Car grab bag

Car Grab Bags are particularly useful at those times when you cannot access your home due to an incident or you are stranded in your car. We have created a checklist of essential items for your Car Grab Bag to ensure you stay safe and are well prepared when you are on the road.

Weather Conditions

Winter ready

When it comes to driving in severe weather, preparation is key. Before embarking on a long journey it is worth running a series of checks on your car to ensure it is equipped for the drive and in good shape.

The guide 10 ways to prevent a breakdown in winter includes checking the car has enough fuel for the planned journey, that oil and coolant levels are topped up, tyres are at the correct pressure, and all lights are working properly.

Screenwash levels should be topped up too, and it's also a good idea to take some spare windscreen washer fluid in case driving conditions mean the screen needs clearing more than usual.

Summer ready

Equally, driving in hot weather can pose different challenges. While all the winter checks are relevant, also consider carrying extra water or cold drinks as well as a clean pair of sunglasses in your car year-round but avoid lenses that darken in strong sunlight. Dazzle from the sun causes lots of accidents but you can reduce the effect by keeping your windscreen nice and clean, and by replacing worn or damaged windscreen wipers.

High temperatures can aggravate cooling system problems too. It’s important to check the coolant and cooling system regularly to avoid overheating.

If you suffer from hayfever, make sure:

  • Any medication you’re taking doesn't cause drowsiness;
  • Close windows and air vents to reduce pollen grains in the car;
  • Clean mats and carpets regularly to get rid of dust;
  • Keep tissues nearby.

Driving while tired

If you feel tired, stop and take a short nap (up to 15 minutes and in a safe place) or drink two cups of strong coffee.

It’s best to avoid driving if you are tired. However, these tips can help prevent tiredness:

  • Include a 20-minute break in journeys of more than three hours.
  • On longer trips, take a break every couple of hours.
  • Take several short (at least 20 minutes) stops rather than one long one.
  • Don’t drink alcohol or eat a heavy meal before driving.

Be prepared, be properly equipped, drive responsibly and stay safe on the roads.


  • Food and Water
    The prospect of being abandoned at the roadside for hours is a gloomy one- especially in bad weather or if you are hungry.  Make sure the food won’t spoil such as canned food (don’t forget the can opener!), energy bars and dried foods. Try to replace food and water once a year.

  • Two reflective warning signs
    A reflective warning sign is a legal requirement in many European nations and is a manufacturers requirement in cars from 2006 onwards in the UK. 
    It usually comes in the form of a triangle and is used to warn other motorists that your vehicle has broken down to help avoid collisions.
    Realistically, you need two; one to position in front of the car and the second at the rear. The signs should be at least 45 metres behind the car but these should never be used on motorways.

  • A road atlas
    Yes, even in these modern times with Sat Navs there’s still a place in a car for a paper based road atlas in case of losing GPS signal or getting a flat battery on electrical devices.

  • In-car phone charger or portable battery charger
    Breaking down is not the time for your mobile phone to run out of power, so an in-car charger should always be kept in the car.

  • Ice scaper/de-icer
    It is a legal requirement to keep your front and rear windscreen clear of snow and ice before driving and not all cars have heated windscreens to speed up this process.
    An ice scraper still needs manual effort but is effective, while a can or spray bottle of de-icer speeds up the process.

  • Torch and spare batteries
    A large torch with spare batteries or a wind-up torch should definitely be among your Car Grab Bag essentials.
    Stuck by the side of a country road in the dark of a winter's evening with a flat battery? It's a very real possibility, and without any light it can be a frightening and dangerous situation.

  • High visibility jacket
    This won’t necessarily keep you warm, but if you need to leave the vehicle it is critical that you can be seen by other motorists.
    One of these could save your life and is one of the most important emergency items to keep in your car.

  • First aid kit
    Don’t forget a first aid kit to deal with minor injuries.
    There is a national standard for first aid provision within motor vehicles, devised by the British Standards Institution (BSI).
    A small first aid kit should include sterile cleansing wipes, wash proof plasters in assorted sizes, dressings, scissors, nitrile powder-free gloves and a Revive-Aid resuscitation face shield - or similar product. Of course, having a first aid kit in the car is good practice at any time of the year.

Extra Considerations

  • Jump-start cables
    Flat or dead batteries can happen to any car regardless of age and at any time, but in cold weather such problems are far more likely to occur.
    Always have a set of jump start cables in the car, which will help to get the battery going again and the car on the move.
    Read RAC advice on how to jump start a car a number of ways.

  • Shovel
    A shovel can help you to literally dig yourself out of roadside problems such as deep snow on smaller roads.

  • Warm clothes and blankets
    A breakdown could mean a long wait with no heat, so it’s sensible to have some warm clothes to wrap up in- a big coat, gloves, a spare jumper, hat and gloves.

  • Empty fuel can
    Some breakdowns aren’t due to a flat battery, engine failure or a mechanical fault. Sometimes your car will grind to a halt because it has ran out of fuel.  This is obviously easily fixed providing you can find your way to a petrol station, and once there you’ll need a can to fill with fuel.

  • Boots with a good grip
    You should always drive in sensible footwear but also keep boots in the car during winter weather for safety reasons.

  • Petty cash
    You never know what might happen so it could be worth keeping small cash in a glove compartment to ensure you are prepared for any eventualities.

  • Spare medication
    Before any journey, pack the medication you will require for that day, and even night to ensure you do not get stranded without your essential medication.

  • Notebook and pen
    A notebook and pen always comes in useful. For example, if you ever have an accident you will need to record details of those involved or it may just be that you need to write some directions if you have got lost. 

  • Hand sanitizer and tissues
    Not only is having tissues and hand sanitiser super handy when the ice cream has melted in your car, but you may need to clean your hands after changing a tyre or even prior to and following the giving of first aid.

Further information