13 Things You Need in Your Winter Car Survival Kit
Don't get stranded out in the cold – make your own winter car survival kit.
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Build Your Own Winter Survival Kit
You probably already have a few of the items in this winter car survival kit in your garage but they, and few other things belong in the car! All you need to do is put them together in a box, in your car during winter for roadside emergencies. So equipped, you'll be ready to deal with most winter roadside breakdowns, and avoid getting frostbite or freezing to death in the process! This is particularly true for those of you that live or drive through rural, sparsely populated areas where being stuck in a blizzard can cost you your life.
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When your car is stuck or broke down in the winter, keeping it running to stay warm can be dicey. For one thing, you'll eventually run out of gas (though your car can run for a few hours on a full tank) and you'll need some fuel when help arrives to get your car moving again or when the weather clears up. But more importantly, snow and ice can block your engine's exhaust and lead to deadly levels of carbon monoxide in the car's cabin. So make sure you pack a simple candle-powered heater. All you need is a metal can, an emergency candle and a lighter. A candle can make a surprisingly effective ad hoc heater in the confined space of a car.
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Small LED Flashlight
Make sure your car kit contains a small LED flashlight with fresh batteries. Flashlights are a godsend for changing flats, or to see under the hood to find any quick fixes. And once the sun sets, you'll want something to illuminate the interior of the cabin for writing down notes, phone numbers, etc. And in some cases, you can use the flashlight to signal oncoming cars or help a tow truck pinpoint your location.
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Cell Phone Car Charger
Cell phones are welcome lifelines when winter driving goes wrong, but they're only effective when they're charged. So keep a spare cell phone charger in your survival kit to keep your phone charged up. A simple USB car charger lets you charge any phone as long as you have the right cord.
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Notepad and Pen or Pencil
When you call for a tow, there are likely additional phone numbers a dispatcher will give you, as well as a possible incident number. Or if you're in an accident, you'll need the other drivers license and plate number. If your pen isn't writing, it could be frozen, so warm it up between your hands. Or you can use a trusty pencil, too (though it might be harder to read in poor lighting). You can get some cheap notepads at Amazon.
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Portable Air Compressor
Powered by the 12v outlet in your car, a portable air compressor doesn't take up much space and can help fill low tires or more importantly fill a flat or low spare tire. Tire pressure-related tire failures are surprisingly common, so it's always a good idea to check your tires regularly. You may need to fill your tired more often when it's cold. Check out a portable air compressor like this one from Black + Decker on Amazon.
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Simple Tool Kit
There are a few roadside fixes that can be accomplished with some common tools. Pack a couple screwdrivers, pliers, an adjustable wrench and some duct tape. If you can get your car moving again and to a service station with a few Macgyver tricks, you may not only get home safe and sound, you'll save yourself the cost of a tow.
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A small bag of safety absorbent can help your car regain traction when you're stuck on ice. Cat litter also works, but floor sweep absorbent works better. (Sold at auto parts stores, it's sprinkled on garage floors before sweeping to absorb oil and grease.) Do you have 4-wheel-drive? Make sure you know how to use it, especially in winter.
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You should never count on another motorist to have jumper cables for you to borrow—carry your own. They're inexpensive and could mean the difference between a helpful motorist helping you get your car started or paying a tow truck to do it. Make sure you also know the right way to jumpstart your car.
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Digging out compacted snow from under the car or around the wheels is much easier with a proper shovel. Plus, using your hands, even in gloves, can cool you down fast. When you don't have room for a full-size shovel (and really, who does?), the next best thing is a foldable shovel. You can pick them up online or in military surplus stores. Maybe the best tip, though, is becoming a better winter driver.
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Sometimes, when you're lucky, a can of fix-a-flat (or two cans for larger tires on SUVs and trucks) can get you back on the road without having to put on your spare (which can be a real hassle in the cold). Remember, fix-a-flat isn't intended to be a permanent solution, just a stopgap measure until you can find a tire shop. But fix-a-flat has to be warm to dispense. So either keep it in the cab or warm it over the defroster before using. Plus: Check out a handful of other car additives that could save you from costly repairs.
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First Aid Kit
Keep the essentials in your car—including spare medications if you need them—to make sure you can stay alert while you're waiting. Brush up on your first aid skills so you're ready if the situation calls for something more than a bandage. Find a first aid kit at Amazon.
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Warm Hat and Gloves
Staying warm is the most important survival tactic when you're stranded in the winter. It's always a good idea to have an extra hat and gloves so you (or an under-clothed guest) can keep warm while getting your car out of a ditch, changing a tire or taking a look under the hood.
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Pack it All Up
Put everything into a sturdy box or plastic bin and pop it in the trunk or back seat. Hopefully you'll never need to use it, but you'll be thankful you have your winter emergency car kit if you do find yourself stranded in a winter storm.
Check out these things to NEVER do while driving.
Originally Published: December 02, 2019