As a driver in a four-season state, you are well aware that you have to be prepared for Mother Nature’s wrath at all times. Surely there was enough of that fury the past two Winters in New Jersey, when snow and ice entered the equation in early November. If your folks didn’t counsel you about what emergency gear to carry in the car when you bought your first vehicle, a handy list of items is listed below. Make sure you have them with you at all times, whether it is day-to-day driving or a road trip.
Above all, when renting a car, don’t forget the transfer your emergency items from your car to the rental car! Of course if you keep your vehicle’s insurance, registration and your driver’s license in the car, as opposed to your wallet, make sure to grab that first, as well as your motor club card so you are covered for any vehicle emergencies. Most motor clubs permit using the card for other vehicles besides your own. While you’re transferring those cards to your wallet or purse, make sure to take some cold hard cash with you as well. You never know where you might develop car woes, and, if it is in a small town, some car repair places do not take personal checks and not all repair shops, will take debit cards or certain credit cards (like American Express), so always ensure you have some cash on hand.
Before the first frost hits, be sure to put your ice scraper, snow brush and a child-sized snow shovel in the back of your car. It’s always a good idea to carry along a small can of lock de-icer, kept separately in a purse or a bag, if traveling in cold or snowy weather.
You can purchase ready-made auto emergency kits, but it is just as easy to get a tote box or duffel bag and store all your gear in one place. Your emergency kit should include a variety of items at all times, but in the Winter you should ensure you carry a large warm blanket, extra woolen items (such as gloves or mittens, a hat, scarf and extra socks) to keep you warm in case you are stranded for a long period of time. These woolen items are designed to keep your extremities warm, but you can also get added protection against the cold, by purchasing portable hand and foot warmers and/or an emergency Mylar emergency blanket at a local sporting goods store to have in your emergency kit. A cheap plastic rain suit is also handy to keep your clothes dry should you need to exit the vehicle.
If thinking about potential disasters seems to be the theme here, well… it is supposed to sound like that. As a driver, you must be proactive to ensure you and your vehicle are protected no matter what transpires over the course of your road trip.
You might recall the story that made the rounds on the internet last Winter when a pair of sisters who were traveling together were lost for two weeks after their vehicle got stuck on an unplowed and seldom-used road in a remote area of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. They survived on snacks like Girl Scout cookies and a bag of cheese puffs washed down with melting snow. A few granola bars or high-energy protein bars are a good idea to keep in your vehicle at all times to give you sustenance and it is always wise to bring along some bottled water with your gear. When the colder temps would freeze that bottled water making it undrinkable, always make sure you have a clean bottle or some type of vessel to melt snow to use as drinking water in an emergency.
Now that you’ve taken care of your personal comfort, you should take care of the car’s needs as well. Before a road trip, while fueling up, wash and squeegee those car windows to ensure you get a good view of what is going on around you. Check your oil and check your windshield washer fluid. Stick a roll of paper towels and another gallon of washer fluid if you have the room for it into the car. A set of jumper cables to fix a dead battery is a great idea but if you’re stranded and no one is around, it is pretty handy to have a portable battery jumper on hand. Be knowledgeable about your spare tire, and tire jack should you need it.
You should compile some smaller necessities in a fisherman’s tackle box. Be sure to put in a flashlight and some extra batteries. A Swiss army knife, tire gauge, wrench, pliers and a pair of screwdrivers (Phillips head and slotted) could come in handy, as will a pair of heavy outdoor gloves in case you get a flat tire. A pair of rubber gloves are also handy, as is a rubber mallet, not as a weapon to hit someone on the head with, but, it is handy to have in case you lock bumpers with another car, i.e. a minor fender bender or bumper crunch, not needing the appearance of a wrecker to the scene. You merely bump the metal out and be on you way, that is… after the necessary groans and auto paperwork are exchanged. A sign that says “emergency” can be purchased in an auto supply store and you should put it into your back window. Likewise a white handkerchief tied onto your open car trunk will do the same trick, or, simply keep some flares so that they are at the ready should you need them.
Now you’re ready to roll… you’ve got all your bases covered, and you’re prepared, just like a Boy Scout. So grab your sunglasses and your camera and get ready to enjoy your road trip. Whether you prefer the old-fashioned means of navigation, i.e. a map, you use directions from Google Maps, or rely on a GPS device, they all will serve to get you to your destination. Do consider having printed-out directions or keeping a paper map on hand in case of internet connection failure.
Now to be extra safe, no matter how many precautions you’ve taken as listed above, do yourself one more favor and listen to what Mom said and don’t pick up any hitchhikers.