January 22, 2019 2:31 pm

Kitty litter and pocket knives: Tips to survive winter weather when stranded in your car

ABOVE: How to prepare your car for winter driving.


Plunging temperatures, heavy snow and brutally cold winds are slamming many parts of Canada, meaning highways and roads are that much harder to navigate.

Drivers taking to the roads during this blustery weather should always be prepared with an emergency kit and warm clothing, CAA Southern Ontario spokesperson Kaitlynn Furse, said.

READ MORE: OPP responds to over 350 snow-related crashes in the GTA over the weekend

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This includes packing an extra pair of winter boots, wool socks, mitts, heat packs, toque and blankets. And of course, extra water and food.

“People want to be able to keep themselves warm for at least half an hour while waiting for help to come,” Furse said.

She added that when calling for help, you always want to make sure your vehicle is fully pulled over to the side of the road and out of harm’s way (as well as there being a visible light for a tow truck to see you).

And then there are the tips that some Canadians may not be aware of. Here are a few winter hacks:

Sand or kitty litter

Sand or kitty litter can be used as traction for emergency traction if your car tires are stuck. And the cat litter has an added bonus; if you put it in a tied-off sock on the dashboard, it can suck in the moisture and help prevent condensation on your windshield.

Newspaper and duct tape

If you have extra newspaper hanging around your home, stash it in your car. If you’re stuck on the road, you can insulate your vehicle’s window, which helps trap in heat and acts as a barrier against the wind.

You can also use duct tape, and tape the newspaper or trash bags around the windows to seal off any cracks.

Small shovel

A compact metal shovel can help you get to dig out your car. This is especially helpful if a tow truck needs to pull you out.

“Snow has to be removed from around the vehicle,” Furse said. “If there is a lot of snow around, it will be very difficult for the tow truck to help.”

And of course, always clear the snow around your exhaust pipe and check that it isn’t clogged with snow or ice to ensure that carbon monoxide does not seep into the car.

WATCH: Montrealers dig out after winter storm

Crank-power emergency radio

A crank-power emergency radio will help you keep up with road conditions and you do not have to worry about batteries dying on you.


According to Canada’s department of public safety, you should have candles and waterproof matches in a deep can stored in your car. This can be a way to supplement your flashlight and provide extra lighting as well as giving off a small source of heat.

You can also use the candles to boil snow and use that as a drinking source.

Pocket knife with a can opener

Packing a pocket knife can be useful in many ways. It can be used as a seatbelt cutter (if needed after a crash) and a handy way to cut cloth from your seats, floorboard or roof. This material can be used to wrap around yourself as extra insulation.

READ MORE: 5 things to remember when driving in winter conditions

If you have a pocket knife with a can opener, it’s an extra bonus if you have canned food stored in your car.

Cellphone charger

A cellphone can be a lifeline if you are stranded in your car, so it’s a good rule to keep a spare charger in your survival kit just in case.

Notepad and pen

A notepad and pen can be used just in case you need to leave a note, or to take note of any landmarks for you if you are on the phone with a dispatcher.

The most important tool

According to CAA, the most important to help you survive winter driving risks is, of course, to be prepared.

“Ninety per cent of outcalls are actually related to maintenance issues, like forgetting keys in the car, running out of gas or battery failure,” Furse said.

“We recommend getting regular maintenance in the fall and the spring to check your battery and make sure your oil is topped off. This can make a huge difference.”

WATCH: CAA driver shows 3 quick tips to avoid a dead battery in winter

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