How To Make the Ultimate Family Winter Emergency Car Survival Kit:
You’ve got the summer car essentials down pat – but what about winter preparedness? Especially for emergencies? It’s never too late to prepare your family’s winter car emergency kit – unless, of course, you’re facing an emergency situation and realize you FORGOT to prepare.
Or you live somewhere where you think you don’t need a winter car emergency kit. And then – like most of Spain last weekend, for example – you find out you were wrong.
Why Everyone Needs a Winter Emergency Car Kit
As for me, I should know better. I’ve lived much of my life far enough north that I know what snow looks like firsthand, how to drive in it, and what -30F temps and -60F windchills feel like.
But on a recent weeknight, it was below freezing and my car wouldn’t start after Essie’s karate lesson.
We were less than a mile from home, but there was no way we were going to walk. Essie had her uniform on but no coat, and just her slip-on karate sandals (no socks) on her feet!
I was annoyed with myself for not having at least a spare coat in the car for her (let alone socks and a proper set of shoes). But I was more terrified by the fact that the night AFTER this happened, she had a doctor’s appointment at a regional medical center over an hour from home.
What if this had happened on our way to – or from – our appointment, far from home?
That’s when I realized I needed to brush up on my winter survival skills, and get my car in order.
- have been caught by a freak snowstorm,
- live somewhere that you think it can’t happen to you,
- or are just behind on getting your car ready for the winter driving season,
this free printable checklist for your winter car survival kit will help you get ready in no time.
Your Car’s Winter Emergency Kit Checklist:
A. Basic Car Emergency Kit List
At the very least, your car emergency supplies should always include
- a first aid kit (adhesive bandages, antiseptic wipes, gauze, tape, adult pain meds, kid anti-nausea supplies, etc.);
- spare diapers, creams, and a change of clothes for kids not yet toilet-trained;
- extra undies/pants plus an emergency toilet kit (2 zip-top bags – one for used toilet paper – plus a small roll of TP and a small bottle of sanitizer) for older kids;
- jumper cables (extra-long ones are crucial if you don’t regularly back into parking slots – been there, done that);
- flares and/or reflective hazard signs;
- a pair of sturdy gloves;
- a flashlight, either crank-operated and/or with extra batteries;
- some food and bottled water (ideally high-carb and/or high-protein foods);
- some extra change/emergency cash;
- a screwdriver and set of pliers, or a multitool;
- a blanket;
- a scraper for ice/snow; and
- the basic equipment that should have come with your car (spare tire, jack, wrench, and owner’s manual to tell you how to change a flat – know where all these things are, and know how to use them!).
Other things worth considering:
- A reflective safety vest or jacket (or several);
- Some paper towels, cleaning wipes, extra sanitizer, and a paper funnel;
- A small portable battery-operated or hand-crank radio/weather radio;
- A heavy-duty power bank plus appropriate cords for your cell (keep in your purse/bag/diaper bag, and check charge regularly);
- Plastic bags (grocery store and/or trash-bag sized);
- Matches (in a plastic bag to keep them dry), a rain poncho or two, safety pins, bungee cords, and duct tape;
- An old-fashioned national road atlas (you’d be surprised how many dead zones still exist in the US – I’ve found most of them!)
- A small air compressor that runs off your car’s charger port (get one with a built-in tire pressure gauge);
- A membership to AAA, Onstar, or other roadside assistance program. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used mine in the past several decades.
Have a designated place (box, bag, etc) to store these things in the back of your vehicle, and keep them in your car at all times!
B. Car Emergency Kit Essentials for Ice/Snow/Hills/High Elevations:
If there is any chance whatsoever that your winter driving might include ice and snow,
you’ll also want to add these things to your winter car survival kit:
- A small snow shovel;
- An extra and/or deluxe scraper/snow brush (I keep one in the trunk AND one under the driver’s seat);
- A small bag of kitty litter or sand, and/or old carpet scraps (for added traction if you get stuck).
Depending on where you live/how much snow, ice, and cold are a part of your winter, you might also consider:
- Lock de-icer (keep OUTSIDE the car, e.g., purse or diaper bag);
- An extra gallon of windshield washer fluid (make sure it stays upright in your trunk);
- Bags of sand or other weight in the trunk (for added traction), esp. if you have a larger vehicle;
- Getting a vehicle with optional four-wheel drive or (even better) all-wheel drive (I bought my first Subaru when living in the upper midwest, and love how the all-wheel drive handles slick conditions);
- A good set of snow tires if you live in snowy climates – even better than just AWD alone for traction;
- Tire chains for added traction, especially if your commute includes mountain passes and other hilly or high-elevation spots.
If daytime temps where you live or work are regularly below zero, you’ll also want to consider an engine block heater. This will help you start your car even when temps are brutally cold. Sometimes an engine-block heater comes standard in cold-weather packages on new cars (depending where you live), but you can also have your car service provider install one after-market. (Hint: if where you live or work has outlets sticking up at every parking space, you should get an engine block heater!)
C. Winter Survival Essentials For If You Get Stuck:
If you’re already preparing for cold and snow, anyone who drives more than a few miles from home in winter needs to consider the possibility that you’ll get stranded somewhere. Whether it’s for a few hours, overnight, or longer, your family’s health and safety will depend on how well-stocked your car’s winter emergency kit is.
Even a small amount of ice or snow on a slight incline can make your car get stuck. (My mama and I were once almost stuck overnight on a remote mall access road, until we finally decided that carefully backing down the road was better than spending the night there!)
Here are some of the things you’ll want if you end up stuck in place for awhile:
- An extra coat, gloves/mittens, and hat for every family member (for infants/toddlers, an extra snowsuit and/or sleep sacks);
- A set of boots/socks for each family member;
- Extra formula/bottles;
- At least one sleeping bag, and/or several extra blankets;
- Space blankets, for additional heat retention;
- A metal cup and candle to go with your matches, in case you have to melt snow for water.
Other things to consider:
- An emergency stash with a few coloring books, small games, etc. to occupy your kids;
- Emergency hand-warmer packets;
- An extra stash of emergency nonperishables (energy/candy bars, etc. – store in a metal container if you can).
What’s on YOUR basic car emergency kit list?
Anything I missed on this emergency car survival kit list? Let us know in the comments!
(Oh, and don’t forget to grab your FREE ✅car emergency kit checklist PDF!)
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