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Why You Need a Car Emergency Kit (and What To Put In It)

These essential items for your roadside emergency kit will help you stay safe if you get stranded.

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by Team Onlia

Zipping off to cottage country for the weekend is relaxing. Getting stuck on the way there is not. If you break down in a remote area, have no phone service, or need immediate assistance, a car emergency kit can be a life-saver. No driver should hit the road without one packed and ready.

What do I need in my car emergency kit?

The Government of Canada recommends including the following items in your car emergency kit: 

  • Food. Stock food that won’t spoil for several months, like granola bars. Be sure to swap them out every 4 to 6 months.
  • Water. Fill up a few 2L plastic bottles. Glass bottles can break if the water freezes.
  • Blanket. You don’t know what the weather conditions will be like and how long you’ll be waiting for help. 
  • Extra clothing and shoes. Throw in a hat with flaps for your ears, gloves, socks, and an extra pair of boots. You’ll also want a rain poncho in case you have to step out of your car in a storm.
  • First aid kit. A standard kit has gauze pads of various sizes, an assortment of bandages, cleaning agent for wounds, scissors, tweezers, latex gloves, resuscitation equipment, and a splint. 
  • Seat belt cutter. This can be a game changer in an accident, although you may want to keep it some place close, like under the driver’s seat or in the map holding compartment on your door.
  • Manual equipment. This includes a foldable shovel, scraper, and a snow brush. When the temperature drops, these are essential items in a winter car emergency kit.
  • Wind-up flashlightYou don’t want to be stymied by dead batteries. 
  • Lighter, a deep can, and waterproof matchesThis will provide an alternative heat and lighting source.
  • Whistle. If you’re in a remote area, you’ll need to attract attention without constantly moving away from the safety of your car and emergency supplies.
  • Roadmaps. Your phone may not be able to receive a signal for map apps.
  • Sand, kitty litter, or saltThis will help you grip slippery items.
  • Antifreeze and windshield washer fluidThese are obvious items, but it’s easy to forget to stock them or replace an empty bottle.
  • Tow ropeThis comes in handy if you need to get your car out of a ditch. 
  • Jumper cables. This’ll help you get your car started again when another driver offers help.
  • Fire extinguisherSelf-explanatory, but definitely easy to overlook. 
  • Warning light or road flares. Getting stuck on the side of the road puts you in a vulnerable position, so it’s good to have signals to warn approaching drivers (and attract help).

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Find a durable, waterproof bag suited to cold

You’ve got two options for car emergency kits: buy a pre-made kit or build one yourself. If you just want a quick solution that works, a pre-made kit may be the best option. In an emergency, something is better than nothing!

If you’re particular about the specific tools you use, then a customized kit is the way to go.

Pre-made kits typically come in bags made of suitable, weather-appropriate material. If you’re building your own kit, don’t simply throw your items into any old bag. Pick a waterproof bag that’s made out of material suited for cold weather.

A car emergency kit can nip disaster in the bud

This may seem like a lot of stuff to pack. But in an emergency it’ll feel like just enough. If you'd like to be even more well-equipped, there are plenty of other items that could come in handy in an emergency, like a window glass hammer or a screwdriver set. To an extent, having a car emergency kit prepares you to be your own first-responder, and potentially help others in a tough spot. Stock up on the items you need and keep them tucked away in your car. While we hope you never need them, we’re glad they’re there if you do!

Know a helpful item that isn't included here? Let us know by tweeting us @OnliaCA!


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