Do You Know What You Forgot in Your Car's Winter Survival Kit?

Let’s face it; your car never breaks down on a gorgeous afternoon next to a nice restaurant and repair shop. The odds are that you broke down in the middle of nowhere on a freeway where nobody wants to stop, the nearest exit is 12 miles in either direction, it is 38 degrees and raining, and your cell service is intermittent. Now that Old Man Winter has shown his face, it is time to check your emergency gear before you find yourself shivering on the side of the road. Winter survival gear can save your life!

The Basics

Of course, there are the basic things you will need, regardless of the time of year.

Jumper Cables

Be sure to carry the right length (12 foot or more) and solid copper, crimped wire clips.


Bigger isn’t always better.  A jumbo lantern will throw light everywhere, but a headlamp throws light where you are looking. Carry both, and you are well covered.

Improve your Jack

Standard factory scissor jacks are notoriously flimsy and can easily drop if you are on uneven or unstable ground. Bottle jacks and floor jacks are faster, safer, and a better alternative. Be sure to find one that fits your car.

Upgraded Lug Wrench

The lug wrench that comes standard in your car is meant to be easy to store, not easy to use. Pick up a 4-way or a lug wrench with an extended handle.

First Aid Kit

First Aid kits need to be inventoried and checked regularly. The extreme hot and cold temperatures in your trunk will quickly degrade bandages and ointments. Know what is in your kit, and just as importantly, know how to use it!

Flares or Reflective Markers

Every year, hundreds of people are killed while changing a tire on the side of the road. Many of these tragic accidents may have been avoided if they were more visible. Pick up a set of reflective triangles to let people know you are there.

Work Gloves

A cheap set of gloves will not only keep your hands cleaner while changing a tire but also may protect you from abrasions and spills.

Spare Fuses

Keep a few spare fuses of each amperage. Be sure that you have the correct size, as fuses have changed through the years. Learn how to change a fuse before the problem occurs!


While you don’t need to carry a full mechanic’s kit, pick up an inexpensive set of wrenches, a few screwdrivers, and a pair of vice grips.

Duct Tape

While it may be a joke that duct tape can fix anything, the reality is that it really is useful in many situations

These are the barebones basics. Your kit may include more, but it certainly should not contain less. Other items you may consider for your year-round kit include shop towels, pocket knives, tire gauges, a refill of the liquids your car needs, and a fire extinguisher.

Winter Specific Needs

There are hazards that are more likely during winter, not the least of which is freezing in the case of a breakdown. Here are the winter emergency survival pack items that you will need:

Ice Scraper/Snow Brush

Keep an ice scraper in your car to easily remove ice and snow to prevent hazards.

Snack foods/energy bars

Cold weather can quickly sap your energy. Be sure to include high energy snacks such as raisins to help you get through arduous tasks such as clearing snow from behind your vehicle or changing a tire. Your body will need the higher calorie counts to keep you warm.


Hopefully, you will not encounter a time where you need to light a fire for survival due to a roadside incident, but if you do, nothing comes in handy more than a real lighter or matches. They take up little room, are lightweight, and that fire may be what prevents you from a hypothermic situation.

Blankets/sleeping bags

Not every blanket is the same. Veterans may prefer to carry a woobie, but for less weight, better compaction for storage, and greater warmth, nothing beats a down blanket. You don’t have to break the bank or steal one from Grandma’s; these 700 fill down blankets are only $20 a piece!

Tow Rope/Strap

One might argue that a tow rope could be a year-round need. Tow straps are especially useful for being pulled off a patch of ice, or out of the snow.

Traction Materials

If you find yourself spinning your wheels in a patch of ice, you will need some assistance to get moving. Many folks just keep a bag of kitty litter in the trunk to put under the wheels for traction, but there are all kinds of nifty devices like traction mats that don’t take up much space in the trunk, are lighter to lift, and will get you out of the bind.


Sometimes there is just too much snow that has come down too fast, and you need to shovel your way out. Fortunately, you don’t need to carry a full-size snow shovel in your car; manufacturers have created small folding shovels that will help you get the job done.

Hand Warmers

Cheap, readily available, and easy to use, there is no reason that you should not have a bundle of hand warmers in your car. Whether your car’s heater has gone out, or you have to walk a mile to a gas station, these little pads keep your hands toasty.

Winter gear may be a little heavier and bulkier than the safety equipment you carry in the summer. Now is the time to clear out your trunk, giving you both the space you need to carry your gear, as well as giving you easier access to your spare tire and jack. Don’t put checking your emergency gear off for another week, or for a day with better weather. These checks are best performed in the safety of your driveway, and there’s no better time than now! Print off this car emergency kit list and be sure that you won’t be stuck out in the cold!