As the weather begins to turn, it’s important to prepare for all possibilities on the road. There are a variety of different things that can happen in bad winter weather, and you want to make sure you are prepared no matter what.
When you’re preparing to drive in winter weather, try to think outside the box to make sure your bases are covered. For example, find out if your car insurance policy includes insurance for a replacement car battery. You don’t want to be stuck in a snowstorm without a bad car battery.
Now, let’s go over a list of must-have winter necessities and things to keep in your car if you ever get snowed in.
Everyday Travel Winter Gadgets
First, let’s go over typical things that you should carry in your car if you live in a place that routinely has ice or snow in the winter.
Snow and Ice Scraper
The number one gadget everyone needs in their car for the winter is a window scraper. Not everyone can store their car in a garage or carport. While you could turn the engine on and wait for the ice to melt off your windows, it is far faster to do that and scrap the ice and snow off at the same time. And speed is exactly what you need in the morning when you are late to work and only running on one cup of coffee.
Chains or Cables
If a snow scraper is gadget No. 1 to have, then cables and chains are gadget No. 2 that you should always have in your car when the weather takes a turn for the worse. This, of course, only applies if your car doesn’t have snow tires installed.
Be sure that you are able to install your chains or cables correctly ahead of time before you run into a situation where you actually need them. Also be sure to check your state’s rules and regulations to know when the earliest date is that you are allowed to use them.
Nothing beats having your battery die than having to call a tow truck or a friend over a dead battery. Then add in the fact that it’s snowing and cold outside, and who knows how long until the tow truck gets here?
That’s why you’ll want to keep a pair of jumper cables in the car. Hopefully, your battery dies while you are still at work or in a grocery store parking lot. Even if that’s not the case, all you have to do is flag down a good Samaritan and then pop on some jumper cables from your battery to theirs, and voila. You will be on your merry way.
You’re probably dressing warmly for the day, even if you will only be spending enough time outside to go from your house to your car and then to your work building. But even with the coziest winter coat, you’ll want some extra warmth, even if you ever find yourself stuck in the snow.
Fleece is usually the best blanket to go for insulating heat, but just about any cozy blanket can do the trick.
Emergency flares or reflectors
Getting stuck in a ditch isn’t fun. It’s even worse if you are stuck in a tucked-away spot. With the sun setting earlier and earlier each day, you’ll want an easy way for upcoming traffic to see you — especially if you have to walk outside of your car to dig yourself out of a ditch.
Good Spare Tire
Most cars should come with a spare tire, but how often do you usually check it? Be sure that there is enough air in your tires this winter. Some insurance companies even give you a discount for having winter tires. You don’t want to find out when you need it that it’s almost as flat as the tire you are trying to replace.
You should just keep one of these in the glove compartment all year-long. Having this in your car enhances your safety. Also, be sure to check on your supplies at least once a year and stock up on anything that’s running low or expired.
Basic Tool Kit
A tool kit is another good item to have in your car all year round. Even if you’re not much of a mechanic, having a basic tool kit is helpful — if for no other reason then to open stubborn packing with the screwdriver.
Portable Phone Charger/Battery
In my opinion, this item is a must-have winter gadget. You don’t want to get stuck in a blizzard and not have a way to call for help. You also don’t want to find yourself bored when stuck waiting for hours without anything to do.
Large Trip Winter Gadgets
If you are planning to take a trip during the winter, there are some additional things you should make sure to have in case of emergencies.
Gloves and Other Winter Clothing
It’s understandable that in a long car ride with the heat cranked up as high as it can go, you don’t want to drive around in gloves and a winter coat. You should make sure you keep a pair in your car, though, if you need to step out of it for long periods of time.
You should also keep a spare change of winter weather clothes when driving on a long trip. Your clothes are likely to get drenched if you have to go outside to install chains or push yourself out of a ditch, so having some spare clothes to change into is a must.
Water and Non-Perishable Snacks
This is great if you get stuck in the snow for long periods of time. You’ll want to stay well hydrated and at least a little satiated. Try to pick food that is light on the salt and heavy on the carbs so it won’t make you thirsty but will also be filling.
Having a shovel is helpful when you have to stop for a bit and snow begins to pile up around your car. This makes digging your car out easier than doing it by hand. You can usually find a small collapsible one that will store easily in the back of the car.
You’ll need a flashlight if you find yourself stuck in the middle of nowhere and the sun has already gone down. Maybe the light from your car isn’t enough to see, or maybe your battery has died.
Either way, it’s a good idea to keep a flashlight handy. Also, be sure to check the batteries periodically and keep some spares along with the flashlight.
Winter weather is surprisingly blinding. White snow reflects the sun well and will typically do so directly into your eyes. Just like in the summertime, you don’t want to drive with minimum visibility during the day, so make sure to keep your sunglasses handy.
Keeping a gas can around may seem a bit excessive, but I have found myself in a number of situations where the nearest gas station is miles away from me and my tank is running on fumes. You need to know what to do when you run out of gas, and one step is to have a gas can handy.
It’s especially useful when you are stuck in the cold for long periods of time and are using up the gas by running the heat. You should still use your heat sparingly in those situations, but you’ll feel a lot better if you know you have some gas to get you to the nearest gas station if you need to.
Extra Winter Weather Gadgets You May Want
Yes, you heard me correctly: cat litter. If you find yourself stuck in the snow and your tires are spinning and spinning but you aren’t gaining any traction, then sprinkle some litter in front of the tires. Like gravel, this stuff works like magic and can really help you get unstuck.
Extra Windshield Washer Fluid
Similar to keeping some spare gas, you will want some extra windshield wiper fluid. It’s hard enough to see when it’s snowing out due to the road and sky blending together. You don’t want to add to your troubles by not being able to see through your windshield. Make sure it’s the kind with antifreeze, though.
Rope or Chain
If you find yourself needing to tow your car out of a ditch, having a rope or a chain is very useful. It’s not necessary per se, but I am a firm believer in being over-prepared and not underprepared.
Make sure you buy large enough rope to tow your car and that your chain doesn’t rust over time.
Portable Air Compressor
A useful item since cold air often messes up your tire pressure. It’s not necessary, but still, you’re better off being over prepared and not under prepared. Look for one that reads the tire pressure in your car.
Be Prepared for Any Snow Emergency
When all else fails, you can buy a winter weather survival kit off Amazon and it will include some must-need winter items.
Otherwise, just take some time to prepare yourself so you can stay safe and out of harm’s way.
Brennan Lingo writes and researches for the car insurance comparison site, CarInsuranceCompanies.com. Knowing how to stay safe on the road during the winter weather is something that Brennan enjoys educating people about.