10 Things to Keep in Your Car During Wintertime

This is a post by MPFJ staff writer, Jeff. Jeff writes about sustainable living and finances at his website, Sustainable Life Blog. Jeff really enjoys traveling with his wife as much as he can, to wherever he can.

I live in a state where I often have to travel long distances through pretty barren places, and the weather doesn’t always agree with me.

When I first moved here, I was driving 100 miles to work (round trip) and there was really nothing between point a and point b. I was driving a very terrible car at the time, so I needed to be ready for any sort of issues that it may have every day.

Thankfully, I never got stranded on the side of the road (in the cold or otherwise), but it was always in the back of my mind. I don’t know if I was ever prepared for every possible thing that could happen, but I tried to get prepared for the highest likelihood of things that would happen. I also figured this would be a great way to save money (by avoiding a long tow). Here’s what I took with me (I had a milk crate in the trunk).

  1. Jumper Cables – This one should be relatively self explanatory, but they are used in case your battery dies. Simply hook them up to your car and someone elses and wait a few minutes before you try to turn it over. I got really good at this because my starter was going bad and that really drained the battery. While a dead battery is a pretty big pain, it’s not the end of the world and can easily be fixed with some jumper cables.
  2. Blankets/warm clothes – Just in case you get stuck somewhere, it’s great to have a little bit of spare warmth with you. I usually have an extra sleeping bag on hand. I also have an extra pair of gloves and a winter hat, just in case I need to be outside for part of the time.
  3. Flashlight – This is something that you can pick up for free at a conference or something as they are always giving them away. Keep it in your glove box, and it should come in handy.
  4. Shovel – Keep a small shovel with you so you can dig out if need be. You don’t need a full size shovel, a smaller one will do just fine. Try looking for a child sized one – those should be small enough to fit in the truck and not take up too much room.
  5. Old Cell Phone – Right now, my wife and I are about to switch cell phone providers and will be getting new phones. We each plan on charging our old phones and putting them in the car. Even if the phone isn’t on a service plan, you can still make emergency calls with them (to 911).
  6. Antifreeze – Once when I was driving the old car, a hose burst on me when I was on my way somewhere. I was able to pull off the road and get the problem diagnosed pretty quickly, but I was still out a whole car full of antifreeze. Thankfully I had some with me at the time, and was able to fill the radiator back up. When you’re buying, make sure to buy the premixed stuff. When you’re out there in a bad spot, you most likely wont have a vessel to mix up a new batch of diluted antifreeze.
  7. Water – A bottle or two of water will also come in handy in the event of an emergency.
  8. Tow Rope – After I had gotten rid of the bad car and gotten my truck, I was driving to work one day and saw a guy slide off the road. He wasn’t in that bad, but it was pretty clear that he wouldn’t be able to get out on his own. I had a tow rope with me, so I stopped and we hooked him up and I pulled him out of the ditch when traffic was clear.
  9. Sand bag – Great to weigh down the vehicle over the drive axles, or can be broken open and used for traction if you end up getting stuck at some point. Just sprinkle the sand into the hole your stuck in and hopefully that will get you enough traction to get out.
  10. Windshield wiper fluid – It doesn’t sound like a big deal, and it really inst, until you’re driving in slushy roads that the snow, sand and gravel are in the process of melting off of. If you run out of fluid, it’s always a handy thing to have as a back up.

This is what I keep in my car year round in case I get stuck, and I’ve yet to have a problem that I couldn’t get myself out of (without a bit of help).

Is there anything that I left off the list?

What do you keep in your car in case of emergencies? Have those items ever saved you big money?