Warren Clarke is a consumer advocate and automotive journalist for CARFAX. He prides himself on sharing advice on car buying and driving safety, which is especially important in winter. For more tips on winterizing your car, you can also check out our previous blog post.
In some parts of the country, winter brings weather that turns the landscape into something resembling a holiday greeting card. The ground is blanketed with pristine snow, and frosty temperatures give you an excuse to sip hot cider and gather with friends and family before a warm hearth.
If there’s a downside to life in a winter wonderland, though, it most certainly concerns driving. Snowy conditions increase the risk of accidents, going off the road and getting stuck. Whether you’re driving an old clunker or a new car right off the lot, no one is immune to winter car trouble.
Stay safe this winter by being prepared. A properly stocked winter survival kit for your car will give you everything you need to tackle most cold-weather automotive troubles and give you the peace of mind that you’re ready to handle whatever challenges occur on the road. Keep the items below in a portable carrying case that you can move if you’re using a car other than your own, especially for long road trips, so you’re prepared for whatever winter brings your way.
Shovel and ice scraper
A car that’s stationary in heavy snowfall can quickly become buried, and you may need to literally dig yourself out of the snow. An ice scraper and snow brush will help you clear the windshield so you can travel safely once you’re able to get the car moving.
Even a minor injury can become a major problem if prompt care isn’t administered. Having a first-aid kit on hand gives you the resources to quickly tend to bumps or bruises suffered in an accident.
If you’re stranded within walking distance of warm shelter, the best course of action may involve leaving your car and hiking to safety. You’ll need gear that’s up for this task, so make sure you have extra gloves, hats, and scarves.
Air-activated hand & foot warmers
Packages of air-activated hand and foot warmers can be critical in helping you dig your car out of ice and snow. Some products can last for many hours and can help ward off frostbite if you have a long walk to safety.
Snacks & water
Having water on hand will prevent you from becoming dehydrated if you’re stuck in the snow, and stocking your survival kit with snacks will ensure you have food on hand to give you the energy you need to figure a way out of your dilemma. Choices such as nuts, seeds, peanut butter, energy bars, and trail mix will keep for a long time in your kit, and they’ll provide you with the dense nutrition you need to remain strong and alert.
Blanket & sleeping bag
If you wind up having to wait in your car overnight for help to arrive, a blanket and sleeping bag will ward off the chill. Choose a zero-degree down sleeping bag that’s specifically made to keep you warm in icy temperatures.
Road flares, glow sticks, & a whistle
Snowfall often hampers rescue efforts by camouflaging the stranded vehicle. Road flares, glow sticks, and a whistle can be used to make sure first responders can locate your car.
Flashlight with batteries
If you find yourself stranded at night, you’ll need a light source, so stock your survival kit with a flashlight. Make sure there are plenty of batteries on hand to give your flashlight the power it needs to keep shining.
Traction recovery tracks
It’s all too easy for cars to get stuck in the snow, but traction recovery tracks help. Designed for snow, sand, mud, and gravel, these tracks facilitate secure traction that can help your vehicle escape a difficult situation. Clear a path, lay these tracks down in front of your wheels and fire up your car’s engine to liberate your vehicle from a bank of snow. For a quick hack using something you might have already around the house, use some old carpet scraps or even your car’s floor mats to help give the tires some traction.
Cell phone charger
Stash a cell phone charger in your survival kit ensures your phone is always ready for action. Choose a charger with an internal battery that doesn’t rely on electricity or a car for power.
Cold weather can be hard on your car’s battery. If your battery dies, a jumper cable makes it easy for you to get the charge you need to get your vehicle back on the road.
Worst-case scenarios aside, winter is a season of wonder and delight. Drive safely, and don’t forget to enjoy the weather.