How To Make Your Own Emergency Car Kit
I’m updating this emergency car kit post today because I know people need to see it for the first time or be reminded to make one. With all the news media attention this week regarding Hurricane Ian, we can all see what can happen to families if they are directed to evacuate their homes during a hurricane or other emergency and now they are at the mercy of roadside emergencies where an emergency roadside kit would come in handy. It doesn’t have to be a car breakdown from things like a flat tire, it could just be road blockage or challenges on the road up ahead.
If you don’t have roadside assistance coverage through your car insurance coverage, you may want to consider coverage through the American Automobile Association (AAA).
The roads throughout western Florida where the storm made landfall were packed with those evacuating. Many of the gas stations had closed, so those who didn’t have much gas in their tanks were put at risk on the road. I’m sure many would have benefited from knowing that had one of these car emergency kits, and putting the contents to use.
My two daughters and one son-in-law had driven up to Park City, Utah for a quick visit with friends a few years ago. The weather was beautiful with the sun shining on their way up Parley’s Canyon, one of the main east/west routes through Utah on I-80.
Here’s the deal about this particular northern Utah canyon. It can be brutal in the winter with ice and layers of frozen snow. At times, cars and trucks slip and slide going up the canyon if they don’t have snow tires, tire chains, or 4-wheel drive for traction as the local agencies try to keep the road clear during snowstorms.
Of course, those who are prepared with tires, chains, or 4-wheel drive are sometimes dodging those cars that have trouble driving in severe snowstorms. If you are driving down the canyon it doesn’t matter what your car is equipped with, it can sometimes be like an ice skating rink with cars sliding everywhere.
Once you start to slide your breaks will not work if it’s really icy. Most of us who drive in bad weather know we need to gear down and slow down, but sometimes there’s no way to slow down once the sliding starts. I call it white knuckle driving. Mark has no fear of driving in the worst of the worst weather. I think it’s because he grew up in Northern Utah and actually got his first driver’s license in January, right in the middle of winter.
On this particular day my family made it up the canyon in beautiful sunny weather, but on the way down the canyon a truck further down the canyon ahead of them had a fire problem and the resulting chaos stopped traffic for almost two full hours. I’m sure you have probably gotten into your car to drive a short distance and sometimes the traffic stops, I mean to a dead stop.
This happened to them on their way home, and what should have been a 15-minute trip during the canyon phase was much longer than anyone could expect. Now, there is no way to turn around in most sections on this I-80 Parley’s Canyon Highway. No stopping or U-Turns are allowed on either side of the road.
It has a barrier about 4-feet high going down the center of the highway in many places, so once you start driving down the road, you have to go to the next exit. So what do you do when you’re stalled in the middle of the canyon for multiple hours? Here are some ideas for you to consider.
Shout Out To My Son-In-Law
I have to give a shout-out to my son-in-law for filling the gas tank before heading up the canyon. Whew, it was hot that day, at least they could run the air conditioning. If it had been during the winter they would have had to run the car’s heater to keep them warm. It’s all about being prepared. The main challenging thing, they had no water in the car. Luckily it was only two hours sitting at a standstill.
This is when my Emergency Car Toilet would have come in very handy in an emergency car kit. All you need is an empty #10 can, filled with the items on the post I wrote. You would be good to go, literally.
Emergency Car Kit
I have two of these bags that I made into a car kit for emergencies and they are secured in the back of my Honda CRV. My Dewalt tool kit is my first aid kit. I love these Husky Tool Bags. I put the pack of items together some time ago and I feel so much more confident when we travel now since I feel we are properly prepared.
1. Pet Supplies Like Food, Bed, Cat Litter Box, etc.
Other items so you don’t forget to plan a bag for our beloved pets would include a leash, water, poop bags, some chew sticks, and dishes.
1. Small Bills
Emergency cash (small bills)
1. Emergency Toilet
Emergency toilet with toilet paper, garbage bags, and hand sanitizer. Emergency Toilet
Diapers, are awesome to help a young family who may be on a highway stopped for hours with a baby or a toddler. Baby wipes can also be used for so many things.
Depends are designed to help the adults in the car, you may have to relieve yourself in one.
Contact information is critical to have in an emergency situation. Please be sure and put ICE (in case of emergency) on your phone so the highway patrol or others can contact your family if you are unable to call anyone, but the first responders are there to help you. If you don’t have a cell phone, write the information on a 3-inch by 5-inch card that is laminated to keep it waterproof in the bag.
