Whether your car gets a flat battery or breaks down on the side of the road, here are some things you always need to keep with you in the car. Check out our list of 20 essentials to have on hand in any scenario, plus download our checklist for your own use.

First aid kit

Every car needs a first aid kit. You can buy a fully packed kit from a reputable outlet, or assemble your own. We suggest you keep one in your car in case of an accident or emergency. Also, keep the details of an ambulance or rescue service close-by or in the kit in case you need it.

Spare tyre, tyre jack and tyre iron

Every car should come with a spare tyre, tyre jack and tyre iron, but not everyone knows how to change a flat. You could ask your local dealer to show you where your spare is located, how to use the equipment and how to change your tyre. Always check that these tools are in your car and that the spare is inflated sufficiently before travelling.

Added extra: A mini air compressor connects to your car’s 12V adapter and can inflate your flat tyre in seconds. You can find these compressor connectors at shops – they may save you a great deal of time and effort.

Tyre pressure gauge

A cost-effective yet important addition to your car’s essentials is a tyre pressure gauge. This way you can test if your tyres are the correct pressure.

Jumper cables

Always keep jumper cables in your car, especially in the cooler seasons where car batteries tend to become slightly temperamental. Alternatively, you can invest in a portable battery charger, which can make sure you get enough charge to get to a replacement centre.

Your car’s manual

Make sure you never lose or throw out your car’s manual. Keep it safe in your cubbyhole for reference when you are not sure what that “little light” means.

Car repair information

Your local dealership, auto mechanic or towing service numbers are always essential. Keep them in your car’s manual, or save the numbers on your phone.

TIP: When you join the AA, your membership card is available on the AA App, so you will always have it with you.

A flashlight

Breakdowns don’t always happen during the day. From checking an engine’s nooks and crannies to providing light for fellow travellers, a flashlight can be a lifesaver.

A Multi-tool

While it may be a great gift, do invest in one of these awesome multi-tools for yourself. Not only do they come in almost every shape and size, they also make a great replacement for a toolbox in an emergency.

Energy bars

Keep energy bars or any snack-type bars handy. If you’re stranded, you may get hungry. Just remember to replace these often – and check expiry dates.

Bottles of water

Always keep a good supply of water in your car, this could be handy for an overheating car or to keep you hydrated while you wait for your roadside assistance.

A Reflective triangle

Not only is it compulsory to have one in your car in South Africa, but it’s absolutely necessary for safety in case of breaking down on the side of the road to increase your car’s visibility to other motorists.


We’re all dependant on either our phones or GPS devices to help us find our way. But do keep a map book handy in case your GPS battery dies, loses signal or your phone battery goes flat, so you can navigate offline.

Paper towels or a hand towel

If you need to replace a tyre or poke around under your car’s hood, make sure you have something with which to wipe your hands. You can also replace the towel with a pair of utility gloves for ease of use.

TIP: Add some waterless hand sanitizer or waterless cleanser to ensure clean hands.

Tissues or a roll of toilet paper

For spills, messes or when nature calls and there’s no rest stop nearby, keep a roll of toilet paper in your cubbyhole.

Notebook and pencil

Always keep a pencil and notebook in your car. You never know when you will need to take down someone’s details or give yours out.

An Umbrella

An umbrella is always handy. Whether to keep dry or to keep the sun out of your face, always be prepared.

Spare change/emergency money

In case you need that cash and there’s no ATM close.

A Blanket

It comes in handy not just for keeping warm in emergencies, but also at the park, sports stadium, or even an impromptu picnic.

A Change of clothes

If you get drenched in rain, mud, or snow, it’s no good to sit around like that. Keep a change of clothes handy to change into.

A USB mobile device charger

If your car allows for one, always keep one handy in case you need to be on the phone during an emergency.

These are by no means all the items needed in a car, but they may help you when you are stuck in an emergency, like a broken down car, or come across an accident.

The AA provides emergency roadside assistance, security and break-down services for members. If you’re not a member, why not sign up today?