Like it or not, winter weather is on its way. You can save yourself a lot of potential grief by being prepared before it arrives.
Here are 11 things to keep in your vehicle that will help you cope with the worst winter can bring.
1. Windshield scraper and snow brush
A long-handled ice scraper with a soft-bristled brush will ease the challenge of keeping windows clear and free of ice and snow. Don't forget to clear the lights and mirrors as well.
2. Spare windshield washer fluid
There's not always a gas station nearby when you run out of washer fluid. Carrying a spare in the vehicle can eliminate that risk.
In the event you get stranded it's important to keep hydrated. Plastic bottles make it easy to keep water on-board and they won't break if the water freezes.
It's always a good idea to have some protein or energy bars in the vehicle, to keep your energy up if you should become stranded.
5. Outdoor clothing and footwear
We tend to dress for the destination or for the warm interior of the vehicle. But it's a good idea to always bring clothing for each occupant that will keep them warm outside for an extended period, just in case. Don't forget the mitts and footwear. Tip: chemical hand warmers that fit in mitts or boots can help keep fingers and toes comfy.
5. First-aid kit
Whatever the season, it's always a good idea to keep a first-aid kit handy.
Ditto for a flashlight. Be sure to have spare batteries as well, as they can go dead quickly in the cold. Or opt for a light you can wind up to energize or one that plugs into the vehicle's auxiliary output (formerly cigarette lighter).
7. Traction aid
Sometimes it takes just a little extra traction to get unstuck. Carrying some sand or grit to throw under the tires can help but metal cleats you can slide under the tires are a more effective tool. They fold up for easy storage.
Sometimes there's no alternative but to shovel if you get stuck. The shovel doesn't have to be big. Some folding models can be quite effective and are easily stowed.
9. Tow strap
A tow strap with hooks on either end can save waiting for a tow truck if a good Samaritan offers a hand. Most vehicles have tie-down points for shipping that also serve as points for attaching a tow strap.
10. Jumper cables
If the engine won't start because the battery is dead or depleted, jumper cables can solve the problem – if you can find someone with another vehicle willing to help.
11. Flares, reflectors or warning lamps
If you should become stuck or stranded, it's important to let others know you're there, both to keep from being hit and to serve as a locator.
Always carry your cell-phone and auto-club card or roadside-assistance number with you. If you've exhausted your own efforts, they're the surest route to assistance.