Winter driving can be a dangerous prospect. Roads become difficult to navigate due to ice and snow, daylight is shorter, visibility is decreased, and sub-freezing temperatures are hard on your car. The chances of getting into an accident or breaking down are increased, and the consequences of being stranded by the roadside are much harsher. Be sure your car is well stocked for an emergency.
10 Must-Have Items for Winter Driving
1. A fully charged phone. If you have an accident or break down — especially in a low-traffic area — the first thing you’ll want is the ability to call for help. If your car insurance doesn’t include roadside assistance, it’s also a good idea to invest in an emergency roadside service plan, too. The cost of a single tow will more than pay for the cost of your plan.
2. A shovel. If you park in a spot that gets snowed or plowed in, or if your car slides off the road and into a snow bank, you’ll be glad you have a shovel in your trunk to dig yourself out. Many automotive stores now carry collapsible shovels that break down into several pieces for easy storage. A shovel can also come in handy if your car gets mired down in an impassable section of road.
3. Sand or kitty litter. If your car gets stuck in deep snow or slick ice, sprinkling some sand or kitty litter at the base of your tires can be just the thing to add some traction and get things moving again. The extra weight in your trunk will also create added pressure on your tires, ensuring greater contact between your tread and the ground. Don’t forget: You can also use your car’s floor mats for extra traction.
4. An ice scraper. Has this ever happened to you? You leave the house and the weather is clear and fair. When you return to your car to go home, though, you find thick layer of ice has covered your car. The weather can be unpredictable (even if you consult your Farmers’ Almanac), so it’s always a good idea to have a scraper handy in the event of a freak storm. Ice and snow can seriously impact your visibility, so it’s important to clear off every inch of your vehicle before hitting the road.
5. Blankets. If you become stranded, you may have to wait a while for help to arrive. Hypothermia can set in quickly during cold weather, and you may not be able to rely on your car’s heater to keep you warm. A blanket can help to keep your body temperature up. Keep two or three blankets in the trunk, so there’s sure to be enough for you and any passengers with you. If you’re alone, you’ll have even more protection.
6. A first aid kit. In the event of an accident, a first aid kit will allow you to clean and dress any minor cuts and keep you more comfortable until help arrives.
7. Safety flares or reflective triangles. In case of an accident or breakdown, be sure to turn on your four-way flashers. Visibility can be difficult in the wintertime, though, so it helps if you also have emergency flares or reflective triangles so that other motorists know you’re there. Not only will this prevent collisions, it will also make it easier for the police or a tow-truck driver to find you.
8. Jumper cables. Cold weather is hard on a car. Between the gasoline not burning as efficiently, the oil thickening up in the engine, and misfires in the battery, it can be hard to start up your engine on a very cold night or morning. If your battery lets you down while you’re out and about, having your own set of jumper cables could save you an expensive tow or trip to the mechanic. Some good Samaritan or other will usually be happy to lend a hand, and you can be on your way in minutes.
9. A flashlight with spare batteries. Daylight is much shorter during the wintertime, so there’s a good chance that you may find yourself alone in the dark. If your car breaks down, you may find yourself without inside or outside lights, so a flashlight will be an invaluable tool.
10. Snacks. Like blankets, healthy snacks are a must-have if you get stranded for a period of time in cold weather. Eating even a small snack can help your body produce a needed burst of energy to stay warm. You’ll be more comfortable, too, if you aren’t hungry.
Honorable Mention: A full tank. Running out of gas is inconvenient at the best of times. In the wintertime, though, it can be downright dangerous. Never let your tank dip below the half-full mark, especially in the wintertime. Not only will you feel better if you get lost on back roads some night, you car will run better, too.