Winter is upon us; and with it, an increased risk of vehicle trouble as a result of ice, snow and colder temperatures. Calls to CAA definitely increase. According to Murielle Pierre, Manager of Public Affairs at CAA National, “Winter volume is generally higher than that of the summer, nationally. For instance, in winter 2019 CAA received just over one million calls, versus summer 2019 when we got just over 800K.”
Time, then, for a sanity check to make sure your vehicle is stocked with some essentials to keep you safe and relatively comfortable should you find yourself unexpectedly waiting at the side of the road for assistance to arrive in the depths of winter. Here are three items that, at a minimum, every vehicle should carry on-board during the winter months:
1. Blanket (plus a hat and wool socks)
You don’t know how important a blanket is until you find yourself sitting on the shoulder of the 407 in a car with a dead engine for two hours in -18C while you wait for a tow truck to arrive. This happened to me one chilly morning on the way in to work. I was wearing thin dress shoes and even thinner dress socks at the time; and my feet were numb within minutes. Luckily, I had some spare mittens in the trunk that I put on my feet to keep from getting frostbite (desperate times…); and a baseball cap to keep some of the heat in–but a blanket would have been a welcome addition. Lesson learned: A blanket, hat and wool socks are mandatory staples before heading out.
2. Windshield washer fluid and wiping cloth
Sunny days and wet roads present a double-whammy hazard due to the spray being thrown up from vehicles in front combined with the glare from the sun. Constant pulls on the windshield washer are necessary to maintain visibility, and it’s easy to run out of washer fluid—which is a problem when there isn’t a gas station nearby for a refill.
For this reason, it’s always a good idea to keep a jug windshield washer fluid in the trunk. You’ll pay less if you buy it in advance from a local automotive store; and it doesn’t take up much room.
The wiping cloth? Have you ever had the front window fog up from the inside and had to wait for the defroster to do its thing? I keep a piece from an old terrycloth towel in the door pocket for wiping the window on such occasions.
3. Kitty litter
This one is a must-have for getting out of sticky (or, I suppose, slippery) situations when the accelerator is horizontal, the wheels are spinning madly, and the car going nowhere fast.
This can happen when parallel-parked at the side of a street, one of the drive wheels is on a patch of ice and the temperature gets to around the freezing point: The ice melts a bit, and the wheel spins in a rut that’s been carved into the ice by other vehicles over time.
A healthy dose of kitty litter in the ice rut will usually give the wheels enough grip to come out slowly. Like the windshield washer, it’s inexpensive and doesn’t take up a lot of room in the trunk.
To help you get started (pun intended), CAA has put together a comprehensive checklist of things every car should be carrying on board all year around.
17-Item emergency car kit checklist
Of course these three items, while essential, are just the beginning. To help you build a more comprehensive kit, The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) has put together a comprehensive checklist of things every car should be carrying on board all year around. You can find it here..