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Winter Emergency Kit: Essential Items You Should Keep in Your Car This Winter

Published January 14, 2022
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This article has been reviewed by licensed insurance industry expert, Moshe Fishman.

Some people dread the cold, snow, and ice that come with this time of year, while others love it! Let's be honest, though – being stranded on an Interstate or country road in winter weather is no one's idea of a good time.

The recent I-95 nightmare traffic jam, which left hundreds of drivers trapped on the highway and forced to spend the night in their cars, was a wake-up call of how winter storms and snowy roads can turn dangerous quickly. To help you be better prepared for winter driving emergencies (and winter weather itself), here are some essentials that every vehicle should have.

car stranded in snowy road

Jumper cables:  A dead battery is one of the most common winter driving problems. You never know when your car's battery might die, so having good jumper cables on hand will be sure to save you from a winter driving emergency. It is important to check your cables regularly for wear and tear, such as fraying cables or corrosion.

Flashlight and spare batteries: A winter storm can quickly turn into a nightmarish situation if you're stuck in the dark. Make sure you have a flashlight (and some extra batteries) in your car so that you can see better and signal for help if needed.

A portable space heater or emergency candle: This is a must-have for any winter survival kit to provide heat and light in an emergency. You can either purchase a portable heater or bring the necessities to DIY an emergency candle- all you'll need is a candle, lighter, and a metal can.

De-icing windshield washer fluid: Ice and snow can quickly cover your windshield in the winter, making it difficult to see. Having a bottle of windshield washer fluid in your car will help you de-ice your windshield so you can drive safely.

Cold weather gear: Having extra clothes, gloves, scarves, and hats in your car will come in handy if you ever get stranded and need to keep warm while waiting for assistance. If you live in a particularly cold winter area, keep a winter coat, boots, and some thermal items (pants/socks) readily available.

Extra food & water: If you are stranded for an extended period, it is crucial to have some emergency supplies on hand. Pack some non-perishable food items like energy bars and bottled water in your car so you will be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

snow stuck in car tires

Ice scraper, shovel, and snow brush:  Winter storms can come quickly and cause a lot of snow to pile up in a short time. Having an ice scraper, a snow brush, and a shovel on hand will help you avoid getting stuck on the road due to snowy conditions. It might be worthwhile to look for a small, collapsible shovel that is easy to store and lightweight, so it doesn't take up much space.

Bag of sand, rock salt, or kitty litter: In the event that you get stuck on the side of the road, pouring rock salt on your tires can help get you moving again. Alternatively, you can keep a bag of sand or kitty litter in your car to help give your tires some traction.

Emergency flares:  In winter weather, emergency flares or reflectors can be extremely helpful in signaling for assistance and helping other drivers see you on the road, especially if your car gets stuck in the snow. Flares should be kept out of direct sunlight and stored safely away from children.

First aid kit: This is a must-have in your car- You never know when you'll need to help yourself or someone else out. Make sure to keep your first aid kit stocked with basic necessities like bandages, aspirin, medical tape, gauze pads, and disinfectant wipes.

Portable phone charger:  Imagine this- you're out on a winter drive, your car gets stuck and your phone dies; suddenly, you have no way to call for help. Like a scene from a horror film, you're stranded in the middle of a snowy road, with no way to contact anyone. To avoid this nightmare scenario, make sure to always have your car charger in the vehicle and pack a portable phone charger to keep your phone going in case of an emergency.

Flat tire spray: If you get a flat tire while driving in winter, a flat tire spray can help you get back on the road in minutes. This handy spray will help you quickly inflate your tire without having to change it in the cold weather or waiting for a tow truck. Remember, this spray does not fix the flat, it simply allows you to put air in the tire and drive until you get to a mechanic to get it professionally repaired (this must be done within three days or 100 miles).

Air pump: If you happen to get stuck on the side of the road due to a puncture or other problem with your car, a portable air pump can come in handy to temporarily pump up your tires without having to go to a gas station or wait for someone to come help you.

Personal hygiene necessities: This one is a no-brainer. If you are stranded for an extended period, it is vital to have personal hygiene items in your car like toilet paper, moist towelettes, and hand sanitizer.

Toolbox: Winter survival kits should always include a winter-ready toolbox including a couple of screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers, and some duct tape. These tools can help you fix common roadside car problems like a frozen door lock or a flat tire.

It's no secret that winter weather can be unpredictable and dangerous. Blizzards, snowstorms, and icy roads can make even the shortest drives treacherous if you're not prepared for them.

By taking the time to put together a winter survival kit for your car, you'll be prepared for anything that winter might throw your way. These essentials will not only keep you safe in case of an emergency, but they'll also help make winter driving a little less stressful, especially if you plan to drive long distances!

Before any winter drive, be sure to stay up to date on winter weather forecasts and road conditions, travel with a tank full of gas, and most importantly, always drive safely and responsibly.

Stay safe out there!

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