Summer Emergency Car Kit: What’s in Yours?

Last year, my friend drove his family from their home in Georgia to Orlando, Florida. It would be his kids’ first visit to Disney World, a trip funded by hard-earned family savings. But the vacation ended up being more costly than planned when the family car broke down miles from home.

Transmission expert Steve Heggie says vacation break-downs like this are common.

“If you’ve ever been anywhere that’s a vacation destination—say you go to Myrtle Beach or to Disney World—you’ll see a lot of transmission shops in those areas,” Heggie said. “They have those types of shops there because people tend to overheat the vehicles.”

The same heat that causes vehicles to break down can also be dangerous for summer drivers and passengers. That’s why it’s important to prepare your vehicle and yourself for high summer temperatures, especially when heading out on that summer vacation.

Of course, routine maintenance like oil changes and tire rotation will help your vehicle to perform as expected. These often-overlooked services should be at the top of your list for summer, too. Some are easy to do yourself. For others, we recommend your local NAPA AutoCare Center.

To prepare yourself, you need an emergency car kit specially equipped for summer. If you have a winter kit, you’ll already have many of these items in your vehicle. But pull out that snow shovel and windshield scraper to make room for everything you need to beat the summer heat.

auto safety, roadside emergency

Except for the jumper cables and fuses that I store elsewhere in the vehicle, everything on the list is pictured here.

Summer Emergency Car Kit

  • Clear plastic bin
  • Water – one gallon plus one bottle per person
  • Phone charger – this one stays in the bin for emergencies
  • Snacks – energy bars, unsalted nuts, dried fruit
  • Sunscreen and/or wide-brim hat
  • Reflective emergency blanket – can be used for shade
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight or headlamp (hand-crank flashlights are ideal for emergencies)
  • Pocket knife/multi-tool
  • Visibility equipment (flares or reflective hazard triangles)
  • Jumper cables or portable battery charger (also called “jump box” – be sure it’s fully charged)
  • Tire sealant (or the following three items)
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Tow strap
  • Fuses
  • Tool kit (assemble a kit with commonly used tools like screwdrivers, pliers and a few wrenches)
  • Duct tape
  • Rag
  • Gloves
automotive safety, roadside emergency

With the bin not packed too tightly, I can easily access items without taking everything out. Plus, the clear plastic bin lets me see in from the outside.

Other Items to Bring

Few of us go anywhere without our mobile phones. Just make sure you have yours, and be sure it’s fully charged before you head out on a long road trip. Also check for proper pressure in the vehicle’s spare tire, and be sure the jack and lug wrench are onboard.

To ease the burden on your vehicle’s air conditioning system and keep passengers more comfortable, pack a windshield sunshade and bring along retractable side window sunshades.

automotive safety, roadside emergency

The kit costs me some cargo space, but it’s worth the sacrifice.

Better to Have It and Not Need It…

My friend and his family were relatively lucky. They reached their destination safely but had to rent a car and have their vehicle transported home. A roadside breakdown would have been even tougher.

Putting together a good summer emergency car kit can not only prepare you for a break-down in the summer heat but also give you peace of mind. It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

Check out all the maintenance parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 16,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on packing your summer emergency car kit, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Featured image credit: David van Der Mark on Flickr | Original image cropped. Used under Creative Commons license.

Summer Emergency Car Kit whats in yours - NAPA Know How Blog


about author

Nick Palermo

Nick Palermo is a freelance automotive writer and NAPA Know How blogger. Since becoming an auto news and reviews contributor at in 2011, he has broadened his coverage of the automotive industry to include topics like new car technology, antiques and classics, DIY maintenance and repair, industry news and motorsports. A committed advocate for automotive media professionals, Nick is a member of the Greater Atlanta Automotive Media Association.

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    May 3, 2016 at 8:50 AM

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  • Anita Willis

    May 6, 2016 at 12:25 AM


    What should I have my mechanic do to my vehicle road ready for a long trip?

  • lynda

    May 6, 2016 at 9:50 AM


    You forgot metal hangers!!
    Should your muffler fall down, as mine did, you should have gloves (the muffler is very hot), a plastic drawer, to hold the muffler up(very heavy with one arm! I know!), then untie the metal hanger and slip it around the muffler and no tie it up to the bar underneath the car. Bring a few, because if you drive for a little while, the wire hanger will break!!!!

  • Pingback

    May 31, 2016 at 9:05 AM

    What to Keep in a Summer Car Emergency Kit

  • Bruce Bergman

    July 21, 2016 at 3:41 PM


    Fire Extinguisher mounted within reach of the driver – Horizontally under the front edge of the seat, or between the door and seat. Two is even better, either one on each side or a larger unit in the trunk. Teach your family how to use them too – they might be driving, or backing you up. Your local Fire Dept. will be glad to teach how.

    And spare fluids in another plastic bin in case of spills – a couple quarts each of motor oil and ATF (and power steering), a little bottle of Brake Fluid.

    If your car has an unusual Fan Belt or other replacement part that always has to be ordered in, carry a good one – new or used. Because in little towns they won’t stock any.


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