40+ Essential Things You Should Keep In Your Car Graphic © off-grid.info. Photo – AdobeStock #34318868 (under license)
Every car owner should have a dedicated in-car survival kit. It is just common sense and could even save your life or that of your loved ones.
Here we proudly present our full updated / expanded check list of
30 44 Essential Things You Should Keep in Your Car – together with useful notes and tips.
Go through this checklist, make a note of which items are already in your car and which ones you need. The links we provided are to our pick of highest rated products on Amazon. Ok, let’s go!
Maintenance And Repair
1: Spare Tire And Tire Change Accessories. Your spare tire should be in good condition and checked regularly for air when you check the air of your other tires. So many people forget this! If the spare tire is flat then it is of course useless. You should also have a jack and lug wrench to take off the wheel nuts. These are usually supplied with new cars but might be missing – so be sure to check if there is one already in your car, typically in the spare wheel compartment. Not all lug wrenches are created equal so if you need to buy one, get a good one. Some wheels have security nuts requiring a special adaptor / security key and so you should check that this item is present if required.
A quick note on jacks – include a 12″ square of sturdy plywood (one-inch) in your tire change kit. It could be a lifesaver… here’s why: The portable “diamond jacks” that come with most cars are “just about ok” if the car is on hard tarmac – but let’s say you ran off the road and popped a tire. Have you ever tried jacking up a car with one of those jacks on even slightly soft ground? Not only is it very difficult, but it is also potentially extremely dangerous. If the jack subsides even a small amount when the wheel is off, as those little jacks are prone to, it can VERY suddenly collapse. Just pray that you are not under the car when it happens! Your square of plywood will greatly help prevent the jack from sinking into the dirt and potentially save the day. For even better results, you could create some kind of recess in the center of the plywood square that fits and holds the foot of the jack securely.
Related: VIDEO: In-Car Emergency Survival Kit!
2: Tire Inflater / Sealer. The brands everyone knows are “Fix-A-Flat” and “Slime”. These can provide a short term repair sufficient to get your car to the repair shop.
3: Jump Leads aka Jumper Cables. Note that there is a big difference in quality between cheapie ones (typically thinner cables) and higher quality ones (typically chunkier). Don’t skimp here. Buy heavy duty long ones such as these 2 gauge cables which got loads of rave reviews. The thickness of the wire does matter as it increases the current carrying capacity of the cable – and the quality of the clips matters too. A very useful alternative / addition is an emergency car starter power pack – which is essentially a small portable rechargeable battery with clips to attach it to your car’s battery, giving it a boost when required.
4: Sturdy Work Gloves. Indispensable when you are required to do any kind of work on your car or deal with any other rough work that could tear your hands. Definitely the most commonly used thing in my car survival kit.
5: Box Of Disposable Gloves. These have numerous uses including wearing when refueling, so as to prevent getting gasoline on your hands!
6: The Manual For Your Car. This contains all kinds of useful information from correct tire pressures to how to change fuses and bulbs.
7: Digital Tire Pressure Gauge. Regular checking of tire pressures can reveal problems before they become hazardous. Keeping tires at the correct pressure also improves fuel economy, prolongs tire life and optimizes handling.
8: Utility Wire / Rebar Wire. This is not electrical wire, but a sturdy single-stranded iron wire. If you are for example in a fender-bender and part of the car is hanging loose, you may be able to do enough of a quick-repair with the wire that is good enough to get you home.
9: Spare Car Fuses. Most often there is a little holder for these in the fuse compartment, but check it and make sure it is well-stocked with all the fuses your car needs. You can check the manual for the exact fuse ratings you need and while you are at it, be sure to check all the fuses currently in use and make sure they were replaced with the correct rated fuse! Here is a pack of car fuses that got great reviews; you can keep this pack in the garage and re-stock your car with a few spares as needed.
10: Set Of Spare Bulbs For All The Lights Of The Car. This could not only be the difference between getting pulled over, but could potentially be a life saver. There have been fatal accidents caused by a blown bulb; which can result in both loss of ability to see well and also the loss of ability to be seen! Missing brake lights can be dangerous as in the dark it would be significantly harder to tell that someone in front of you has braked suddenly. Regularly have a friend help you check all the lights of the car – it only takes a minute to run through them all.
