What You Need in an Emergency Car Kit for Winter
With longer nights and the potential for snow, ice, wind and freezing temperatures, winter creates more hazardous driving conditions than any other season. Yet, the holidays are a popular time to travel, meaning more cars than usual hit the roads when the weather is at its worst.
Are you and your car prepared for accidents, closures and the possibility of getting stranded in a blizzard? Stock the trunk with an emergency car kit so you’re ready to handle roadside emergencies. Then, follow proven tips to make your car as safe to drive in the winter as possible.
How to Build an Emergency Car Kit
Here’s everything you need to cope with a vehicle breakdown in the winter.
First aid kit
If your car slides off the road at high speeds, you or someone riding with you could be injured. Make sure you’re equipped to treat injuries by keeping a first aid kit in the car. You can build your own or purchase a pre-made version. Either way, it should include the following:
- Adhesive bandages of various shapes and sizes
- Antiseptic wipes or cream
- Alcohol prep pads
- Sting relief pads
- Disposable gloves
- Gauze pads
- First aid tape
- Trauma sheers
- Cotton swabs
- Safety pins
- Instant ice pack
- Hand warmers
Food and water
When you become stranded, you never know how long you’ll have to wait until the storm lets up. To prevent thirst and hunger, pack water bottles and nonperishable, high-energy snacks such as granola bars, beef jerky and trail mix when you leave on a road trip. Keep food and water in the cab with you for easy access and to prevent them from freezing.
If your car gets stuck in a snowbank, it may not be safe to keep the engine running so you can stay warm. The tailpipe could be blocked with snow and lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. To prevent you from freezing, keep a heavy coat and warm blanket in the car any time you travel in the winter. It’s also wise to have gloves, boots and a hat with you in case you need to dig your vehicle out of the snow.
The hours you spend stranded will drag on if you have nothing to do. Keep yourself and your passengers entertained by packing books, games, paper and pens, portable music players, and other distractions.
Methods of communication
A broken down car and a dead cell phone battery are a bad combination. Keep a car charger in the glove box and use it while driving so the battery level never gets dangerously low. Once you’re stranded, it may be impractical or unsafe to leave the car running to charge a cell phone battery. A spare battery pack in your purse, briefcase or backpack is another way to avoid a dead cell phone. Even the humble whistle can be handy to signal for help.
As for maintaining communication in the other direction, it’s useful to have a battery-powered or hand-crank radio so you can tune in to the latest weather reports. This way, you stay informed without draining the battery by listening to the car radio. Don’t forget spare batteries if your radio uses them.
Supplies to get your car out of trouble
It’s possible to end up stranded on the side of the road in a blizzard. Instead of being forced to wait it out, you might be able to dig your way free if you stock your emergency kit with the right supplies. Here’s what you need:
- Ice scraper and brush to clear the windshield of snow and ice
- Foldable shovel to dig out compacted snow from around the tires
- Tire chains to help you wheels get a grip
- Tow strap to allow another vehicle to pull your car out
- Sand, kitty litter or safety absorbent to create traction in slippery conditions
- Jumper cables to allow a second car to give yours a jumpstart
- Portable air compressor to fill a flat tire or pressurize the spare
- Canned tire inflator to pressurize a flat tire long enough for you to drive to a mechanic
Basic tool kit
Sometimes, your car just needs a little tweaking to recover from a roadside breakdown. Keep a small toolbox in the trunk with the following supplies:
- Philips and flathead screwdrivers
- Adjustable wrench
- Duct tape
- Multi-tool (such as a Swiss Army Knife)
Whether you need to flag down help or make it easier to change a flat tire at night, it’s helpful to have a few light sources in your emergency car kit. Pack flares and a flashlight, preferably a shakable or hand-crank version that doesn’t need batteries. Stock up on extra batteries if your flashlight requires them.
Because of the long nights, it’s very possible you could become stranded after dark. To keep yourself and other drivers safe, stock your emergency kit with a reflective vest and warning triangles to use while working on your car during a roadside emergency.
How to Make Your Car Safer to Drive in the Winter
Winter travel can challenge both car and driver. Do the following to prepare your vehicle for the next snowstorm:
- Check your tires: Consider trading out your all-season tires for winter ones, especially if the tread is wearing low on your current tires. Check the pressure regularly during times of cold weather, and watch for signs of tire damage.
- Keep the gas tank full: Low gas levels in cold conditions may cause condensation to build up in the tank, which can lead to ice crystals in the fuel line. As a result, your car might not start or sputter to a stop while you’re driving. To prevent this, always keep the tank at least half full.
- Get a vehicle checkup: You rely on your car battery, belts, hoses, radiators, brakes, heater, lights and wipers every time you drive, but these components are pushed to their limits in cold, stormy conditions. Make sure everything is in good working order by scheduling a maintenance visit for your car every winter.
- Know before you go: If the forecast calls for hazardous weather, consider postponing your travels. You can keep up with the latest reports on the National Weather Service website.
With an emergency car kit in the trunk, you can enjoy peace of mind while traversing icy roads this winter. Then, to reduce the chance of ever having to use your emergency kit, visit the service department at Gary Mathews Motors in Clarksville, TN for a vehicle checkup. We’ll get your Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Ram or SRT vehicle all prepped for winter with authentic OEM parts. To schedule service, please contact us today.