It’s getting deeper into the time of year where we start to drive long distances through potentially hazardous winter weather. It is more important during these times to be prepared, as help may not come as quick as when the roads are clear. So following that good old Boy Scout motto “Be Prepared” I’m going to place my thoughts on what you should have in your Winter Car Kit. I’d like to mention that my car kit consists of these items contained within a small Rubbermaid “Action Packer” which can be picked up for around $25. To modify the old saying, an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of well-being (or something to that effect).
So, for starters, lets take a look at what your normal car kit should have:
- Basic First Aid Kit (for minor cuts, scrapes, burns)
- Ideally, this is just for the little stuff you will inflict upon yourself from being clumsy working under the hood.
- You might also want to add some kind of hand-sanitizer or cleaner.
- Put this in a gallon sized ziploc bag.
- Flashlight (extra batteries are always a good idea)
- I’d have to say the 2x AA MagLites are perfect for this kit, though, if you want something smaller there’s a MagLite “Solitare” that uses 1x AAA battery.
- I carry a 2x D-cell MagLite in my vehicle at all times, with an extra pair of batteries in the glove compartment. It’s size and weight has made it useful as a makeshift hammer to be used on my starter solenoid when the vehicle wouldn’t crank, such that I got it working so I could roll into the mechanic.
- Add the small flashlight to your glove compartment. If you keep a larger flashlight I’d recommend keeping it up beside you, or under you at the driver’s seat.
- Jumper Cables
- You always need them when you don’t have them, and someone else usually needs them when you have them. You might as well keep them so at a minimum you can do your good turn of the day.
- Put these inside the Action Packer.
- Duct Tape
- Do I really need to explain the usefulness of even a partial roll of this stuff? If so, go watch some MacGuyver.
- Put it inside your Action Packer.
- Simple Hand Tools
- At the very minimum you should carry a pair of Screwdrivers (Phillips and Flat) and some Channel-Lock Adjustable Pliers. The utility in these alone coupled with a pocketknife and duct tape can get you a few extra miles down the road. If you know what problems your vehicle is more likely to have, and you’ll need other tools be sure to add them.
- Put these inside a toolbox (if you carry many tools), or the Action Packer.
- It’s the Eagle Scout in me, but see my notes for Duct Tape.
- Put this in your glove compartment.
- Water serves a dual purpose when kept in a vehicle: To keep yourself hydrated, or to keep the vehicle cool (in case of low fluids). I highly recommend keeping at least 2 liters of water with you (3-4 water bottles).
- Put this in your Action Packer.
- Misc. Automotive Fluids
- I usually carry Oil, premix anti-freeze, and a funnel.
- It’s a good idea to toss a couple automotive paper towels, or a scrap piece of an old shirt for spills.
- If you can fit these in a ziploc inside the action packer, I highly recommend it in case of a leak or spill.
The above items tend to get you through most of what you’ll need if your car breaks down. In most cases you’ll be able to get help relatively easy, or it should be close by. But when the winter weather hits, you may not be able to get help for a good number of hours, and it is most important that you can stay warm.
Here are my tips for what to add to the trunk for winter weather:
- Indispensable when needed to stay warm, and nice to have for long car rides for any passengers that wish to rest.
- Light Snack
- Make sure it’s something that won’t melt if it gets too hot, but that will provide some calories. It is important that your body is able to generate enough heat to keep you warm underneath the blanket. Don’t gorge yourself on super-sweets, you don’t want to get sick. Trail Mix is typically a good bet.
- Hand Warmers
- Only necessary when you’re stuck for longer periods of time, but very helpful to restore body heat when the blanket just isn’t cutting it.
- Ice Scraper
- If you have adequate insulation, the energy you put into scraping ice off of your car will keep you warm. It also allows you to keep an eye out for any assistance that may come your way. Try not to get wet though, it’s counter-productive in staying warm.
- Large bag of Cat Litter
- Another dual-purpose item. This is most important for those of you with lightweight two-wheel drive vehicles. It adds weight for traction, and if you open the bag you can put it on the ground underneath your tires for added traction when the weight alone isn’t enough. Just keep in mind that “gunning” the gas isn’t going to help you: stay in a low gear and apply steady pressure to the accelerator pedal.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to know how and when to use these items. Knowing how your vehicle works and what your body needs to stay warm will save you a lot of stress if you ever encounter a situation where you need these tools. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments section below. I’ll be happy to address them.