Any Minnesotan worth their salt knows that Murphy’s Law is in full effect during the winter months: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Frequently, this manifests itself in the form of automotive issues, which can range from something as simple as your car not starting for your evening commute, all the way to hitting a patch of black ice and sliding into the ditch during your evening commute. Both of these things will probably make you late for dinner (Although you have a better chance of avoiding the latter if your vehicle is outfitted with winter tires. Read more on that here).
FEAR NOT! While you may not be able to stop these things from happening, you can certainly be prepared for them so that you’ll remain safe, comfortable and in good spirits until you’re back on the road.
Enter the Winter Trunk Kit: a carefully curated box/bag/loose assortment of items that could prove invaluable to you in a number of emergency situations. The video below outlines a bare-bones kit that includes the absolute essentials, but feel free to add your own touches! A few of our favorite additions include a small shovel, winter boots, and a fluorescent distress flag.
In the event that you’re more of a fan of lists than videos, a textual transcript of the video above is as follows:
- A blanket – to stay warm
- Cat litter – to provide extra traction
- Jumper cables – in case your battery dies
- A first aid kit, in case of an emergency
- Non-perishable, nutrient rich snacks
- A flashlight – to signal for help or see at night
- Toe/hand warmers – to keep your extremities in working order
- Matches – in the event you need to start a fire
- Bottles of water – because hydration is key
- An ice scraper – because ice isn’t cool and needs to be destroyed from time to time
- Extra hats and gloves – again, staying warm in emergency situations during the winter is fairly (read: VERY) important.
If you do find yourself stranded on the side of the road, keep the following tips in mind:
- If necessary, call 911 on your cell phone. Provide emergency responders with your location, condition of everyone in the vehicle and the problems you’re experiencing.
- Follow the operator’s instructions: you may be told to stay where you are until help arrives.
- Don’t hang up the phone until you know who you have spoken with and what will happen next.
- Keep your vehicle prepared: Make sure your gas tank is at least half full at all times during the winter. For a comprehensive walkthrough on winter car prep, check out our blog post here.
- If stuck: Tie a florescent flag (from your kit) on your antenna or hang it out the window. At night, keep your dome light on. Rescue crews can see a small glow at a distance. To keep battery drain at a minimum, use emergency flashers only if you hear approaching vehicles. If someone else is with you, make sure at least one of you is awake and keeping an eye out for help at all times.
- Stay in your vehicle: Walking in a winter storm can be very dangerous. Visibility is severely reduced, making it much easier to get lost. Your vehicle is generally the best shelter available to you in a situation like this – stick with it.
- Avoid Overexertion: Shoveling snow or pushing your car takes a lot of effort in storm conditions, which can make you hot and sweaty. Wet clothing loses insulation value, making you susceptible to hypothermia.
- Fresh Air: It’s better to be cold and awake than warm and sleepy. Snow can plug your vehicle’s exhaust system and cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to enter your car. Only run the engine for 10 minutes an hour and make sure the exhaust pipe is free of snow. Keeping a window open a crack while running the engine is also a good idea.
- Stay positive. They say attitude is everything, and that holds doubly true here. With the proper tools and a cool head, you’ll have no trouble getting yourself out of a snowy situation.
Have a safe winter!