Putting together a winter car emergency kit need not cost the earth and it could end up being a lifesaver in cold weather. There is some basic equipment every driver should carry in their car in case of emergency. But harsh winter weather can throw up a whole new list of challenges to catch out the unwary. We’ve already seen what steps you can take to prepare your car for winter, and how to drive safely in the winter. Here we look at the kit you should keep in your car when the weather turns cold.
Winter car emergency kit
Ice scraper and de-icer
You can’t react to a hazard if you can’t see it. De-ice your windscreen and side windows before driving off.
In heavy snow, you may have to wait in your car to be rescued. Cars don’t have much in the way of insulation so having a blanket in the boot will make life more comfortable
If you have to walk through snow and slush to get help, you probably don’t want to do it in your smart work shoes. Equally, a suit jacket won’t keep you warm. Pack an extra coat, some boots, gloves and a hat in your boot. You’ll be very grateful that you packed those extra layers – you can thank us later!
Food and drink
Stow some energy or chocolate bars in the boot, along with a bottle of water. That way you won’t be tempted to tuck in until you really need them. And you never know when they may come in handy. Always travel with a bottle of water, to avoid dehydration.
You can get some really neat folding snow shovels from hardware stores. They’re handy to keep in your boot and don’t cost a lot. You will need this to clear snow, in case you get stuck
Rescue services don’t advise towing. But in heavy snow it may be the only way you can get moving. And if someone with a tractor or 4×4 comes along, they may only be able to help if you can supply the tow rope. Remember, even a small car weighs the best part of a tonne. You need a rope or chain that will take the strain.
Full tank of fuel
Although it’s not strictly kit, make sure you’ve filled your car before embarking on a long journey in challenging winter weather. Always keep at least a quarter of your tank full in case of unexpected delays. You’ll have enough to worry about without fretting over your fuel level.
Kit to keep in your car all year
These are compulsory in many countries in continental Europe. It makes perfect sense. Drivers wearing dark clothes on an unlit stretch of road at night can be invisible to on-coming traffic. Remember to keep it in the door pocket or glove box. That way you won’t have to root around in the boot to find it.
Mobile phone charger
Your phone could be a life saver. And it’s surprising how quickly a battery can run out, especially when you need it. The answer is a car mobile phone charger. At least if the weather has deteriorated when you embark on your commute home, you can replenish your phone’s battery before you need it.
Virtually everyone has a torch on their mobile phone. However, these gobble up battery life should you need them for any length of time, perhaps while changing a wheel. They’re also difficult to point into small spaces if you need to do something under the bonnet. A cheap torch and if you can, spare batteries, is the way forwards.
First Aid kit
The Red Cross says most road accident fatalities could be prevented if first aid was administered before the emergency services arrive. Along with St John Ambulance, they advise drivers to carry a basic first aid kit in their car. You can put one of these together yourself or buy them in most supermarkets and motor retail outlets.
As these are compulsory in many European countries such as France, Belgium, Spain and Italy a lot of cars have them as standard. But they may be well hidden. Before you buy one, check your car’s spare wheel well, compartments to the side of the boot or even in the tailgate.
Look in your car’s user manual: some manufacturers advise that you don’t use jump leads. If you can use them, it makes sense to have some in the car for emergencies.
James is an award-winning motoring journalist with more than 20 years’ experience on national publications. He writes a popular consumer column for the Daily Telegraph Motoring section and contributes features to MSN Cars. James was motoring editor for the News of the World for seven years and has held senior editorial staff roles on Auto Express, Autosport and AutoClassic magazines.