Winter Car Emergency Kit

What to Keep in Your Car in Case of an Emergency

Winter Road
Pixabay

Keep the following supplies in your winter car emergency kit. In fact, we always say to prepare for the worst case scenario, especially in wintertime!

Emergencies can happen to anyone. Whether you run out of fuel, puncture a tire, or slip off a snowy road, keep a car emergency kit on-hand to help you get back on the road safely and quickly.

In addition to the items listed below, a cell phone is highly advised. Make sure your cell phone is charged every time you get in the car and keep a cell phone charger in your car.

Car Emergency Kit List

Keep the below items in a bag in your trunk. Ideally, we’d suggest a clear, plastic container so it’s easy to see and locate everything. You can buy a pre-packaged kit or create your own. 

Minimum Supplies:

  • Flashlight, plus extra batteries (or a hand-crank flashlight)
  • Jumper cables
  • First-aid kit (band-aides, adhesive tape, antiseptic wipes, gauze pads, antiseptic cream, medical wrap). See a first-aid kit checklist.
  • Bottled water
  • Multi-tool (such as a Leatherman Tool or a Swiss Army Knife)
  • Road flares or reflective warning triangles

Other Essentials:

  • Small fire extinguisher (5-lb., Class B and Class C type) in case of a car fire
  • Tire gauge to check inflation pressure in all four tires and the spare tire
  • Jack and lug wrench to change a tire
  • Gloves, rags, hand cleaner (such as baby wipes)
  • Duct tape
  • Foam tire sealant for minor tire punctures
  • Rain poncho
  • Nonperishable high-energy foods such as granola bars, raisins, and peanut butter
  • Battery– or hand-crank–powered radio
  • Lighter and box of matches
  • Spare change and cash
  • Paper maps

Additional Items for Winter Driving:

For those in wintry areas, add the below items to your emergency kit. (If it’s balmy all winter where you live, be thankful that you don’t need all of this stuff!)

  • Blankets, gloves, hats
  • Ice scraper
  • Collapsible or folding snow shovel
  • A bag of sand to help with traction (or bag of kitty litter)
  • Blanket
  • Tire chains and tow strap
  • Hand warmers
  • Winter boots for longer trips
  • Sleeping bag for longer trips

winter-car-kit-safety.jpg

Winter Driving Tips for Car Safety

  • Keep your gas tank filled above halfway to avoid a gas line freeze-up.
  • Make sure tires are properly inflated.
  • Beware of black ice. Roads may look clear, but they may still be slippery.
  • Stuck on the ice without sand or cat litter? In a pinch, you can take the floor mats out of your car, place them next to the tires, and slowly inch the car onto and across the mats.
  • Make sure windows are defrosted and clear. And be sure to clear snow and ice from the top of the vehicle! Gently rub a small, moistened, cloth bag of iodized salt on the outside of your windshield to prevent the ice and snow from sticking.
  • To restore proper windshield wiper blade action, smooth the rubber blades with fine sandpaper to remove any grit and pits.
  • Fog-proof your mirrors and the inside of your windshields with shaving cream. Spray and wipe it off with paper towels.
  • Avoid driving when you have the flu, which can reduce your reaction time almost six times as much as moderate alcohol intake. 

See more cold-weather tips provided by AAA.

What do you have in your car emergency kit? Let us know in the comments. (Thank you to our readers who have made suggestions, which we have added to the above list!)

Learn More

To see what weather’s in store for your area, see our free two-month long-range forecasts or check out your local 7-day forecasts.

Be sure to find out what to have in your home emergency supply kit, too!

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

Emergency Kit

One essential item was omitted: KITTY LITTER - works great to provide traction when you're stuck on ice.

KITTY LITTER

Hi Vicki!
Actually, they did mention kitty litter under "Additional Items for Winter Driving". "A bag of sand to help with traction (or bag of kitty litter)"

How do you find room for all that stuff ?

When I had a larger car, with a large trunk, I kept a lot of that stuff in the trunk, but still not all of that, because I lived in warm climate. Now, I have a smaller car, a hatchback, so there really isn't anywhere to keep that much stuff and not have it in the way. Also, now that I live in a colder climate, I need even more stuff. I've managed to get a few things in with the spare tire, put an extra set of gloves and water in the door pockets, and a Mylar emergency blanket in the glove compartment. We have a couple of knives, flashlight, granola bars, and a mini-first aid kit in the center console. We recently added a snow shovel (didn't have a folding one). But that's it. We recently bought ATV's to go hunting, and I managed to get a few things in the storage compartment of mine. I'd love to hear how others manage to organize and store this much stuff.

Emergency kit for the car.

A couple of cans of tuna fish in oil. Poke a hole in the top of the can, insert a wick ( shoelace if made of cotton) and you have an oil lamp. When the oil peters out eat the tuna.
The cars mirrors can be used as signal mirrors during the day.
Compass to go along with the maps. Learn how to use it.
Be ready to change the message on your cell phone before the battery looses it's charge. " Hi it's me I'm stuck in a snowstorm in ......... Today is the ..... of....... I'm OK. Send help when you get this message.
Butane lighters need to come out of the car in the summer. I had a few explode inside the cab.
Magnesium Metal match. Nearly fool proof. Practice with it.
Along with the empty paint can don't forget an opener or a large screw driver to get the lid off.
Up date your stock on a yearly basis.
Most importantly, use common sense and don't panic.

