However well-prepared you are for driving in winter, there’s always a chance you’ll find yourself stranded. Even if your car is regularly serviced and well maintained, you could still suffer a breakdown, have an accident, or be forced to stop by sudden bad weather.
It’s always a good idea to carry an emergency breakdown kit just in case the worst should happen. It’s easy to put together and, once assembled, can be left in your vehicle – where it will hopefully stay unneeded!
What you put in your emergency winter breakdown kit may vary according to where you live and the kind of weather you’re likely to experience. As a minimum, though, we’d recommend you include the following items.
A sturdy waterproof bag
It’s a good idea to keep as much of your emergency kit together as possible, and you also need to ensure it stays dry – so first on the list is a strong, durable bag to store it in.
A torch (and spare batteries)
Imagine being stuck by the side of the road in the dark without lights. Your smartphone might have a torch function, but that will drain the battery. Carry a powerful flashlight as part of your kit and remember to include spare batteries, or alternatively buy a wind-up model.
Warm clothes and blankets
Even if you prefer to drive without a coat on, make sure you carry one with you. Your kit should also include spare warm layers, such as sweaters, thick socks and fleecy jogging bottoms, as well as a hat and gloves. Pack at least one blanket, too.
Rubber boots or stout shoes
A pair of rubber wellington boots or good walking shoes will keep your feet dry if you have to walk in the snow or dig your car out of a drift. Whichever you choose, ensure the soles have a good grip.
First aid kit
We’d recommend you carry a first aid kit in your vehicle all the time, but it’s essential during the winter. You can buy pre-packed kits or make your own; a basic kit should include sterile cleansing wipes, surgical gloves (latex and powder-free if possible), sticking plasters in various sizes, scissors, a resuscitation face shield, sterile dressings and micropore tape, and several bandages in different sizes.
If you need to move around or leave your vehicle in the dark, it’s imperative other road-users can see you clearly. In some countries, it’s mandatory to carry high-visibility clothing – and using it really could save your life.
Reflective warning signs
Ideally, you should have two – one to put in front of your car and one behind. Some countries require motorists carry these as a legal requirement, so you may already have them on board. They should be able to withstand being blown over by any wind.
A flat battery can happen to any vehicle, new or old, especially when the weather is cold. You can’t rely on a passing motorist to have jumper cables, so carry a set of your own.
When roads are icy or covered in snow, it’s all too easy to slide and get stuck in a drift – especially if you’re traveling on minor routes which are less likely to be treated with rock salt. Often, you’ll be able to dig yourself out – but only if you have the tools with which to do it! If storage space is limited, you can buy foldable spades that take up less room.
Empty fuel can
Running out of fuel can happen to the best of us, whether it’s because your journey has ended up taking much longer than expected or you simply didn’t notice you were getting low. As long as you can get to a fuel station, this is one problem you can solve.
Food and drink
Being stuck by the roadside for any length of time is an even worse experience if you and your passengers are hungry and thirsty. Keep bottles of water and sealed snacks in your emergency kit – packets of dried fruit and nuts, cereal bars, chocolate, and biscuits are all good standbys. Before you set off, prepare a flask of something hot to take with you – tea, coffee, hot chocolate, or soup – or just fill it with boiling water and invest in sachets of instant drinks so everyone can have their favorite.
A road map
It’s easy to rely on sat nav or apps like Google Maps, but if your device goes flat you’ll find they’re suddenly of little use. A good old-fashioned road atlas could prove invaluable.
In-car charger and portable power pack
Helplessly watching your phone battery drain is one of the last things you want when you’re stranded. An in-car phone charger is a great idea while you’re traveling, while a portable power pack won’t drain your car battery if you get stuck. Just make sure it’s fully charged before you set off.
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