Autosavant’s Recommended Winter Driving Accessories
By Chris Haak
Earlier this week, I was contacted by an editor at Woman’s World magazine for input into a feature that they’re working on called “You Deserve the Best.” She asked for my input on what the best car winterizing tools would be, and rather than making my readers wait until January 6 to see a portion of my opinion (and sparing our predominantly male readership from having to buy a magazine called Woman’s World at the grocery store checkout line, I thought I’d share the thoughts in advance.
I was asked about specific categories of winter driving accessories, and I probably have a different set of preferences than would a typical WW reader. But since she asked, I’ll share.
The best scraper (like a warm and cozy type with a built in glove…a heated version, or…)
I’ve been annoyed and frustrated by cheap scrapers and snow brushes for most of my adult life. But last year, I had the opportunity to test the OXO Good Grips Extendable Twister Snow Brush, and it was the best snow brush that I’ve ever used. I got one for free from OXO to review, but I plan on buying a second for our other car for this winter. $17.99 from OXO’s website.
The best flashlight
You can’t go wrong with a Mini Maglite. They’re extremely well-built and reliable (the body is a solid piece of aircraft aluminum), and it’s the one that I trust enough to keep in my wife’s minivan. The best of the best is the Mini Maglite LED flashlight, which skips the traditional incandescent bulb in favor of an LED beam. Not only do LEDs never burn out, but they also have a whiter light and superior battery life. $19.99 from Amazon.com.
The best mini-shovel
I struggle a bit with this one, because I’ve not yet found one that I particularly care for. Unfortunately, it appears that the industrial design aces at OXO haven’t yet broadened their product line to include these, so there’s not one in particular that I recommend.
The best emergency kit
My wife carries an Eddie Bauer survival kit in a bottle in her vehicle, but that’s not necessarily the best of the best. For that, I’d recommend something more comprehensive such as Eddie Bauer’s $69 Car Emergency Kit. It has an air compressor, tow cable, jumper cables, tools, flashlight, and its own polyester bag. Of course, a cheaper alternative is to just put together your own kit with most of the items in the Eddie Bauer one. Just watch out for cheap jumper cables – they tend to not have thick enough wires, and often don’t transfer enough power to the dead vehicle in order to get it running.
The best travel blanket
My family tends to keep a mylar “space blanket” tucked into an unused cubby in the family truckster, but for me, you can’t beat the warmth and comfort of a cotton quilted blanket. We have one that spends most of its time in our van’s cargo area, but is often called to serve as an impromptu beach blanket, picnic table, or cozy source of warmth on a cold day riding in the wagon. Making this one even more special for us is that it was hand-made by a friend on the occasion of our first child’s birth. When I was growing up, my parents kept a wool army surplus blanket in the back of their Suburban. Wool, of course, stays warm even when it’s wet, but has the disadvantage of not being particularly cuddly. Choose whichever material you feel is most appropriate for your situation.
They didn’t ask, but…
Another often-overlooked tool for effective winter travel is a good set of snow tires. Even in a front wheel drive or all wheel drive car, snow tires literally are the difference between night and day in terms of how well they allow the vehicle to accelerate, brake, and steer in poor road conditions. Having survived a blizzard or two last winter in press cars fitted with snow tires, I became a believer.
Even if you don’t buy a set of snow tires (and always get all four, not just for the wheels that are powering the car), it’s important to check your tire pressure for fuel economy reasons as the weather turns colder. Even without any kind of leak, tires will show a lower pressure reading in cold weather than they do in hot weather, so they probably will all need a top-off of air.
Did I miss the boat on any of these? Do you have any other winter driving accessories that you’d recommend over what I mentioned? Please tell us in the comments section below.
Note: we receive no compensation from Woman’s World for giving our opinions, and have no marketing or other relationship with any of the companies mentioned in the above article. OXO did give us a free snow brush, which we kept. If it sucked, I would have thrown it away.