15 Things to Have in Your Car This Winter

As Christmas approaches, my wife and I will be doing quite a bit of driving to visit various people for the holiday season. With winter conditions and three young children in the car with us, we’re going to be quite cautious about our trips.

The first step in that journey is to make sure that we have everything we need in the car in case of an emergency of some kind. These supplies are the ultimate form of insurance – they help ensure that we’ll get through a real emergency safe and sound. Here are fifteen things that go into our automobiles in November and stay in there until April.

Blankets are the most important thing you can possibly have with you. If you bury your car in a snowdrift and it won’t start, the ability to keep yourself warm is going to be absolutely vital. Blankets are the best way to do this. I also keep a few hand warmers, too.

A spare charged cell phone will allow you to call 9-1-1 in a pinch. Keep this wrapped up in the blankets so that it’ll be likely to survive a crash without suffering irrepairable damage.

Flares will help rescuers see you. If they’re searching and all they can see is white, a flare will make all the difference in your discovery.

A wind-up radio lets you keep tab with the weather regardless of whether or not you have electricity in your car. A simple winding will do the trick and let you know when conditions have improved and what the state of roads are.

A first aid kit will be vital if someone is hurt in an accident. Perhaps just as important is knowledge of how to use it, because knowing how to apply a leg splint can be very, very important in such a moment.

Extra winter clothes will help you keep warm, especially if you need to leave the vehicle. Layers are key – the more layers of clothes you can put on, the warmer you’ll be down at the surface of your skin.

Jumper cables come in extraordinarily handy on cold mornings when your car doesn’t start. Quite often, it’s the result of a battery that became overly cold overnight and can be started with the help of another vehicle and some jumper cables.

A bag of sand not only adds weight to your car (improving traction) but can be spread to help you get traction if you get stuck in a bad position.

An ice scraper – preferably one with a brush to help remove snow – comes in constant handy throughout the winter. Without it, it will be very difficult to keep your windows cleared.

Dried foods like beef jerky and granola bars are perfect for this type of situation, as they’re energy dense. Don’t keep water or other liquids in your car – they’ll explode if stored below freezing for a long period and you can likely get plenty of liquid in a blizzard – just look outside.

Emergency tire sealant can enable you to get to the next twon in a pinch rather than being stuck beside the road with a flat tire.

Flashlights allow you to see what’s going on and also aid in signaling help. Although flashlights operated by human action exist, they’re not very bright – get one with a very bright bulb and make sure it’s charged.

A shovel will help you to dig out in a pinch. I used to keep one in my truck when I commuted – there simply isn’t room in the car, however (I wish we did have room).

A small tool kit can allow you to fix minor problems yourself on your car. Make sure you have everything you need to (at least) change a tire and loosen or tighten some bolts.

Extra batteries for the flashlight and the radio (assuning you don’t have a wind-up one) are vital. The last thing you want to do is to get stuck, pull out the radio or the flashlight, flip ’em on, and find that they don’t work.

These tools will help you survive almost any winter weather accident, no matter how bad the storm. By keeping warm and safe and making sure that you can signal to help, you’re doing everything you can to ensure your future.

Trent Hamm

Founder & Columnist

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 and still writes a daily column on personal finance. He’s the author of three books published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press, has contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and his financial advice has been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.