Your Complete Car Emergency Kit for Winter

Car driving during bad winter weather

When winter strikes, it can hit hard. A car emergency kit is the best way to remain prepared for whatever challenges the season throws at you. Here at BookMyGarage, we’ve put together what we think is the most comprehensive car survival kit, designed to keep you and your loved ones safe on the roads this winter.

Why should I bother with a car emergency kit?

Anything can happen when you’re out on the roads, especially if conditions are treacherous. That’s why we think you should carry a few car essentials in your boot at all times. After all, it’s best to be prepared. If you get stuck, it could be the difference between a safe but irritating wait and a dangerous, life threatening one. Hopefully, you’ll see the benefits of a car emergency kit even more clearly once we start unpacking ours.

When should I pack my car survival kit?

You should be able to grab your kit when you need it the most, so leaving it by the front door is a great idea. Personally, we’d recommend keeping it to hand at all times, but you could also pack it whenever you fear some woeful winter weather is about to strike. Whichever way, make sure you have it to hand should the worst happen.

So, without further ado, here’s exactly what you should pack in your car’s winter survival kit. We’ve also included why you should pack each item and what role it plays in keeping you safe in an emergency, just for added peace of mind.

Here’s your complete car emergency kit checklist:

A sleeping bag or blanket (or both)

Getting stuck for hours is never fun, but sitting in a cold car makes everything worse. Rather than sitting with your heater on and burning fuel, store a sleeping bag or blanket in your car that you can snuggle under. Preserving body heat is incredibly important if you’re stuck out in the snow. The colder you get, the more dangerous it is as that’s when hypothermia can set in. It’s best practice to carry both in order to insulate yourself as best as possible.

Multiple layers of warm clothes

No matter how warm you feel inside your sleeping bag or under your blanket, you can always be toastier. You can trap your body heat longer if you’re able to wear four or five extra layers, especially if you’re stuck for a long time.

Multiple layers of clothing are much more effective than a thick coat because less heat can escape. Instead, it becomes trapped between each layer of clothing, giving you further insulation against the cold. If you get too hot, you can always take one of the layers off. Too hot is always better than too cold, especially if you start shivering without any extra clothing to put on.

Winter warmth essentials

By this, we mean a woolly hat, scarf, gloves and a spare pair of socks. You know, all your standard winter essentials to keep your extremities warm. Even though it’s just a myth that we lose 40-45% of our body heat from our heads, it’s not recommended to leave it exposed in cold conditions. You lose body heat from exposed surfaces so, if you’ve covered everything except your head, that’s where it will escape.

What’s more, the colder you get, the more your blood will retreat to protect and insulate your vital organs. After a few hours in a freezing-cold car emergency, your hands and feet will get quite numb. Keep them covered and you’ll feel the benefits.

While you might look a bit like the Michelin Man wearing all these layers, you’ll feel so much warmer than if you didn’t have them. Not only that, you’ll be much safer if you include them all in your car survival kit. The cold can be a killer – make sure it doesn’t catch you out this winter.

Woman wearing warm clothes carried in her car as part of her car emergency kit

Torch (plus spare batteries)

Picture the scene: a lorry has jack knifed on an icy road as you’re driving home from work. It’s dark. It could take several hours to get the road moving again. Do you switch your interior light on, risking your battery going flat, or preserve it by sitting in the dark? Well, by carrying a torch, you won’t have to worry about this particular car emergency!

It becomes especially useful if you have to leave your car for any reason, whether it be to relive yourself or find help. Falling and twisting your ankle in the dark would make a problematic situation even worse. What’s more, you’ll be able to see any in-car entertainment you might want to occupy yourself with while you wait! Make sure to carry spare batteries, just so you have a safety net. You wouldn’t want it dying on you in the middle of nowhere.

Snacks, snacks and more snacks!

We don’t mean tonnes of crisps though. Make sure you’ve got a mix of high-energy and slow-releasing energy snacks – and plenty of them! They’ll give you calories to burn to keep yourself warm and you’ll also be far more alert if you’re well-fed. A long wait might leave you feeling very hungry if you’re not well-prepared.

Examples of some high-energy snacks are sweets, like jelly babies, dark chocolate and cereal bars or granola. Some slow-burning snacks to keep in your car’s winter kit are peanuts, seeds, popcorn and protein bars. Of course, these lists are merely examples – just make sure your favourites are packed full of energy.

Hot & cold drinks

You might think we’re trying to turn your car into a cafe, but drinks are just as important as snacks. Dehydration is a huge problem, especially while driving. The concentration required is immense and you always need to be able to top your water levels up. We recommend always keeping a bottle of water in your car, but it’s especially important to have one during bad weather. Sitting for hours with nothing to drink could leave you struggling to concentrate when you start moving again.

A thermos flask is one part of your car emergency kit that you can grab on your way out. It’s a great way to retain body heat and warm you up, but there are a variety of hot drinks that are also packed with energy. Coffee, Green Tea and Yerba Maté are all really good options to keep in your thermos, but the choice is yours.

A warm drink being poured during snowy weather, from a thermos flask kept in a car emergency kit.

A phone charger is a must have for your car survival kit

As smartphones become more and more important in our day-to-day lives, a USB charger or battery pack is one of the most important pieces of kit to carry. Chances are, you probably have one in your car anyway. Your mobile phone can be a life-saver if the weather takes a turn for the worse while you’re driving, so you don’t want it running flat. Also, there’s no need to preserve your battery if you know you can charge it easily. But, as always, use your mobile phone sensibly and drive safely at all times.

