Condo Blues: 13 Things to Have in Your Car for Winter Snow and Ice Emergencies

Sunday, January 26, 2014

13 Things to Have in Your Car for Winter Snow and Ice Emergencies

Growing up on the Ohio North Coast, stocking a car and being prepared for winter driving is engrained in you from an early age. It is right up there with knowing your name, address, and telephone number. Even little kids know you are supposed to have jumper cables and a blanket in the trunk of your car. You also know you are supposed to hang your head in shame when you don’t.

After I moved from the Cleveland area I thought it was weird this stuff isn't common knowledge. In fact, I still kind do.

I realized why when I saw the weather people completely freak out about the first winter snow and for every snow thereafter. They didn’t offer any of the winter driving tips I grew up expecting to hear on the news. No wonder folks panic around here and forget to how drive in snow every. single. year.

Guys, we did the same thing last year, remember?

Sigh. Guess not.

Last week, I wrote about the basic things you should carry in your car for winter snow emergencies. Most of the items in that post 14 Basic Things to Have in Your Car in Winter Part 1 live in our car full time because they are useful to have for summer too.


Part 2 of my winter snow emergency prep kit goes beyond the basic list (you can review the basic snow emergency car checklist here.) Again, this is not a list supplies to get you through any type of doomsday scenario. This list is to help you in a winter driving or snow emergency and especially if you drive long distances or frequent country roads where it might be awhile before help will reach you. (Been there. Done that. On Christmas Day no less. Not fun.)

13 Things to Carry in Your Car for Snow Emergencies if You Travel Long Distances or Country Roads

1. Grit for traction if you get stuck in snow or mud. If you cannot find six of Columbus’ finest police officers to push your car out of the snow (Thanks guys!) placing kitty litter, sand, cardboard, a carpet remnant, etc. for traction under the wheels should do the trick. Personally, I carry a jug of cheap kitty litter in my trunk because the last time I tried using an old blanket to get traction in a muddy field it shot out from under my wheels like a cannon ball from a cannon. Besides the kitty litter helps with tip number two.

2. Weight in the trunk to keep the vehicle from fishtailing  – Given the right conditions, any car, truck, or SUV that is light in the rear can fishtail on an icy road. You probably already have some heavy junk to add to your trunk. In the past I used: old computer certification study guides (really big thick books,) a cast iron picnic grill, and a jug of kitty litter.

3. A collapsible shovel. Is handy if you need to dig your car out of the snow or mud or if you need to clear snow from around your car’s tailpipe to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Based on how my old plastic collapsible shovel broke under the weight of wet and heavy snow, I recommend upgrading to a folding metal shovel like the Gerber Gorge Folding Shovel

You can use the handle to drive in tent stakes if you camp or like to set up a screen house for tailgates and picnics.

4. Candle, matches or a lighter, and empty coffee can. The idea behind this is if you are stuck in the middle of nowhere, you can stay warm by lighting the candle instead of running the car’s engine and possibly sending carbon monoxide into car if snow blocks your tail pipe. You can also melt snow in the coffee can if you need drinking water.

I’ve never had to do this or known anyone who has although sadly, most winters there is at least one report of someone dying of carbon monoxide poison under these conditions each year. I have an emergency candle and matches in my car because they came in a car emergency kit similar to the  AAA 65-Piece Winter Severe Weather Travel Kit. I hope by carrying it around it gives me good karma and I never have to use it!

5. Energy bars, dried fruit, jerky, etc. – Helpful if you have to wait a long time for help to arrive.

6. Swiss Army knife or Leatherman – I carry a Swiss Army knife in my purse in case I need it. Now generally I only need it for the bottle opener or the corkscrew, but the other features have come in handy too.

Don’t be me and spend some money on quality like the Victorinox Swiss Army Knife shown here. Husband and I bought our first Swiss like Army knives based on looks. Mine broke the second time I used it.

7. Hand warmers – Are helpful to slip into your gloves or socks to keep warm and avoid running your car’s engine if you are stuck in the snow waiting for a tow truck or have cold kiddoes driving home from the toboggan run. We like the Hot Hands Hand Warmers from Amazon because they come in a 10 pack so we always have more than enough to share.

End of season tailgates and football games can get frosty!

8. Boots, extra winter hat, gloves, scarf – Because if you get stuck in a snow emergency Murphy's Law dictates it will be when you are dressed up for a big work meeting or event and not for the weather.

9. Change of clothes – Wet clothes and cold weather can lead to hypothermia. Also see #9.

10. Tow strap – Just because I have a small car that can’t tow anyone out of a snow bank or mud doesn’t mean someone else can’t tow me out of the mud or a snow bank.

If a tow strap didn’t come in your emergency kit like mine did, try the Neiko 20' Ft Heavy Duty 10,000 Lb Tow Strap with Hook

11. Spare car fluids (oil, brake, windshield wiper, etc.) because sometimes topping off your car fluids can fix or prevent a roadside emergency.

12. Tire-pressure gauge - Low air in your tires can contribute to hydroplaning on wet roads or slipping on ice. Even though I love technology, I keep a plain, manual Pencil Style Tire Pressure Gauge like this one in my glove box. That way I don’t have to worry about the batteries dying when I need it most.

 13. Paper map or atlas – Yes, I know. Why go with a paper map when we have cell phones apps and GPS? Because you may have to conserve battery power in those devises, the batteries may un out, or you might not be able to get a signal if you are stuck in the middle of no where. If nothing else you can use the paper to start a campfire and roast some marshmallows while you wait for help.

What is on your list?

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