Cold temperatures, high winds, snow and ice-covered roads all create treacherous conditions for driving in winter. Cars stall out or skid off the road, and it’s important to have supplies on hand in case you get stranded. Stock your car with these ten items to assist you in getting out of trouble–or keeping comfortable until help arrives.
Snow Brush and Ice Scraper
Driving in a winter storm is even more dangerous if you can’t see out of your windows. Invest in a sturdy snow brush and ice scraper and keep it in your back seat or trunk. Tired of having to lean against the icy car to reach the middle of the windshield? Try a long-handled winter combo tool, like this 35-inch SubZero brush and scraper.
Windshield Washer Solvent
With all the sleet and slush that gets thrown on your car windshield during the winter, you’ll go through washer solvent a lot faster than usual. Keep an extra supply of washer solvent in the trunk. Below-zero winter temperatures require a de-icer solvent, like this RainX washer fluid that stays liquid down to -25 degrees Fahrenheit.
The days are shorter in winter, so it’s always good to have a water resistant flashlight handy if your car dies out. Keep an extra set of batteries handy, or buy a hand-crank LED flashlight that works just like a wind-up watch.
Grab an empty coffee can and place a multi-wick candle inside of it. If your car stalls on the side of the road, this candle heater will provide both light and surprising warmth. The North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) recommends stocking matches to light your candle heater, as some lighters malfunction in the cold winter weather.
Shovel and Sand
The Washington State Department of Transportation suggests bringing along a shovel to dig the car out of snow drifts, and sand or kitty litter for traction under the tires. Tossing a couple bags of sand in the trunk also adds weight, which will help keep you on the road in slippery winter conditions.
Food and Water
Even if your car is in good working order, a winter blizzard can turn a 90 minute commute into a 5 hour nightmare. Experts suggest keeping bottled water and a stash of non-perishable, high energy foods in the car, like granola or energy bars, raisins, nuts, jerky, and pop-top cans of fruit.
Whether you’re stranded or the heat in your car just isn’t working, it’s good to have a blanket handy for extra warmth. Bring enough blankets for everyone in the car. A thick wool winter blanket provides superior warmth, and in a pinch can also be wedged under the tire for added traction to get out of a snowbank.
The automotive gurus at Car Talk suggest gathering up winter clothes you no longer wear and tossing them into the car for emergencies. Don’t forget the boots! The NDDOT recommends a bright red or orange cloth for signaling, but a bright winter scarf, hat, or gloves can serve this purpose and keep you warm.
Radio and Cell Phone
Keep in touch with the outside world during that winter blizzard, with a battery-powered or wind-up radio. If your car battery gives out, that cell phone charger won’t do you any good. Invest in a battery-powered charger, and keep an extra set of batteries with it.
Keep a set of jumper cables in the car in case you need to get your car going–or jump start another stranded vehicle. You can even buy jump starters that work off the cigarette lighters of both cars, making the process simple. Consider splurging on a model like this ACDelco battery-powered jump starter, so you can get the car going on your own.
If you’re traveling into remote areas, you should consider extra equipment like nylon rope, flares, and an extensive first aid kit. Visit the Colorado Division of Emergency Management website for information on what to do if you get stranded by a blizzard.
“Winter Driving — Emergency Car Kit.” Washington State Department of Transporation (WSDOT).
“Winter Survival Kit.” North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT).
Colorado Division of Emergency Management. “Is Your Car Ready for Winter?” Colorado Department of Local Affairs.
Magliozzi, Tom and Ray Magliozzi. “The Official Click and Clack Winter Driving Rules.” CarTalk.com.