If you’ve ever had any car-related emergency, you’ve probably experienced that sinking feeling in your stomach when you can’t find the tool you need to fix the problem. Whether you’re new to car ownership or are just stepping up your adulting game, it’s important to have your car fully stocked in case of emergencies – big or small. Here’s a roundup of DIY Car Emergency Kit essentials.
First aid kit
This is an obvious one for a DIY Car Emergency Kit, but you’d be surprised how many people overlook it.
You spend a lot of time in your car; it can end up being a bit of a home away from home. When you’re out and about, you can’t always rely on other people to have first aid supplies when you need them.
Buy a pre-made kit like this adorable one from Welly (complete with fun designs on all their bandages), or make your own.
If you go the DIY route, compile:
- Band-aids in multiple sizes
- Antibiotic cream
- Over-the-counter pain relievers like Tylenol or Aleve
- Over-the-counter allergy medicine
- Hand sanitizer
- Disposable gloves (to keep things sanitary in case you need to tend to a wound)
- Cotton swabs
If you want to be really prepared (or if you go on a lot of road trips), you might want to go the extra mile and add:
- Heat pad
- Battery-powered radio
- Spare supply of any medications you use regularly
It’s never a bad idea to keep water in your DIY Car Emergency Kit around for your general health, but it can also come in handy if you need to pour it in your radiator, or if your car ever overheats.
Flashlight (and extra batteries)
It’s a tried-and-true emergency-preparedness staple for a reason. True, just about everyone is used to using their cell phone as a flashlight.
But in a safety situation (or if your phone ever dies or breaks), that won’t always cut it.
We recommend a flashlight like this one that can adjust from being a narrow spotlight (for when you’re looking through your cupholders in the dark) to a floodlight (for a safety situation or outdoor use).
A spare set of clothing (or at least an extra jacket and blanket)
It might sound silly, but you never know when you’ll need a change of clothes.
This can come in handy if you’re ever out and about and manage to spill something on yourself in the middle of the day, or the weather drastically changes.
But more importantly, if your car ever breaks down and it’s cold outside, you’ll be grateful that past-you packed that blanket for future-you.
A special emergency blanket is great for a DIY Car Emergency Kit, but that spare fleece blanket you made at camp ten years ago will work fine in most situations, too.
Basic car maintenance tools in a DIY Car Emergency Kit
Most people know they need an inflated spare tire, but it’s easy to forget about other essential tools until you need them.
Keep a wheel wrench, tripod jack, and jumper cables on hand.
While you gather those, make sure you know where they’re stored in your car (some cars have specific niches for wheel wrenches and tripod jacks).
Check regularly that they’re still in working condition, and make sure you know how to use them properly.
There’s nothing more embarrassing than having to ask a stranger for help because you don’t know how to jack your car up to change a tire – not that that’s ever happened to us…
Nonperishable, nourishing snacks
We’re all for keeping snacks around in a pinch, but they’re also essential to have in case you ever get stuck on the side of the road for a long time, or if you catch yourself in the middle of nowhere and feel your blood sugar crashing (which can impair your driving).
Pack snacks like unsalted nuts, dried fruits, hard candy, granola bars, and jerky.
Car charger for your cell phone
This is a no-brainer. The last thing you want to have to deal with in an emergency is a dead cell phone battery.
At the very least, you want a flat head and Phillips screwdriver and adjustable pliers. But it’s always satisfying to be the person with a Leatherman tool when you find yourself in a pinch – and if it comes in a cool leather case, even better.
Essential car documents
Keep all these documents in your car:
- Proof of insurance
- Car maintenance manual
- AAA membership card, if you have it
- Car maintenance log
Just about everyone has these documents in their car already (if you don’t, do yourself a favor and bump that to the top of your to-do list).
But where most people go wrong is letting them flop around disorganized in their glove compartment. How are you supposed to find anything that way?
That’s why we recommend keeping the most important documents on hand with an organizer, so all your important documents are easy to find. Have you ever tried to make sense of your crumpled documents after you’ve been pulled over, or with a mechanic breathing down your neck? Not fun.
Winter weather tools
At the very least, you want these on-hand:
- Snow brush
- Small shovel
- Spare windshield wiper fluid
- Ice scraper
Even if you live in a warm-weather area, we recommend having these on hand. They’re inexpensive, you can find them at any gas station, and you never know when you might need them. It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.
It’s every dad’s favorite fix-it for a reason. Whether you need to patch up a broken window on your way home, fix the squeegee that just snapped in your hand, or hold your broken purse strap together for the rest of the night, duct tape will never do you dirty.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s definitely a good start. Hopefully this gets you thinking of what other items future-you will thank present-you for packing away “just in case.”
Whether you’re a road trip adventurer or only use your car for quick commutes, spending a little time and thought to gather these supplies now can save you a whole lot of stress later.