I don't know where you all live, but where I am we're already getting snow. Yes, I said snow. It's hard to believe, but the winter months are right around the corner, and we should all be prepared to deal with them!
If you're like me, you're a pretty cautious person. I always like to be prepared for whatever is coming my way, which is why I have a list of winter essentials I keep in my car in case of an emergency, and just to make sure I'm prepared for the weather in general. It's something I always prep my car for at the beginning of the season, and it came in handy when I got stuck on the highway a few years back.
Take a look, and see if your car is winter ready!
1. Strong Brush/Scraper
A good snow brush and scraper can make all the difference. Before you hit the road, it's important to completely brush off your ENTIRE car. Yes, the whole thing. That includes the trunk and the roof. Even though these spots aren't windows, the snow sitting on your car can fly off when you drive, posing a safety hazard for other drivers on the road.
The same goes for ice. If you notice a thick sheet of ice on your car, do your best to clear it off (without damaging your car, of course). As the body of the car heats up, sheets of ice can fly off your car and into the windshield of another car on the road.
As I mentioned before, I got stuck on the highway in a bad snowfall once, and a shovel was my saving grace. A small, collapsible shovel fits easily in your trunk, and can help dig you out of a bad situation.
You can, of course, keep a full-sized shovel in your car, but if your trunk is small like mine, it limits the amount of storage you have.
3. Warm Blanket
I love a warm blanket all year round, but it can be a life saver in the event of a winter driving emergency. A big fleece blanket like this one, or even a shiny "astronaut" blanket if you have one, will keep you warm in case you end up stranded somewhere and need to wait for help.
4. Kitty Litter or Sand
I know what you're thinking...kitty litter? No, the next item on this list is not a cat! Kitty litter and sand provide great traction if you find yourself stuck in a patch of snow. Instead of spinning your wheels on a slippery surface, throw some kitty litter or sand in front of your tires and try again. Odds are, your car will become unstuck.
These things also provide grip for walking, for instance if you encounter a slippery parking lot or walkway.
Though most phones have flashlights on them now, some smartphones won't work if temperatures are too cold. It's always better to have a good ol' fashioned hand torch around in case you get stuck somewhere in the dark.
Keeping an extra set of batteries around is a good idea as well. A flashlight is no good if it doesn't...well...light anything.
6. First Aid Kit
I keep this in my car 12 months a year. A first aid kit should come standard-issue in every car, in my opinion. Bandages, gauze, alcohol swabs, they could all come in handy at some point or another. Most first aid kits are pretty small nowadays, so they won't take up too much space in your trunk.
7. Reflectors, Flares, or Safety Signs
If you do end up on the side of the road, you'll need to make sure other cars know you're there. Winter means days are shorter, so less sunlight for you to work with. Small safety cones, road flares, reflectors, or an "EMERGENCY" sign like this one are all great options to keep in the car. It will also help emergency vehicles find you if they have to.
You could also keep a reflective vest for you to wear, but it may be less visible to oncoming traffic.
8. Warm Winter Clothing
You'll probably be bundled up pretty warm if you're going out for a long adventure, but what if you're just running to the store for some milk? I know that I dress down for something like that. Accidents and car problems can happen no matter how short your trip is, so having warm clothing on hand is a smart decision.
Hats, mitts, scarves, even warm boots and jackets can sit in your trunk all winter without taking up too much space. If you don't have to use them? Great! But it's better to have them and not need them, than need them and not have them.
9. Water and Non-Perishable Food
Winter is a busy time of year for tow trucks and roadside assistance companies. If you need a tow, you could have to wait a long time, especially if the roads are bad. Having water and some snacks on hand will make the wait a little bit more bearable.
The challenge will be not eating the snacks when you're stuck in traffic on the drive home!
10. Phone Charger
Phone batteries can drop drastically when cold temperatures hit, because they're not made to function in such low temperatures. Even though most people charge their phones before leaving the house, keeping a charger in the car ensures you'll always have access to communication, even if you're stuck.
Sure, you may think it's a summer accessory, but a pair of sunglasses can be crucial when driving in the winter. Snow and ice reflect light very well, which can make for a bright drive. Even if it doesn't seem sunny, your vision can be impaired by reflecting snow. Always have a pair of sunglasses in the car so you can counteract the brightness.
12. Jumper Cables
If your car dies in the parking lot at work, you don't want to have to call roadside assistance. Having jumper cables in the car means you can get a boost from someone nearby and be on your way. That being said, make sure you know how to use the cables. If you don't, then do not attempt to boost your car.
13. Tool Kit
You may never need it, but a tool kit is always good to have around. Small maintenance on your car can be costly, so if you can fix it yourself, then why not?
14. Extra Washer Fluid
It's extremely frustrating to run out of windshield washer fluid when you're driving, but it can be dangerous when there's road salt and sleet being splashed around. Having a spare bottle of anti-freeze in the trunk can mean a safer drive on those slick days.
15. Half A Tank
Usually, I'm the type of person who will let the gas tank get to empty before filling up, but in the winter months I keep at least half a tank at all times. You never know when you're going to get stranded somewhere, and need your car to keep you warm.
Plus, traffic is always worse in the winter, so a quarter tank of gas in the summer may not take you as far as a quarter tank of gas in the winter.