Be Prepared With a Winter Car Emergency Kit

Winter car emergency kits typically include:

  • Battery booster cables. You’ll want these in case you wind up with a dead battery or you need to help someone else with a dead battery. Alternatively, a portable jump starter is very easy to use and works well, but it needs to be kept charged to work on the road.
  • Ice scraper. Every car in the snow belt should have an ice scraper and a brush. Cheap scrapers are commonly found in the kits. It is better to carry a combination snow brush/scraper that makes clearing snow before traveling easier. In some states, clearing your car of all snow is the law. Even where it’s not, it’s just common courtesy, so your blowing snow doesn’t impair another driver’s vision.
  • Portable shovel. These are handy for digging out a car buried by plows or stuck along the roadside, and for clearing space around a tailpipe for extended idling, to prevent fumes from entering the car. Most kits come with a collapsible shovel. (The shovels come in a range of sizes and strengths.) If you’ve ever had to dig out your car before, a full-sized shovel might be in order because compact shovels can be difficult to use on big jobs. Also, keep a bag of sand handy in your trunk to help boost traction.
  • Items to help if you’re stranded. Most kits come with a flashlight, and some include a signaling cone to warn oncoming cars of your presence. Pack backup batteries for that flashlight. Roadside triangles should be in every kit, and a reflective safety vest comes in some kits.
  • Basic first-aid kit. Most emergency kits have one for the bare essentials, such as attending to a small cut. Add things that suit specific health needs, and be aware of how temperature may affect medicines.
  • Cell-phone charger. Almost everyone carries a smartphone attached to the hip nowadays, and a cell phone charger is a good thing to keep in the car, especially during the winter and on road trips.
  • Other common items. Things such as gloves, a blanket, a rain poncho, wipes, and rags can help you stay clean and shield you from the elements. It’s a good idea to keep a pair of boots and a hat in the car, particularly if you’re often driving in snowy conditions.

Other items that come with kits may be handy, depending on your needs and skills.

  • Tow strap. A simple tool, a strap can be essential if you ever need to be pulled out of a ditch. Know how much weight the strap can tow (reputable straps have that information printed on a label) and how to tether it to the appropriate part of a car before using it. Read your car’s owner’s manual for recommend practices for using a tow strap, such as using a detachable tow hook to use a tether. 
  • Fire extinguisher. It’s good to have to fight a small fire, but if your car is on fire, back off and wait for the emergency help. If you buy an extinguisher, make sure it is intended for automotive use.
  • Water and long-lasting food. They’re always good things to carry, particularly on long trips. Think granola and protein bars; bottled water will usually last for six months before it needs to be replaced.
  • Items for handling a flat tire. Some kits come with an aerosol can of tire sealant that can temporarily fix a tread puncture. Be aware that these products may not work well in extreme cold weather (check the directions), nor are they are intended for large punctures or tires with sidewall damage. Our tip here is to use a spare tire if one is available, or call roadside assistance for a tow.

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Posted 10:16 AM

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