A sturdy pair of boots

Think about the shoes you normally drive in – would you feel confident to walk over snow and ice in them? If the answer is no, then carrying suitable footwear is an absolute must. Keep a pair of hike boots or wellies in the boot, ready for emergencies. They’re super easy to put on and then you’ll be able to walk around with little difficulty on even the most difficult surfaces. Don’t risk twisting your ankle and then being unable to drive – if you have to leave your car in bad winter conditions, make sure you have appropriate footwear on.

A complete medical kit

If you’re having difficulty driving on the roads, the emergency services won’t be faring much better. Treating any minor injuries yourself will relieve the stress on them, so keep a first-aid kit in your boot. It doesn’t have to be all-singing, all-dancing, but having some plasters, bandages and the like will be really useful if the worst happens.

Keep any personal medication with your first-aid kit as well. If you need regular medication, you don’t want to miss a dose and have the problem get worse. You probably carry your medication with you anyway but, if you don’t, it’s best to start doing so this winter.

High-vis jacket: A car essential all year long

Being seen is the first step to staying safe, no matter what conditions are like. However, if you need help in an emergency, it becomes especially important. Wearing a high-vis jacket will help other drivers see you, particularly if you’re changing a wheel. If they can see you, they might even stop and help you! A high-vis jacket will also help you stand out against the snow and keep you safe if you have to leave your car and go looking for help, especially if you have to walk along the road.

Hopefully, you can see why these simple items are so useful and how they form a great winter car emergency kit. However, there’s still a few more things you could carry. This kit keeps you well-equipped to survive an emergency, but could you say the same for your car?

Poor visibility, dangerous to drive during winter weather without car emergency kit

Here’s your car’s emergency kit

Yep, it’s not just you that needs looking after this winter. There are a few essentials you should carry just in case the going gets really tough and your car starts complaining about the conditions. These items will help get your car moving again should it develop an emergency while you’re out and about.

Ice scraper & De-icer

If the weather’s taken a turn for the worse while you’ve been away from home, your windscreen might have completely frosted over. Obviously, you can’t drive your car like this and, while you could clear it with boiling water from a kettle, this won’t always work. If you’ve made it halfway home before the weather got too bad to continue and you had to leave your car overnight, what then?

Well, an ice-scraper is an effective way of clearing your windows quickly. If you want to speed the process along, invest in some de-icer solution. This works by lowering the freezing point of water and breaking the bond between the ice and your windscreen. You can also use it alongside salt, (more on that later), to remove ice from the roads to improve your traction. Always wear gloves while scraping your windscreen – you don’t want to start driving with numb hands, do you?

Spare bulbs

Even if you’re not one-hundred percent sure how to change a headlight bulb, it’s worth carrying them anyway. If you’re driving in rain or fog or snow, headlight failure can be extremely dangerous. You’ll struggle to see other drivers and they’ll struggle to see you. Keep a couple of spares in your car just in case the worst happens and, if you can, brush up on how to change the bulb yourself. It’ll save you a little bit of money and a lot of time and hassle.

Oil, jump leads and screen wash - all essentials in your car's emergency kit

‘Resuscitation kit’ – boost your car’s chances of survival in poor conditions

Carrying jump leads and a tow rope, in a self-styled ‘resuscitation kit’, will help get you moving again should the weather get the better of your car. Just like with the first-aid kit, you could be in trouble if you’re relying on a recovery truck or your breakdown provider to get you back on the roads. If conditions are that bad, they won’t be able to get to you very quickly.

So, why bother carrying these pieces of kit around? Well, if you meet a generous driver, they might let you use your jump-leads to shock your battery back into life. Or, if they have a 4X4, maybe they’ll pull you to safety using your tow-rope. Use your high-vis jacket to alert them to your distress and, if you offer them a snack or two, they might be more inclined to help get you moving quickly again. You can also check this article on car battery chargers and pick the best one for your car to decrease the chances of getting stuck on the road.

Snow shovel

Carrying one of these can help dig you out of a hole – literally. If you get snowed in during the day, you can get out but, as always, you should only travel if it’s safe to do so and you feel confident. Even the most well-equipped driver shouldn’t go looking for trouble. Respect the roads and the weather – especially if you’ve had to dig your way out of a foot of snow.

Something salty

This could be as simple as carrying table salt or even a bag of cat litter. If there’s a troublesome patch of ice slowing you down, just sprinkle some salt on it. The chemical reaction will work quickly and improve your tyres’ grip on the roads, just like grit from a gritter. You’ll get back on the roads in no time!

So, there you are! A car emergency kit designed to keep you safe and your car moving this winter. If you’re in any doubt about the condition of your vehicle and how it will hold up in rough winter weather, why not book a car service with a local garage today? You can browse our directory for your perfect mechanic right now.

Got anything you keep in your car emergency kit that we haven’t mentioned? Let us know what it is, and why you do, in the comments below!

Mandy Weston

Mandy Weston

Mandy is an ex-mechanic, with 22 years’ experience in the motor industry. As an in-house motoring expert, Mandy is the go-to woman for any relevant questions that our customers have; both garages and drivers. From specific problems with your car to general maintenance, Mandy is a reliable source of information and advice. Her passion for motoring is a huge factor to her success and the huge wealth of knowledge that she has. She now uses her remarkable grasp of the industry to write regular content for our readers to help drivers understand their car better, avoid being ripped off by garages and save money on their motoring requirements.

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