Surviving winter is often about preparing for the unexpected. That's why all drivers should carry an emergency kit in their car. You can assemble yours for less than $100, and without giving up too much -- if any -- space in your trunk.
Here are the must-haves...
- A torch light can prove very useful on many occasions. Just make sure that the batteries haven't run empty because of the cold.
- Fill a small bottle with engine oil, and another with coolant. Make sure to use the same type of fluid (mineral or synthetic) that's currently found in your vehicle. It won't cost you a lot, but the payoff could be big. If you feel like your engine is overheating, checking the coolant level and adding some more is an easy thing to do. As for the engine oil, check the level every three gas fill-ups; if it's too low, that small bottle will come in handy!
- Jumper cables are great to boost a battery, especially on the coldest days.
- Should you wind up stuck in snow, mud or even a ditch, you'll be glad to have a tow rope. The only thing missing will be a kind spirit with a dependable truck to pull you out of there!
- Finally, an all-purpose socket wrench will tighten just about anything that comes loose.
- A tire pressure gauge is a must. Walk around your car and assess your tires before stepping inside. If one or several tires look under-inflated, check the pressure.
- It's common for tires to lose a few PSIs of pressure during the winter months. A small air compressor will help you add some. If there's a crack or leak, a compressor will allow you to inflate your tires enough to get to the nearest repair shop.
- In case of emergency, your only resort here are tie-wraps and good ol' duct tape. If a body panel is damaged to the point of touching the ground or a tire, tie-wraps will help you secure the loose section until you find a repair shop. These items take little space in your winter survival kit, and they can prevent a world of nightmares!
Other important tools
- Warm blanket
- All-purpose gloves
Ideally, a telescopic or folding shovel and a pair of traction aids should also find their way into your arsenal. However, they will cost you an extra $65 or so, bringing the final tally to about $160.
Road flares that maximize visibility and safety when you're stranded on the side of the road are a good idea for an emergency kit. A first aid kit can be extremely useful as well, especially after a crash.
Storing your emergency kit
Whether your own a brand new vehicle or an old jalopy, you'd be wise to keep all of these accessories in a dedicated storage tray or a 30L-40L hard bag. For added convenience, keep that tray or bag under the rear cargo floor, if possible.
Ready-made emergency kits
Want to save time and energy? Consider a ready-made emergency kit at your local hardware store. Some of these kits are quite comprehensive, but more often than not, they still lack certain items. Run down the list, and add what you believe is missing in order to be fully prepared should the unexpected happen.
An emergency kit in your trunk can go a long way toward ensuring safe, confident driving this winter. Also, remember to perform regular maintenance on your vehicle following the manufacturer's recommendations.
Grab a snack and a bottle of water, and you're all set to go.