Ask a Trooper: What things should I keep in a car in winter?

Published 9:21 am Thursday, January 12, 2017

Ask a Trooper by Troy Christianson

Troy Christianson is a sergeant with the Minnesota State Patrol.

Troy Christianson

Troy Christianson

Question: What items should I have in my vehicle during this extreme cold weather? What is the proper procedure if I become stranded and/or go off the road?

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Answer: With the recent below zero temperatures, being prepared with an emergency kit and plan can save your life.

We recommend the following items be in your vehicle, especially in the winter:

• Bag of abrasive material (sand, salt, cat litter) or traction mats

• Snow shovel

• Flashlight with extra batteries

• Window washer solvent

• Ice scraper with brush

• Cloth or roll of paper towels

• Jumper cables

• Tow chain or rope

• Extra warm clothing (gloves, hats, scarves)

• Blankets

• Warning devices (flares or triangles)

• Drinking water

• Non-perishable snacks for both human and pet passengers

• First-aid kit

• Basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench)

• Mobile phone and car charger pre-programmed with rescue apps and important phone numbers including family and emergency services

If stranded, stay in the vehicle and call 911. Provide the dispatcher with the following information:

• Problem you’re experiencing

• Your location (Get in the habit of looking for mile markers and cross streets/roadways)

• Any injuries to yourself or passengers

• Preferred tow company, otherwise the closest approved tow company will be dispatched

At night, keep your dome light on and activate the vehicle’s emergency flashers.

Be aware that snow can plug your vehicle’s exhaust system and cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to enter your car so make sure the exhaust pipe is free of snow and keep a window slightly open while the engine is running.

Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained and that you have at least a half of a tank of fuel.

Slow down and use winter driving skills to avoid crashing or going off the road.

You can avoid a ticket — and a crash — if you simply buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention and of course, drive sober.  Help us drive Minnesota toward zero deaths.

If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Trooper Troy Christianson, Minnesota State Patrol, at 2900 48th St. NW, Rochester,  MN 55901-5848; or reach him at