December 9

Don’t Let Winter Scare You – Make A Winter Emergency Kit!

The Reno winter is here, and if you’re planning on driving through it, you’ll want to be prepared for potential problems. At SAS Automotive in Reno, we know how it happens. You’re just running out for a few groceries, or traveling the same route day after day – you don’t really think about the danger. But winter driving can be unexpectedly challenging – just this past January, hundreds of drivers were stranded overnight on I-95 in Virginia due to fog and ice. Every year there are fatalities and hospitalizations due to hypothermia, which can begin in as little as 15 or 20 minutes when you’re in a stalled-out car. But a little forethought and a Winter Emergency Kit can help you survive even the most frightening stranding scenario. Now is a good time to make sure that you and your car are well-equipped.

What Does Your Car Need for a Winter Emergency Kit?

First, think about what your car requires in cold weather. The fender-bender or flat that’s an annoying inconvenience at other times can be a huge problem in winter. Make sure you have the following stored in your vehicle:

    • A tire gauge, so you can keep track of tire pressure – it can change more quickly in the cold.

    • A paper map, in case you lose a data connection. If you’re traveling into the wilds, add a compass – and know how to use it!

    • A decent spare tire, and a jack.

    • Keep your gas tank full! Winter is a bad time to take chances with fuel levels.

    • Have a basic tool kit – a good idea in any weather!

If you’re planning a trip any time – but particularly in the winter – our mechanics at SAS Automotive will be happy to inspect your vehicle ahead of time to ensure that it’s in good condition for travel.

What Do YOU Need?

Now that your car is as well-supplied as it can be, think about your own needs. What will you require if you or a family member has to spend the night, or several hours, in a cold car? Obviously, your first concern is staying warm enough. You cannot rely on being able to run your car’s heater to stay warm – you may need to be able to drive away if you’re stuck and can be pulled out, but more importantly, YOU CANNOT RUN YOUR CAR’S ENGINE IF YOUR TAILPIPE IS NOT ENTIRELY CLEAR! A blocked tailpipe can cause odorless, colorless and deadly carbon monoxide to back up into the passenger compartment within two minutes. The same applies if your car’s exhaust system is damaged by a slide onto ice or heavy snow. If you are in ANY doubt about your exhaust system, don’t run your car’s engine.

Here are the items you ought to carry in your Winter Emergency Kit:

    • Warm coats, boots, and hats for everyone on board

    • Extra hats, socks and blankets – emergency reflective blankets pack small and work well

    • A gallon of water per person

    • High-calorie, energy snacks – nuts, candy bars, etc.

    • A decent first aid kit

    • A day’s worth of  medication, if anyone traveling with you requires it

    • A shovel, and a bag of sand, kitty litter, or road salt to put under your wheels for added traction. (Note that you can also place car floor mats under your wheels for the same effect)

    • A basic road assistance kit that should include flares, a battery-operated LED marker you can place outside your car, and a reflective vest

    • Tea light candles (for warmth)

    • Chemical hand & body warmers

    • Sleeping bags

    • A good flashlight and extra batteries

If you do get stranded, keep your cool – and your heat! Huddle together to retain heat, run your engine for ten minutes every hour (if you KNOW you don’t have exhaust issues), and periodically stretch your arms and legs and wiggle your fingers and toes to keep circulation going. If you have elderly people or children in the car, remember that they can be more susceptible to hypothermia. With a little effort up front, you’ll have everything you need on board to either get safely unstuck or, if necessary, survive in your car until help arrives. Save yourself the worry, and be prepared!
Make sure your car is prepared for winter too! Check out our blog posts, “Is Your Volvo Ready for Winter?” and “Your BMW Repair Guide to Winter Pre Maintenance,” for more information, or call your auto experts at SAS Automotive Repair in Reno. We’ll make sure your auto and you are as ready as you can be for the Nevada winter!


Reno winter, winter driving, Winter Emergency Kit, winter maintenance

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