17 Things to Add to Your DIY Winter Car Survival Kit

Prepping your car for travel when the winter weather sets in seems like an easy job, right? Just grab a flashlight and a few pieces of Halloween candy, throw them into a plastic bag, and drop it in the glove box. Done! Not really. Getting stuck in the snow down the block where people can push you out of a snowbank is easy, but getting stranded in a blizzard for 36 hours on the interstate, far away from help, is something to take seriously. So, invest a few minutes to build a winter weather emergency car kit — you’ll be glad you did when the snow gets deep.

Stocking Your Car Winter Survival Kit

Take a look at this list to begin your preparations:

Find a big, transparent storage bin with a sealable lid. Use this to store the majority of the items listed below, and be sure that it can fit neatly into your car.

Jumper cables. Get a long set, 15 feet or more, and be sure that you know how to use them safely.

LED flashlights. That’s right: plural. Having a few on hand will allow you to hand one off to someone if they need to walk at night to seek help. Stock extra batteries too.

Snow scraper. In cold climates, this is a must. Get one with a brush on one end and hard scraper on the other. Don’t forget to wipe headlights and tail lights, as well as windshield wipers.

A 5 pound bag of sand, road salt or kitty litter. This will come in handy if you slide off the road and need traction to get out of the snow. Pour it sparingly under each tire and slowly back out — if possible. If you’re in a pinch without these items, you can always use your car mat.

A good snow shovel. Odds are, you’ll need to dig out yourself or someone else at some point over the winter.

Chemical hand and foot warmers. Buy these small, inexpensive packets in sporting goods and hardware stores. Your toasty fingers and toes will thank you!

Waterproof matches, a lighter and a few tea light candles. Pick up a few extra tea lights to keep you warm. You’ll also want to bring along an empty soup can. Drip a few drops of candle wax onto the inside-bottom of the can and quickly place the candle on the wax. This will help the candle to burn safely. It may provide some warmth as well. Store these in a baggie.

Warm clothes and a blanket. Keep an extra hat, scarf, pair of mittens and boots in your car. A good winter-rated sleeping bag is a nice addition too. You’ll have additional layers if you unexpectedly have to walk for help or simply want to stop to admire the sights. You never know when they'll come in handy!

Food with a long shelf life. Pack a few cans of easy-open beans, protein bars, a small unopened jar of peanut butter, and a bag of crackers. Bring along several bottles of water on the day of travel, but store these separately because they may freeze if left in your vehicle on cold days.

A six pack of 30 minute road flares. These can be found at most auto parts stores, and often come with a highly reflective orange vest in a convenient carrying case. Use these for signaling help or starting a fire. Keep these stored away from children.

Cell chargers. If you’re snowed in and stuck, you can let the sun charge your phone with a solar charger and seek help once service is in range. Also remember to have a standard plug-in charger and chord as well for your phone.

Download the apps. Did you know there are apps that convert your phone to a walkie talkie, where you can call for help, even when you’re out of cell range? Another must have is a good weather app to get up-to-date details on weather conditions according to your GPS location.

Spare wiper blades. It’s a good idea to swap out your wiper blades as winter approaches. If the ones on your car are a little worn but still usable, hold onto them when you get new ones.

A good first aid kit. This one is a must. And, when you’re traveling in winter, be sure to bring along a few days’ worth of necessary medication, just to be on the safe side.

A small, well-stocked emergency toolkit. These can be purchased at hardware stores or online. Be sure yours has a good multi-tool with a knife.

Tire chains. Getting through a mountain pass with even an inch of snow on the ground can be harrowing, and having a set of chains on your wheels is sometimes required. And when ice and snow pile up on the interstate, chains can keep you moving. Practice putting these on and taking them off on a warm day.

Readying yourself for winter driving and road emergencies may seem a bit over-the-top, but much like having insurance, you'll be glad you took the time and prepared for the unexpected after something happens. Once you’ve completed your preparations, take a few more moments and connect with your American Family Insurance agent to ask about our Emergency Roadside Assistance program — for peace of mind wherever your dreams take you.

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Related Topics: On The Road , Car Safety , Safe Driving , Technology