Winter Emergency Car Kit. Essentials for winter, tips for staying safe, and more
I’m really disappointed in my Michigan winter so far! The last two years have bordered on brutal with words like Polar Vortex, Snowpocalypse, and the like being thrown around. This year it’s been practically balmy! Today the sun is shining and we’ve got highs into the 50’s all week!
Weak!! Though I know for one thing, Meaghan is super happy about this because she is dreading winter. Even though I am one of those weirdos who actually likes winter I can’t really say I blame here. Michigan winters can be intense. I was reminded of this by a post on Facebook about the storm of ’95…I was 8 at the time and we were visiting our grandparents in good old Sault Ste Marie.
For those who aren’t familiar with their Michigan geography this is a city right on the St Mary’s River between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. Winters there are no joke. But this particular year it snowed 5 feet OVERNIGHT. Yup. It was pretty awesome. But I was young, and didn’t have to worry about the realities of driving in those conditions, or dealing with the dangers of collapsing buildings, fires, and other emergencies.
Now that I am a full fledged grown up I have to think about those things, and as someone who also spends a lot of time in the car there are some very real things you should keep in mind during this time of year. I’ve pulled together my best advice for what to have in the car, and what knowledge to have because I want you all to stay safe this winter.
Lets start with what you should have in your car year round:
- Jumper Cable (and the knowledge of how to use them)
- At least 2 Roadside Flares
- A quart of oil
- Extra fuses
- Washer Fluid
- Tire inflator
- Tire gauge
- Multi-tool such as a Leatherman
- Duct tape
- Pen and paper
- Bottled water
- Protein Bar/granola bars/Nuts
- First Aid Kit
- Flashlight and NOAA weather radio
- Spare Tire
In the winter, you’re going to want to add a few items to keep you and your family safe.
- Blanket– thermal blankets don’t take up much room, otherwise a heavy quilt or two will help keep you warm if you have to wait for help.
- Ice Scraper– this is a standard in every car in Michigan, but it’s a good reminder to make sure you have a quality ice scraper in your care.
- Kitty litter or sand- This sounds crazy I know, but if you get stuck in a drift, or are having trouble getting traction kitty litter is amazing for helping! Sand also works nicely. As a bonus the extra weight in your trunk will help keep your car from drifting.
- Brightly-colored cloth– to tie to your antenna if you get stuck so that emergency vehicles will have an easier time spotting you.
If something bad does happen while you’re in the car and you do get trapped during a blizzard, these are some important things to remember:
- Do not leave your car- unless you can see help it is important to stay in the car and avoid becoming disoriented in the snow. If you’re on a busy road, it is really important to stay in the car to avoid being hit by on-coming traffic.
- Don’t leave the car running– in a blizzard the tail pipe can become clogged and back up into the car. Turn on the engine occasionally to keep warm, and keep the dome light on while it’s running.
- Move around– Don’t stay in one position for too long; move around and take turns sleeping if more than one person is in the car. But don’t over-exert yourself. Cold weather is hard on the heart, and over-exertion can lead to a heart attack.
Want to know the number one thing I have learned driving in bad weather? If you hit ice or start to slide, take your hands off the wheel and feet off the pedals. It sounds counter-intuitive – your first instinct will always be to slam on the brakes or correct the wheel.
I promise you that makes it worse! Let go of everything and let your car come to a stop naturally. Once you feel the car is back under your control, push the brake or gas gently and continue on your way. This advice has saved my life and could do the same for yours.
Hopefully this winter will be mild and lovely wherever you are and I hope that you’ll use this advice to keep you and your loved ones safe this year. Don’t become a statistic; if the weather is bad, don’t drive unless absolutely necessary. Take it slow and stay vigilant.
Keep at least a half tank of gas in the car at all times, and always have your cell phone charged so you can call for help if needed. Winter driving doesn’t have to be as scary as it seems. If you take the necessary precautions and know your own limitations, there is no reason you can’t make it through the worst of weather safe and sound!