man in winter

12 Essentials For Your Winter Car Emergency Kit

You never know where the road may take you or what may happen, so don’t be caught unprepared. The first things you think of when you hear the words “Winter in Minnesota” are likely snow, ice, and cold.

Whether the ice or slush drags you into the ditch or your car stalls and you’re left stranded on the side of the road in cold weather, here are some items you should have in your vehicle AT ALL TIMES during the winter months. Some of these are useful in any season. If you don’t already have these items in your car, add them today, and feel good about your peace of mind and crossing this off your to-do list. Using things you already own, this winter emergency car kit does not require a significant investment.

  1. Blankets – you won’t regret a decent warm blanket as an extra layer.
  2. Portable cell phone charger – the car battery may not always be available.
  3. Snow shovel – get a short-handled metal shovel (for easier storage) in case you need to remove snow from around the tires of your vehicle.
  4. Sand or Cat Litter – to gain traction on ice and packed snow by spreading it underneath the tires.
  5. Flashlight – keep a good-sized, water-proof flashlight with fresh batteries in case your breakdown is at night.
  6. Emergency Candles and Matches – as a backup to your flashlight. Store them in something to keep them dry, such as a coffee container.
  7. Hand Warmers – a chemical reaction inside the pouch creates warmth and will help warm fingers after changing a tire or shoveling snow.
  8. Food – keep a few non-perishable, high-calorie protein bars in your vehicle, and always bring water when traveling. You never know when you’ll need it.
  9. Reflective material such as hazard triangles – to warn drivers of your stationary vehicle and that you may need help. Use them in addition to your car’s hazard lights. You can also add emergency flares to your winter car kit.
  10. First Aid Kit – include any essential medication.
  11. Syphon Pump – if you need a gallon of gas to get you going again, a Good Samaritan may offer to help.
  12. Everyday Essentials – ice scraper, jumper cables, tow cables, and a basic toolbox.

car in snow covered ditch

Winter Traveling Tips

Whenever traveling in winter, call or text someone at your destination when you intend to leave, your travel route (if necessary), and your expected arrival time. For long road trips, always go with a full tank of gas, and don’t let it fall below a half tank during the winter. Ensure you and your passengers always have essential winter clothing: a warm coat, a hat that covers your ears, gloves or mittens, and insulated boots. Snowpants or bibs provide additional layers.

What To Do If You Become Stranded

If you do become stranded, experts recommend that you never leave your vehicle. You could become lost or too tired to continue walking. This includes your passengers.

If you’re in a rural or remote area, don’t expect to be warm: you want to survive. If your car is still running, be sure the snow is clear of your exhaust pipe. Snow can plug your vehicle’s exhaust system and cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to enter; keep a window cracked for ventilation if your car is running. To reduce battery drain, use emergency flashers only if you see or hear approaching traffic.

To survive the cold and stay safe if stranded during a Minnesota winter, remain calm. Put on your hazard lights, use your flares at night, bundle up, call for help (9-1-1 in emergencies), and wait in your vehicle until it arrives.