11: Roll Of Repair Tape. I personally use gaffer tape, the cloth-backed kind as I find this both strong and easy to use. Gaffer tape also has the advantage of being easy to tear off the size of strip you want, but you might also want to check out Gorilla All-Weather Tape or the cheaper Duck Tape.
12: Zip Ties. Another quick-repair essential!
13: Gallon Of Water in a screw top plastic bottle. This is extremely useful for refilling your radiator or windscreen washer in a pinch.
14: Piece Of Old Carpet. If you have to get under the vehicle for any reason, this will be much less uncomfortable than the road surface. And if you are stuck in mud, it can be put under the stuck wheel to provide additional traction.
15: Power Inverter. There are lots of cheapie ones but I would advise a good quality pure sine wave inverter. For the more serious survivalist, a high power pure sine inverter such as this one (2000W) will provide the ability to not only charge phones and power laptops but also run various other electrical appliances, even power tools and more.
16: Basic Tool Kit containing a socket set (this one got tons of 5 star reviews) with the sizes and correct system (metric or inch scale) typically found in your car, multi-bit screwdriver, pliers with wire cutter, multi purpose wrench (this one is amazing) and other essentials. Some cars such as BMW used to provide a small tool kit. Check your car manual to learn where it is and see what you’ve got!
17: Multi-tool such as a Leatherman or Gerber. This is a survival kit essential. This one got loads of great reviews and is low cost.
18: All Purpose Survival Tool such as the Trucker’s Friend All-Purpose Survival Tool (a serious piece of kit which has tons of uses!)
19: Fire Extinguisher though do note that putting out a vehicle fire is difficult and can be dangerous. Your primary objective should always be to get yourself and other occupants out of the vehicle and to a safe distance away asap. Make sure your fire extinguisher is somewhere within easy reach in the cabin of the car and learn how to use it beforehand – so that you can deploy it swiftly when the time comes. You won’t have time to read the instructions when things are burning!
Survival And Safety
20: Essential Paperwork. Driving License (in your wallet of course), Proof of Insurance, AA / AAA card if you are a member.
21: Emergency Cash. Essential survival tool! If you are stranded, cash can get you a room for the night, food, water, gas, public transportation, all kinds of things. Another beauty of this emergency supply is that one day, you are bound to get to the grocery store and realize that you have forgotten your wallet. Bingo! Your emergency cash-stash just saved you a journey. Keep $100-$200 tucked away somewhere hidden – maybe inside the user manual or in some other obscure / secret place no-one will look.
22: First Aid Kit. Many cars now come with one, perhaps under the front passenger seat. Be sure you know where yours is and check that it is stocked. Also keep any medications or remedies that you require, in case you are ever stranded away from home longer than planned. This is a great starter survival / first aid kit – 268pcs – rave reviews.
23: Flashlight. Get a purpose-built Roadside Emergency Flashlight such as this one that has a flashing light option. If your car breaks down due to total loss of electrical power, your hazard lights will not work. An additional flashlight that can function as an emergency hazard light is a very wise investment. Honestly I would get two of these.
24: Drinkable Water. If you buy some typical bottled water, note that sunlight / heat can degrade the plastic and this can affect the water. It’s a good idea to leave a spare bottle of water in the cooler shade of the trunk and replace regularly.
25: Energy Bars Or Some Other High Energy Snack Food. Dried fruit / nuts, MREs. etc. If you break down or there is a very long unexpected traffic jam, you could potentially be stranded for several hours. The longest traffic jam I have ever been in turned a normally 6-hour journey into a 27 hour journey. It can happen! While we are on the subject of energy, pack some coffee, tea and vitamin C sachets such as Emergen-C.
26: Emergency Seatbelt Cutter And Window Breaker. Note that you should ideally keep this in the central compartment within easy reach of both driver and passenger, NOT in the trunk and NOT in the glove compartment! These are very inexpensive and one option is to get a pack of 4 like this one so that you can put one in each occupant’s door pocket.
