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Emergency Kit Items for Your Car


It's amazing how one harmless word can make me shudder with distaste. There's only one other word that has the same effect on me: Ice. And having lived in Michigan since birth, I've experienced my share of both. Now if you're a sadist and you want to see me practically convulse with repulsion, just say "driving in snow and ice" — yeah, that'll just about do it.

I think at this point it's needless to say that I loathe winter. And the only thing I hate more than winter is driving in winter weather. I don't know about what it's like where you're from, but here in Detroit, it's insane. At the first sight of snow, metro Detroit motorists switch from slightly mentally ill to downright loony. Drivers tailgating on streets covered in a thick sheet of ice — typical. Motorists going 10 mph on the freeway after seeing a snowflake or two — also normal. Get the picture?

But last winter wasn't quite as bad as the ones preceeding it. Why? Last November, after procrastinating for years, I finally put together a trusty winter emergency kit for my car. And even though I've only used one item from it (a tow rope — my neighbor's car got stuck in snowy ditch last year), I'm definitely not as tense when on the road in winter. Because I know that if my car breaks down or if (heaven forbid) that crazy tailgater pushes me off the road and into a snow bank, I have the basic tools to ensure my safety.

So what does one need in her emergency winter car kit? According to Jim Rink, my trusty source at AAA, these are the items every motorist should have stashed in his or her car:

  • flashlight

  • flares or reflective triangle

  • distress sign

  • telephone change

  • first aid supplies

  • basic tools

  • a fully charged cell phone

  • Other recommended items are:

  • boots

  • hat

  • coat

  • gloves

  • jumper cables

  • carpet strips, sand or kitty litter for traction

  • ice scraper and brush

  • blanket

  • chocolate candy (my favorite part)

  • As I initially perused this list last November, I realized how unprepared I would be if I were to ever have car trouble in the winter. I had an ice brush with a built-in scraper that really doesn't work that well. That's it. As nice as my ice brush is, it most definitely wouldn't be able to keep me warm or help me out in case of an emergency.

  • I always thought that if my car died, all I would need is a cell phone. Yes, I am that naïve. Forget about what would happen in my cell phone's battery lost its charge or if I was in an area where my phone couldn't get service.

  • And then there's this happy thought from AAA's Jim Rink: "Even if you call for help, especially under severe weather conditions, it may be some time before help arrives and hypothermia is a very real danger."

  • So if you want the bare basics in your trunk, get a first aid kit (make sure it has adhesive bandages, first aid tape and gauze), emergency tire sealant (comes in handy in case of a flat tire), a screwdriver, an adjustable crescent wrench and a flashlight.

  • In addition to the old winter outerwear recommended above, I found an old sleeping bag to put in the trunk as well. Might as well — you never know.

  • So here's to the season's impending winter, snow and ice. And to (shudder) driving in the winter.

    More tips for winterizing your vehicle.

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