1. Wool Emergency Blankets
2. Warm Clothing Like Jackets and Merino wool socks
3. Insulated Coveralls
4. Insulated Gloves
5. Stocking Cap
6. Hiking boots/walking shoes
1. Fire Extinguisher (ABC type)
3. Reflective Vest
Flashlights and Batteries
1. Flashlight and extra batteries
First Aid Kit
1. First aid kit with bandages, gauze pads, and other important first aid items
Car Kit Stuff
1. Foldable shovel
2. Can or two of motor oil
3. Commonly Used Tools Like a Lug Nut Wrench, Tire Repair Kit, Road Flares
4. Rags/Paper towels
5. Jumper cables
6. Tire pressure gauge
7. Pocket knife/scissors
7. Window scraper for ice or snow
9. Roll of Duct tape
10. Bungee cords and zip ties
11. Tow Rope
14. Spray bottle with washer fluid
15. 1 gallon of coolant
16. Car window break tool
17. Poncho/rain gear/change of clothes
19. 12-volt air compressor as a Tire Inflator, and a charger for electronics
20. Work Gloves/Tire Plug Set
You will need work gloves, a tire plug set (buy them cheaply at Walmart), and emergency repair tape – self-fusing silicone tape.
A 5×7 and 8×10. Lay the 5×7 on the ground while the larger tarp provides cover for changing a tire in the rain/mud. Of course, they’re also useful for basic shelter if you had to exit your car and hoof it to a shelter or other help.
Do Not Let Your Gas Tank Get Low
One of my readers, whom I call my friend, Harry, sent this information on why we shouldn’t let our gas tank get low. Thank you, Harry!!
“Of course, there are the “being prepared” reasons, but here are some other reasons not to let your fuel tank get low:
1. Most vehicles today have a fuel pump in the fuel tank. When this pump works, it generates heat and it depends on the fuel in the tank to cool it. The less fuel in the tank, the less capability to dissipate the heat in the fuel pump. More heat to the fuel pump can cause premature wear and earlier failure.
2. Most gasoline today has a quantity of ethanol in it. Ethanol is hygroscopic, meaning it attracts water. When you have a large quantity of air in your tank because of the low gasoline level, there is a much greater chance of condensation occurring. This places water in the tank which can combine with ethanol.
If there is sufficient water, phase separation occurs where the alcohol-containing water separates from the gasoline and drops out of suspension to the bottom of the tank since water is heavier than gasoline. The fuel pump pickup is located near the bottom of the tank.
If the level of water rises to that point, you will be sitting on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck to take you to a shop to have the fuel tank drained and the fuel lines purged, not an inexpensive repair.
3. Further, with the above-mentioned condensation, rust and other contaminants can form in the tank. If these loosen and drop into the bottom of the tank, they can be picked up by the fuel pump and clog the fuel filter.
Also, the lower the fuel level, the more sloshing of the fuel occurs increasing the chance of picking up these contaminants and sending them to the fuel filter as well. If the fuel filter gets clogged enough, you will once again be sitting on the side of the road. Just thought I would point these out as further support for not letting the gasoline level drop very far before topping off the tank.”
Your car typically comes with a jack, but make sure your car kit ensemble has everything you need. Don’t be caught without a spare tire. Let me know the things you like in your emergency car kit, let’s make this list really long, depending on where you live and the size of your family, and the vehicle to carry the kit contents. Thanks again for being prepared for the unexpected.
Copyright Images: Car Disaster Management Kit AdobeStock_338907885 by SpeedShutter
16 thoughts on “How To Make Your Own Emergency Car Kit”
Good stuff. Just sat on a flooded highway this morning with a full tank and no worry
Hi Matt, I love hearing this!! I don’t worry about you, my friend! You’ve got this! Linda
Good idea. I was leaving Houston (planned) as a hurricane was forecast, so thousands were evacuating the city. The trip home is usually 4 hours, but it took 12. I always carry water, granola bars, and fruit when I travel as well as a first aid kit, blankets, jump starter, etc. Fortunately, I had filled the gas tank the day before. I was stuck in traffic for several hours before I could exit to get to a bathroom. I now carry an emergency bathroom kit for those emergencies.
