Some people think that a full tank of gas and keys are the only things needed to drive a car. Sure, you can sometimes get away with being underprepared, but not during the winter. Factors like snow, ice, and freezing temperatures make winter driving a lot more demanding than normal.
You should always be prepared for typical accidents that could potentially happen on the road at any time, but during the winter we're also tasked with shoveling snow, scraping ice from our windows, making sure our tires have good traction, maintaining safe tire pressure, and more.
Whether you're taking a spirited drive for fun or traveling from point A to point B, there a few things that everyone should keep in their car at all times during the winter.
No matter what year, make, or model your car is, it should come with basics like a tire iron and jack, but those two items alone won't cut it. If you end up with a dead battery or a car that's stuck in the snow, you'll want to have a few other things on hand.
Here are 14 items you should keep in your car during the winter:
It goes without saying that shovels are useful during the winter, but having one specifically dedicated to your car is a wise move. If you've ever had to dig your car out after a snowstorm or gotten stuck along a snow-covered road, you know how convenient it is to keep one in your trunk.
When choosing a shovel to store in the car, people often resort to a cheap mini shovel for the sake of saving space, but it's bound to break. Or they opt for a full-size shovel that will take up their entire cargo space for better efficiency.
With a DMOS Collective shovel, you get the best of both worlds. Made in the US using aircraft-grade aluminum alloy, every DMOS shovel features serrated teeth for breaking ice and a collapsible handle for easy storage.
A snow and ice scraper
A snow and ice scraper is easily the most used tool for drivers during the winter. Keeping one handy will allow you to efficiently clear off your windows and lights before driving. The Snow Angel features an extendable telescopic arm, so it's easy to store and won't take up a lot of space when not in use.
A dead battery is one of the most common car issues, so jumper cables are a must-have. Whether you accidentally left your lights on or cold weather drained your battery, this will bring your car back to life. EPAuto uses thick 4-gauge cables for solid and reliable conductivity.
Keeping a flashlight in your car year-round is a good idea, but with less daylight during the winter, it can be especially useful. Sure, your smartphone has a flashlight app on it, but it's not as useful as a real one. Whether changing a tire or jumping your car, you want something that shines bright and is durable.
The Outlite A100 has a bright light with an adjustable focus and five modes, including a disrupter strobe and SOS function. It's also waterproof, so you'll be able to use it in all weather conditions.
Even if you have the right gear, tools, and knowledge to get out of a mishap, freezing cold hands can really keep you from getting the job done. Disposable hand warmers heat up in seconds and last for hours. They can help you keep your hands warm while you're changing a tire, jumping your battery, or waiting for help to arrive.
A gas can
Running out of gas can be a major headache at any time of the year, but it's definitely worse in the winter. You don't want to store fuel in your trunk, but keeping a small gas container in your car can save you from a tow. Just walk or take a cab to the nearest gas station and fill this can. With a capacity of just over two gallons, it will hold enough gas to get you to a gas station where you can refill your tank.
An external battery
You probably already own a battery pack for keeping your electronics charged on-the-go, but having one that's always in your car is important. It can be the difference between making a quick call for help or being stranded for hours. The NOCO Boost Plus GB40 acts as a charger flash, LED flashlight, and even has a plug-in to jumpstart your car.
A good spare tire
If your tires don't have good tread, you absolutely want to replace them before winter comes. Driving in wet, snowy, or icy conditions with bald tires is extremely dangerous and shouldn't be done. Go for a quality set of all-season tires, or opt for a set of snow tires to run on your car during the winter months. In addition to the tires on your car, it's important to keep a spare that's in solid condition.
Portable air compressor
Whether your tires are brand new or used, cold weather can cause a loss of tire pressure. Since keeping the correct tire pressure is important to driving safely, an air compressor is a convenient way to maintain good tire pressure at all times. The P.I. Auto Store Air Compressor plugs right into your car's 12-volt power outlet and features a gauge to let you know you've reached the correct PSI.
A first-aid kit
You never know when you'll need a first aid kit, so keeping a small one in your car is always smart. The Swiss Safe 2-in-1 is a packable case that's easy to store or carry. It includes a 120-piece kit and a smaller bonus 32-piece kit.
A basic tool kit
Even if you're not a mechanic, having a basic tool kit can save the day when simple fixes need to be done. The Apollo 56-Piece kit includes everything you'll need for basic repairs — a wrench, sockets, Allen keys, pliers, a screwdriver, zip ties, and more
Have you ever been stuck in the snow and your tires just keep spinning and spinning, no matter how much gas you give it? Even with new tires, certain cars can still lose traction, but luckily there's a solution: cat litter. Simply spread the litter underneath the tires lacking traction, and you'll be able to drive out of the slippery snow and ice.
A warm blanket
Being stranded isn't fun at any time of year, but during the winter, it's more than an inconvenience. Going from driving in a warm car with heat to breaking down and losing power is never a good feeling — and can even be dangerous.
In the event that you do have to tough it out inside your car for a few hours or even overnight, you're going to need a blanket to stay warm. You don't need a full comforter set, but a fleece blanket provides warmth and won't take up too much trunk space
A roadside safety kit
Buying a bunch of separate items might not be the most convenient or budget-friendly way to fill your trunk with useful supplies, so we also recommend roadside safety kits.
We named this 110-piece kit the best overall in our buying guide for emergency roadside kits because it includes most the essential items and comes packed in a small carrying case.