Personal Finance

Winterize your car on a budget with this road kit

Winterizing your vehicle is an essential part of car ownership, especially as winter storms become more likely. But you don’t need to spend a ton of money to ensure you’re prepared. Instead of purchasing items like windshield wiper covers, ice scrapers, de-icer and pricey emergency kits, get a little creative with things you have on hand in your home already.

Grab an extra plastic tub or unused duffel bag from the closet and make your own winter road kit:

▪ A powerful flashlight. And extra batteries for it.

▪ Kitty litter. Even if you don’t have cats, this can get you out of slippery situations.

▪ Extra washer fluid.

▪ Blankets, hats and gloves. Also consider throwing in an extra pair of large socks to wear over your shoes if you ever have to get out and push.

▪ Bottles of water.

▪ Nonperishable snacks like trail mix.

▪ Road flares and glow sticks.

▪ A basic first aid kit.

▪ Booster cables. Better yet, a cordless jump-starter kit that you can use without asking for help.

▪ Stuff your kids might need, liked diapers, wipes and rescue inhalers.

Be sure your preparations include gathering the information you’ll need if something happens. Program emergency numbers into your phones so that you don’t have to scramble under pressure. Do you know what to do if you need roadside assistance? Is it included in your insurance coverage? Keep all necessary policies handy so you know exactly where they are when you need them.

Those items are great in case of an emergency, but what about everyday winter annoyances? Try these tips:

▪ Keep a clean chalkboard eraser in your car for cleaning fogged windows.

▪ Prevent your car from fogging up in the first place by putting a sock of kitty litter inside to absorb extra moisture.

▪ Keep socks in the car and put them over your windshield wipers if snow is in the forecast.

▪ Defrost your car handles and locks with hand sanitizer – the alcohol melts the ice.

▪ If your headlights are dull, clean them with toothpaste for a cheap clarifying effect.

▪ Instead of going to the car wash, run a lawn sprinkler under your car on warmer winter days to keep the undercarriage free of damaging dirt, salt and ice.

Depending on where you live and whether you have to park outside overnight, you might want to invest in a windshield snow cover. It’ll save you aggravation, and you might even get to work on time.

Vehicle maintenance can also spare you from having to deal with a flat tire on the side of the road; you definitely don’t want to be there when it is snowy outside. We always make sure our tires are in good condition for that reason alone. In general, making sure your car is well maintained, with quality tires and fluids topped off, is the best way to keep your winter travel hassles to a minimum.

Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars & Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little ones, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click or visit