Prep Your Vehicle for Emergencies

Most people can prep their vehicle for emergencies in about one hour with items they already have around the house. Of course, this is basic prep, and you can spend a great deal more time refining your vehicle emergency kit later, but the important thing is to get from “zero” to “something” right away.

In S1 E2 of Survival Tips, we do a surprise inspection of Jake’s Jeep to see how he fares with his preparedness. He’s the SnoMan’s oldest son, so he’d better pass inspection!

Watch video at WND TV

Basic Vehicle Emergency Kit

The basic kit consists of the following seven items [note: I include some links to items on Amazon. See my FTC disclosure statement and my product recommendation policy]:

  1. Tire change. This item requires a run-through; change the tire and make sure you have all the tools you need, and that the spare is properly inflated. Make sure everyone who drives the vehicle is capable of safely changing the tire.
  2. Fire extinguisher. This is the one item you might not have just lying around the house, but you can get one for under $30. Here’s one example from Amazon that includes a mounting bracket.
  3. Water. Ideally, you should store one gallon of water per person per day. Realistically, I know that’s hard to do in a vehicle, but one thing is undeniable — it’s better to have some water than none. I recommend you buy a case of your favorite bottled water, stick it somewhere in the vehicle, and then forget about it. If you ever do tap into it, replace it immediately. However you store your water, make sure it will withstand freezing without bursting its container. Just FYI, our water stock came in handy when our entire family got stranded on the highway for several hours late one night due to a fatal accident ahead of us. The Interstate was shut down and became a parking lot for four hours.
  4. Snacks. We also tapped into our snacks that same night. Stock anything you’ll be happy to eat. A balanced diet is something you consider globally, but an emergency food stock in your car is really about eating something quick and easy, without cooking, just to get you home. Just make sure it can take heat and cold, and that you have the means to open it, if it’s canned food. Easy-pull canned goods work great, and so do snack bars. Avoid chocolate, which gets messy in the heat. Rotate your stock two or three times a year, since the intense heat in parked vehicles will degrade even canned goods. I rotate the stuff into my pantry, so nothing goes to waste.
  5. Jumper cables. I have to warn you: Good cables are expensive. Get them if your budget allows, but again, something is better than nothing. If all you can afford is cheap cables, they could still get you going, so go ahead and put something in the car. Here are some fairly expensive 800 amp cables from Amazon. Look for the following indicators of quality;
    1. Heavy gauge. Small gauge number means thicker cable.
    2. Copper wire. Most cables are made of copper-clad aluminum; all-copper cables are very expensive.
    3. Long cables. The longer the cable, the easier you can connect to another vehicle. However, longer cables transmit lower voltage, and so they need to be correspondingly thicker. I recommend at least 16-foot cables, and 20 is better.
    4. Sturdy clamps. Cheap clamps won’t hold up to frequent use. Hopefully, you won’t use the cables much.
  6. Tools. The basic tool kit includes duct tape, an adjustable wrench, a flat-head screwdriver, a #2 Phillips-head screwdriver, pliers with a wire cutter, a flashlight, and a few zip ties. You also need something to cut with; this could be a knife, a utility knife, or a box cutter. You should also consider some sort of multitool like a Swiss Army knife or a Leatherman.
  7. First aid. As usual, in a basic first aid kit I want to see, at a minimum, some adhesive bandages and some antiseptic wipes. I’m not saying that’s all you need, but these are the items I use most often, so I’m sure to include them in every kit. Additional items to consider for a basic kit: a few pain pills like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin; a razor blade or scalpel; antibiotic ointment; surgical tape; and a self-adhesive wrap, like to wrap a sprained ankle. You can get as elaborate as you want. I keep a kit similar to this one in my vehicle.

Your needs may vary — feel free to share your recommendations in the comments.

~ SnoMan


13 thoughts on “Prep Your Vehicle for Emergencies”

  1. (1) A cell phone charger cable-12 volt DC car cigarette lighter plug on one end, and (typically) a mini-USB cellphone plug on the other, the same as your regular charger. Cheap, and can save the day. You can get this at any cellphone kiosk at the mall.

    (2) A real wool blanket. Military surplus is great. Try for 100% wool-big difference. Typically $15-25. Make sure it’s not a made-in-India useless fake clone.

    (3) A mini roll (1 inch wide) of Gorilla tape, which is like duct tape on steroids. Lowes or Home Depot. About $3.

  2. A small sheet of cardboard comes in handy should you need to work under the car. The mylar emergency blankets can also be useful and take up less room than wool blankets. If the weather is nice during the day where you wear shorts, a pair of pants and a sweatshirt may be handy at night. During winter, dress like you will be outside for a while and remove a couple layers when you are in the car driving.

    1. Good idea about the cardboard. It can store flat in the trunk and never get in the way, and it’s there when you need it.

  3. I didn’t see a flashlight on the list above but maybe I missed it. I also keep a duffel bag in the trunk with a change of clothes – sweats, socks, tee shirt, and definitely some tennis shoes since most days I’m in heels, and a rain poncho (the cheap fold up ones in the little package).

  4. Corkscrew! Seriously. I have used many time when out and about, especially visiting wineries. Tablecloth, blanket, old gloves, hat, compass, compact shovel (GI issue style), backpack, etc. Needless to say, my kit is housed in a locking tote in the trunk. It has come in handy numerous times.

  5. I have everything listed above and below plus electrical tape, benadryl for allergic reactions, a major first aid kit suitable for 4 people, an ax, hatchet, machete, small fishing kit, toilet paper, batteries, scissors, a .22 cal pistol with ammo for out in the woods, and there is more that I haven’t listed. believe it or not most all of it fits in the plastic milk crates. the other stuff that won’t can be stuffed into nooks and crannies around my truck without getting in the way.

  6. I drive a Suburban. It always carries a lot of stuff! A good tow strap can be used for lots of things, other than just towing. 200′ of paracord, 3 gallon gas can (full), chains, full winter bug out bag, full trauma kit, two fire extinguishers, plus all those 16 oz water bottles that can be used on small class A fires instead of wasting a good dry chem fire extinguisher. You get the picture. :)

  7. A couple of added Items that have multiple uses to go with the first aid kit are Tampons and Kotex with wings. the tampons are good for their original use as well as being excellent sterile items to use for any type of penetration injuries or knife wounds or bullet wounds. the Kotex with wings has adhesive all along the side to help with stopping blood flow as well. Both of these items could easily save a life when they are needed and they pack away in a pretty small area..

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