15 Winter Must-Haves to Keep in Your Car

Having your car break down in the winter sucks, but not as much as breaking down and being stranded without the proper supplies. You never know how long you'll be stuck on the side of the road, and without the right tools and survival supplies, you could be in serious danger. Avoid adding insult to injury (hopefully not literally) with these items that you should have in your car when winter weather is a threat to driving safety.

1. Ice scraper

Take it from someone who used to use debit cards to chip away at ice on my windshield, an ice scraper is worth the investment — if only so you don't have to keep calling your bank to request new cards.

2. Jumper cables

You can't go anywhere if your battery is dead, which means you could be stuck for a long time if you're in a secluded area with no cell service or a dead phone. Keep jumper cables in your car (at all times!) to avoid this precarious predicament.

Adds CARiD.com's product training director Richard Reina, "Another, lesser-known item that might be helpful during the winter is a battery blanket. Batteries lose their starting power in the cold and these blankets can help extend the life of your battery and help it start during cold conditions." (See also: The 5 Best Car Battery Warmers)

3. Foldable shovel

You can find relatively inexpensive, foldable snow shovels that can slide under seats and in the trunks of even the smallest cars. These are essential if you encounter an unexpected snowstorm that leaves your car buried.

4. Extra vehicle fluids

Having small amounts of vital vehicle fluids, like de-icing and wiper fluids, will help you avoid the very dangerous situation of running out and therefore not being able to see through your windows properly. Add wintry precipitation into the mix and you have a recipe for disaster.

"Many brands of de-icing fluid suggest using a 50/50 mix of fluid and water," adds Reina. "In the winter, particularly if you live somewhere that gets very cold, you may want to switch to using 100 percent fluid in your vehicle."

5. Snow salt

Keep a small amount of snow salt in the car to help with traction and melting if you encounter a slippery situation. It could mean the difference between working your car free from the snow and ice or not being to get out until someone arrives to help.

6. Flashlight

A lot of people rely on their phones as a flashlight, but you can't put all your eggs in that basket when it comes to car safety, because the phone could die, and you will need to preserve the battery until help arrives. Instead, keep a battery-operated or crank flashlight in your car. It's much more reliable and likely brighter.

7. Blankets

If your car's stuck in the cold winter weather, it may take a while for help to arrive. Blankets, particularly made of wool, will help you stay warm if your car is dead and without heat. I also like to carry those hand-warming packets to put in my gloves and shoes; they help me stay toasty out in the cold, and they'll make you more comfortable if you're stranded. (See also: How to Save on 12 Winter Essentials)

8. First-aid kit

I keep a first-aid kit in my car at all times, because you never know when you'll need a bandage or other quick-fix medical supplies. Exposed cuts and scrapes can get infected quickly, so it's better to be safe than sorry. (See also: The 5 Best First Aid Kits)

9. Tow Rope

A tow rope can get you out of those annoying snow ditches, but you also can help others when they're in the same situations. Sharing is caring.

10. An extra pair of clothes

If you're out in the snow, even for a short amount of time, you're going to get wet. Your shoes and gloves will be affected the most, and your hands and feet are extremities you want to keep the warmest. Keep an extra pair of clothing, including socks and shoes, in your trunk so you can change and warm up promptly. You don't want to run the risk of frostbite or hypothermia.

11. Water

You can live at least three weeks without food, but you'll be in pretty bad shape just a few days after your last sip of water. The upside to winter weather, of course, is that if there's snow on the ground, you can eat it to stay hydrated. Just stay away from the yellow patches.

12. Matches and lighters

I keep lighters and matches in a plastic bag in my car just in case I need to start a fire, whether for warmth or a smoke signal. The adventurer in me kind of looks forward to the opportunity, but not when it's teeth-chattering degrees outside.

13. Whistle

It may be hard for your cries for help to cut through wind and precipitation on a particularly stormy winter day. A whistle will do a much better job of that, and could lead potential rescuers to your location.

14. Gloves

You can't do anything helpful for yourself in the event your car breaks down if your hands are frozen.

Winter-preparedness advocate Paul Grattan, a sergeant with the NYPD's Transit Bureau, suggests carrying appropriate winter gloves or mittens.

"They'll help you during snow removal, towing, minor repairs, or tire changes, and they can help you recover and conserve body heat when you're stranded or returning to your vehicle from the cold. I don't rely on the pair I wear during the winter alone; I always carry an extra pair in the car."

15. Nonperishable snacks

Yeah, you can survive for a while without food, but you don't have to if you pack a few nonperishable snacks in your vehicle.

"Dried foods, such as jerky and fruit, as well as nuts, nut butters, and snack bars are great because they are energy-dense," says Emily Patterson, safety and security expert at ASecureLife.com. "They can keep you going if you're stuck in a storm or with a mechanical issue — or even just on a road trip with a significant distance between stops."

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15 Winter Must-Haves to Keep in Your Car

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