Winter is upon us, and today the falling snow reminded me that I need to make sure my winter preparedness kits for each vehicle are ready. But first, a little story.
Recently, my cousin came across a car with a flat tire. Thankfully, for the young men that occupied it, SHE knew how to use a jack, lift the car, and change the flat tire for them. (Way to go girl!) Tempting as it is to offer a rebuke to these lil’ dudes, for whatever reason, they simply didn’t know what to do.
The moral of this story is that it’s important to be prepared. Not only with the “stuff” or supplies you might need, but also with some skills at your disposal. Nothing complex mind you, but a little practice on a couple of basics goes a long way. I try to make sure all the drivers in my family know how to do a few of these things. That’s a future article though…
For this list, the first step is to think about where you live and where you drive. If you live and travel only in the city or the suburbs, you might not need everything on this list. Weird things happen though, like getting stuck sitting in your car for 12 hours on a crowded freeway that unexpectedly closes because of an accident or a blizzard, or both. It happens. For example...
When I was a kid, our family station wagon got stuck in a blizzard, just a few short miles from the house, and was almost completely buried within a couple of hours. Snow that was too deep to even walk through. I remember how cold we were. Fortunately, my folks knew that running the car engine for heat -while buried under snow, would ensure carbon-monoxide poisoning for us all, so we just endured the cold. Thankfully, a little spot of the car’s roof was still visible, and we were eventually rescued by good Samaritans on snowmobiles.
Anyway, let’s get to it. Here’s my list for the area I live in (northern Illinois). This is mostly for “what-if” scenarios, is not exhaustive, and hopefully you might not need to use any of them. But, I’ve never regretted being prepared, and neither will you.
Maintaining your vehicle -is the first and most important thing:
- Keep fluid levels full: Oil, Antifreeze, Washer fluid, Brake/Power Steering fluid, etc.
- Keep fuel tank at least half-full at all times.
- Battery: Check to make sure it’s in tip-top shape.
- Don’t know how? Take your car to an auto parts store like Advanced Auto & they’ll test your battery, starter & alternator -for FREE.
- Tuned-up: Keep your car running well and it will take care of you.
- Tires. Make sure you’ve got decent tread before winter hits.
Winter Vehicle Survival Kit
- Cell phone and a charger that plugs into your car
- Ice scraper/snow brush
- Extra clothes: Coats, Hats, Gloves, Boots, Poncho (a cheap plastic one will keep you dry can be used as a makeshift shelter), Hand-warmers
- Blanket or sleeping bag: Don’t use your engine for heat if stranded. Carbon monoxide poisoning creeps up quickly.
- Flares or safety signaling
- Fire extinguisher
- Flashlight and batteries (keep separate)
- Spare Tire, Jack and Lug Wrench
- Know how to change a flat on your car: Read the manual, know where to place the jack and PRACTICE it at home at least once. Make sure your spare has good tread and air.
- Jumper cables: Get quality, heavy-duty cables without solder. Here’s how to use them if you don’t know how.
- Tool Kit: Even if you can’t do basic car repairs, someone who stops to help out might be able to.
- Pliers: Standard, Needle-nose & Channel locks
- Crescent wrench
- Basic socket wrench set
- Sharp knife
- Duct & electrical tape
- Steel wire or metal coat hanger
- Spare fuses
- Extra gallon of antifreeze & quart (or two) of oil
- First aid kit
- Tow strap/chain: Helps you out of a ditch.
- Parachute cord/lightweight nylon rope. Use for everything from tying stuff down to making a temporary shelter.
- Sand bags. Added weight improves traction and you can spread it on the ground if you get stuck.
- Gas can or collapsible fuel container
- Water. Several small bottles are easier to thaw than gallon jugs. Keep enough to get you through a day or more.
- Metal coffee can or container for melting ice/snow
- Sterno can or candles for heat & to melt snow or cook (keep a window open a 1/2 inch or more for ventilation!)
- Two boxes/books of matches (lighters might not work in extreme cold)
- Beef jerky, nuts, dried fruit, granola or other non-perishable high-energy food
- Soup/bouillon packets, hot chocolate, tea can be mixed with melted snow for nutrition & warmth
- Cup or bowl & spoons
- Toilet paper and sealable container for bathroom purposes
- Pencil and paper (a pen might not work in cold)
If you get stranded, stay in your vehicle for warmth and safety. Call 911 or road service, tell them your location and sit tight. Don’t keep the car running for heat for more than a few minutes at a time. Instead, bundle up in your extra clothes to keep warm. If possible, it might be a good idea to set out your flares or safety signals. Just remember to stay close to your car if visibility is extremely poor.
If you’re stuck for a bit longer, you’ll be glad you have the other items in your kit (food, water, cooking supplies). Of course, there are several safety items to consider if you’re going to try to use candles or sterno in your vehicle to melt ice or cook with. I won’t get into all of that in this post, so please be careful & just use common sense. :-)
I’m curious, what do you keep in your vehicle for winter-preparedness?
Post a reply & let me know.