: Some vehicles come equipped with a floor jack, a spare tire, and the hardware needed to change a flat tire. However, if your vehicle is not already equipped with these items, they should be part of your safety kit.

Personal safety gear

If all mechanical fixes fail or you get into an accident so critical that the car is disabled, you will need supplies in order to keep things under control while you wait for roadside assistance and/or emergency vehicles to arrive.

First Aid Kit: The most important item in this section is probably the first aid kit. It should include bandages, cold compress gloves, and rubbing alcohol in order to attend to someone who is injured.

Drinking Water and Food: Another essential item in this section is drinking water to keep you and your passengers hydrated. In addition, non-perishable foods, like nuts or dried fruits, could also keep you fed if you are stuck for a long period of time.

Battery Pack: Being able to call for emergency services when in need of help on the road is critical. A fully charged battery pack for your phone can be a lifesaver if your phone is dead and your vehicle loses its charging capabilities.

Fire Extinguisher: It might not seem like a necessary investment, however keeping an easily accessible fire extinguisher in your car could help prevent you from encountering serious fire related accidents on the road. 

Not to mention, they’re compact and can be bought from your local hardware store at a reasonable price. When purchasing a fire extinguisher, make sure that it is rated Class B (for compostable liquids like gasoline and diesel fuel) or Class C (for fires involving electrical equipment like panel boxes and batteries) and ensure that it isn’t water-based. 

A water-based extinguisher will make the fire bigger, cause excess damage to your vehicle and put you in danger.

Blanket and Warm Clothing: Last but not least, your kit should include a blanket and warm clothing. Subzero temperatures can cause hypothermia really quickly if you’re stranded for hours.

In conclusion: keep your emergency car kit updated

Being stranded on the side of the road can be very stressful. Keeping your cool is one of the key things to remember. While there’s no specific tool or object to include in the kit that could provide peace of mind specifically, you should include anything else that you feel is necessary to remain comfortable during an emergency situation. 

The important thing is that you keep your kit up to date and ensure your battery packs and flashlight remain charged. Always put your kit back in your car if you remove it for any reason. In addition, don't forget to affix your kit in the trunk so the contents don't get damaged or move around and become a nuisance!

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