13 Essential Tools and Gear for Your Winter Car Kit

It’s getting cold, let’s keep you from emulating British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

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13 Essential Tools and Gear for Your Winter Car Kit © 13 Essential Tools and Gear for Your Winter Car Kit

As the season turns from a brisk, beautifully multi-colored fall to the frosty snowmageddon embrace of winter, your car can quickly become a wheeled version of Antarctica’s McMurdo—locked in battle with arctic blasts and shape-shifting aliens

Yet, due to the absurd conclusion that we’d burn the house down, military-grade flamethrowers, unfortunately, aren’t featured in too many Black Friday deals or recommended to keep in your trunk for cleaning off your car’s windshield. Lame! Though our Kurt Russell cosplay remains thwarted by the so-called federal government, there are other items The Drive’s ice-bearded editors would recommend to keep in your car for when barometers fall sharply and E.T. ain’t the extraterrestrial knocking on your frozen car door.

To get you out of a snowbank, and to keep you from becoming the host to a spider-like Martian, we’ve put together a list of the 13 essential tools, gear, and car parts you absolutely need for when the winds howl, snow blankets the ground, and the green lights illuminate the horizon. 

“Now [we’re] gonna show you what [we] already know.” 

What You Need On or In Your Car

Get these!

Winter tires are a must.
The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more., Vredestein

Winter Tires

Winter tires are the most important piece of kit you could do for yourself and your ride. These aren’t all-season, nor four-season tires, winter tires are explicitly designed to deliver the most winter performance apart from studded rally tires. They won’t make you stop much faster, but a set like Vredestein’s Wintrac Pros or Bridgestone Blizzaks will give you far more traction to get up and get going, as well as make it around corners. Get a set! 

MaxTrax being used to extricate an Isuzu.
Don't get stuck again. , MAXTRAX


There are, however, incidents where even winter tires won’t get you unstuck. In those cases, you’ll want a set of MaxTrax, or MaxTrax-like, extraction devices. These are meant to slot ahead of your driven wheels and give you the traction to break free of your stuck snowy confines. In a pinch, kitty litter will also work, but MaxTrax is our go-to for the situation.

A tow strap.
Get you a good one., Depositphotos

Tow Strap

There are times when a tow truck isn’t available, either because you’re out in the sticks or due to a thousand other motorists being equally beached. At that point, you’re waiting and relying on the kindness of strangers, and for the latter to work, you’ll need a tow strap. Like most of this list, a tow strap, such as a Rhino USA recovery strap, doesn’t take up too much of your trunk space and is essential to getting you back on your way. 

A simple lighter.
A simple lighter., Jonathon Klein

A Lighter

Have an old car with—gasp—external physical door locks? And after a particularly rainy, cold night or ice storm, you’ve found your door locks frozen shut? Never fear, The Drive’s got the perfect hack: a lighter. Water can penetrate door locks in older cars and can seal the tumbler shut. By placing a lighter like a Zippo up against the keyhole and letting the flame sit on the metal tumbler for 30-45 seconds, the water will melt and you’ll be back in the car! Just don’t melt your paint...

A firefighter throwing a flare.
A firefighter throwing a flare. , AP Images

Road Flares

Road flares should be in every car, full stop. They’re brighter than the physical road caution signs, and can be used to flag down motorists for assistance. 

Wool socks.
Cozy., Depositphotos

Extra Frickin’ Socks

Uncle Jonathon has a quick tale for ye children, so gather ‘round: Once upon a time,  a friend got stuck in a snowbank. and Unenthused and unprepared, he had to get out of the car and help push while wearing ankle socks. The friend then had to humbly go to work with his feet soaking wet for the remainder of the day. Yuck.

An extra pair of wool winter socks from Carhartt or Realtree is beyond easy to just toss into the car and forget about until you absolutely need them. Do it and ensure your tootsies stay warm and cozy! 

Hand warmers slipping into a glove.
Hand warmers slipping into a glove., Depositphotos

Hand Warmers

Your fingers and hands control your car and keep you on the road, having them Encino Manned ain’t gonna help in that regard. Most hand warmers, such as HotHands, are little packets of chemicals that produce exothermic reactions, which safely heat up your hands. There are other electronic ones, too, that work like a heated steering wheel. Zippo also offers a refillable hand warmer.

The author
The author's own Danner Mountain 600 boots., Jonathon Klein


You may think you’re just going from your warm garage to your work’s warm garage, but what happens when everything goes FUBAR? Having a solid pair of winter boots with good insulation, such as the author’s favorite pair of Danner Mountain 600s, at the ready whenever you hop into the car is called good foresight. 

Survival of the fittest.
Survival of the fittest., Kosin

Kosin Survival Kit

Our friends at Task & Purpose heartily recommend the Kosin Survival Kit, saying, “If you’re looking for a small survival kit with a few roadside tools, the Kosin survival kit is the one to have. This kit sets itself apart with two screwdrivers and a steel multitool that combines a cutting edge, saw blade, can opener, bottle opener, ruler, and multiple wrench sizes. That’s in addition to tools you’ll need in remote environments like a wire saw, compass, thermal blanket, fire starter, and a pocket knife. Basic wound care items are also provided. The 18-piece kit comes in a hard plastic waterproof case. This is more durable, but less portable than other compact kits, so it’s best suited to vehicles.” The price is also hard to pass up.

An ice scraper doing it
Scrapey, scrapey., Depositphotos

Ice Scraper

I mean, come on. Just get one

Energizer Flashlight
Energizer Flashlight, Energizer


There’s always a use for a flashlight in your car. Whether that’s finding a lost pacifier for a screaming toddler, finding that lost french fry, searching for problems in your engine bay, or flagging down a helpful motorist, it’s always useful to have on hand. A flashlight, especially a powerful one such as this Energizer flashlight, is one of the most essential tools you can keep in your car. Do it, because your phone flashlight doesn’t count when your battery is never charged! To protect from failed batteries, find a flashlight that can recharge itself.

Swiss Safe 5-in-1 Safety Hammer
Swiss Safe 5-in-1 Safety Hammer, Swiss Safe

Swiss Safe 5-in-1 Safety Hammer

Car glass isn’t like your average house glass. It’s thicker, and if you’ve ever thrown something at it at a junkyard (who hasn’t?!), you know it’s far harder to break. Doing so requires a ton of effort when the situation arises, but it doesn’t have to. With a safety hammer or glass breaker tool such as the one by Swiss Safe, it takes all the effort out and only requires a light swing to shatter your impediment. 

Swiss Safe First Aid Kit
Swiss Safe First Aid Kit, Swiss Safe

Swiss Safe First Aid Kit

The road isn’t as dangerous as it was back in ye olden cowboy days, but there are still hazards and dangers. And, let’s be honest, accidents still occur on the regular. A first aid kit, such as this one by Swiss Safe, can be extremely important and could save you or your loved one’s life if anything ever should occur. 

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