Winter Weather Car Kit + Preparedness Guide

If you live where it snows or are planning to travel to a location where it snows, you should have a winter car kit.

Getting stranded in a winter storm is scary and dangerous. Last week, I wrote up a post on how to prepare your home for a cold winter storm. This follow up article will help you with winter car preparedness and guide you on making the perfect winter car kit.

digging out of the snow
Image Credit: Canva.

My first tip – don’t drive!

Before I write this post, I want to emphasize that I do not encourage driving during a winter storm.

If there is a blizzard going on, please don’t drive if you can avoid it. Unless there is a dire emergency, the risk is just not worth it. Sadly, many people think that driving in the snow is easy and “nothing will happen to them”, but that is not always the case.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, it is estimate that 1,300 people die every year in winter weather related accidents. Roughly 117,000 more are seriously injured.

Don’t be a statistic.

If you must drive learn some tips to stay safe.

But there are times we must drive or times we might be caught off guard by the weather.

These are the times you need to be prepared. If you must drive during a storm, or even after a storm – make sure you have a good winter car kit with you. Having a well organized kit can help you navigate the crazy winter roads.

I keep a general emergency car kit in our cars at all times, but during the winter I know I need something more weather appropriate.

Below are some tips for dealing with cold temperatures in your car and a list of winter supplies to keep in your car.

Cold Weather Car Tips

These tips can really help in a cold-weather vehicle emergency.

1. Keep your gas tank full

I am notorious for letting the gas tank get so low the car yells at me. Of course my husband yells at me for this all the time. I stopped when one time I was in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania and there was no gas station for miles around. My heart was racing a mile a minute, and with a little in the car with me – the fear was terrifying.

I thankfully made it that day by the skin of my teeth, but that has never happened again.

Although you should always keep your tank no less than a quarter tank full, it is even more important during winter.

There are two reasons for this:

(1) your fuel line is less likely to freeze
(2) You do NOT want to run out of gas when temperatures are low. Walking any distance in freezing temperatures is dangerous.

2. Windshield wiper fluid

Use a windshield wiper fluid that is rated for low temperatures.

I like Rain-X.

Nothing is more frustrating (not to mention dangerous) than when a light road spray freezes into a thin white sheet on your windshield. Then you cannot get it off because the fluid in your washer tubes freezes up.

Either you have to stop and clean the windshield or get behind a truck so the heavier spray gets on your windshield so you can then run the wipers.

Avoid this by making sure your fluid doesn’t freeze up. If you don’t want to buy Rain-X (or similar), you can also add 16 ounces of isopropyl alcohol to 1 gallon of the cheap kind of washer fluid.

3. Extra water

Keep water stored in your car inside a small cooler.

This will give it a better chance of not freezing. Open the cooler while driving/ heating your car, and close it when you park and go inside.

4. Stay in your car

If you are stuck or stranded, do everything you can to stay in your car.

But if you need to leave your vehicle for any reason, make sure to leave a note with your name, medical info, contact info, the time you left, and direction you started walking.

If it is a blizzard and you need to leave the car (for example, to clear the exhaust pipe of snow), tie rope to your wrist and then the car door in case you lose sight of the vehicle. Don’t underestimate how fast that snow can accumulate.

5. Stop the engine

Snow can plug your vehicle’s exhaust system and cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to enter your car. If you are stuck or stranded we recommend staying in your car, but only run the engine for 10-15 minutes an hour in this case.

If you can get out and clear the pipe then you should so you can keep the engine running safely for longer periods.

6. Gloves

Mittens will keep your hands warm if you are stuck in your car, but if you are working outside to dig yourself out, etc., you will want good gloves to give you better control. Be sure to keep an extra pair of heavy duty gloves in your car.

driving in snow
Image Credit: Canva.

Car Kit Supplies

The list below is not a complete emergency car kit, it is only a list of items that are specific to snowy/cold weather.

