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Car essentials: what to pack in your emergency car kit

Packing a car emergency kit with all the essentials will have you prepared for any motoring emergency

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Emergency car kit

There are a few worst-case scenarios that we can fall victim to while on the road – a random breakdown, running out of fuel, or a case of unpredictable weather can all cause issues.

You can prepare for every eventuality by building a car emergency bag and keeping a few safety essentials on board.

Here’s our list of must-haves for a cover-all-bases car emergency kit:

First aid kit

Keeping a small first aid kit in your car can be helpful in loads of scenarios.

Whether you get a blister after a long day of walking, get hit by a random sickness bug, or take a stumble on your travels, keeping some basic first aid items in your car can be really helpful.

Tuck away some plasters, painkillers, antibacterial wipes and any necessary medication. This can be equally as helpful if you ever get stranded unexpectedly and can’t be without your prescription.

High visibility jacket and warning triangle

In the unfortunate event that your car breaks down, safety kit like a hi-vis vest and a reflective warning triangle are necessary to keep you safe from other road users.

You should usually have two warning triangles, spacing them out at ten feet and 100 feet intervals behind your vehicle to warn other drivers.

Any high visibility clothing will also make you noticeable to other road users, especially when you’re walking around your car and placing down the warning triangles.

Basic tools and a spare tyre

We’re not suggesting you should have a full toolbox in your car, but basic tools like pliers, spanners and a screwdriver can be helpful in a pinch.

You might also want to pack some extra strength tape and cable ties in case you need to make a temporary repair.

If you can fit a spare tyre in your car, along with the necessary tyre changing tools, this can prevent you from being stranded in case of a flat.

A close up photo of a BMW wheel

Tyre pump

If a flat tyre is all you have and you’re not worried about a puncture, a tyre pump that can be plugged into your car’s power output can be handy.

If you’ve left your car parked for a while (occasions like leaving your vehicle at the airport while you’re away) a portable tyre pump can help you get back on the road safely and with less fuss.

Jump start cables

Jump leads are an easy way to give your battery a boost if it ever runs flat. You'll need to find a willing motorist to give you the jump start, but after that you’ll be back on the road quickly.

Make sure that you know the correct way to use jump leads and seek help if you’re unsure. Using them incorrectly can be dangerous and even lead to electrical fires.

Spare clothes and a blanket

You’ll be grateful for a warm blanket if you ever breakdown in the colder months – it'll keep you warm and comfortable while you wait for your rescuer.

A blanket can also act as a window shade if you break down under the harsh summer sun.

Spare clothes can be handy in all sorts of eventualities. Warm clothes will be handy to layer up in the winter, and just having a spare outfit will keep you feeling fresh if you ever get stuck somewhere for a prolonged period.

You never know when a visit could run late and turn into an overnight stay, or if you have a spillage while out for the day.

A woman in a big winter coat cleaning snow from a read window of a car.

Food and drink

Again, if you’re stuck on the side of the road for a while, you’ll be pleased to find any snacks on board.

Keeping a bottle of water on board and any non-perishable snack could be just what you need to get through a long wait for the recovery service. Our favourites are granola bars and dried fruit.

Phone charger

The worst thing that can happen if your car breaks down is that your phone is flat and you’re unable to call for help.

Keeping a car compatible phone charged in your vehicle can avoid these issues and mean you’re able to contact support in any emergency.

12V charger adapters can plug into the cigarette lighter in your car, or any other 12V sockets your vehicle has.

An empty fuel can

Keeping an empty fuel can in your car can mean you have something to use if you need to head out on foot to grab some extra fuel.

While it’s legal to have up to 30 litres of petrol in two appropriate containers in your car, it’s generally not advised.

Travelling with fuel in your car can be a fire hazard and experts advise strongly against this. It’s also illegal to store fuel in the passenger compartment of your vehicle.

Keeping an empty fuel container in your car can be helpful in a pinch, but it’s not the safest choice to carry extra fuel on your travels.

Wind-up torch

A wind-up torch can be superior to a battery-powered torch when you’re in a pinch, as you won’t need to rely on other power sources.

A torch can be helpful if you have an emergency in the dark, or just need an extra bit of light when looking for something in your vehicle.

Don’t forget - you also have the torch on your smartphone that can help you out.

Ice scraper and de-icer

Driving in extreme weather can be a pain, but having the proper tools to clear your car of ice and snow will definitely make it easier.

You won't need to wait for the car to heat up and melt the ice, simply allowing you to scrape your windows and get on the road.

  • If you’re travelling in the snow often or live in an area where snow and ice could be an issue, it might be worth considering winter tyres for extra safety.

Seatbelt cutting tool

You can buy handy tools that are made for the purpose of cutting a seatbelt or smashing a window in an emergency, and fit within the legal requirements in the UK.

Knives, blades and scissors can all be considered a dangerous weapon, so opt for a specific tool to keep you safe and avoid any legal issues.

These tools have a sharp edge tucked away where it can only be used to cut a seatbelt, and a hard point that can break glass.

Learn more about driving safely: