Winter Car Survival Tips

Winter Car Survival Tips

December 13, 2021

Many of vehicle-related injuries begin with someone simply leaving the house to run an errand, make a short trip to visit family or friends, or take care of routine business. The weather turns unexpectedly bad, road conditions rapidly depreciate and suddenly, what was an ordinary drive can become a nightmare.

Here's how to make it through a freezing night in your car and ride out events until help can arrive.

Be Prepared

One of the most important things you can do is to be sure you have stored a few key items in your car. Essential items to include in a winter survival kit, include:

  • A shovel
  • Windshield scraper Bottled water (at least four quarts)
  • Snack foods, particularly nutritious energy bars
  • Necessary medications
  • Strike-anywhere, waterproof matches and small candles
  • A flashlight with extra batteries
  • First-aid kit
  • Folding knife and multi-tool
  • Emergency flares
  • An extra winter coat, mittens and a wool cap
  • Winter boots
  • Toilet paper
  • Cellphone and charger
  • A spare blanket or sleeping bag
  • A portable radio with spare batteries
  • Tow rope
  • Nylon cord
  • Flagging tape
  • Chemical hand and body warmer packets
  • Road salt and sand
  • Booster cables

Other essential winter tools in severe weather country include jumper cables, a small shovel, tire chains and rock salt, sand or kitty litter to provide added traction when stuck on a slick surface.

Before You Go

If you're leaving for an extended trip, always check weather and road conditions before departing. If poor conditions are forecast, you may consider postponing your trip. Also, let others know when you are leaving, which way you will be traveling and when you should arrive at your destination, so they can alert authorities and provide them with solid information to help in finding you should the need arise.

Fill your car with fuel and make frequent stops to stretch, relax and refill your tank, never allowing it to get much below a half tank. Should you become stuck and need to spend the night in your car, abundant gas will allow you to start your car throughout the night and run the heat for short intervals.

If You Are Stranded

If you're stuck in your car and immobile, first, call for help. Don't overexert yourself and don't leave your car and begin walking for help. Typically, you have a better chance of being found if you remain with your car, which may also provide the best shelter from the elements. However, DO NOT run your car constantly.

Instead, be sure the exhaust pipe is free from snow and roll down a window enough to vent the car and prevent carbon monoxide buildup. Run the car for short 15-20 minute intervals to warm up and then turn it back off, using blankets, a sleeping bag, hand warmers and the body heat of others in your car to stay warm. Keep yourself alert and your mind occupied by eating snacks and reading a book until help arrives.