Roadside emergencies have a way of happening at the worst possible time. Whether you’re driving cross-country on a holiday or going on your usual twenty-minute commute, having a car emergency kit on standby can help you safely deal with any road mishap.
It’s important for drivers and vehicle owners to have the right tools on-hand should the need for quick repairs arise. This can mean the difference between staying stuck on the side of the highway while waiting for help and getting back on the road as quickly as possible.
At the same time, you must also have enough supplies to keep you and your passengers safe and comfortable in case you need to call for help. Before we go into assembling an emergency kit for winter, let’s start with the basics you need to have in your vehicle all year-round.
What do you need in your roadside emergency kit?
A basic roadside emergency kit for your vehicle should have the following items.
For your vehicle:
- Flares or emergency triangle reflectors
- Tire pressure gauge
- Tire repair kit (jack, wheel wrench, tire inflator, and sealant)
- An inflated spare tire
- Jumper cables
- A quart of motor oil
- Basic tool kit
- Washer fluid
- Small fire extinguisher
For you and your passengers:
- Paper maps
- Flashlight or rechargeable lamp with extra batteries
- Car mobile phone charger
- First aid kit
- Non-perishable food such as nuts, energy bars, and dried fruit
- Spare cash
- Drinking water
- Paper towels and wipes
Organize these items in a plastic bin or a backpack for better accessibility. It helps to pack these items yourself, so you know where everything is. This is important, especially in situations when you need to do repairs in a hurry. You may also opt to buy a pre-assembled roadside emergency kit.
Before putting away your car emergency kit, it is important to know how to use each tool in the kit properly. You should at least learn the right way to use an emergency jack and replace or fix a flat tire.
Remember to check if your flashlight and extra batteries are working before packing them away. You should also be mindful of the expiration dates of any medication and food you store in your vehicle.
Carrying paper maps with you, even if you have a GPS system in your car or on your phone, can be a lifesaver in case your navigation system malfunctions or if you happen to get stranded in a place where there’s no cell service.
Other items to add to your emergency kit for winter
As temperatures drop to the low 30s, you’ll need more than the basic supplies in your emergency kit. Here are some of the winter supplies that you should carry during the colder months.
- Warm blankets and winter clothing
- Portable snow shovel
- Ice scraper or snow brush
- Tire chains and tow strap
- Hand warmers
- Sleeping bag (for longer trips)
- A bag of sand or non-clumping cat litter
Customizing your winter emergency car kit
Essentials for driving with infants and kids
It’s important for parents to keep a well-stocked diaper bag.
No matter how prepared you may be, a roadside emergency may force you to stay in your vehicle for much longer than anticipated. As a backup, you should keep the following items in your car as well.
- Extra set of warm clothes
- Baby formula and snacks
- Clean baby bottles
- Extra diapers
- Diaper cream
- Baby wipes
- Toys or coloring books to keep kids occupied
Must-haves for traveling with pets
If you drive with your furry companions often, it’s a good idea to have some pet supplies stashed in your trunk in case you get stranded in your vehicle.
- Pet food
- Drinking water
- Portable food and watering bowls
- Cat litter, dog pee pads, and waste bags
Other safety tips for driving in cold weather
Get a vehicle maintenance checkup from a trusted mechanic before the weather gets too cold. This will give you enough time to repair or replace any critical components that may break down as temperatures drop. Switch to snow tires if your area expects storms that come with a foot or two of snow.
If driving in bad weather cannot be avoided, it’s best to inform someone of your travel plans before heading out, and make sure to keep a copy of all emergency numbers in your phone or a piece of paper.
Check the weather beforehand and plan your route to avoid getting stuck on inaccessible roads. And of course, don’t forget to de-ice your vehicle properly before leaving.
All tires must be sufficiently inflated and your fuel tank must at least be more than half-filled to prevent the gas line from freezing up.
If you are sick with the flu, let someone else drive. Driving while on flu medications will significantly reduce your response time as it can make you sleepy or dizzy, and drowsy driving is just as dangerous as driving while under the influence of alcohol.
Winter driving tips
Driving during the wintertime can be hazardous, so it’s important to take the proper precautions. Be careful when driving over black ice as it can cause your tires to slip and lose traction. Black ice develops when ice slowly melts as temperatures go up, forming a thin yet slick covering on the road’s surface that is barely visible.
Keep a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. Rain or snow can limit your visibility, so you need to be more alert and drive well within the speed limits. If possible, minimize the use of your parking brakes and disable cruise control.
If you find yourself stranded during a blizzard, be safe and stay inside your vehicle. Don’t attempt to push your vehicle on your own. Call roadside assistance or emergency services and wait until help arrives.
If you need to go out to ask for help, wear reflective gear so that drivers passing by can see you walking on the side of the road.