27: Reflective Emergency Triangles Or Flares. These will reduce the risk of you and your vehicle getting hit if you break down or are in an accident after dark.
28: Hi-Visibility Jackets / Vests. The fluorescent / reflective kind that highway construction workers and emergency personnel use. These could save you from getting run over in the dark. Pack enough for your family to have one each.
29: Road Atlas. Despite the fact that most people have GPS-capable smartphones or actual GPS, there are some instances in which it might fail. Your phone might get lost, dropped or stolen, or the charger could break. A road atlas – the paper kind – will be a great backup.
30: 550 Paracord. A survival kit essential with countless uses!
31: Tow Rope / Tow Strap for vehicle recovery.
32: Ice Scraper.
33: Folding Survival Shovel. Another survival kit essential with countless uses.
34: Ratchet Straps. Numerous uses including securing loads and holding the trunk closed if it will not close.
35: Blankets. Perfect for keeping warm in emergencies, having something to wrap up in if you need to take a nap, but also as a picnic blanket for outdoor adventures
36: Thermos cup/flasks. These are superb for keeping hot drinks hot, keeping cold drinks cold, are unbreakable and with the closable lids, protect your drink from flying insects and save your beverage (and your carpets!) in the case of an accidental knock-over. An essential.
37: Outdoor Shoes / Boots. Keep a pair of boots of some kind in the car, so that you can put them on when going for a walk. Then you can take them off when you get back to the car and not get mud all over the car interior.
38: Pen And Paper.
40: Wash Bag / Personal Toiletries with soap, toothbrush and paste, deodorant, shampoo, razor, personal sanitary products etc.
41: Hand Sanitizer – this has now become a modern essential of course.
42: Change Of Clothes. Include something warm, something waterproof, something cool. Keep a change of underwear & socks in a ziplock bag to keep them clean and dry.
43: Toilet Roll – because you never know!
Note – links to Amazon products are ‘affiliate links’ which means we earn a small commission on sales.
Can you think of any more Essential Things You Should Keep In Your Car? Let us know.
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9 thoughts on “List Of 40+ Essential Things You Should Keep In Your Car”
“Iron Wire”??? What is Iron Wire? I have not heard of this kind of wire before. Perhaps you mean something like bailing wire? I usually have a roll of bailing wire in my vehicle for emergencies.
Looks like a good list though.
Iron wire is just wire that is made out of iron.
This is a good list. The torch/flashlight is better if it is the non-battery type, that way it will always work.
In some countries, like Spain, it is a legal requirement to carry 2 warning triangles (of a specific type), spare lamp bulbs, and fluorescent jacket. You can also get ‘bags’ that hang from the back of the back seat or the sides of the trunk so that things are stored tidily and don’t move around. But a cardboard box with a lid is just as good.
I also keep a small toolkit (spanners, screwdrivers, screws, bolts), some elastic ropes with the hooks on the ends and some rope and string – occasionally useful if you go shopping and you buy something too big and need to tie the trunk lid down.
A first Aid kit with several disposable gloves and gauze. I just attended a motorbike accident and luckily someone else had a good first aid kit.
Great tips. I agree with carrying a chock of wood for many reasons (‘though a fortuitous rock or tree branch will often do) but, if your jack “slides out” as you say, you are not using it right!
I have an ex-shaped wrench for changing the tires. If you’ve ever tried to change a tire in the freezing winter with the wrench that comes with the car you will know what I’m talking about. The single pole with a thirty degree bend near the end gives you almost no leverage, and those bolts and nuts get rusty after a while. And no, lubricating the nuts that hold your wheel on is not a good idea.
I had one of those X shaped wrenches. It snapped at the X point – the first time I used it. Not relying on one of those again. I keep a 3 foot section of thick metal pipe in the trunk, it slips over the regular L-shaped lug wrench and provides amazing added leverage.
I bought iron wire at Home Depot and other hardware stores. Sometimes they just call it hardware wire.
Really liked your post. As a car owner, this is really important to know the list, what should we carry in the car. Well, you have shared a long list. I will try to accumulate all these in my car.