Winter driving. The two words can accelerate worry, distress, anxiety - maybe even abject fear - for almost any driver. When snow is deep, roads are icy, and winds are gusting, winter driving can be difficult and dangerous. An item that can help dull those fears is a winter emergency car kit.
A good winter emergency car kit will prepare you to stay safe in case of winter driving problems or if you have to spend longer-than-expected time in your car. Road closures, slippery roads, icy conditions, and other winter-weather driving realities and mishaps can turn a winter drive into a nightmare. You may be able to solve some driving problems quickly by yourself, or a passerby may help you. Other times, however, you may be stranded in your car until police, a tow truck, or others arrive to help. What if your vehicle's engine isn't working, and you have no heat? What if your vehicle spins out and crashes?
There are plenty of scary what-ifs. For example, if your car breaks down on a remote winter road, you slide into a snowy ditch on icy roads, or maybe you are stuck in a multi-car pileup during a winter storm, help may not be expected for hours. How will you stay warm? What will you eat? Will your phone run out of power? Your best bet to stay safe in these situations is preparation. Like the Scouts' motto: Be prepared. Pack a good winter emergency car kit and store it in your vehicle when the weather is still comfortable. This kit can keep you and others safe during dangerous situations through the winter months in sub-zero and freezing temperatures until help arrives.
Your winter emergency car kit should include items that will keep you safe and warm in an emergency. You can assemble your winter car safety kit or buy a preassembled one. Various winter emergency car kits are available from less than $100 to over $200. Generally speaking, the more you pay for a preassembled winter emergency car kit, the more additional items can be included.
When assembling a winter emergency car kit, the items included should be best suited for the individual or family in the vehicle. If you're driving in urban areas, you likely won't have to wait long for help to arrive. If you are driving in rural or remote areas, it's best to pack a winter emergency kit that will keep you safe for many hours. You will want to stay warm, have food & water and be prepared to deal with minor health situations. Also, having materials to assist with fixing minor accidents, as well as visual identification, are important as well.
These items are essential during weather with heavy rain or snowfall. If dealing with outside car issues at night, an item with reflective material can be used to get a passerby's attention and to ensure you are seen during winter nights.
Including a duct or electrical tape roll in your winter emergency car kit is helpful in temporarily patching holes or attaching a loose item. A downfall of tape is that it does lose some to all of its adhesive properties in colder temperatures so use it accordingly.
Having a small tool kit with frequently used sizes of wrenches and screwdrivers that are used on the vehicle is an excellent addition to your winter car kit. Another option is an all-in-one multi-tool which will take up less space.
A small first aid kit in your car all year round is good to have in case of injury or medical emergency. Items such as gauze, adhesive tape, pain-reliever medication, antiseptic ointment, bandaids, and any currently used medication are good.
Having bottled water helps you stay hydrated. Ensure the water bottles are correctly stored so the water will not freeze in the cold.
If you have to stay in your car for long periods, it is good to have non-perishable food items in your emergency car kit. Items such as granola bars, nuts, seeds, crackers and others are good options. Confirm you are aware of any allergies before selecting the foods included in the kit.
Ensure you have a few flashlights and extra batteries in your emergency car kit. Flashlights are suitable as a source of light for those inside the car and can also be used as a signal outside of your car to warn other vehicles.
A cell phone charger is essential to ensure your phone stays charged in an emergency. Equally important is a power charger bank to recharge cell phones as needed. If you can't run your car's engine, the power bank will allow you to charge your mobile phone and other similar items.
While more significant, if you are alone for a long time, warm blankets will allow you to be more comfortable for a more extended period.
If your vehicle cannot run the engine for heat, having extra clothes like coats, socks, mittens, and hats will allow you to stay warmer in the cold weather. A good rule is to have larger sizes so they can be used on individuals of different sizes.
Hand and foot warmer packets deliver quick and steady heat on demand: Shake to activate the packs before slipping them into your mitts or boots. These are very helpful in extremely cold situations, so include multiple packs in your winter emergency car kit.
A roll or two is always good to have for obvious hygienic reasons.
Having a winter emergency car kit is essential when travelling in your vehicle. However, other oversized items may not be able to fit inside a standard winter emergency car kit. These items, while larger, are still important and should also be kept in your vehicle for emergencies.
A foldable shovel may be all you need to get out of a snowdrift. A shovel can also be used to dig out from heavy snowfall.
A snow brush or ice scraper can help keep windows clear from dirt, debris, ice or snow. As these come in various sizes, ensure that the size purchased can adequately clean your vehicle.
Cat litter, sand or other gritty material is an excellent addition to any winter emergency car kit. These materials can be helpful if you need some extra traction under your tires during icy or slick conditions.
A battery booster that is fully charged can help boost a dead battery. Ensure that the battery booster is fully charged before departing.
Jumper cables can be helpful to connect with a running vehicle and jump-start a dead battery. While some older car models may have included a set of jumper cables, most current vehicles do not, so check before leaving.
A jack and spare tire are helpful in the case of a flat tire. Remember that all vehicles do not necessarily come with one, so inspect for one before leaving.
A new, unopened container of windshield washer fluid is good if debris or dirt needs to be removed from your windshield. Including a spare set of windshield wipers is also a good idea if one gets broken or falls off.
A tow strap/rope can be used if you need to be pulled out of a ditch or snowbank. When attaching a rope or tow to your vehicle, ensure it is connected to a strong piece of the vehicle, such as the frame, to avoid damaging your vehicle.
Other items such as road flares, tire pressure gauges, road maps, and portable air compressors can be considered based on budget, vehicle size, and value-added.
Store the winter emergency car kit in your trunk or the vehicle's back seat with easy access if needed. A duffle bag or storage container can be ideal when packing your winter emergency kit. Once it is packed and stored, you can begin your journey. While your winter emergency car kit may not be used, the knowledge that it is available will allow you to complete your drive with confidence in your safety.
The key is preparation. A winter emergency car kit will prepare you in case of road problems. Having your car winter-ready is also good preparation. Checking the weather forecast and determining if it is safe to go out on the roads or reschedule your outing is also good preparation. In closing, we hope your winter driving is without worries or problems. We hope you don't have to use your winter emergency car kit. May all your travels be safe.
This content is written by our Morison Insurance team. It is provided for general information only. Insurance needs differ from person to person, and this article is therefore not a substitute for professional advice about your individual insurance needs which can be obtained by speaking to one of our brokers.