20 Essential Items for Your Car Emergency Kit

Roadside triangle behind broken car on side of road

Vehicle breakdowns happen all the time. A good driver is always prepared for the unexpected with a roadside emergency kit. A pre-packaged car emergency kit is a great place to start, but tailoring your own kit has additional benefits. You’ll know what’s inside and can customize items for your personal needs and the weather in your area.

For drivers in D.C. and Maryland, we recommend the following essentials for your emergency kit:

  1. Car cell phone charger
  2. First Aid kit
  3. Flashlight and extra batteries
  4. Jumper cables
  5. Small fire extinguisher
  6. Flares or reflective triangle
  7. Tire gauge
  8. Foam tire sealant
  9. Duct tape
  10. Utility tool or Swiss Army Knife
  11. Fleece blankets
  12. Water and snacks
  13. Windshield ice scraper
  14. Boots, extra gloves, socks and hats
  15. Rain poncho
  16. Hand crank emergency radio
  17. Engine oil
  18. Washer fluid
  19. Rags
  20. Tarp

If you’re going on a long-distance journey, consider items like:


  • Toilet paper
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Trash bags
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Soap
  • Feminine protection
  • Ziploc bags


  • Whistle
  • Cash
  • Disposable camera
  • Pepper spray
  • Emergency contact on card

Survival gear

  • Sunblock
  • Waterproof matches
  • Maps
  • Walking shoes
  • Medications
  • Hat
  • Bug repellent

Once you’ve put your kit together, you’ll need a handy container to put everything in. A soft-sided tool box or even a bookbag will conform to the contours of your trunk. Just make sure the kit is easily accessible.

Plan accordingly before going on trips and make sure your vehicle is properly maintained. A well-stocked emergency kit can handle an array of dangerous situations and be a life saver.