Don't forget the kids!

For each of our kids we keep in the car: a blanket, handwarmer, Mylar blanket, extra hat, scarf and mittens, extra sweater, extra change of clothes, and diapers and dry cloth wipes, so they are not wet and freezing! Those are always in the car during winter along with items for the car and myself and partner. Whenever we go anywhere though, we pack our "diaper bag" backpack with bottles of water, age appropriate snacks and a packet of dry milk in addition to our usual child necessities. We always bring heavy coats and bibs and if they are not wearing snow boots already, we toss them in just in case. It's a lot of extra stuff, especially with more than one kid, but it's worth it. And like most cars that transport kids, there are some toys and kid items. If something were to happen, they would be there to keep the kids occupied.

Remember, absolutely do not put a child in a carseat while wearing winter gear- they can slip out of the straps. My kids' blankets are folded in between their car seats for easy access, they can reach them and use them anytime they want in the car. An infant would probably be snuggled under a blanket already (mine always were!)

I'm sure there are other items that could be helpful for children, but everyone's needs are different, so just keep them in kind when preparing your vehicle.

Always carry cash

Keep some cash in your stash as well. Not everyone accepts plastic. Cash will also get you through if you lose your wallet!

Oh; and sources of ignition; carry MATCHES; not butane lighters, if you're in a cold climate. Butane won't go to a gaseous state below 15*. If you are in a bad situation, and a "Bic lighter" is all you have, put it close to your body for a while before using it, to warm the butane.

Question

For those of us in cold zones (prone to freezing weather for many months), bottled water SOUNDS like a good idea, but keeping it in the car means frozen water or shattered bottles during freeze/thaw cycles.

Anyone got a good alternative?

RE: Question

About the only thing you can do is carry a bottle or two of water with you, not leaving it in the car. I have an EDC (Every Day Carry) pack that I carry to and from work. Along with several, "prepper" items, here's room for a couple of water bottles in the pockets of it.

Bottled water actually holds up pretty well when frozen. I routinely use them as ice packs, keeping them in a sub-zero freezer until needed. Trouble is, you have to defrost the thing before you can drink it...

Thanks for the advice! Hope

Thanks for the advice! Hope we don't need to use it, but better to have it and not need it... :)

Common sense adds

Wooden matches, and old newspaper or magazine, hand sanitizer, chap stick, small bottle of Windex (many uses), paper towels, flashlight, All can be kept in a new paint can (cheap at hardware stores - keep the key in the glove box, center console, or ash tray).

I keep 2 Duraflame logs in my

I keep 2 Duraflame logs in my trunk, you never know how long you may wait for help if you slide off the road.

DURA FLAME

Donna, that is genius! I never would have thought of that. A campers flint/strike bar igniter combo would be good to have as well and they don't take up much room.

fully charged unactivated cell phone

unactivated cell phones cost you next to nothing to keep charged in your vehicle and 911 service is a mandatory feature - usually no sim required and triangulation via cell towers can actually assist emergency crews to locate your whereabouts in a life or death situation.

Not to sound paranoid, but a

Not to sound paranoid, but a handgun might come in handy!

A car emergency kit should be

A car emergency kit should be available in worst case scenario - being trapped inside your car. All those items are of absolute no use if placed in the trunk. The only things to be placed in the trunk are shovel, kitty litter, tow rope, etc. Anything required for survival should be placed INSIDE the car and always accessible. That means if you're driving by yourself, the emergency kit should be up front with you and not in the backseat.

Backseat

Most new cars have access to trunk thru backseat

He's right

I was hit by a truck and sent off the side of an overpass on my way home for Christmas. Temp was -5 deg F. I survived bc I had a huge old heavy car...an old Eldorado. The weight of that car kept it from flipping, and the long long nose of that car saved my life. BUT...the entire nose and engine etc had smashed onto my legs and pelvis, and had me pinned in the car. The door was off, and windshield busted exposing me to the extreme cold. My hands were free. I had a thermal blanket in the front seat etc. Luckily, it was early evening, and on the interstate so like 100 people rushed to my aid. They covered me till the ambulance and fire dept arrived.

But had I been alone...i wouldnt have been able to get to the trunk through the back seat for my bag, or even the back seat, or even the floor on the front seat. I agree keep your bag within arms reach, and even belt it to the console or whatever so it doesnt get thrown. If I had had to wait for help, id have had protein bars, water, cell phone, and my thermal blanket all within reach.

The awesome ending to this story is that one of the ENT's, and the first guy to put his head inside my car, was dressed like Santa Clause. I actually thought I was hallucinating. But I wasn't. He was suppose to play Santa at the Children's hospital and was ready to head over when he got the 911 call. He had a big pack of teddy bears in the fire truck for the kids, and he gave me one, and I still have it till this day.

But...the pack should always be where you can reach it.

I have heard of the candle

I have heard of the candle and lighter.When a lighter gets cold it will not light,you will have to get it warm by putting it close to your body to warm it up before it will light.A tin can to put your candle in would make a good little stove to keep you warm and it would be safer as far as keeping your car from catching on fire or getting melted wax everywhere.

A candle and lighter in your

A candle and lighter in your survival kit. A little warmth from the lit candle will help take away a bit of the chill.