Being sure you have a properly stocked winter car survival kit is vitally important to the personal safety of you and your family. Enjoy, and stay safe!
In the lovely state of Minnesota, winters can be harsh. And by “harsh” I mean freeze-your-tail-off cold. Three winters ago, we had one of the worst I’ve ever seen. We had more than a month of sub-zero days. The kids spent most of the winter inside, simply because it was unsafe to go outside due to the extreme winter cold. These types of weather conditions are not nice to get stranded in, and therefore a winter car survival kit is vital to have if you live in the colder regions. In my humble opinion, it’s vital to have in any state.
A Little Story About The Dangers of Being Unprepared in Winter
When I was young and stupid back in the 80’s, I made the “wise” decision to drive up to a college town 2 1/2 hours from my home to be with friends. The problem was that it was 30 below zero. The other problem was that I didn’t have a ton of gas in the tank, and no money to add more. I decided to chance it, and based on inaccurate gas calculations (the car uses more gas when it’s super cold) I found myself pulled over on the side of a deserted highway with a car that had stopped running due to the fact that I was running on fumes,which helped to cause a frozen gas line. I was running 70 miles an hour (at midnight – bonus points for “extra stupid”), alone (double bonus points) and the car just. stopped. running. Crap. My super cool 1977 Firebird (silver with a blue “bird” decal for those of you who care. If I remember correctly, it had T-tops, but we all know how those memories of being young and cool get a little sugar-coated as we get older. 🙂 ) wasn’t feeling so cool at the moment.
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To say I was scared was an understatement. There were no cell phones in those days. NO one was going to be driving this highway at this time of night when it was 30 below – not even truckers. If something didn’t happen fast, death surely awaited me because I had absolutely no winter car survival kit supplies and it was at least 5 miles to the nearest farm or business, which I couldn’t have found anyway in the pitch black night.
After 20 minutes of praying my you-know-what off (I wasn’t even a Christian then, but I knew I needed God to get out of this one) and continuing to try to re-start the engine, the engine somehow started and I made it to my destination some 20 minutes away. Even in my young stupidity, I knew that was a too-close-for-comfort call, and since then I’ve always carried a winter car survival kit.
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Depending on your region, your winter survival kit supplies will vary. We’ll try to cover a variety of could-be-needed items, as well as some other “do’s and don’ts” for staying safe in your car in all kinds of weather.
Cold Winter Car Survival Kit
For those cold-prone states, here is a list of items that can help you manage a car breakdown during winter.
- 2 road flares to attract attention if you need help
- A cell phone charger adapter in your car at all times
- A flashlight and extra batteries
- At least one heavy/warm blanket or sleeping bag
- Heavy gloves, socks, hat, boots, scarf and jacket. This is important for those with attached garages who think they’ll only be going from the garage to the underground parking ramp at work and won’t need winter gear. Been there, done that. But that’s another story for another time. ** A note: because I travel mostly with the kids, we times our winter supplies like hats and snacks x 5.
- A snack pack containing non-perishable items such as granola bars, chewing gum, beef jerky, trail mix, canned prepared soups, and bottled water
- Cat litter and a shovel for digging out if need be
- Jumper cables
- An empty gas can
- Basic tire changing supplies and an inflated spare tire
- a window scraper/brush (no, your drivers license/credit card isn’t acceptable 🙂 )
- Necessary medications (we include ibuprofen, Benadryl and acetaminophen)
- Battery powered radio with extra batteries
- extra diapers, wipes and formula if you travel with an infant
- A basic first aid kit
- Hand and foot warmers
Other Car-Ready Tips for Winter Survival
- Always keep your gas tank at least half full
- Always keep your cell phone at least half charged
- Always let someone know where you’re going and what time you should arrive
- Drive cautiously and carefully, obeying all traffic laws and drive for the conditions of the weather
- Stay on main roads whenever possible
- Stay in your car in the case of a breakdown – walking in hazardous weather is not a good idea
- Only use your flashers when you hear/see an approaching vehicle in order to reduce battery drainage
- Avoid traveling in bad weather when possible
- Perform regular checkups and maintenance on your car to keep it running in optimum condition and to catch any little problems before they become big problems
- Know your route and don’t trust the GPS to get it right.
What To Do If You Get Stranded in Your Car in Winter
- If you have a cell phone, use it to call 911. Use discretion when calling a friend or family member for help; you don’t want them stuck in the same situation as you are.
- If there is a gas station or other public place really close by, and it’s safe for you to go from your car to the station, leave your car to get help. Otherwise, stay in your car. Don’t take any chances by walking on roads/highways in the dark or during a storm or unusual coldness.
- Use your flares, hazards and other items to attract attention from passing cars.
- If there’s more than one person in the car, huddle together for extra warmth.
- Don’t leave the car running for extended periods of time due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. If you feel you may be experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning, step outside into the fresh air, but away from the roadway.
- For more tips on safe driving and survival tips during winter, click here for this easy-to-read printable PDF.
Take the time to get your car winter-ready within the next week, so you can be prepared for any winter storms that might come your way.
To read our other survival/preparedness posts, go to our Prepping/Survival page by clicking here.