Essential items you should keep in your car

Essential items you should keep in your car

Last updated December 8th, 2023

When it comes to motoring , it always pays to prepare for the unexpected.

The next time you set out, there’s always the possibility that your car will break down or get a flat tyre. Whilst these are not welcome scenarios, if your car is stocked up with the right supplies and equipment, dealing with them will be much easier.

In this guide, we’ll cover a list of essential items that you should keep in your car at all times. Follow our checklist to avoid getting caught out in an emergency.

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If a police officer pulls you over, they may request one or more of the following documents:

  • Your driving licence.
  • A valid insurance certificate.
  • A valid MOT certificate (if your vehicle needs one).

If you are pulled over by the police but do not have the required documents, you'll have 7 days to produce them at your local police station.

However, there are certain documents that you should not keep in your car. These include:

  • Your V5C logbook.
  • Your passport.
  • Bank statements.
  • Personal mail.

If stolen, any of these documents could be used to steal your identity. Therefore, you should keep them in a safe place at your home.

For more information on this topic, please visit our guide ‘Documents you should keep in your car’.

Warning triangle

Although you are not legally required to carry a warning triangle in your car, we recommend doing so as an extra safety precaution.

In the event of an accident or a breakdown, warning triangles can be used in conjunction with your hazard warning lights to alert oncoming motorists that there is a stationary vehicle ahead. They are reflective, which helps to ensure they are visible in all conditions.

The Highway Code includes the following guidance about the use of warning triangles in an emergency:

“Put a warning triangle on the road at least 45 metres behind your broken-down vehicle on the same side of the road or use other permitted warning devices if you have them. Always take great care when placing or retrieving them, but never use them on motorways”.

First aid kit

A first aid kit will allow you to treat wounds and injuries whilst awaiting health care assistance. A basic first aid kit may include bandages, plasters and pain relief medication such as ibuprofen.

Phone charger

If you find yourself stuck in traffic for a few hours, there’s always the risk that your phone will run out of charge.

Therefore, it’s always a good idea to keep a spare phone charger on board. What’s more, if you forget to charge your phone overnight, you can replenish the battery during your morning commute.


Keeping a jerrycan in your car can help ensure you don’t run out of fuel. When storing a jerrycan in your car, you should abide by the following regulations:

  • You can carry a maximum of two 10-litre metal jerrycans in addition to a maximum of two 5-litre plastic cans.
  • Any jerrycans must be labelled ‘petrol' and 'highly flammable' - and must be strong enough to avoid breaking easily.
  • Jerrycans should prevent the escape of petrol fumes.
  • If a jerrycan stores petrol, it must be placed in the boot.

Water and food

If you break down somewhere remote, you could be stuck for a long time. Keeping a supply of food and water on board will ensure you stay nourished and hydrated whilst waiting for assistance.

Which foods should I keep in my car?

The following foods can be kept in your car for a long time:

  • Trail mix.
  • Pretzels.
  • Nuts
  • Sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
  • Dry breakfast cereals.
  • Plain crackers.

The following foods can be kept in your car for around 6 months:

  • Freeze-dried or dehydrated fruit and vegetables.
  • Low-fat protein bars.
  • Instant porridge (in foil packets).
  • Plain oats.
  • Beef jerky (only suitable for colder weather).

Which foods should I avoid keeping in my car?

You should avoid keeping the following foods in your car, as they may become contaminated, especially during warmer weather:

  • High-fat foods (e.g. peanut butter, granola and packaged meals).
  • Canned foods.
  • Animal products (e.g. tuna pouches and milk powder).

Jack and spare tyre

Breakdowns frequently occur due to flat tyres. This is why it’s always a good idea to carry a spare. Many newer cars have a spare tyre, but if yours doesn’t, it’s well worth investing in one just in case.

You should also keep a jack and a wrench on board so that you can change a tyre if necessary.

Tyre pump

You should maintain the correct tyre pressure at all times. Tyre pressure can affect many aspects of your car’s performance including:

  • Braking distance.
  • Steering accuracy.
  • Fuel economy.
  • Tyre lifespan.

Remember to check your tyre pressure on a regular basis and keep a tyre pump on board to top it up when necessary.

You should be able to find the recommended tyre pressure for your car in the handbook. This information may also be printed in the sill of the driver’s side door or inside the fuel tank flap. Read the guidance carefully, as the manufacturer may recommend different tyre pressures for the front and rear tyres.

You should also pay attention to your tyres’ tread depth – and proactively replace any tyres that are nearing the minimum legal tyre tread depth.

Jump leads

Jump leads can be used to resolve flat batteries. You’ll just require the assistance of another motorist - and you can use their car to jump-start yours.

You should familiarise yourself with how to jump start a car safely. The incorrect use of jump leads can cause electrical fires.

Oil, coolant and screen wash

For your car to run safely, you must have ample fluid levels (e.g. oil, screen wash, brake fluid and coolant). Make sure you know how to check and top up each of these fluids when necessary.


A pair of sunglasses can help to reduce glare from the sun or reflections on wet roads. This reduces eye strain and provides a more comfortable driving experience.

Car de-icer and scraper

Driving with frosted windows is illegal and highly dangerous. Therefore, you should always keep a scraper and a can of de-icer in your car, so that you can clear your windows quickly and easily.

Spare change

Whilst many facilities now accept card and mobile payments, it’s always wise to carry some spare change in your car in case you encounter one that doesn’t.

This way, you’ll always have the means to pay for parking, toll roads, tyre pumps, car washes, toilets and any other services you find on your travels.


WD-40 is a versatile product that can be used to:

  • Loosen grease and dirt without scratching paint.
  • Prevent car locks from freezing.
  • Remove bird droppings from your paintwork.
  • Protect areas that are sensitive to corrosion.
  • Polish interior plastics.

Therefore, it's a good idea to keep a can of WD-40 (or a similar product) in your car at all times.

Hi-vis jacket, boots and torch

  • If you need to step out of your car during an emergency, wearing a hi-vis jacket will help ensure other motorists can see you.
  • A torch will help you see (and be seen) in the dark.
  • A pair of sturdy boots will protect your feet and provide traction when walking on icy or slippery surfaces.

Car phone holder

If you use your phone to navigate or play music whilst driving, you should place it into a universal phone mount to minimise distraction. Aside from keeping your phone at eye level, a good holder will also prevent it from tumbling to the floor whilst you’re on the move.

What do I really need to keep in my car?

Whilst you might want to be prepared for every eventuality, throwing everything but the kitchen sink into your car can be counterproductive. This approach creates unnecessary clutter – and carrying all the extra weight around will hurt your fuel economy.

Therefore, when it comes to your car inventory, it’s better to prioritise according to your needs. For instance, if you regularly make long trips to the remote countryside, it makes good sense to pack extra food supplies … or if you regularly navigate with your smartphone, a charger and holder are both essentials.

Equipping your car wisely will ensure you’re ready for virtually any situation. We wish you safe travels wherever you go!