Building Your Car’s Winter Survival Kit

Jan 09 2017

If the piercing winter cold isn’t enough to make you cry for summer, think about how awful it would be to get stranded on the side of the road in the middle of the night with a broken down car and no supplies. Is that a little scarier than the cold? We think so.

Whether you’re in your house and need some emergency supplies in case of a power outage, or on the road, you should have an emergency kit on hand. While we have a number of resources to help prepare your home for winter too, such as our home’s winter checklist, this time, we’re talking about road emergency preparedness during the cold months.

Why You Need a Kit

You can never be too prepared when it comes to Minnesota temperatures. Temperatures frequently drop to single digits and below zero. In fact, there are a number of natural disasters Minnesota is at risk for. Don’t get caught without adequate food, water, and tools. The kit in your car should last for at least 72 hours.

Kit Items

Your kit should have specific items that fit your needs. If you have medications or special dietary needs, put those at the top of your list. Besides those special items, we’ve created a general list of what we think would benefit everyone to have on hand in your car during the winter.

Car Maintenance Items

The following items are specifically for your car if it unexpectedly breaks down during a bad storm or blizzard. Although, many of these items would be helpful to have year-round.

  • A shovel
  • Booster cables
  • Windshield scraper and broom
  • Flashlight (with extra batteries)
  • Matches
  • Road salt, sand, or kitty litter (for traction)
  • Tow chain or rope
  • Reflectors

Food Items

Every kit needs enough food and water. Red Cross recommends at least 1 gallon of water, per person, per day for each person in the vehicle. In terms of food, there should be food with at least 2,000 calories per person, all non-perishable. Since this is a 72 hour kit, plan accordingly. Below is a list of food items and equipment you may want to include in your kit.

  • Special dietary items (gluten-free, lactose-free items)
  • Can opener
  • Dry foods
  • Nuts
  • Canned meats
  • Dried fruits
  • Canned juices
  • Granola bars
  • Protein bars

A set of sealed metal cans.

Emergency Kit Tips

When choosing which foods to put in your kit and where to store it, you should:

  • Choose small packages of food that can be eaten hot or cold. Make these options as simple as possible. It could be something like a can of chili or a can of peaches.
  • Store your emergency kit in an easily accessible location. If your trunk freezes shut or you get in an accident, you’ll want the kit nearby. You may be able to store it under a seat or in a pocket behind the driver or passenger’s seat without it taking too much space.
  • Keep a charged phone in your car. Even if the phone doesn’t have a plan, it can often be used for emergency calls. If you don’t want to invest in a separate cell, keep a phone charger and battery pack in your car to charge your phone in an emergency.

Winter Car Maintenance Tips

Gas tank empty

It’s not enough to have a complete emergency kit if the car can’t get you where you want to go, as well. Here’s a few tips for before you hit the road.

  • Make sure you have enough fluids in your vehicle, be it wiper fluid, coolant, or oil. Make sure your car is up to standard.
  • Keep the gas tank at least half full at all times, no matter what. With freezing temperatures and storms a constant concern during winters in Minnesota, you don’t want to get stuck in a traffic jam or slow conditions with only a quarter of a tank.
  • Keep a warm change of clothes, a pair of gloves, and a hat in the car at all times. If you get stuck, you may have to do some digging and need extra clothes to stay warm, or a change of clothes for after you dig your car out.
  • Leave the window slightly open while the engine is running to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

What to Do If Your Car Breaks Down

If your car does break down, have a plan made before an emergency happens. A story by the Winona Daily News asked a Minnesota trooper what they would recommend. Some tips they recommended were:

  • Get in the habit of watching for mile markers so you can tell state troopers where you are.
  • Know your preferred tow company, or else the closest tow company will be contacted.
  • Leave the overhead light on while you’re waiting to make your car visible.
  • Clear out your exhaust pipe if you’re running your engine.

Want More Tips to Prepare for the Winter?

Keeping a kit in your car during the winter is one great way to prepare, but what about your home? Check out our winter checklist for homes to prepare for Minnesota’s cold weather.

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