people pushing a truck stuck in snow

How to Make A DIY Winter Survival Kit for Your Car

Updated March 11, 2019 . AmFam Team

Getting caught in a blizzard is a bummer when you're trapped in someone's house and want to go home, but getting caught out on the road can be downright dangerous. Be prepared by building yourself a car survival kit for winter emergencies and stay safe on the road this winter season.

Emergency Roadside Assistance Coverage

Stranded on the road? You'll be glad you have emergency roadside assistance coverage added to your policy. Here's why.

From starting your car to keeping you warm, the following items can help keep you going if you find yourself in a slick situation when driving this winter:

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 on a car battery

Jumper Cables

Get a long set of 15 feet or more — and be sure to learn how to jumpstart a car so you're prepared if you need to use them!

LED Flashlights

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.

scraping ice off a windshield

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 taillights, as well as windshield wipers.

A Five-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.

shoveling snow from around a car

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!

a stack of blankets

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 flare on the road

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 cord as well for your phone.

replacing wiper blades

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.

a woman putting chains on her tires

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. 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.

Apps for Driving in the Winter

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. There are apps to help you find parking and simulate driving in winter traffic. Do some research and find out what apps to download before hitting the road.

Store the Right Car Insurance

Having the right car insurance before you hit the road this winter is key to keeping your finances safe. Check in with your American Family Insurance agent to ensure your coverages are set up to best protect you. Ask about adding coverage, like rental car reimbursement, may help cover the cost of a rental car if your vehicle is in the shop after an accident. Or emergency roadside service, which is a saving grace if you get stranded on the road.

Readying yourself for winter driving and road emergencies is an important way to stay safe on the road, and much like having the right insurance in place, you'll be glad you took the time and prepared for the unexpected.

This article is for informational purposes only and based on information that is widely available. We do not make any guarantees or promise any results based on this information.

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