What you need in your car emergency kit

18 March 2019

Whether it happens on a road trip, on the way to work, or just on a quick trip to the shops, it’s never a convenient time for your car to break down.

Regardless of the conditions in which you’re driving, or the purpose of your trip, it’s a good idea to keep a few essentials handy that might be able help you out of a difficult situation. A few suggestions are listed below.

Remember, having the right car insurance is another way that you can cover your vehicle in case you run into the unexpected.

Explore GIO Car Insurance options

For short trips

You’re more likely to have something go wrong with your car during shorter, everyday trips because this is how you use it the most. If you break down while you’re not too far from home, you might find the following items useful.

A spare tyre

If you’ve ever experienced a flat tyre, you’ll know they can happen at any (and often the most awkward) time so it’s a good idea to be prepared. Making sure that you have a spare, and the tools required to change it, will enable you to get back on the road more quickly.

Newer car tyres may utilise run flat technology, which means that if you get a puncture your tyre won’t deflate suddenly. It will even support the weight of your car for a short period so you can get to a service station for repair or replacement. If your car is an older model, you’ll probably have a space saver tyre in the boot. This is not designed to be a permanent replacement, so if you do get a flat tyre and have to replace it, it’s best to book an appointment with your mechanic or tyre shop.

If you do have a flat tyre, try to avoid driving where you can or pull over to safe area as soon as possible so it can be replaced.

Your vehicle’s user manual

If you notice that something’s amiss, such as a warning light on your dashboard, your user manual may be able to help you identify the issue. It should also include information about whether you need to give the issue immediate attention, or if there’s time to get to your mechanic.

A torch

If you need better visibility to make quick roadside repairs, having a torch in your car emergency kit will be helpful. If your torch is battery operated, be sure to have plenty of spares.

A poncho or umbrella

If you experience a breakdown in wet weather, a poncho or umbrella will help to keep you dry if you need to make any repairs. If, on the other hand, it’s a hot summer’s day you could also use an umbrella to provide you with shade from the sun.


Blankets are a useful addition to your car emergency kit for several reasons. You can use one to protect your clothes if you need to change a tyre, to keep warm if you break down during the winter months, or to take a nap if you’re feeling tired.

For a weekend away

In addition to your day-to-day car emergency kit, you might like to consider adding these items if you’re planning on heading away for the weekend.

A large bottle of water

A bottle of water is inexpensive, but it can be a very practical addition to your car emergency kit. Use it to clean your windshield, top up your wiper fluid or to keep hydrated in the event of a breakdown.

First aid kit

Having a basic first aid kit in your car can help to prevent small injuries from becoming more serious. A basic first aid kit should include:

  • Sticking plasters
  • Antiseptic
  • Gauze
  • Fabric bandages
  • Pain killers
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers

You can purchase first aid kits from most hardware stores and pharmacies – some vehicles are even fitted with them. And, if it’s been a while, it doesn’t hurt to brush up on your first aid training either.

A rag

A rag can help you to keep your car clean of dust and bird droppings, which may assist you in keeping your windscreen and windows clear of obstructions while also protecting its paintwork.

For long trips

If you’re hitting the road for a longer trip, you’ll want to make sure it’s memorable for the right reasons. By including these items in your car emergency kit, especially if you’re planning to travel through remote areas, you may be able to help yourself out of a tricky situation.

Car maintenance equipment

When you’re thinking about setting out on any long journey, whether it’s to another city or to the countryside, be sure to check your vehicle’s fluid (oil and coolant) are at the right level. If either of these fluids is low, top them up before you go to avoid damaging your vehicle.

Once you’re on the road, regularly check that your engine temperature, oil pressure and battery charge are within safe ranges.

A road map

When you’re travelling somewhere new, you need to know you’re heading in the right direction. If you have a smartphone, you should be able to access maps via an app (if you’re using it in your car, you need to be able to use it hands-free and without it obscuring your view of the road). However, if you’re going to be driving through areas with no mobile phone coverage – or in the event your smartphone runs out of battery – having a current printed road map on hand will save the day.

Jump start battery

Even if you have roadside assistance, it may take a while for help to arrive if you’re in a remote area and your car’s battery has gone flat. What’s more, if you’re further than 100 km from the nearest mechanic you may not be able to access roadside assistance.

Many service stations provide jumper batteries that can get your battery back in working order in case of a flat. Don’t forget to read the instructions carefully and consult your vehicle user manual so you know this is a suitable option, and to keep it charged.

Cat litter

Surprisingly, cat litter can be a very handy addition to your car emergency kit. It can be used if you find yourself driving through ice, oil or mud – the crystals that make it up can help the wheels of your car gain traction so that you can move forward more safely.

Non-perishable food

Having extra food available to you if you’re going to be travelling for long distances between amenities, or in the event of a breakdown, will help to keep your hunger at bay and your energy levels up.

Roadside assistance

Even if you’re a safe driver with a good track record and a well-stocked car emergency kit, the unexpected can happen. You might need a new battery or accidentally lock your keys in your car. You may even require a tow to the nearest mechanic, up to a maximum of 20 km in a metro area or 100 km in a regional area, after a breakdown. This is where having roadside assistance can come in handy.

Roadside Assist is available as an optional cover with GIO Platinum or Comprehensive Car Insurance, and provides 24/7 support for your car regardless of who’s driving it.

Find out more about GIO Roadside Assist

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Insurance is issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as GIO Insurance. Consider the Product Disclosure Statement before making a decision about this insurance. This advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it.