Hi Gretchen, wow, 12 hours compared to 4 hours!! I’m with you on carrying an emergency bathroom kit! We never know how long we’ll be trapped on the highway without being able to exit. Great comment, thank you! Linda
We are currently experiencing flooding. I always bring my 2 dogs and their gear when I leave my semi-rural house during inclimate weather. I have to be prepared for all of us in case I can’t get home.
Hi Lori, I love your comment. I have a bag of “stuff” in my car for my dog as well. We have to be prepared for the whole family and that includes our beloved pets. Love this! Linda
Whatever you store in your car be sure that it can be in there awhile. Do not store nuts or chocolate because they can melt in hot weather and/or go rancid. After a few weeks, rotate to keep dried fruit, nuts, chocolate fresh.
Hi Cheryl, oh you are so right, nuts go rancid so quickly. Chocolate would be a mess to clean up if the outside temperatures get very hot! I tend to keep freeze-dried foods in Pantry cans, they last a very long time. But fresh chocolate would be nice in the winter (it wouldn’t melt unless it was close to the heater). Linda
Years ago our highway was shut down completely due to a train derailment carry hazardous materials. We had taken a day trip and we’re headed home, had some lunch and had filled up the gas tank before starting for home. Traffic was at a complete standstill. After an hour, my husband and 2 boys had walked back to the last exit for some drinks. Long lines for the restroom. Being male has some advantages, if any bush is handy. We spent a total of 9 hours to get home on a trip that should have been only 1 1/2 hours drive. We were lucky. We had visited a bakery during our trip and were bringing goodies home, not the best dinner but we had something. I always carry throw blankets that rolled up under the backseats so the boys were able to sleep. As for me, I found an old toddler size diaper leftover in the car can be hand on that trip, still carry diaper in the car ever since. We always have carried other supplies (first aid kit, tools, water) in the car. You hope you never have to use them but it was nice that we were able to an extended trip more bearable.
Hi Roxanne, oh my gosh, the hazardous materials are scary enough!! Yikes! I bet those bakery goodies were delicious! Great tip on the blankets! We never know when we may need something. You started a trip back home expecting 1-1/2 hours that turned into 9 hours. Wow! I’m glad your gas tank was full! Good job! Linda
I think I’d also recommend having meds on hand too. Carry extra on your person or part of your emergency kit. Not everybody is born is born in perfect bodies.
Hi Gin, great reminder, I always carry mine, but I will add it to the list for those who may not think about it. Thank you!!! Linda
I have stuff in my car, but no place to put it. Toyota engineers made two tiny compartments and the spare fits tightly in it’s tire well. They really did not consider where one would put tools, flares, etc., in the vehicle.
I also have a pickup, but have yet to put many supplies in it. I keep it kind of empty since I pickup things all the time and need space inside as well as the empty bed. Again, like the Toyota, supplies and gear is exposed and anyone taking a peek inside will see everything.
Based on the items or devices available and ideas from preppers and survival minded people, I need to figure out how to pack and carry everything. For the Toyota I can create shelves or a rack, but need to hide everything. My efforts for everyday use will also handle if not turn my vehicles into “bug out ready” vehicles should I need to evacuate or need to travel.
In the truck the space beneath the back seat is plentiful, but I need shallow containers no ore than about 7 inches, so those heavy duty boxes won’t fit. I need to use smaller containers or build a tray that fills the space.
Hi Frank, it really is hard to fit all that we really want for an emergency in our vehicles. I can only take what I can in my small Honda CRV. But something is better than nothing. I totally agree they should ask us how to design cars for storage, we know what we need, but we need a place to stow it securely!! Linda
We drove south from Western New York to Orlando, Florida every January, February and March for the first 12 years of our retirement. While we carried a lot, there is no way we can add all this, especially with my mobility scooter taking up most of the back. Even going thru West Virginia or The DC Beltway, we never ran into a delay of more than a hour….. I realize we were blessed. Times are also changing, and while we never had anything taken from our car, now everything would need to be hidden. We no longer travel more than 90 minutes from home, and only during good weather. You list is very well thought out and I will pass it on to my kids.
Hi Chris, oh that yearly trip for 12 years sounds so wonderful. You are so right, times are changing, that’s for sure. There are no words for what is going on right now. I never pictured the chaos going on today in my lifetime. It’s so sad. Luckily we can enjoy our family and friends and keep staying positive. We must. Linda