Keep Safe a Night in your Car Tips

Winter driving presents many situations where you may be forced to spend the night in your car—breaking down, getting stuck, running out of fuel, or just being the victim of unexpected bad weather. If you’re ever forced to spend a cold night in your car your best chance of survival depends on having emergency supplies and knowing how to use those supplies to stay warm.

If you’re ever in this type of situation and can’t contact rescuers you should stay in your car (it provides both shelter and can allow you to signal for help) and use the sleeping bag or blankets in your “Winter car emergency kit” to help keep you warm. You can run the engine of your car for ten minutes each hour as long as can ensure the tail pipe is clear of snow and you leave yourself a one-inch opening in the window to hopefully alleviate carbon monoxide buildup. It’s probably a good idea to purchase a CO detector strip to keep in your car kit for just this type of occasion— 60% of unintentional deaths in the US are caused by carbon monoxide poisoning and weighing that versus a four-dollar detection strip seems like a no-brainer if you live in colder areas.

Winter car emergency kit:

  1. Keep Your Car Topped Off and Well Serviced…Tune up, tires…
  2.  Assess Your Driving Patterns and Plan for the Worst, winter can be bitter.

  3. Hydration and Heat are Critical, smaller bottles are easier to thaw out in the heat of the car. If you live in a particularly rough and isolated area, you might consider keeping an emergency stove and small camp pan in your kit for melting snow—the two will run you under $15. Energy bars, nuts, granola and dried fruit are all great choices. It is best to select food you actually normally enjoy eating and then rotate it out of the car every few weeks. Have a sleeping bag—winter weight!—in the truck, along with winter boots and additional winter clothing. The clothes don’t need to be fancy—they just need to keep you warm, so throw in some older winter gear that doesn’t see much use. Don’t overlook hats, scarves, and gloves here, they help keep heat in at high loss points like the neck and head.

  4. Be Able to Signal, Plan on your car’s electrical system being out of commission and have an LED emergency beacon or two in your car.

  5. Dealing with the Little Things, Paper napkins,  having things on hand like a bag of sand in your trunk for additional traction and a tow rope or chain if you’ve got a good Samaritan at hand but the tow truck is nowhere to be found are extremely helpful. In addition to a bag of sand, a shovel is always handy. Look for a sturdy one sized for a child, it’ll fit in the trunk better and still have a fairly wide surface area compared to a tiny emergency shovel.

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