Last Updated: 18/04/2018
Spare Mobile Phone Charger
None of us leave the house without our mobiles these days, but in the age of the smartphone are you confident that your battery will last long enough to see you through an unforeseen delay? Emergency calls to 999 will work even in the deepest, darkest countryside where a signal feels like a far-off dream, but without sufficient power in your phone, you still won’t be able to reach anybody.
The capacity of a car battery reduces in efficiency by around 20% when temperatures reach freezing, with further drops leading to increasingly poor performance. Throw in the use of heaters to keep us warm while driving in the winter and you have a possibility of a battery that drains sharply and potentially gives up the ghost at the worst possible time. Keep a set of jumper cables handy and know how to use them just in case you need that extra spark of life to get your vehicle on the move again.
The sun tends to go down before many of us even leave work during the winter, and as a result up to two-thirds of the day will be spent in darkness - including a large amount of the time you spend behind the wheel. Should you need to pull over and inspect your wheels or under the bonnet, will you be able to see what you’re actually looking for? Always keep a torch handy – and plenty of spare batteries.
Water & Snacks
In the event of a breakdown or other emergency, you may be left waiting for assistance for a while – especially if adverse weather conditions are to blame. Roadside repair services typically aim to be with you within an hour, but in case it’s any longer you should be sure to keep plenty of dehydrated long-life snacks in your car, and a bottle of water – which could also be handy for car repairs.
If something goes wrong with your car, you may need to pull over and take a look and perform some emergency repair work, or at least be able to keep warm until someone else does. Will you be appropriately attired to do so if you only intended to nip out half an hour? Keep a thick winter coat, hat, gloves and suitable footwear in your car, in case you need to spend any prolonged period of time outside the vehicle in freezing temperatures
Blanket or Sleeping Bag
Similarly to the above, in some extreme situations, you may be left waiting for hours – or even overnight. You may have to switch off your car’s heating to conserve the battery of the vehicle, so make sure you have plenty of blankets in case things get dire, particularly as they don't take up much room lining the bottom of your boot.
Snow may not be a hugely common concern in the UK by comparison to other parts of the world, but as a result, we tend to be woefully unprepared for such conditions when they come. It doesn’t take much for a car to be trapped by such flurries, and you may have to clear a path. As a side note, it’s advisable to use tyres with a minimum tread depth of 3mm in the winter for this very reason.
Screen Wash & De-Icer
Keep a bottle of screen wash in your car throughout the winter – in extremely cold conditions; you usually won’t even need to dilute it with water. As you’re likely to be using your windscreen wipers considerably more during the cold and rainy seasons, you cannot afford to run the risk of the water contained within freezing up on your screen. Plenty of de-icer and a scraper are also essential, as it will not take long for frost to form on your windscreen.
First Aid Kit
Accidents will happen, and it’s always critical to keep a first aid kit handy to prevent the damage from escalating. The NHS provides a handy guide to what you should always keep in such a box, and such contents will help keep you, your family and perhaps even a stranger you meet along the way, safe in an unexpected situation.
Roadmap / A-Z
GPS and SatNav are amazing inventions that have revolutionised the way we travel, but like all technology, they are not infallible. Your map-reading software could be out of date, adverse weather could block the satellite signal that provides directions, or your device may be plunged into confusion by your usual route being closed due to a diversion. Keep a roadmap in your car just in case you need to plot a different route to your destination by hand.
Putting together a car emergency kit may seem over the top, but that small amount of forward thinking may be the difference between coping in a difficult situation, particularly in the Winter months. Even if you only implement a couple of these suggestions you'll be much more prepared for doing so.