Get a kit ready for your car if it breaks down in winter

February 11, 2014

We consulted several authorities online and in interviews, and put together a list of items that they recommend drivers keep in their cars, especially during times of bad weather when the chances of breaking down or getting stuck increase.

  • Hazard triangle with reflectors or road flares rated to last about 15 minutes or more
  • First Aid Kit
  • Jumper cables
  • Windshield scraper and brush
  • Spare tire
  • Blankets and warm clothes
  • Cell phone charger or extra battery
  • High-calorie, non-perishable food
  • Road salt or cat litter
  • Bright "Help" or "Call Police" sign or flag
  • Candle, matches, lighter and/or flashlight
  • Tarp for sitting or kneeling in the snow
  • Bottled water
  • Small folding shovel
  • Basic tool kit

If you do become broken down or stranded during a winter storm, here are some pieces of advice about what you should do:

  • Pull off the highway, if possible, turn on your hazard lights or light flares, and hang a distress flag from an antenna or window.
  • If you have a phone, call 911 and describe your location as best as you can.
  • It's important to stay with your vehicle so help can find you, unless it is in an extremely dangerous place.
  • Turn on your car's engine for about 10 minutes each hour. That should provide enough warmth through the heater. BE SURE to crack a window in the car for ventilation and check that the exhaust pipe is clear from time to time in order to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Do some exercises or stretches. It will help keep u some body heat, but be sure you don't exert so much that you begin sweating.
  • Drink fluids to avoid dehydration.
  • Conserve your vehicle's battery. Use lights, heat, and radio sparingly when the engine is not running.
  • If you are stuck at night, turn on an inside light when you run the engine so help can see you.

(Information gathered from StateFarm, AAA, and Edmunds.)
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