Essential items for your car safety and emergency kit

car emergency kit in boot

Danny Baggs

Posted March 17, 2023

Car breakdowns are stressful enough. Give yourself peace of mind by learning what essentials to keep in your car safety kit in case of an unexpected breakdown or emergency.

A car safety kit, or car emergency kit, is a collection of essentials you may need after a car breakdown or other emergency. Keeping these important items in your vehicle could help you deal with a variety of post-breakdown situations until your roadside assistance arrives. It’s similar to a home emergency kit, which is used in emergency situations like blackouts and evacuations.

You don’t need to invest in expensive materials to organise your car with an emergency car kit. Most of the small items can be picked up from your local supermarket or were included when you purchased your car. Before you leave on a road trip, ensure you have adequate emergency roadside assistance coverage in place.

What to pack in your car safety kit

Mobile phone with charger

A charged mobile phone allows you to call roadside assistance and (if necessary) emergency services for help after a car breakdown. Bring a compatible phone charger as well as a fully charged power bank on your drives to keep your phone charged and ready to use.

Bottled water and non-perishable food

If you’re broken down on the side of the road for several hours, it’s important to stay hydrated with clean water. Always store a few litres of water in your car, whether it’s several bottles of water or a 10L container. If you’re driving into a remote area, bring more water just in case. However, make sure not to leave water in plastic bottles or containers in the car, as sunlight and heat will eventually break down the plastic, causing it to leach into the water.

You may also choose to pack some non-perishable foods with your water, such as muesli bars and dried fruit.


man's hand holding torch to see into car bonnet

A handheld torch will save your phone battery for important calls. Image: Getty


Torch with spare batteries

Using the ‘torch’ mode on your smartphone can drain vital battery life that you may need to call for roadside assistance. If you need to investigate under the bonnet, or if you break down in a dark area, you’ll be glad to have a decent handheld torch on hand. In a worst-case scenario, a torch is also useful for signalling for help. Remember to pack some spare batteries for your torch too, just in case.

Car owner’s manual

You should have received your car owner's manual when you purchased your vehicle, used or new. Typically kept in the glovebox, a car owner's manual provides important information about your car, including what each symbol on your dash means. If any warning lights appear on your dash, you should call roadside assistance to get the issue fixed before continuing driving. Otherwise, you can refer to your car owner's manual for instructions on how to maintain proper tyre pressure, change lightbulbs, top up fluids, and more.


mobile phone being charged with a power bank

Keeping a charged power bank in your car allows you to charge up your phone in an emergency. Image: Getty


Jumper leads

It can be easy to run your car battery flat by simple mistakes like forgetting to turn your lights off when the car isn’t running. Keeping a set of jumper leads in your car enables you to jump-start your car battery if there is a working vehicle nearby. Carefully read your car manual’s instructions on jump-starting your car to perform the jump-start safely: if done incorrectly, you could potentially cause costly damage to your car. 
If your car battery is dead rather than flat, you will need to have it replaced by roadside assistance. Roadside assistance can also jump-start your car battery if there are no other vehicles around or if you don’t have jumper leads.

Hi-vis safety vest and reflective triangle

It’s always useful to be prepared for a car breakdown, no matter where you’re travelling. The best thing you can do for your own safety is to make sure other motorists can see you and your vehicle as they approach. You should always keep your car’s hazard lights on in the event of a crash or breakdown but consider also keeping a hi-vis safety vest and a reflective triangle in your car too.

Hi-vis safety vests are cheap, lightweight and easy to store beneath your seat or in a seat pocket. Wearing a road safety vest can help make you more visible to oncoming traffic.

In low visibility conditions, a reflective triangle can be used as extra warning for other motorists. Place it on the side of the road between 30 to 50 metres behind your stopped vehicle to give motorists extra time to spot the roadside hazard.


RACV ERA worker in hi-vis safety vest checking battery life in customer's car

Roadside assistance technicians always wear hi-vis gear.


Spare wheel and tyre

While you should keep updated with your car maintenance and ensure that your car’s tyres are safe before driving, you can’t predict when you might get a flat tyre on the road. Keep a compatible spare tyre in your car so that roadside assistance can quickly and easily change over a flat tyre for you. Check that your spare tyre is properly inflated at least every six months with a simple hand-held tyre pressure gauge.

Picnic rug or blanket

A quality blanket or picnic rug has many more uses than you think. In a car breakdown, you can use a blanket or rug to stay safe from broken glass, rig a ‘tarp’ to avoid the sun, or stay warm in cold weather. You can even use it to cover up and grab a nap during long drives.

Fire extinguisher

A fire extinguisher can be used to prevent a small fire becoming unmanageable. Ensure you securely mount the extinguisher in the back to prevent movement within your car – otherwise you may end up causing more harm with a rolling extinguisher. Remember, do not attempt to put out any unmanageable fires or stay at the scene if your safety is at risk.


RACV ERA worker changing a tyre on a customer's car

Keep a spare car tyre handy in case your roadside assistance technician needs to change your tyre.


First aid kit

Storing a first aid kit in your car can be a lifesaver – literally. There are many pre-made motoring first aid kits available through ambulance services, chemists and hardware stores. Alternatively, you can make your own first aid kit. Make sure your kit includes (at a minimum) gloves, antiseptic wipes, band-aids, bandages, gauze, dressing pads and painkillers. It might be a good idea to take a basic first aid training course too, so you know how to treat different types of injuries.

Small amount of cash

You may find yourself needing emergency money in a breakdown. It’s a good idea to keep spare money hidden in your car for unexpected events, from needing a taxi to refuelling your car. Remember, you don’t need to keep any more than $50 – this cash is just for an emergency. Visible money is enough for some opportunistic thieves to break into your car, so ensure that your cash is well hidden in your car.


first aid kit with supplies displayed

Make sure your car first aid kit is well-stocked and maintained. Image: Getty


Roadside assistance membership

Maintaining an active roadside assistance membership is inexpensive and can save you a lot of trouble if you break down. RACV Emergency Roadside Assistance is available 24/7 for drivers Australia-wide and fixes 90 per cent of issues on the spot, from flat batteries and tyres to running out of petrol or even getting locked out of your car.