Car emergency kit checklist

A well-prepared emergency kit in your car could be the difference between getting back on the road, or hours spent beside it in the dark. Constructing one is about being prepared for the unexpected in the event of an emergency. It can be worth the extra money and organisation it takes to be prepared, to help you get back to driving without having to wait for roadside assistance, or to keep safe before they arrive in the event of an emergency.

Hopefully you won’t need to use any of them but just for peace of mind, here is a list of items to keep stocked together in each vehicle you drive:

  • Medical first aid kit – This one is a given, but it doesn’t need to have the whole medicine cabinet, only include emergency and ultra-useful items such as band-aids, bandages, adhesive tape, disinfectant cream, painkillers, sterile eye wash, as required.
  • Essential medications – This should include common household medication like Panadol and Nurofen (don’t forget the fruit flavoured versions for the kids, if you have children), but also motion sickness medication, antihistamines and in case one suffers from allergies or asthma, EpiPen and asthma puffer.
  • Car owner’s manual – This should be in the car anyway and needs to be put back in your glovebox after each time it’s used. It has useful information such as; how to perform a jump-start, topping up fluids, changing fuses and light bulbs, the maintenance schedule you should be following for the car and how to maintain correct tyre pressure.
  • Reflector lights, high-vis safety vest – If you’ve broken down and stopped, one of the greatest threats is other vehicles not seeing you and hitting you or your vehicle from the back or side. Reflector stickers will help illuminate the car at night and a vest is lightweight, cheap and will ensure you are visible to all drivers.
  • Tow-strap – Another car may be able to help tow you at least off the road or potentially further.
  • Torch with extra batteries – This is potentially the item you’ll use the most often, not even necessarily in an emergency but just in your everyday driving life.  
  • Jumper leads – Be sure to get the right voltage for your vehicle and check regularly that they’re not defective. Also consider a car jump starter, because if there aren’t other cars around, the jumper leads won’t be enough.
  • Drinking water – Fresh, natural. Add electrolytes to prevent dehydration when suffering from vomiting and heavy sweating in hot weather conditions.
  • Food – Non-perishable items can remain in the kit for a long period.
  • Phone charger – It’s best to have a USB charger that plugs into the 12v cigarette lighter port.  
  • Car fire extinguisher – Auto parts stores stock smaller fire extinguishers for cars that can be stored behind the driver’s seat.
  • Spare tyre – One will come with your car but if you’ve already had to use it it’s essential to replace it as soon as possible. Mind you, some cars have a temporary space saver tyre fitted which is much thinner than a standard tyre. They are designed to get you home or to the nearest garage. If you go on a long distance trip you might want to bring a standard spare tyre. Keep a tyre jack with the emergency kit and a brick to put under the other wheels while you’re performing the tyre change.
  • Flat tyre inflation can – These come in hand-pump or battery-powered models.
  • Blanket or sleeping bag – If you must wait in the cold or rain this will relieve some of the unpleasantness. It can be used to create shade or wrap up accident victims who may be going into shock. It’s also nice to have for children and backseat-sleepers.
  • Maps – If your phone/ GPS system fails you may have to use the old-fashioned paper map method. If you are embarking on a long trip through regional Australia, you may consider hiring a satellite phone.
  • Small tool kit – This could include things like; screwdrivers, pliers, vice grips, adjustable wrench, tyre pressure gauge, light globes, fuses, spark plugs.
  • Seatbelt cutter and hammer to smash window – Make sure they are within reach of both driver and passenger.
  • Small, foldable shovel – One that can be used to dig out bogged tyres.
  • Some fluid top-ups like anti-freeze & oil, and rags to clean up spillage.
  • Change of clothes – It’s also good to include accessories that would protect you such as gloves, boots, wool socks, and a poncho or rain-coat.
  • Toiletries – Pack a few basics such as soap, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste.
  • A small amount of cash – It doesn’t need to be more than $100, but a small amount could be a lifesaver if you need to call a taxi in an emergency or purchase something at a service station.

It’s essential to have all the items together and not rolling around in the rear or boot of the vehicle. An ideal way of storing them would be in a cardboard box, a bag, or a plastic container. Regardless of driving ability it’s always a possibility to encounter breakdowns, tyre trouble, empty batteries, engine failure, becoming lost, extreme weather like storms, floods or even snow.

Every driver is different, and an emergency kit should be tailored to the age and make of a car, whether you’re just commuting to work or driving on longer trips.

Finally, it is essential to insure your car as that may help cover towing costs and even the use of a replacement car. Comprehensive Car Insurance will provide cover against unexpected accidents and damages and will also cover the other person’s car when you’re at fault.