  • Replacement wiper blades. You need to be able to see while driving no matter what.
  • Windshield scraper. Seems basic, but don’t forget it!
  • Good gloves. Your fingers simply won’t work well in freezing temperatures without them.
  • Extra windshield washer fluid. You tend to go through a lot during a storm.
  • Extra anti-freeze. Not something you want to run out of in the cold weather.
  • Shovel. You may have to dig yourself out. Foldable is best for storage purposes.
  • Candles and matches/lighter. You can melt water/snow to drink, melt ice around tires, and use to heat your car. Make sure you crack a window an inch or so.
  • Compass. If you have to walk somewhere, you will need to know where you are going, especially during a storm.
  • Jumper cables & Fix a Flat. You do not want to be stranded in freezing weather by something simple to fix, and the cold weather tends to suck the life out of batteries.
  • Extra warm clothes. Boots, hats, an extra coat, sweaters, socks. If you are stuck for some time, it is going to be COLD!
  • Extra blankets. Again, you need to stay warm!
  • LED strobe light. These are relatively inexpensive ($10-$20), and will run for hours. Put one on your car to help others find you while you wait. You can also strap it to your body if you have to walk somewhere to help keep other cars from hitting you.
  • Old cell phone and car charger. You can always call 911 on any phone…even an old one. So, if you happen to forget your phone or it’s charger, you can pull out the one in your kit and use that if you get stranded.
  • Kitty litter/sand. This can help with traction if you get stuck. An outdoor mat also works and is easy to store lying flat in the car. But store more than one in case more than one tire is spinning.
  • Water (in a cooler like mentioned above). You can survive for a day or two without food, but not without water.
  • Small tin cup/bowl. You can use this (and a candle) to melt water/snow for drinking.
  • Food. You need to keep your energy up. Also, eating involves many body functions which will help keep your temperature up. Make sure it is no prep and easy to eat.
  • A NOAA Weather Radio. This will help you can stay aware of the situation. Make sure it is battery operated and that you have extra batteries. I also suggest one that will power through cranking. Though not the most efficient power source, the cold will drain your batteries really quickly. At least this way you’d have some power to it.
  • Tire chains. There are some highways/mountain passes you cannot safely (or legally) drive through without them.
  • Cups/jars with lids. You will need to go to the bathroom, and will not want to open the door to let the cold air in.
  • Games/books. If you are stuck for a while, you will want something to pass the time, especially if you have kids!
  • Tow rope. Someone may stop to help, but they may not have rope. You don’t want to have to wait for a busy and expensive tow truck if you don’t have to.

I know there are many of you who have faced more winter storms in their cars than I ever will.

What have I missed? What other tips do you have for us?


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Becky is a wildlife enthusiast and pet and livestock care expert with a diploma in canine nutrition. With over a decade of experience in animal welfare, Becky lends her expertise to Simple Family Preparedness through insightful info about pets, livestock, bee keeping, and the practicalities of homesteading.

8 thoughts on “Winter Weather Car Kit + Preparedness Guide”

  1. Hi Misty, I just wanted to give you a heads up. I was looking through this list and your other emergency car kit and some of the links don’t work or the product is not longer offered… I appreciate your work. Thank you!

  2. Misty, recently found your site(due to a webinar) and am looking through your posts. On this one, how about hand warmers? I keep those in our vehicles year round (so I don’t forget to put them back) since they don’t take much room. Another one is extra pair of wool socks for everyone.

  3. Along the need to consider bathroom needs, another type of container to use is plastic freezer bags…I’m thinking the kind with the little toggle that zips it shut. The benefit to this is that each bag can be used just once…no need to open and use the same bottle again and again if you were stuck. They also store nicely and, of course, are useful to have for other purposes in the car too. Females of course would still need the assistance of a funnel :-)

    I know you recomend ready to eat food, which I have, but I also decided to add some styro cups of Rammen Noodles…If I’m boiling snow I’m sure I’d enjoy a cup o’ noodles to warm me up. It was an impulse buy :-)
    Thanks for the post!

  4. You must be a mind reader! My oldest son just got his first truck (he’s 19) and with all the nasty weather we’ve had this week, the Hubs and I decided it was time to get all the cars better prepped for the weather (or a zombie apocalypse! you never know… LOL). I am going to put together an emergency kit for the Eldest for Christmas, and this post came at the perfect time. Thanks so much!


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