A hand using an ice scraper on a car windshield, which they had stocked in their winter car kit,

What to Stock in a Winter Car Kit

If you’re wondering what to stock in a winter car kit, pat yourself on the back for thinking ahead and wanting to be prepared. Winter can be a frenzied time for road travel. Winter weather can create all kinds of hazardous road conditions, and a lot of people spend more time on the road, driving to visit friends and family for the holidays. Keeping a stocked winter car kit on hand can help you get out of jams or be more prepared as you wait for help. Here are a few things you should travel with to be prepared.

Cell phone car charger

You probably already carry your cell phone on you most of the time, but having a reliable charger is important to keep in your car during winter and all year round. If you’re stuck somewhere or in an accident, having a charger in your car ensures you can call for help, look up directions on your phone and more.

Ice scraper and snow brush

This one is pretty obvious, and if you live in an area prone to snow or freezing temperatures, it’s likely you already have one in your car. Still, it’s a crucial item to carry with you in your car during the winter for clearing off snow and ice so you can drive. When clearing off your car, remember it’s important to clear all of the snow off your car, not just the snow on your windshields or windows. Snow on your hood or roof could shift while driving, possibly moving onto your windshield or that of another car, which could be very dangerous and potentially cause an accident.

Flashlight

A flashlight is something you should keep in your car kit year round, but it can be especially useful in winter, when the days are shorter and darker. If the flashlight uses batteries, it’s a good idea to keep some spare batteries on hand as well.

Tire pressure gauge

A tire pressure gage is another item you should keep on hand year round. It’s important to keep an eye on your car’s tire pressure, especially during the winter. Tires that are properly inflated help keep you safe on the road and improve your gas mileage. It’s important to check your tire pressure at least monthly, but especially when temperatures start to drop. Your tire pressure can change whenever temperatures shift more than 10 degrees.

Traction mats, kitty litter, sand or safety absorbent

These items can help your car regain traction when you’re stuck. Cat litter and sand can work in a pinch, but safety absorbent (which you can find at most auto supply stores) works a little better. Spreading the material near your tires and in your car’s path can help you get out when stuck. Even better are traction mats, which are rubber mats designed to help your tires gain traction on slippery surfaces. These mats can be kept in your car and reused, unlike the cat litter or safety absorbent.

Small shovel

A small or collapsible shovel is a useful tool to carry in the event your car is stuck in snow or if you have to clear a path to drive. Even if you can’t get your vehicle free, a shovel can help keep your vehicle from being blocked in by too much snow.

Warm clothing and blankets

If you get caught in surprise snow or other winter conditions and aren’t dressed properly, extra gloves, hats or warm layers are good to have on hand. They’ll be useful to you when clearing your car of ice or snow, especially if you get stuck somewhere. Blankets are particularly useful if you get stranded or are in an accident, especially if you can’t turn your car on to use the heater or are going to be waiting for a longer period of time and can’t keep your car running.

Nonperishable food and water

If you’re going to be stuck for a period of time, especially if you have others in the car with you, like small children, it’s important to keep a few nonperishable food items and bottles of water on hand. To prevent water from freezing, carry it in the passenger compartment of your car, which tends to stay warmer than your trunk.

These are just a few winter car kit essentials you should keep on hand, in addition to other standard items like a first aid kit, jumper cables, a jack, a lug wrench, wheel chocks and a spare tire, to name a few. In the winter, it’s also essential to make sure your car is prepped for the winter in other ways, like making sure your wiper blades are in good condition. Keeping your gas tank at least half full in the winter is also helpful in the event of emergencies, and can also help prevent your gas line from freezing. With some essential winter car preparation and the knowledge of what to stock in a winter car kit, you’ll be ready to take on the roads all winter long.