Winter driving conditions can be both dangerous and unpredictable. You never know when you might have to pull over in a snowstorm or when you’ll be waiting for a tow truck. This is why it’s important to be prepared, and even better to be over-prepared. The best way to be prepared is to create a winter driving emergency kit for your vehicle. If you end up getting stranded in a snowstorm, stuck in some snow or have an emergency while you are on the road, the kit will provide you with all the essentials you need.
While you can buy emergency kits in stores, you can also easily build your own. Here are a few key items that we would recommend having in your vehicle during your winter travels.
Basic vehicle items
- Ice scraper and snow-brush. These items are absolutely essential for winter driving, whether it is an emergency or not. Anytime that it snows, you need to completely clear the snow and ice from all your windows as well as the hood, roof and exterior of your vehicle. This will not only help you see but will also make sure that you aren’t blowing snow into other vehicles while you are driving. Remember that snow blowing off your roof can hit someone else's windshield and block their visibility. Don't be a hazard to others.
- Sand, salt or something similar. If you get stuck on ice or snow, having a small bag of sand or salt with you can help you gain traction and get out of the situation. Simply put the sand over the ice or snow directly in front or behind your tires (depending on which way you're trying to move. The sand or salt will add enough traction to let your vehicle get moving again.
- Booster cables. This is something that is handy to have in your vehicle all year round. If your vehicle’s battery happens to die, you’re going to need booster cables to get it up and running again.
- Road flares or warning lights. If you are stuck on the side of the road somewhere—especially in a snowstorm— you will need lights to make sure other drivers and emergency vehicles can see you. These are useful at night and in foggy or snow-filled conditions.
- Windshield washer fluid. During the winter you’ll likely use your wipers more to get the slush and mud off of your windshield. Keep an extra jug of washer fluid with you—especially if you are doing a lot of highway driving and won’t be able to stop for more. Being able to see clearly is very important.
Winter Emergency Kit
- Flashlight and batteries. Since the sun sets early in the evening during the winter months, it’s important that you have a lighting plan. Keep a good flashlight and an extra set of batteries in the winter car kit just in case. This flashlight can help you look through the rest of the emergency kit, check under the hood, or read maps as needed.
- Emergency candle and matches. Emergency candles are long burning and can also be used to mark your location. In a pinch, they can also be used for heat if needed. Make sure you’ve also got something to hold the candle in that isn’t flammable.
- First aid kit. It’s always a good idea to be prepared for the worst. Your vehicle should have a first aid kit to help mend any minor injuries. If someone in your family has allergies or frequent headaches, it might also be a good idea to keep a small amount of appropriate medications handy.
- Extra clothing and winter boots. If you are traveling a long distance, you should pack extra clothes and appropriate winter gear, such as winter boots, mittens and toques. If you need to walk for help or stay warm in the car, these extra clothes will help you stay cozy and dry.
- Blankets. If you get stranded on the side of the road, you will likely have to wait there until emergency vehicles can reach you. Make sure you have enough blankets in the car for you and your passengers to stay warm.
- Non-perishable foods and water. If you are waiting in your car for a long time, you will need some food and water to keep yourself comfortable. Things like trail mix and granola bars are handy to have on hand. And, keeping a few bottles of water in the car is also a good idea.
- Small tool kit. Anything can happen on the road. You never know when you may need a wrench or screwdriver.
You can add anything else that you may think you need as well. These essentials will help you breathe a little easier in the event of an emergency.