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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

10 Must-Have Items for Winter Driving

10 Must-Have Items for Winter Driving

Driving in the wintertime 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. Always keep these 10 items in your glove compartment or trunk:

1.  A cell phone and a spare battery. 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.

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 freak storms. 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.

27 comments

1 Dorothy { 12.18.13 at 11:29 am }

just wondering about all the talk of having food and water in the car “in case”…what about the constant freezing and thawing of these items..doesn’t that make them unsafe to eat or drink?

2 Bobbie { 12.18.13 at 11:09 am }

Also, I carry a P-38 on my key chain to open my canned foods in the truck. Like the TP-Rubbing Alcohol-Coffee Can idea!

3 margie { 12.18.13 at 9:15 am }

Candles, matches, and water.

4 diane rogers { 01.04.13 at 1:51 pm }

I carry the blanket, the scraper, lined rubber boots, water shoes, a trowel/shovel/heavy duty scissors, first aid kit, flashlight,flares,water , dog “poop” bags which work for humans too , a spare set of windshield wipers, windex to make sure the windshield on the inside is clear too, and a whistle. Oh I forgot the 6 foot of rope with a clip in case the dogs and I have to walk out or haul out. Bad weather is bad weather no matter the season, no matter the region.

5 Jennifer { 12.27.12 at 2:46 pm }

irradiated “milk.” Water is great, and should be there too, but boxed Almond/soy/rice/etc milk provide calories needed as well.

6 Denien Nachtrieb { 12.27.12 at 10:36 am }

All of the notes below are all wonderful advise! @ Wolfsdawn, as a former interior Alaskan resident of 35 years, you can keep your water jug from bursting by not completely filling it. Leave a couple of inches for expansion, I know this from experience. Another suggestion I have for your “emergency kits” is to keep a couple of bottles of HEET in your car. This is the gas additive that with eat any water in your gas tank or lines that may have accumulated. A lot of cars can have condensation in their tanks from being warmed in a garage, then going outside condenses that moisture. Be sure to get the right HEET for your make of car, carborator or injectors. Also, an experience of Alaska winters.

7 carol b { 12.27.12 at 9:17 am }

a 1lb metal coffee can with a roll of TP and rubbing alcohol. makes a small heater. put tp in can and pour alcohol on it and lite. you do have to be careful because flames will be hard to see and also keep a window cracked. my sons learned this in scouts years ago. also remember cell phones do not always have signals….maybe we should have an old fashioned cb radio also

8 David { 02.09.12 at 11:38 am }

Composure! If you are tense and/or tired, take a minute or two to calm down,take a couple of deep breaths and evaluate your situation. Avoid panic and if there are others in the car try not to point out “who’s fault” it is because it can knock the wind out of the sails.

9 Jack { 02.08.12 at 4:25 pm }

You might add to that list a large plastic garbage bag that can be made into a quick poncho to ward off extreme cold, a large candle that can warm up the interior of the car if you’re trapped in a blizzard, and 2 coffee tins – one to melt snow in for drinking water over the candle, and one to pee in without having to get out in the extreme cold (BE SURE TO LABLE TO TINS FOR THEIR INTENDED USE!).

10 LFinTexas { 02.08.12 at 1:32 pm }

A great idea for a portapotty is a small coffee can (used to be the one pounder) lined with gallon size freezer zip loc bags. When you’re too far from a restroom, these are a life saver. If you do have to use one, PLEASE put the zipped baggy into your trash container and discard when you get close to a trash bin! Nothing worse than seeing used containers on the road sides!

11 MPelton { 02.08.12 at 12:23 pm }

Besides all of the above I carry a couple of cans of tuna and vegtables also dog and cat food. Extra hats, gloves, sharp hunting or kitchen knife and rope.

My husband laughed at me the first time we went on a trip together, he wanted to know if I was ever trapped in a storm, my reply was no but I will be prepared if I do get stuck.

