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5 Things To Have In Your Car All Winter

Buried in snow

If you live where winters are harsh (or have the potential to be), then you likely already know that having a few extras in the vehicle, "just in case," is a good idea. Sometimes, things happen and being prepared can make all the difference. For example, being stuck in the parking lot with a dead battery is no fun, but being stuck there waiting for help and without a warm car in the dead of winter? No fun at all, even dangerous.

Here are a few things you should keep in your car during the winter. There are more things you might want to have as well, but these are the bare essentials. Many motorists in cold climates have a "winter kit" they keep in a bag in their car.

Blanket and Hand Warmers

A good blanket, preferably wool or even a quilt, is a great item to have. An extra coat might be handy, but a blanket is more versatile and covers your whole body. Better yet, we all have extra blankets hanging around so appropriating one for the car during the winter is not difficult.

Adding hand warmers ("Hot Hands" or the like) is an added and much-appreciated bonus. Little hand warmer packets are inexpensive and easy to store, so having a few is always a good idea. You can shove them in your pockets with your hands to stay warm and give them to strangers in distress if need be. Even the tow truck driver who shows up to help you out might appreciate some hand warmers after working hard in the cold to hitch up your car.

Flashers or Flares

Old-fashioned flares are nice, but new flashers (usually LED with batteries) are safer. Whatever you're comfortable with, though, make sure you have them. These can be used to signal for help, to let others know that you're off the side of the road, etc. It's generally a good idea to have these all the time, not just in the winter. Flares have the added bonus of producing heat, but don't use one inside your car. The reasons should be obvious.

Small Shovel

A small shovel, whether just a short-handled shovel or a folding, compact affair (ala "e-tool") is a good thing to have during the winter. It can be used to move snow out of the way, dig out a tire, dig down to place road flares, and more.

Food and Drink

This is the toughest of the group because if they're left in the car for extended periods, they can go bad or freeze in the extreme cold. You'll need at least a day's worth, but some might prefer 72 hours' worth. Whatever you're comfortable with is the right amount. Most people are to stranded for more than a few hours - generally less than a day. Keeping a gallon jug of water and/or a few 16oz bottles of H2O in the car is important. Add in a couple of non-carbonated energy drinks or electrolyte-infused drink to the mix, since water mixed with sugar and electrolytes has a lower freezing temperature, so it's more apt to stay liquid in the cold.

Extra Washer Fluid

This should be relatively obvious, but having a jug of washer fluid in the trunk during the winter can be what saves you from being stranded in the first place. When you start your car to leave work or home, pop the hood as the car "warms up" and check the washer fluid levels. If they're a bit low, top off the reservoir before your leave. If you're on the road and note that you aren't getting much cleaning action on the windshield, pull over and add some fluid and even pour some directly on the window and wipe it clean. Having clear vision can be what keeps you out of the ditch.

Other Items

A lot of other things can be very helpful when stranded in the winter. Extra socks, crampons (the kind that slip over shoes so you don't slip), a phone charger, jumper cables or the whole "jump-start your car in a box," an extra wool hat and gloves.. All of these things and more are a good idea.