Soon after becoming obsessed falling in love with the DIY natural lifestyle, I realized that it had applications far beyond my home. Like my car. Well, I suppose that’s not too far from my home, but still. I quickly realized that with all of the time I spend in my car, it would be wise to assemble a DIY road safety kit.

Car Emergency Kit

And I can’t tell you how many times it’s come in handy (especially as owners of older VW vans – they tend to require special attention).


Our road safety kit has changed a little over the years and it’s personalized to our family of six. However, anyone can put together their own kit that can help you (or others) during emergency or other unplanned situations.

We keep most of our stuff in a small crate that my husband divided into sections with some spare plywood. Other items are tucked under our back seats and our spare clothing gets its own box.

Here’s a look at our road safety kit:

Oil (and accessories)

Like I said, older VW vans… We like to keep a quart on hand at all times, along with a funnel and rag to use when we check the oil.

Windshield Washer Fluid

We live in a rural area and we always seem to have dust on our windshield, so I’ve found it helpful to keep spare wiper fluid in the car. I used to buy it, but now I use this easy homemade windshield washer fluid recipe. It’s so easy and takes just a few minutes to make.

Extra Clothes

We have four small children (and one is potty training), so I keep a spare change of clothes for them in my car at all times. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve pulled stuff out, either due to accidents, spills or a sudden change in weather (that happens a lot where we live). Traveling with kids is an adventure in itself.

These clothes stay in a small plastic tote and I try to include layers that will work no matter what season. It includes one spare for each child:

  • T-shirt
  • Pants (leggings for the girls as they take up less space than jeans)
  • Sweater
  • Rain coat
  • Socks
  • Undies

If it’s a season where we’ll encounter lots of mud, I’ll throw some boots in the trunk. During winter I keep hats and gloves in the car for the whole family as well as a sweater for my husband and I.

Just remember to restock the box if you use something.

Jumper Cables

I am sadly familiar with approaching random people in parking lots to ask if they’ll jump my car. (My kids haven’t grasped the concept of shutting doors yet, which leaves on a battery-draining light – I’m not selling VW vans well, am I?)

People are more apt to help if you have jumper cables.

Rags

These are mainly used for checking oil or to wipe things up when we change fluids. We have a few extras in the front of the car for little noses.

Homemade Cleaning Wipes

These homemade cleaning wipes are really handy to have around, especially with little kids. Or adults who tend to spill coffee in the car…

Water

We keep a gallon of water in the car at all times. It either gets used for drinking when our water bottles are empty and we don’t have a water source, or for topping off the radiator (that’s where water goes, right?).


Folding Shovel

Do you know what’s fun? Digging your car out of the snow with a cast iron Christmas tree stand because that’s the only tool you have. Ok, no, it’s not fun.

Which is why I bought a folding snow shovel last year. So much easier to do things with the right tools.

First Aid Kit

This stays readily accessible in the car so we don’t have to dig for it in the case of an emergency. Or nosebleed. Or owie. Check out what I keep in my natural DIY First Aid Kit.

Chains

We live near mountains and have to cross them to visit most of our family members. We’ve run into snow as late as May, so we keep chains in the car a good part of the year.

Make sure you do a practice-run before you have to use them. It makes things much easier. And don’t forget to drive slow – my brother learned the hard way once that chains can do some serious damage to your car if you drive too fast with them on.

Flashlight

We’re actually quite fond of headlamps, which make putting chains on in the dark much easier. If you don’t have those, though, a couple of small flashlights are great to have on hand, as well as spare batteries.

Tools

You don’t need a giant assortment, but a small bag with a few key tools (and other items) can be very helpful. Especially if you have an older VW van… Here’s what we like to keep in our tool bag:

Blankets

This is another seasonal item. Choose warm blankets that fold up nice and small – wool is great.

Remember, this list is specific to our family of six (and not-so-reliable van), so personalize as needed.

Do you have a roadside safety kit? Would you add anything to this list?


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Comments

    • Lisa Nickel says

      What about dried fruit or nuts or energy bar- in case your trapped in a snow storm and stranded for a while?

  1. Kelly says

    I also am adding one or two of those emergency thermal blanket (available at walmart for a few bucks) They are tiny to store but unfolded repel a lot of cold if necessary. Also in our car go bag we keep some freeze dried food for extreme emergency and some snack like dried fruit or nuts etc…

  2. says

    I have a “container”(about 3′ long x 2′ wide x 14″ deep) hat we keep in the trunk of our car….
    in it, I have a complete tool set(ratchets, socket, wrenches, hammer, etc), Jumper cables made from 4 gauge wires, 2 quarts of motor oil, 1 quart of oil stabilizer(makes the oil work less hard), 2 gallons of antifreeze, 2 gallons of commercial window cleaner(when that is used up, I’ll start making my own), expandable traffic cones, & electronic fusees(the kind that are safe to use in a flammable environment).

    In the winter, I carry more stuff either in the container, or in the car.
    I try to be ready for worst case scenario…but as most people know, that is almost impossible to do.

  3. Debbie Dillon says

    I keep a shower curtain (available at the dollar store)in the trunk of each vehicle. If you have car trouble, it works as a ground cloth to help keep you clean/dry. When I bring home plants from the nursery it is spread underneath to catch dirt/mud. Also good for muddy shoes or equipment after sports practice. Remember to rinse it, if needed; return it to the vehicle once it is dry.

  4. Karen says

    Love the shower curtain tip. Thanks! My husband has an LED flashlight that is on a fold up tripod. It’s not any larger than a regular flashlight. It’s useful for getting under the car or the hood because it stands on its own, leaving your hands free.

  5. Exiting Egypt says

    We own a ’93 Eurovan and the best Christmas gift my inlaws have ever given us (and this will be the 4th year in a row that we ask for it) is a AAA membership. The free towing has come in handy at least 3 times! Thankfully though we’ve not ever run out of gas, or locked our keys in, or gotten a flat. Two things we keep in our bus, not mentioned above, is a can of Fix-A-Flat and spare fuses (gotta love the not-so-successful german electrical engineering of yore.)

  6. Annette Roy says

    When we go to restaurants and they give us extra napkins, we keep a supply in the glove box, they do come in handy. And we keep plastic bags in a box, you never know when someone is going to be sick and you cannot pull over. In the winter if someone needs an icepack, a plastic bag with snow or ice comes in handy.

  7. monique says

    Thanks for the list. Ours is pretty similar. I’d add a cell phone charger, toothbrushes, and toothpaste. Oh, and cash – both change and bills. The cell phone charger comes in handy for charging your phone before it dies and the emergency happens, the tootbrush/paste in case you end up not making it back home one night, and the cash in case you lose or forget your wallet. It can get you a 1/2 tank of gas or through a toll booth you weren’t prepared for.