12 jsowers { 02.08.12 at 8:52 am }

In addition I carry a small bottle of bleach for instant traction if get stuck on ice

13 dsmccurdy { 02.22.11 at 11:03 am }

All of these are good items to keep in an emergency kit. I keep a backpack year round with car kit of emergency flares, triangles, jumper cables, duct tape, cell phone battery and charger, glucose tablets, water, jerkey, prepackaged nuts, first aid kit, a 4 day supply in a waterproof container of my medicines, sleeping bag, army shovel, etc. I have been caught many times in inclement weather and always make sure I have my snow boots too.

14 jon { 02.12.11 at 6:34 am }

Another thing people forget is dressing for the occasion. They go from inside the house or building to the car not having the proper clothing or boots in case they do have to walk or get out to help themselves.

15 AwiUsti { 02.12.11 at 3:00 am }

Thanks for this excellent advice! I invested in a *power station* that has jumper cables, air compressor, emergency light, and a 12 volt power outlet. It cost about $60 at Costco last fall and it has already more than paid for itself by saving us from having to be towed twice! I’m sure it will also come in handy when I’m ready to crank up the tractors and lawn mower come Spring; I won’t have to maneuver another vehicle next to them to jump them or pull out the big air compressor to inflate low tires (IF Spring ever comes). I keep a cell phone charger in the SUV and, in case animals need to be rescued, dog leads, heavy gloves, and usually a cat carrier. A roll of paper towels and a box of Kleenex are always in there too!

16 Keith { 02.11.11 at 9:08 pm }

carrying a charged jump starter in addition to the above is a good idea. its’s an investment of $50 to $75

17 Linda { 02.09.11 at 8:26 pm }

Great ideas. I want to offer one VERY IMPORTANT reminder. Make sure your exhaust pipe remains clear of snow and debris if you run your engine to keep warm. Check the exhaust pipe often and don’t fall asleep with the car running. Be safe.

18 Wolfsdawn { 02.09.11 at 4:18 pm }

I know it falls under “snacks”, but suckers = insta-sugar.

*How would you keep your emergency water supply from freezing and BURSTING in winter?

19 Lydia { 02.09.11 at 3:43 pm }

Add to the list: large coffee can with lid, candles, and matches. You can put snow in the can, light the candles underneath, and melt the snow for drinking water.

20 D McGrath { 02.09.11 at 1:32 pm }

Trader Joe’s carries great individually wrapped food snacks for the road and emergencies…I keep a variety in my car.

21 Samantha { 02.09.11 at 1:30 pm }

another thing we used to carry was a coffee can with a roll of toilet paper and a lighter or pack of matches.. pour a bottle of rubbing alcolol in the can and it will burn for 8 hours.. a small army shovel is a good thing to have also…

22 crsabt { 02.09.11 at 11:15 am }

A back with a couple water bottles, some freeze dried food, and essentials like first aid items can be carried all year long. Just in case of disasters or emergencies that are unforseen as well as predicted weather patterns. A hiker’s backpack is large enough to carry everything you would need. Also, an old laundry detergent bottle makes an excellent portapotty-no need to go outside in the cold.

23 Marion S. { 02.09.11 at 9:44 am }

I keep 3 Heat and Ice Packs in my First Ad kit. The Heat pack can keep you from frost bite

24 moogs { 02.09.11 at 9:31 am }

actually, in the winter, your fuel tank should never go below half.

Oil companies are suppose to put in an anti-freeze for fuel lines but for some reason I don’t trust them.

25 k4mjo { 02.09.11 at 9:00 am }

I carry Ham Radio Too! “When All Else Fails”.

26 BJ McAfee { 02.07.11 at 11:26 am }

I carry gray duct tape, a space blanket, and bees wax candles and water proof matches…..you can make a smaller space in your car with the space blanket and duct tape and heat it with the candle (also saves on the flashlight battery).

27 JRemmert { 02.07.11 at 8:07 am }

Also carry a chain – to be pulled out. Identify where it should be hooked in the front and/or rear end while the weather is good.

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