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Prep Your Winter Emergency Car Kit

by Dawn Klintworth

If you live or are traveling in an area where winter weather could turn snowy, icy or just plain cold, you need to prepare for winter driving hazards. Whether you’re going across town or across the country, having a well-stocked winter emergency car kit could save you from a roadside crisis.  If your car breaks down or you become stranded in a snow drift, you need to be prepared to get help and stay safe until that roadside assistance arrives. 

You can buy pre-made emergency kits or you could review our car emergency kit list and go to your local hardware, grocery or big-box store to select the car essentials to meet your needs. So, what are some items to include in your emergency car kit? 

What to keep in your car for winter

Think about the types of emergencies you could face to help you identify what you may need. You may have mechanical problems, a dead battery or a flat tire leaving you stranded on the side of the road. You could slide into a ditch or have an accident. You could have a medical emergency leaving you unable to drive. An emergency car kit could make all the difference.

Consider these items to get help: 

  • Car phone charger – you'll likely have your cell phone with you, but you’ll want to make sure it stays charged. 
  • Portable phone charger – you may need extra power if your car battery is dead. 
  • Hazard sign or brightly colored flag – you'll want to be sure no one hits you or your vehicle, and you want others to know you need help. Be sure to turn on your hazard lights. 

Consider these additional car essentials to try to get yourself out of a jam: 

  • Flashlight with new and spare batteries - you’ll need a light source to help you with any car repairs.
  • Candle with matches or lighter – this is a back-up light source in case that flashlight and batteries fail. This could also be a heat source but use caution with an open flame.
  • Ice scraper and snow brush – you may need to clear snow or ice.
  •  Car snow shovel – you may have to dig yourself out of a snow drift.
  • Kitty litter or sand – to keep your wheels from spinning, use these items for traction.
  • Battery jump pack or jumper cables – help someone help you by having jumper cables.

Consider these items to keep yourself safe:

  • First aid kit – treat any injuries.
  • Bottled water and non-perishable food items like peanut butter – Food and water may be critical to staying alive until help arrives.
  • Warm clothing, winter boots, gloves – layer clothing to stay warm and have winter-appropriate clothing in case you weren’t planning to be out in the winter weather.
  • Blanket – have one or more blankets to help stay warm. 

Super charge your winter car emergency kit

If you live in a rural area or are taking a longer trip, becoming stranded could be more of a concern. If help could be delayed or perhaps passing cars might not see you if you were in trouble, consider adding items to your emergency car kit to help people find you and keep you comfortable until they do.

  • Flares and emergency strobes 
  • Basic tool kit to handle your own repairs
  • Tire chains and/or a tow rope 
  • Disposable hand warmers
  • Toilet paper

Maintain your emergency car kit

Stocking a kit is not a once-and-done process. Check twice a year to make sure your emergency car essentials and tools are in good working order and are right for the season.

Avoid emergencies with winter car maintenance 

As winter approaches, take steps to keep your car in good working order. While it’s great to be prepared for a crisis, avoiding one all together is even better.  Consider these car maintenance tips to get your car ready for the next time you hit the road. 


Updated 12-13-22


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