10 Must-Have Winter Items to Keep in Your Car

Update your emergency kit with this handy cold-weather gear.

An SUV parked on the side of a snowy road.
Store helpful seasonal items securely in your vehicle so they're there when you need them.
Galina_Lya / Shutterstock

Whether you’re planning to drive in the mild climate of San Francisco or the harsh winter terrain of Montana, your car emergency kit needs an update for winter. These items will help you prepare for unexpected weather, free a stuck tire, and stay safer on the road all season long.

Ice Scraper

Fluctuations in temperature can leave your windshield covered with a layer of ice. Instead of using and ruining your wiper blades or slowly chipping away with a credit card, carry an ice scraper to make quick work of it.

Snow Chains

If you live in an area where snow is common or if you are planning to drive through snow, you may want to invest in a set of chains or cables. And while it’s tempting to leave them in the garage, the trunk is the best place for them so they’re always in reach when you need them.

Small Shovel

If you’re planning to drive in an area with snow, pack a small shovel so you can clear drifts or plowed banks from around your vehicle and free stuck wheels.

A woman and her daughter and her white labrador retriever walk down a snow covered street with an orange SUV in the background.

Extra warm clothes can come in handy during an emergency or an unexpected storm.

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Warm Clothing

If you have an emergency that requires you to pull over, warm clothing can help keep you safe and comfortable until help arrives. These extra items are also useful if the weather unexpectedly changes, or if you or a passenger could use another layer or something dry to change into.

Portable Jump Starter

While jump starters of the past were a bit clunky and required constant recharging so they would work in an emergency, that’s not the case anymore. You can buy a portable jump starter with a long-lasting lithium-ion battery that’s not much bigger than a cell phone. For less than $100, it’s worth making jump-starting your car quick and convenient.

Hand Sanitizer

Besides the obvious use, hand sanitizer can be a helpful deicer in a pinch thanks to its high alcohol content. If your door lock is frozen, cover your key with a bit of sanitizer before inserting it into the lock and gently turning. Because you may need it to get inside, keep a small bottle on your keychain or in your bag rather than inside the car.

A tire on a snowy road.

Cat litter or sand can help you regain traction on snow or ice.

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Cat Litter or Sand

In the event that your car gets stuck in the snow, cat litter or sand may help your vehicle regain traction. Pour a thin layer of sand or cat litter directly in the path of your tires (after shoveling away any loose snow), then slowly apply the gas.

Windshield Washer Fluid with Deicer

If temperatures drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, water and standard washer fluid can freeze. Not only does it make the washer fluid useless, it can also cause the plastic reservoir or tubing to crack as it expands, requiring replacement. In addition to replacing your fluid with a winter-ready mixture, bring extra along for the ride to help melt your windshield faster if you’re in a hurry.

LED Flares

It’s vital to be seen in an emergency, and rain, snow, or fog can make seeing a car on the side of the road difficult. LED magnetic flares are both effective and super easy to use. The reusable flares stick right to the body of the car and light up the road like a traditional flare but without the risk of starting a brush fire or accidentally burning yourself.

Tire Pressure Gauge

Underinflated tires are especially dangerous when it’s raining or snowing. Keep a tire pressure gauge in your glove box and check your tires when you refuel. When choosing a gauge, pick one that you find easy to use and that you are confident using.

Smart Tip: Inspect the rest of your emergency kit to make sure nothing is broken, expired, or needs to be charged. Top off your spare tire, make sure your flashlight still turns on, and replace anything that is expired or no longer working.