What You Need in a Winter Car Emergency Kit

Stephen Fogel
December 3, 2018

A roadside emergency kit is important in any weather — after all, nobody leaves the house expecting to break down.

But in the cold and snow during winter, it’s good to carry a few extra items. And you can go even further, especially if you’re headed somewhere more remote, or if you’re expecting a big storm.

What's in the basic kit?

Whether you put it together yourself or buy one that’s ready to use, a winter emergency kit will typically contain items that will help you to deal with getting stuck in freezing conditions:

Safety equipment

  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • First-aid kit
  • Road flares and safety triangle
  • Tire chains
  • Phone charger or backup battery
  • Ice scraper or snow brush
  • Snow shovel
  • A bag of sand or kitty litter

Vehicle maintenance equipment

  • Jumper cables
  • Tire inflator
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Multipurpose tool or basic tool kit
  • Electrical tape

Survival equipment

  • Winter clothing, including gloves, hats and boots
  • Bottled water, energy bars and other non-perishable snack items
  • Blankets
  • Antiseptic towelettes and garbage bags

Beyond the basics

This emergency kit represents the basics you need to survive a variety of winter crises. But depending on the severity of the weather conditions, you may be stuck in your vehicle for a while. You want your car to keep running, thus providing heat and light until you can get out or get rescued. 

Keep these things in your car if you’re headed on a wintry road trip or into the wild:

Supplies to keep your car running

  • A gas can with a few extra gallons of fuel
  • A quart of engine oil (more if your engine burns it)
  • A gallon of coolant (more if you have a coolant leak)
  • A gallon of windshield washer fluid, rated for winter use
  • Extra fuses
  • A can of de-icer spray for frozen locks or wiper blades

Rescue and safety equipment

  • A tow rope or chain
  • A car fire extinguisher
  • Contact information for a mechanic, towing service or roadside assistance
  • A portable jumper pack with built-in battery 
  • A seatbelt cutter and window breaking tool
  • A reflective safety vest
  • A walking stick or poles, in case you have to hike out to find help
Get your car fixed by a professional

Survival helpers

  • Chemical or battery-powered hand warmers
  • Solar phone charger
  • Battery-powered headlamp
  • Sunglasses, to reduce glare in snowy conditions
  • Sleeping bags, rated for winter temperatures
  • Matches or a lighter, and a candle for light and heat (use inside the car only after cracking a window)
  • Duct tape
  • Paper maps or a road atlas
  • A few days’ supply of all needed medications
  • List of medications and allergies for everyone in the vehicle
  • A brightly-colored piece of cloth — attach it to the highest point on vehicle to make it more visible in a storm

A little extra comfort

These items may not be essential to your physical survival, but they can make a big difference in how you feel while you're waiting for help:

  • Upgraded food and snacks like jerky, trail mix and candy
  • Gatorade or energy drinks
  • A deck of cards or other games 
  • Coloring books and crayons for the kids
  • A battery-powered radio 
Stephen Fogel

About the Author

Stephen has been an automotive enthusiast since childhood, owning some of his vehicles for as long as 40 years, and has raced open-wheel formula cars. He follows and writes about the global automotive industry, with an eye on the latest vehicle technologies.

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