Winter driving is a different kind of animal entirely. Getting stuck roadside on a summer afternoon is a cakewalk compared to dealing with winter’s minimal light, snow, ice, and freezing temperatures. Come January, waiting it out on the shoulder of the road without a winter survival kit can be miserable — if not downright dangerous. AAA reports, winter storms, bad weather, and icy, slippery road conditions play a role in nearly 500,000 car crashes and over 2,000 road deaths annually. Assembling a car survival kit for winter isn’t hard and a lot of it is helpful to keep in the trunk year-round. Here’s what to pack in your winter emergency car kit.
This rechargeable Energizer has a powerful beam and an aircraft-grade aluminum body that’s built for outdoor settings — so you know it will survive a glovebox. The shatterproof lens covers an LED that’s up to 15 times brighter than traditional diodes, blasting 1,000 lumens for up to four hours on high.
While a good flashlight is a must, it can be a pain to use when you need to work with both hands, be it mucking around the engine or changing a flat. You can aim this compact LED to put the light where you need it using its stand or the magnetic bottom that’ll hold to the side of the car or underside of the hood.
This $22 power pack provides some real peace of mind since it can charge an iPhone fully more than twice before needing a recharge. Once fully charged it will hold the power for more than three months, so you can toss it into your glove box when the snow starts falling and be protected (usually) until the worst weather is over. Come summer, it is slim enough to use as an everyday charger.
You could toss a box of Band-Aids into the trunk, or for a bit more real estate pack this comprehensive first aid that covers just about everything the average Joe is qualified to tackle. And the waterproof clamshell case has room to add your own touches, like anti-nausea meds. It includes 100 supplies from bandages to gloves to safety pins to a CPR mask and weighs about one pound.
Don’t assume every bike pump has the guts to fill an SUV’s tire. This cordless Ryobi uses a rechargeable 18-volt battery (that also works with the brand’s 200 plus other tools) to fill a dead tire in about four minutes. Check the ideal PSI for your tires, which is usually on a sticker in the driver side’s door jamb, punch that number into the digital readout and start inflating. But the Ryobi is not just for tires — it will fill air mattresses, basketballs, bike tires, and it deflates things like air mattresses and pool floats.
The 20-pound kit is worthy of being in your garage to handle jobs around the house, but in the trunk you’ll have everything you need to get yourself out of a jam. It includes the most common size sockets, along with extensions to get to hard-to-reach fasteners, all in a corrosion-resistant exterior coating.
Attach these to the tires for the perfect middle ground between driving with snow tires and being unprepared. Reusable, this sock fits over the tires that have drive without special tools. Once installed, and strapped in place, it gives you more bite on snow and ice.
Everyone needs a jump now and then, but it’s particularly tricky to get your battery firing when it’s freezing cold outside. These cables are designed to remain pliable down to -40 degrees with heavy-duty, corrosion-resistant clamps, and a 25-foot reach to work regardless of how the cars are positioned: hood-to-hood, side-to-side, or front-to-back
Don’t get caught with a flimsy plastic shovel when it comes time to dig out. This shovel punches above its scant 1 pound weight with an aluminum telescoping build that locks in at three different lengths. The 14-inch wide pan makes short work of chopping and clearing frozen snow from wheels.
While it’s not a permanent fix, a can of Fix-A-Flat will get you back on the road and to the nearest repair shop when you spring a leak. Thread the hose onto your tire valve, press, and that should be enough to quiet your car’s air pressure sensor.
If you find yourself stranded and the temperature outside keeps dropping, you need to have an emergency blanket like this inside your car. Made with a wind and waterproof material the Ozark uses a reflective material on one side to bounce your body’s radiant heat back to you. Plus, it’s lightweight and compact enough to fit inside a pocket, so it won’t take up much space inside an emergency kit.
You’ve already filled up your windshield wiper fluid with a winter-ready de-icing solution, but this $15 aerosol can is a lifesaver for mornings or evenings when the windshields (or mirrors) won’t clear and you’re short on time. With a high amount of methanol in its formula, you spray this de-icer right onto an icy windshield and the built-in ice scraper helps clear every inch of the glass wipers can’t reach.
A snow broom should be two things: efficient and safe on your paint. This Snow Joe checks both boxes with a massive 18×7-inch foam head that makes short work of the hood, roof, trunk, and windshields without scratching. Along with an ice scrape on one end, the broom has a pair of battery-powered LEDs to increase visibility at night. When you’re done, it all collapses down for easy storage in the trunk.
Pulled over at night to make a repair or wait for a tow, don’t assume your flashing hazard lights are enough of a warning to other drivers. Unlike traditional flares that can only be used once (and burn out pretty quickly), these LED ones can be recharged via any standard USB port and offer 9 different light flashing modes so anyone can see you clearly when you’re having car trouble. Plus, they’re even waterproof, crush-proof, and magnetic to stick to the car.
You don’t want a flat on the side of the road to be the first time you take out your lug wrench and jack kit. A practice run wouldn’t hurt, and it provides the opportunity to tell if the wrench that came with your car stinks. This handy tool will help you to easily pry off lug nuts thanks to its adjustable, sliding design (a detail that helps you achieve just the right leverage too). And it collapses down into one slim package when you’re finished working with it.
This one tool nearly eliminates the need for a power pack or jumper cables. The Micro Start is a battery booster connected to jumper cables that you pinch onto your car or SUV’s dead battery. You’ll get back on the road without having to flag anyone down and it will also charge your phone.
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