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What to Have in Your Winter Vehicle Emergency Kit

Power - by Joe Weber - updated on 11/27/2023

A person shining a flashlight on emergency products in the trunk of a vehicle.

Just because it's snowing and cold doesn't mean you don't have things to do and places to be. In just a few short months, 17% of all car crashes   occur in the sleet and snow of winter. If you do need to venture out with the snow-covered roads, blustery wind and invisible ice, be sure to have a stocked emergency kit in your vehicle.

Items To Keep In Your Car During Winter

Your winter car emergency kit should include items from a bunch of different categories.

The Essentials

  • Water
    It should be an absolute necessity to have spare water in your car. You never know how long you'll be stranded. Dehydration can set in fast and we need water, even more so than food, to survive.
  • Flashlights
    Being able to see when it's dark is not only helpful, it's essential. High-quality flashlights can also be used to get the attention of first responders if you are not in an easily visible area.
  • Phone chargers
    Your phone is your lifeline when you get stranded or need help. Make sure you have a charged power bank so you can charge up your cell phone and other devices to stay in touch with others until help arrives.
  • Non-perishable food
    We all know it, being hungry is the worst. If you are stranded for a while you may need to eat. Keep long-lasting, non-perishable food in the car, just in case. Granola bars are great because they will fill you up and stay fresh for a long time.
  • First aid kit
    Cuts and bruises are a piece of cake when you are home and have all of the necessary supplies. You need a first aid kit when you are stranded, plain and simple. A cut can turn into something much worse if you don't have the necessary supplies to clean, disinfect and stop the bleeding.
  • Ice scraper/Snowbrush
    We've all had to do it at least once, scrape ice off your windshield with a credit card. It's awful and something that I will never do again. A good quality ice scraper and brush doesn't take up much room, and having one in your car will save you some major headaches.
  • Jumper cables or jump starters
    Having a set of jumper cables in the trunk will let you jump your dead battery if a good samaritan stops to help. A jump starter will let you jump your dead battery without waiting for anyone to stop and help.
  • Warm blankets or extra warm clothing
    Keep extra jackets and blankets in the trunk. These will be tremendously helpful when you need to keep warm until help arrives.

The Should-Haves

  1. Road salt/sand
  2. Shovel
  3. Matches/fire starter
  4. Toolkit
  5. Reflective triangles

Additional Items To Consider

If you have the space to spare, these optional items could also come in handy when you are stranded.

  • Snow boots
  • Tire chains
  • Duct tape
  • Empty gas can
  • Tow straps
  • Fire extinguisher

How Do I Jump Start A Car?

This is a task that everyone should know how to do all year round but even more so in the winter. With the cold temperatures wreaking havoc on your battery, you will probably run into a situation where you need to jump your car or someone else's car with jumper cables.

  1. Have the donor car position their car either nose to nose or right next to the dead car.
  2. Turn off the donor car.
  3. Connect a red (+) cable to the positive terminal of the donor battery.
  4. Connect the other red (+) cable to the positive terminal of the dead battery.
  5. Connect the black (-) cable to the negative terminal of the donor battery.
  6. Connect the black (-) cable to an unpainted metal surface, like a bolt, of the donor car.
    1. Some vehicles come with ground connections that you can connect to. Check your owner's manual for more information.
  7. Start the donor car and let it idle for a few minutes.
  8. Start the dead car.

How Do I Jump A Car With A Jump Starter?

Jumping a car with a portable jump starter is even easier, and you don't need another car.

  1. Connect the red (+) clamp to the positive terminal of the dead battery.
  2. Connect the black (-) clamp to any unpainted metal surface on the car.
  3. Press the power button on the jump starter.
    1. This step can vary depending on the make and model of the jump starter. If you are unsure of this please check your jump starter's owner's manual.
  4. Start the vehicle. Most will start right away but if it doesn't, wait 30 seconds and try again.
  5. Disconnect the clamps from the battery once the vehicle has started.
  6. Most jump starters are equipped with batteries that can jump a car many times between charges. However, it is a best practice to keep the jump starter charged and charge it up after each use.

Winter Car Maintenance Tips

To prepare your car for winter, make sure you do a few things before the first snowfall to, hopefully, save yourself from some unwanted headaches.

Have your battery tested

If you have the tools and knowledge to test your battery yourself, by all means, go for it! If you need help, drive over to Batteries Plus and let us test your battery for you, free of charge.

Put on fresh wiper blades

By the end of summer, your wiper blades might be starting to show some signs of wear. Swap them out for a new pair to keep the sleet and snow off your windshield while driving.

Test your lights

As we get further into the winter, the sun sets much sooner and your exterior lights will be much more important. Check your headlights, brake lights and turn signals to make sure people can see you.

Check your tires

Balding or low air pressure is never a good thing but even worse in winter. Check that your tires have enough tread and that they are properly inflated.

Keep gas in the tank

Being stranded with an empty take is never fun, but in the winter it is considerably more dangerous. Always keep at least half a tank of gas when driving in the winter.

Debunking A Winter Driving Myth

We've all done it, we tell others to do it, but we've been doing the opposite of what we should have been doing all along. What am I talking about?

Start your car and let it warm up before driving.

Wait, we shouldn't do this?


Although this myth is based on facts, modern vehicles with advanced fuel injection systems don't need to warm up. It can cause more damage to the engine if you do this.

According to Smart Motors Toyota of Wisconsin  , each time you allow your engine to idle in the cold it strips away oil from the engine's pistons and cylinders, reducing the lifespan of your engine.

Where did this myth come from?

Back before modern fuel injection systems were invented, this was something that you needed to do in the winter. Carburetors did need to be warmed up for a significant amount of time before the vehicle could be driven.

With today's technology, all the engine needs is about 30 seconds of idle time to get the oil temperature up enough for the engine to operate efficiently.

Sadly, this also means that you will not have a nice warm car in the morning. Time to bundle up in your winter gear and hit the road. The car will warm up soon enough after a few minutes of driving.

Batteries Plus is Here to Help With Your Winter Vehicle Prep

Drive on over to your local Batteries Plus for all of your winter vehicle preparation needs. Most car and truck batteries will last 3-5 years when properly cared for. If your battery is on the older side, have it tested and/or replaced with a new car or truck battery. Pick up new wiper blades, headlights, tail lights and turn signals while your new battery is being installed by our in-store battery experts.

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