Top Essentials to Pack in Your Car Emergency Kit

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If you love a road trip- especially a cross-country one, where you may find yourself in remote areas for miles with no cell service and nothing but fields and cows in the distance, it is a good idea to be prepared.

I’ve driven thousands of miles around the country and have taken several long-distance road trips. Luckily, I have never needed to dive into my car emergency kit.

Aside from some common sense and practical advice, there are a few things you can do to stay safe on the road and avoid an emergency.

Essential Items for a Car Emergency Kit

The best car emergency kit depends on a few different factors. It is important to consider the distance of your journey, where you will be driving, and the weather when planning what to include in your emergency kit.

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Essentials for a Basic Car Emergency Kit

For everyday driving around town, the essential tools that should be in your emergency car kit are:

A dead battery and a flat tire are the most common car emergencies, so having a reliable pair of jumper cables and a flat tire kit are the most important for “around-the-town” drives.

In recent years, many car manufacturers have foregone a spare tire and repair kit to lessen the weight of a vehicle and meet mileage standards. Check whether your car has a full-size spare, a smaller spare (a donut), or a flat spare tire that requires an inflation tool or if your vehicle lacks a spare and change kit altogether.

If your car does not come with a spare, include a can or two of fix-a-flat, a repair kit, and a tire inflation tool for temporary fixes until you can get to a service center where the punctured tire can be changed.

Essentials for a Winter Emergency Car Kit

When driving in extreme conditions, with the possibility of getting stranded for hours in freak inclement weather, always include a few extra cold weather items in your kit in case of an emergency.

The Most Comprehensive Car Emergency Kit Should Include:

If you are driving for long distances in a remote area, having a more comprehensive emergency supply kit that includes first aid supplies, a tire repair kit, plenty of water, and nonperishable food, along with the items below, is best for disaster preparedness. 

While AAA does not recommend storing gas permanently in a car, on long road trips in remote areas where gas stations are not plentiful, consider bringing extra gasoline. Make sure to store gas in an airtight-approved gasoline container to prevent combustion. Secure it in a good area so it does not slide or spill and only store the needed amount. Gas will go bad after 30 days.

Additional Safety Tips

Test Your Emergency Kit Regularly

Make sure to routinely test your emergency car kit to ensure all the elements are in good working condition and replace any old or damaged items. Some things like bandages, latex gloves, or antiseptic wipes may become dry, or brittle with age. Replace them as often as you need.

Fill-up Frequently

Drive on a full tank as much as you can. Besides it being a safety measure, having a full gas tank is a smart way to help your car last longer. A low-level fuel tank draws in air and debris to run your car, which can lead to clogged systems and dirty filters that can prevent your car from starting.

Roadside Assistance

Aside from an emergency car kit, having a cell phone to call a roadside assistance service is a great idea. Membership to AAA is about $65 a year, which can help give you peace of mind. However, do not solely rely on AAA or another roadside assistance service as their service is not 100% reliable in remote areas or during certain times of the day.

Drive a Reliable Vehicle & Get Regular Maintenance Checks

A reliable vehicle with a good track record is essential if you drive long distances. I’ve heard so many times that you should not drive long distances in cars with over 100,000 miles, which, in my opinion, is simply not true. My 2010 Hyundai Santa Fe has over 160,000 miles on it, and I took my first cross-country road trip when it had 96,000 miles. I’ve never had any issues while on a road trip, but I am always up-to-date on my car’s service.

The number one thing I do to avoid any roadside emergencies is to perform regular maintenance checks on my vehicle. Things like checking your tire pressure, checking oil levels, and ensuring your engine filter is clear of debris is a great start. These are simple things you can do yourself.

Aside from the few car checks I do myself, I always take my car to a local auto shop to perform routine maintenance before any long road trip to help prevent an emergency down the road.

I almost always take the service recommendations and have had bills up to $1,900, but the repairs last. In the long run, servicing my car is less expensive than buying a new one. My car is 13 years old, and I’ve probably spent about $8,000 on car repairs and new tires since I first bought it. Consumer reports say most cars are expected to last up to 200,000 miles but can last longer if properly maintained.

Still, anything can happen, even with proper maintenance. So before you head out on your next road trip, make sure you have a working car emergency kit that you hopefully will never have to use!

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The best roadside emergency kit depends entirely on your unique adventure and circumstance. Carrying the essential car safety tools is ideal for day-to-day travel, but you need to be more thorough if it’s a more extended road trip or one in cold weather. Making sure your car emergency kit is up to date with usable items is the best way to ensure your safety on your next long road trip.

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