How To Survive In A Car When It’s Freezing Cold

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How To Survive In A Car When It's Freezing Cold
How To Survive In A Car When It’s Freezing Cold – Graphic © Background image: Pexels (PD)

While all 50 states of our country fall below freezing these days, recording abnormal temperatures, a lot of us struggle not to fall victims of the Polar Vortex that’s affecting us this year. I don’t know about you but this is about as cold as I can remember.

Some of us are coping with extremely cold weather and this got me thinking on cold-related survival topics, such as how to survive in a car if you’re on the road, trying to get somewhere. I’m sure most of us are staying or trying to stay safe in their warm houses and offices, waiting for the worst to be over, but the ones needing to head outdoors might call for some advice. You could, God forbid, get stuck in the middle of the freezing nowhere, you might get lost in the dead of winter, you could be the victim of an accident. There are plenty of cold-weather survival scenarios that could happen anytime…

Being prepared and knowing what to do can make a difference whether or not you make it through the night if you’re out there in your car, in this bone-chilling weather. A few tips and tricks:

#1: Dress appropriately before you go

Avoid tight-fitting clothing, wear several layers (with a wind-resistant outer layer), choose good quality materials – this will help with your blood circulation and the circulation of the warm air in your body. It’s the first measure to take to prevent hypothermia and frostbites (and don’t think of taking your jacket off just because you’re in your car where the heat is on, keep yourself warm at all times).

Also, if you’re wearing appropriate clothing, you won’t sweat, which means you won’t get dehydrated, which is extremely important if you’re trying to stay alive. Be sure you protect your extremities (nose, toes, ears and especially your head because most heat is lost through it). Also, take an extra set of clean and dry clothes with you, if by any chance they get wet. You need thick, warm socks, long underwear, ski mask, fleece or wool sweater.

#2: Make sure you’ve got your essentials

If you’re a prepper, you’ll surely have your BOB with you. For particular cold weather scenarios add some extra items to your survival basics. Your winter car survival kit should include:

• Blankets, sleeping bags or a space blanket (find out here how it works)

Flashlights with an extra set of batteries (they are much weaker in cold weather so you need more to keep fully charged)

• Ice scraper, a multi-purpose knife, and shovel

• An alternate heat source such as a multiple wick candle can heater

• Safety flares, a whistle or a fluorescent distress flag to signal help

• Plenty of water and food such as dry fruits, hard candy and candy bars, nuts, raisins – anything with high calories to stimulate your metabolism and produce body heat

• A metal container to melt ice or snow when you run out of water

• Something to read, a Sudoku to not fall asleep and to help remain mentally active – even reading the car’s manual or keeping track of the hours you’ve been stuck will help keep your mind aware

• Sand or road salt for traction

I assume there is no need to say your car must be winter ready before leaving (check everything: from brakes and oil to radiator) and you shouldn’t depart without a full fuel tank. Also, check road conditions and inform neighbors or family members who don’t leave with you where you are going, what route you’ll be taking, your expected arrival time so you’ll be easier to find. Check the Travel Information Map or call 511.

If you get stranded:

Turn off the engine or run it sparingly so you won’t waste gas you need. However, if the weather is extremely cold, run it continuously or it may not restart if shut off.

Stay with your car and abandon it only as a last resort. You may want to walk for help but the possibility to freeze to death is really high so do this only if you really have to.

Find a shelter – if you are not facing a situation where your car is completely stuck in snow, then try to get it near a building, even look for a ditch or tree, you will be less exposed to wind and freezing rain. Or at least position it so it faces into the wind.

As soon as you realize you’ll be stuck until the snowstorm or blizzard is over, move all your essentials from the trunk into your car to have them on hand.

Ration your water and food supplies and make sure all passengers get their share.

Call the authorities, a car towing company or anyone who can help you. Inform them precisely where you are so help won’t drive right past you if you are covered in snow and/or not visible.

Now here’s my ultimate advice for you guys: if you don’t really have a crucial reason for driving in this bone-chilling weather, DO NOT drive on long distances. However, if an emergency situation does happen, try to remember the information above. It will help you face a snow nightmare and survive. Stay safe.

By Alec Deacon

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5 thoughts on “How To Survive In A Car When It’s Freezing Cold

  1. One other thing I keep in my car is one of those long bicycle flags so if my car does get buried I can still be found.

  2. Know where you are. I don’t know about other states, but Texas highways (State, FM, and U.S.) have mile markers every 2 miles. Yes, really. There is a hwy number sign every 2 miles, alternating sides of the road. Below the number sign there is a white number on a green sticker. That number is the distance you are from the southern (on N-S hwys) and eastern (on E-W hwys) border. Don’t worry about which direction. Just report the highway number and the mile number when you need to.

  3. Dial 911. They can likely locate you via gps from the cell phone call. I work 911, and it’s very frustrating when someone calls a relative for help, and then the relative calls us. We can help much more efficiently if we have the 911 call coordinates, and can speak directly to the person in need.

  4. Two very important things you must know. Number one is to make sure the tail pipe on your car is not obstructed by snow if you will be running the engine at all for heat. Other wise the emmision will back up into the car. And number two, which most people don’t think about until they are desperate, is to have an empty number 10 can in the car and a roll of toilet paper. It is no fun to climb out of a cold car into a blizzard when you have to “go”.

    1. Be sure to leave the window cracked when using a candle or can heater, and someone be awake at all times to keep exhaust clear

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