5 Things You Should Have in Your Car During Winter

Make sure you and your vehicle are prepared for dangerous cold-weather driving with these necessities.

Man standing in snow next to stopped car, looking under hoodGetty Images

Article QuickTakes:

Driving during winter's worst weather can sometimes be unavoidable. Generally speaking, it's wise to keep an eye on the weather and limit your driving time to strictly necessary trips when harsh winter conditions are predicted. If you must drive your car in potentially hazardous cold-weather conditions, be aware of what chilly temperatures can do to your vehicle, and consider equipping your ride with safeguards such as winter tires and fuel stabilizer.

It's important to mind the effect that snow, ice, and sleet can have on your car; it's also important to be prepared for a variety of situations that might occur while on the road. In addition to the essentials you should carry in your car year-round (like jumper cables, a first-aid kit, and a multi-tool), there are some winter-specific items worth keeping handy in the colder months. Here are five key things to keep in your car when the temperature starts to fall.


In the event that you're stuck or stranded in your vehicle when it's cold outside, it's vital to stay warm while you wait for help to arrive. You might need to conserve fuel, which means you may be unable to run the heater the entire time. Having something to bundle up with is critical. Any blanket will help, but a packable camping or outdoor blanket will fold down compactly and likely be specifically designed to keep you warm in extremely low temperatures. You can find many options for outdoor-oriented blankets on Amazon, starting from roughly $30. Or, if you prefer to shop in person, check out your local outdoors store.

Nonperishable Food and Water

Again, when preparing for the worst, covering the basic necessities is smart. Staying warm is important, but so is staying fed and hydrated. On the off chance you're stuck in your vehicle for an extended period, it's good to have food and water on hand. Avoid the risk of anything spoiling and invest in nonperishable supplies with distant expiration dates.

Canned water can also have a lengthy shelf life, so it might be helpful to keep some of that on hand too.


Perhaps the simplest item on this list—but still important—is a good quality, fully charged flashlight. It's a tool that's helpful if your car loses power, if you need to dig around in the trunk, or if you have to signal for help. One of Amazon's more popular flashlights can be had for about $10. It’s waterproof, compact, bright, and should last you through all the hazardous drives to come—so long as you keep it charged up.

Sand or Kitty Litter

Keeping some sand or kitty litter in your trunk actually offers more than one benefit. First, spreading it underneath your tires might give you the extra traction you need on an icy surface to get back underway. Second, the added weight of a sandbag on your rear wheels (if those are the driven wheels) could help them gain traction, thanks to gravity. You can add 50 pounds of sand to your winter driving tool kit for around $6.

Portable Phone Charger or Power Bank

Another useful item to have on hand is a power bank to charge your phone, for those times when your car is unable. Keeping one of these chargers in your vehicle increases the chances you'll be able to reach out for help in an emergency. As an added bonus, outside of being a simple power bank, some models come with other functions, such as a flashlight (in case you didn't pick one up already) and a car battery jump-starter.

However, if you think a basic external battery is suitable, companies like Anker offer chargers at many price points.

This site is for educational purposes only. The third parties listed are not affiliated with Capital One and are solely responsible for their opinions, products and services. Capital One does not provide, endorse or guarantee any third-party product, service, information or recommendation listed above. The information presented in this article is believed to be accurate at the time of publication, but is subject to change. The images shown are for illustration purposes only and may not be an exact representation of the product. The material provided on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the availability or suitability of any Capital One product or service to your unique circumstances. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.
author photo
Brennan Sullivan
Brennan Sullivan is a writer and lifelong car fanatic. With an appreciation for all makes and models, Brennan is particularly passionate about the rich history of the automotive industry. In his spare time, he's the caretaker of a 1962 Sunbeam Alpine, and a Golden Retriever named Willow.