Make sure car is ready for demands of winter driving;
include basic emergency supplies

Motorists can prepare for safer winter travel by keeping a simple emergency kit on hand. ITD advises drivers to carry some helpful items in the car in case of an emergency:

  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • Stocked first aid kit
  • Pocketknife
  • Blanket or sleeping bag
  • Mittens, socks and a wool cap
  • Waterproof covering like a tarp or a poncho
  • Three-pound coffee can, which can be used to heat water
  • A small sack of sand or cat litter for generating traction under stuck wheels; it also adds weight to your vehicle
  • A small shovel
  • Bottled water (but remember it will probably freeze so allow expansion room in the container)
  • Booster cables
  • Energy bars or other high-energy food like raisins or nuts
  • Waterproof matches or a cigarette lighter
  • Candles (a blanket over your head, body heat and the heat from a single candle can prevent freezing)
  • Basic tool kit to include pliers, screwdrivers, adjustable wrench, tape and wire
  • Paper towels or toilet tissue, good for their designed purpose as well as a fire starter
  • Spare tire
  • Rope and wire, tow chain or a strap
  • Starter fluid, extra oil, gas line deicer and battery booster cables
  • Map of the area where you plan to travel
  • Signaling devices such as emergency flares or a mirror

Having these items on hand can help ensure a driver's safety, but vehicles also need attention at the start of the winter season. The American Automobile Association (AAA) advises drivers to prepare their vehicles for the winter season by having a mechanic check the following items:

  • Battery
  • Antifreeze level
  • Wipers and windshield washer fluid
  • Ignition system
  • Thermostat
  • Headlights and hazard lights
  • Exhaust system
  • Window defroster and heater
  • Brakes
    Oil level (if necessary, replace existing oil with a winter grade oil or the SAE 10w/30 viscosity)
  • Winter tires
  • Brakes

Basic automobile parts can help save a stranded motorist. Put these automotive parts to good use: A hubcap or sun visor can be substituted for a shovel.

  • Seat covers can be used as a blanket.
  • Floor mats can be used to shut out the wind.
  • Engine oil burned in a hubcap creates a smoke signal visible for miles.
  • A car horn can be heard as far as a mile downwind. Three long blasts, ten seconds apart, every 30 minutes, is a standard distress signal.
  • A rear-view mirror can be removed to serve as a signaling device.
  • Burn a tire for a signal or for warmth. Release the air pressure and use gasoline or oil for a means to ignite it.

Before beginning a trip or long drive, motorists can dial 511 or visit on the Web for updates on winter road and weather conditions, emergency closures and access to tourist information.

Published 11-19-2010