Car trouble is expensive and stressful any time of year, but winter can also make it dangerous. Many stories are shared each winter of drivers being stranded for hours, even overnight, on an interstate.
Preparing an emergency kit in your car can save you time, money and, possibly, your life.
Here are few things to consider storing in your trunk, glove box or ideally in a dedicated get-home bag you leave in your vehicle.
Must-Have Survival Items for Your Car
1. Cell Phone Charger. The first thing you will do in an emergency is call for help or emotional support. Make sure you have a way to power your cell phone, preferably without the car’s engine running.
I have three or four of these Anker chargers – they work great and provide several zero-to-full charges for my iPhone.
2. Flashlight. Most smartphones come with an external light, but they are not ideal for making car repairs. Make sure you have at least one LED flashlight like this one available.
3. Shovel. Your car is buried in snow, or your back tires are stuck in a rut. Keeping a small shovel in your trunk could save you from a costly tow truck operation.
4. Warm Clothes. It’s going to be cold and you’re not always dressed for it mid-commute. Make sure you have a hat, gloves, jacket and some waterproof boots.
5. Fuel Container. Running out of full is not a weather-dependent hazard. Take the precautionary step of being able to transport fuel if you have to make the hike to get some.
6. First Aid Kit. Regardless of the time of year, keeping a well-stocked emergency kit in your car is important. You can even construct your own kit. Include bandages, antibacterial soap and pain relievers.
7. Tool Kit. Even if you don’t know how to fix a car, there’s a chance that someone who stops to help you will. Be sure to have an auto tool kit at all times.
8. Jumper Cables. Much like the tool kit, a helpful passerby you might already have cables to use, but its best to not leave that to chance.
9. Tow Straps. With the help of another capable automobile, you might save yourself a ton on towing. Be sure to attach them to the frame. Incorrect towing attachments can cause serious car damage or injury.
These are the exact tow straps I keep in my truck.
10. Spare Tire. If you already have a spare tire, tire iron and jack in your car, take the initiative to learn how to change a flat.
11. Bag of Sand or Salt. Squealing tires in a ditch or on an icy road can be fixed by giving your car traction. Cat litter will even do in a pinch.
12. Signal Device. If the snow is piling up or visibility is down, you will need a way to signal for help. Road flares, cones, a signaling mirror and brightly colored fabric are great options.
13. Food and Water. Wherever your emergency happens, you might be stuck there for a while. Have enough snacks and water to keep yourself and any of your usual passengers happy for at least eight hours.
14. Entertainment. Keeping morale up in a tough situation is extremely important. Prep yourself a book, a deck of cards or other games to keep yourself occupied while waiting for help.
15. Ice Scraper and Snow Brush. If you’re not used to winter driving conditions, it’s easy to forget how much ice can build up on your windshield.
Driving in the winter, particularly in areas where it can get dangerously cold at night, or is prone to snow and ice, presents unique challenges for which drivers need to prepare in advance.