Rain, hail, sleet, and snow; low visibility; short days and long nights; slick, unmarked streets glazed with black ice… the list of hazards goes on and on. In the event that a storm strikes and you’re stranded on the side of the road, it could be hours before first responders make it out to you, meaning a winter emergency car kit is an absolute must.
We’re here to talk about some of the top safety concerns that come with colder months and why you should have a winter car kit on hand at all times. Not sure what a winter car survival kit should include? Take a look at these 13 essential items that might just save your life in a worst-case scenario.
- Winter Driving Hazards—Why You Need a Seasonal Car Kit
- What should be in a Winter Survival Kit for a Car?
- Winter Car Kit Tools
- Winter Travel Gear
- How to Winterize Your Car
Winter Driving Hazards—Why You Need a Seasonal Car Kit
When you think about the heavy snow, pouring rain, blistering wind, intense flooding, and freezing temperatures that winter weather tends to serve up, it’s easy to understand why driving becomes so dangerous. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Highway Administration, approximately 21% of vehicle crashes every year are weather-related. The DOT lists a number of roadway impacts brought on by weather variables, including:
- Visibility impairments
- Severe crosswinds
- Temperature extremes
- Infrastructure damage
- Lane submersion
These conditions make being out on the road extremely risky. Driver capabilities are severely affected, vehicle performance (traction, stability, maneuverability) plummets, pavement friction decreases, traffic flow slows, and risk of crash skyrockets—all while the DOT agency productivity takes a dramatic fall on account of increased demand for roadside assistance.All in all, it’s a recipe for disaster. According to the American Highway Users Alliance, over 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,800 people are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement every year.
If you’re stuck on the road in the wee hours of a cold winter night, you’re not in for much fun. Help could be a way’s away, so having a winter emergency car kit on hand is imperative to make sure you survive the night until roadside rescue assistance arrives.
What should be in a Winter Survival Kit for a Car?
When it comes to survival, planning is everything. Being prepared will make your situation significantly easier if you happen to crash, break down, or get stuck in the snow this winter season. If you’re not sure what should be in your winter car emergency kit, stock up on these 13 must-have pieces of survival supplies. The peace of mind you’ll have when driving in inclement weather will be well-worth your upfront investment.
Winter Car Kit Tools
Keep these tools tucked away in your car in order to help yourself (and others!) get out of sticky roadside situation during winter months.
Whether you veered off-road or were snowed in overnight, having a small shovel on deck can help you dig out your tires. If you find yourself in this position, try to dig out enough snow to where all of your tires are visible—but remember to prioritize your efforts.
If you’re really wedged into a snow bank and your tires can’t grip the ground, you’ll need a gritty substance to improve traction in order to reverse your way out. Take some kitty litter and pour it in front, behind, and on the sides of your tires. If you don’t have a pet cat at home, coarse salt is a great alternative, since it not only helps your tires gain traction, but it will also melt the ice and snow beneath.
If you find yourself stuck and unprepared, look around for sand you could potentially use. Otherwise, car mats and carpet squares will make for a viable backup method.
How about not getting stuck in the first place? Tire chains rank high on the list of winter car kit items; if you live in a snowy, icy region of the country, have tire chains or cables ready-to-go when conditions turn sour. Not only will they deliver top-notch traction over snow and ice, but they help keep other drivers on the road safe by preventing spin-outs and crashes.
Pro Tip: Tire chains and cables can be rather tricky to put on—especially on the side of the road, in the dark, while snow is falling. Be sure to give your traction system a trial run before you’re forced to learn on the fly.
Over 70% of the nation’s roads are located in snowy regions, which receive more than five inches average snowfall each year. If you live in one of these areas, hopefully, you know the importance of keeping an ice scraper or snow brush in your car in order to clear your windows and windshield. If an unexpected storm hits and you return to a car covered in snow, you won’t be able to drive anywhere without first being able to see.
When you’re stuck on the side of the road, remember that lighting conditions are usually pretty bad during winter months due to fog, rain, and heavy crosswinds kicking up snow. You need to make sure oncoming traffic can see you from either direction to prevent making your accident ten times worse. Light flares are one of the best ways to increase your visibility and alert drivers to your roadside presence, so make sure to include them in your winter emergency car kit.
If you’re in a sticky situation this season, jumper cables could be your best friend. Batteries are notorious for shorting out in winter months and jumper cables might be the tool you need to avoid abandoning your car in the cold and hitching a ride into town.
Keep in mind though, jumper cables depend on another running engine to work. Instead of waiting on the kindness of a stranger, go for a portable jump starter and USB charger; it can even charge your dead cell phone battery if you really need to call in for help.
If your vehicle’s battery is beyond revival or wedged too deeply into the snow, you might want a heavy duty tow strap included in your winter car kit. Before trying to pull your car out of a ditch, make sure you know how much weight and where to appropriately tether it to a car.
In a worst-case scenario, you’re injured and stuck on the side of the road in a remote area. It’s dark and your cell phone is either dead or without reception. If the weather is cold enough, surviving the night could be a challenge. If you stash a radio in your winter roadside emergency kit, you’ll be able to call for help in dire conditions.
Winter Travel Gear
Along with these tools and supplies, you should keep cold-weather survival gear in your car to keep you warm if you’re ever forced to brave the elements.
Gloves and Boots
Putting on tire chains or digging yourself out of snow means that you’re working in temperatures that could be freezing. Have a pair of gloves and boots within your winter car kit to defend against frostbite.
Jacket and Blanket
If you’re drenched by snow or rain, you’ll definitely want a warm and dry outer layer to bring your body temperature back up—especially if you’re forced to sleep in your car overnight.
Flashlight and Batteries
If you need to walk into town for assistance, attach jumper cables to a battery, or search for items within your survival kit, you’ll wish you had a flashlight (with batteries!) in order to see.
As with all survival kits, fresh water, snacks, and first aid supplies are a must. Most of these items are budget-friendly, but at the end of the day, you can’t put a price tag on safety. You want to be stocked up on these items before you realize how much you need them. Don’t regret not having them on-hand.
How to Winterize Your Car
In total, 30 fatal crashes and 600 nonfatal crashes might be avoided on the first few snow days of the year if drivers had been more prepared. In addition to preparing the best winter emergency car kit, take additional steps to winterize your car and keep yourself safe this season.
By making sure your vehicle is finely tuned and ready for the cold months ahead, you’ll be in much safer when you’re driving in dangerous conditions. Avoid disasters by following the essential cold weather driving tips and set yourself up for successful safety this season.