what you need in your winter car kit

Viewed from indoors beside a cozy fire, winter is only too welcome. When it's nipping at your heels (make that wheels), not so much. Here's what you need to keep winter at bay on the roads.

winter driving in canada

Thriving in harsh weather is a point of pride here in Canada (hey, a nickname like the "True North" doesn't happen by accident). This goes double for Canadian drivers. We see a number of nasty elements that would send most motorists scurrying for shelter — like the second-coldest average temperature of any country and seemingly endless layers of snow (over 100 cm annually in nearly every provincial capital).

Of course, a huge part of safe winter driving in Canada is preparing for those times you can't quite conquer the elements … without a little help. While you wait for spring's merciful arrival, we'll help you prepare your car for cold-weather emergencies.

a word about winter tires

While not technically part of your winter car kit, winter tires are essential to winter safety. Don't wait until you're knee-deep in snow to switch your summer tires over to winter. Many sources recommend switching to winter tires when the temperature regularly drops below 7 degrees Celsius, and few things are more alarming than realizing you don't have the traction you need on the road.

For more advice on tires for winter — and every season — check out our comprehensive tire-buying guide.

13 essentials in your car’s winter survival kit

If you find yourself in trouble on wintry roads, you'll be glad to have the following emergency items:

1. Windshield scraper

The only thing worse than getting up early to scrape off your windshield? Trying to drive without doing it. This simple tool can be a (literal) lifesaver, so make sure you're never without one.

2. Traction mats

Easier to use than tire chains — you lay them down and don't have to attach them to the tires — these are perfect for getting you out of that tricky spot when your tires just won't grip, or you've waited too long to put on winter tires.

3. Gloves

If your ride breaks down, at least you can keep your hands warm while waiting for the tow truck.

4. Shovel

Especially in urban areas like Calgary or Toronto with heavy street parking, you never know when you'll have to dig your car out of that overnight snowdrift.

5. Cat litter

Did you know this pebbly material creates some top-notch traction? Throw some down in front of your driveway or before a slippery hill if you're having trouble making that big surge.

6. Sleeping bag

You might think "blanket" when packing for winter drives, but the sleeping bag, by letting out less air, can conserve even more heat.

7. Food and water

Granola bars and bottled water make long-lasting choices to tuck away in your trunk.

8. Extra clothes and footwear

Getting stranded is no fun; getting stranded with wet shoes, socks, or pants is exponentially worse.

9. Candles and matches

You'll be thankful for both the light and heat these provide, especially if you get stuck at night. Look for brands that offer a "survival" style of candle, which usually provide the longest-lasting wick.

10. Road flares

You'll want to signal your presence to other drivers, especially if it's dark out.

11. Antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid

These 2 fluids can be key in harsh conditions, the former for keeping your car running in the bitter cold and the latter for maintaining visibility in heavy sleet.

12. Jumper cables

You can bypass the need for a tow truck altogether if a Good Samaritan stops and is willing to help jump start your dead battery.

13. First-aid supplies

Be ready to treat minor injuries if you have an accident.

auto insurance makes a wicked winter driving defence

Though it doesn't go in your winter car kit, your auto insurance is definitely one of your handiest tools in case inclement weather impacts your driving. Esurance has your back with some helpful options. For example, liability coverage can help you avoid expensive bills if, say, you skid on black ice and cause a fender bender. And with a loss of use endorsement, you can get help covering the cost of a rental car if your ice-covered coupe is in the shop.

Start your free quote today to customize a policy that fits you like a (heavily insulated) glove.