10 Things to Keep in Your Car This Winter

by Tim O'Sullivan

A blinding snow storm hits while you’re driving back from a family gathering at the old farmhouse where your parents grew up and Aunt Alice still lives. You can’t see the road, and there’s no cell reception out here in the woods.

There’s only one option—pull over and wait out the white out.

As anyone who’s driven during a New Hampshire winter knows, snowstorms are daunting situations, and sometimes you just have to find a safe spot off the main road and wait for it to pass. But if you aren’t prepared, even waiting out the storm could be life-threatening. If you are prepared, you’re still in for a long night, but you’ll come out of it with a good story. Here’s a list of 10 things to keep in your car this winter, so you can stay safe and add to your repertoire of 10 stories to tell at the next holiday party.

1. A Shovel

The basic tool to combat winter. You can use it to dig out snow from around your tires if your vehicle gets stuck. Or you may need a shovel to clear some space to get into (or out of) a snowed-in parking spot. And, of course, you can also be a savior to another motorist who wasn’t smart enough to pack t

2. Jumper Cables

These are good to have in your car throughout the year, but they’re especially important in the winter. Cold weather reduces the cranking power of your battery and thickens your oil, which is a double dose of trouble when it comes to starting your car.

3. A Bag of Sand (or Kitty Litter)

What happens when you’ve shoveled the snow out from around your tires, but the ground beneath the snow is either frozen or buried beneath ice? You use the bag of sand or kitty litter you wisely keep in your trunk, of course. Just spread some of it beneath the tires that have been spinning on ice, and you should have enough traction to get back on the road.

4. Warm Clothes

You didn’t wear a hat to the holiday gathering, because no one wants hat head in family photographs. But after you pulled over in that white-out snowstorm, you’re sure glad you stocked an extra hat in the car—as well as those extra gloves and scarves.

5. Blankets

Even with that emergency hat pulled on tight, a night stranded in a snowed-in car gets cold. Like, freezing cold. Which is why you also packed some warm blankets in the trunk.

6. Non-Perishable Food

Okay, usually you leave the holiday party stuffed with Aunt Alice’s famous pork pie. But what if you decided to go vegan this year? Or what if you get stuck while driving home after a winter hike that left you famished? The granola bars and pop-top can of beans you packed in your vehicle might make for an odd dinner, but at least you’re not hungry anymore.

7. Roadside Flares or Reflective Triangles

The chances of another car coming down this dirt road in the woods seem slim, but if another car does happen by, you don’t want them slamming into the side of your bumper still in the road. Flares or triangles can help prevent that collision and may also bring you some help.

8. A Tow Strap

Maybe the driver in that other car saw your reflective triangle and stopped to help. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way they could pull you off the side of the road? Of course it would be, which is why you included a tow strap in your emergency winter kit. Just attach the tow strap to the front of the stuck car and the back of the rescuing car, and you can get yourself, or others, out of a sticky situation. Make sure someone stays in the stuck car, though, to steer and use the brakes as needed.

9. Extra Windshield-Wiper Fluid

With all the salt and sand on the road in the winter, windows get extra dirty, and wiper fluid starts working overtime. There’s nothing worse than trying to clean a filthy windshield with just a dribble of fluid coming out of your wiper fluid jet. It’s really hard to drive if you can’t see, so make sure to keep an extra jug or two of wiper fluid in your car. And make sure it’s got some anti-freeze in it—straight water will freeze inside your wiper fluid lines in the winter.

10. A Flashlight

Filling your wiper fluid reservoir, attaching tow straps, using jumper cables, and spreading sand under tires is much harder in the dark, and the farther north you go, the darker it seems to get. Pack a flashlight to reduce the degree of difficulty for your winter emergency.

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