Do you live in or plan on traveling to snowy parts of the country this winter? Unless you drive one of these…
…you’re going to want a winter emergency kit for your car. When we talk about a winter EMERGENCY kit, we’re thinking of items you’ll need if you suffer a breakdown or get stuck in the snow – drivers who live in areas that get a lot of snow should know their car’s snow capabilities. (This means that it’s assumed you’ll have a pair of tire chains handy, if your car doesn’t have snow tires and/or four-wheel drive.) And perhaps the most crucial piece of emergency equipment is something that nearly all of us carry at all times – a cell phone. If you do find yourself stranded in the snow, immediately call 911 and let them know – the dispatcher will get all of the info needed to get you help.
Still, you want to be prepared. While you really don’t have any excuses for not putting one together, the cost of buying a pre-assembled winter emergency kit can be a bit off-putting. But when you put one together yourself, you can save quite a bit of money. Here’s a list of essential items, and what you can expect to pay for them. As you’ll see, it’s not terribly expensive – and you’ll hopefully never need to find out why it’s worth the cost.
One of the most essential items to have in your car at any time of the year, jumper cables are especially important during cold weather, when batteries are more likely to fail. A quick search on Amazon shows that you can buy a pair of jumper cables for less than $10.
It’s a good idea to have an extra quart of oil and a small container of anti-freeze as part of your winter emergency kit. Both can be found at your local automotive parts store for a combined cost of less than $15.
Ice Scraper and a Shovel:
If you get stuck, you’re may to need to get your car out of the snow and clear your windows. Make sure you have an ice scraper; nearly all gas stations in cold parts of the country carry them and you can find one for less than $5. Having a small shovel is a good idea, just in case you need to dig your car out from accumulating snow. No need to spend a lot of money here; while you can buy “car emergency snow shovels” for around $15, you can save money by looking for a folding camp shovel, often available at surplus stores for around $10. It’s also a good idea to carry a small bag of sand or even car litter to sprinkle under the tires for traction, if you find yourself stuck.
Wool or Fleece Blankets:
If you’re stranded, you’ll want to make sure you have a blanket or two in the car to help keep you and your passengers warm until help arrives. No need to go out and buy a brand-new blanket just to throw it in the back of your car – if you’re replacing your linens this winter, hang on to your old blankets and add them to your winter car kit. Thrift stores are also an excellent place to buy used blankets.
A Flashlight, Batteries and Road Flares:
An inexpensive flashlight will not only provide light for those stuck in the car, it can be used to signal others and let them know that you’re in need of assistance. If it’s been a while since you’ve replaced the batteries in your flashlight, swap them out before you hit the road, and make sure that you have extra batteries with you. Also make sure that you have a couple of road flares with you, to provide additional signaling capability.
Food and Water:
Make sure that you have some food and water with you. If you’re taking a long road trip you’ll probably have some snacks with you; bring some extra granola bars just in case. Water is really important; you can become dehydrated in the winter time, even though it’s cold outside – and because of the temperatures you may not notice it until you’re actually feeling the physical effects. Bring more water than you think you’ll need.
Of course, pre-trip preparation is the cheapest part of any car emergency kit. Check back here next week for our list of things you’ll want to do to make your winter travel safer before you hit the road this holiday season.