How to survive a winter breakdown
Whether your intended route takes you over the mountains of Oregon or across the frigid, wind-swept plains of North Dakota, it's important to be prepared for a worst-case scenario, says William Van Tassel, manager of driver training programs for AAA.
"Preparedness starts with letting someone know where you are going and what route you intend to take," Van Tassel stresses. "Just like a pilot or someone headed into the wilderness. Then if you go missing, there's a starting point for a search."
Every driver heading out in the winter also should carry emergency supplies in the vehicle. The contents of that kit will vary depending on your driving habits. If you are frequently in the mountains or other remote areas, you should have a more complete kit. (Read "Be Prepared For Winter Driving" for a complete list of must-have supplies.)
Finally, pack some reading material. Even if you're only "stranded" on Interstate 70 waiting with a few thousand other cars for an accident or snow slide to be cleared, a book will help pass the time and keep you from becoming frustrated.
Remain in the vehicle
That's always rule No. 1 if you get stranded in an isolated location, Paul says: "Your vehicle provides shelter, and probably heat. The best thing to do is just sit tight and let rescuers come to you."
Don't try to dig out the car. "You could become exhausted shoveling in vain, have a heart attack or get injured," Van Tassel says. "And if you work so much that you sweat a lot, your damp clothing won't keep you warm."
You do, however, want to make sure the car's exhaust pipe is clear of snow, as a blocked pipe will cause toxic carbon monoxide to seep into the car's cabin as you run the engine to make heat. It's OK to run the engine for 10 to 15 minutes each hour to warm the car with the heater, but open the window a crack as protection against carbon monoxide poisoning, whether you've unblocked the tailpipe or not. If you follow another rule of winter travel, and never let the fuel level go below one-half, you'll have enough gas to keep the car warm for several days and the battery charged.
Also, bring your emergency gear into the passenger compartment with you, and if you have a cell phone and service, call 911 for help.
If you're in a remote location, try to keep the hood and roof of the vehicle clear of snow so that you'll be more visible to searchers. At night, the emergency flashers will make it easier to spot the vehicle, or leave the dome light on. It draws less battery current and illuminates the entire interior.
If you are stuck off the roadway, you might not be visible to passing searchers. In this case, try to walk back up to the road — but only if it is a short distance — and place a marker or flag of some sort that will let people know you and the vehicle are down the embankment, for example. Then get back to the shelter of the car.
Remain calm, read your book, and wait for the cavalry to arrive.
Veteran moto-journalist and Wisconsin-native Charles Plueddeman has been driving, riding and testing automobiles, motorcycles, boats, ATVs and snowmobiles for more than 20 years. He is a regular contributor to Boating Magazine and Outdoor Life, and his product evaluation articles have appeared in Popular Mechanics, Men's Journal, AutoWorld, Playboy, Boats.com and many other national publications and Web sites.
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as some one who has lived in remote mountains i ca n tell u this, dont forget
to keep a gun of some sort with you,not everyone who comes along is there
to help you, and u are obviously vulnerable in a stranded vehicle...people act
different when you are isolated,not everybody but some people.....
I am from a state that gets allot of snow and cold weather. First off, don't leave your car to walk back to safety. You have a better chance of rescue and survival staying put and with your vehicle(if you do leave stay on the road don't cross country or take shortcuts they are usually bad ideas, even worse ideas then leaving your vehicle).
The following is a list of a few things to keep in your car for these fun moments (this list by all means is NOT all inclusive but is a START feel free to add onto what I have forgotten): spare change of warm cloths(put wet cloths or rain gear on for work outside then change back to dry cloths when you get back into your car), a shovel (small enough to get under your car with, but bigger than a garden trowel), non perishable Food(preferably that does not need cooked), drinking water and small pan (you must put a small amount of water in the bottom of the pan before you attempt to melt snow over a fire or you potentially can ruin your pan), fire/ignition source for a fire (like earlier comment suggested burn your spare tire for heat and smoke signal) candles (they burn/last longer if cold so feel free to freeze them), gas from car or lighter fluid will be useful as well, flares (slow burning and a way to keep them higher than the accumulated snow), gun/firearm (not necessarily for hunting but to make noise with for rescue as after 1-2 days without water you will not be able to yell or make more than a hoarse whisper; if you don't like bullets bring blanks although bullets are multi-purpose, not much worse than seeing help but not able to communicate with them), mirror (for signaling), blankets (mylar/space blankets work best for warmth and visibility), basic medical kit and spare medications (not just for winter...), knife and a hatchet (for wood and cutting other things), string/rope and a tarp (for shelter, water collection, keeping dry, and many other uses), phone and charger, chains for tires (take them off before driving highway speeds or you will ruin your car), Basic tools and car necessities(electrical tape jumper cables pliers screwdrivers hammer etc.) Window defrost solution (beats having to scrape windshields, can defrost frozen doors, and is also flammable a great buy for $2-3) I know this list is missing quite a few items, but this is a start and will solve most minor issues. I often learn new things from replies so whether it is something i already know, or you think is obvious or not please feel free to reply or add onto the post.
If you find yourself getting frustrated or irrational a survival tip is to do something routine such as untying and tying your shoes or cleaning your gun as it helps your mind focus, brings in order clarity reason and logic and helps get back in touch with reality. (seriously this sounds odd but is proven and taught as a way to assist in getting/maintaining cognitive clarity in stressful situations)
Stay safe, be responsible, and try to prevent this type of situation through planning prevention and thinking ahead. Hope all of your travels are safe.
If we are actually planning a trip out into the wild we add to this. It all pretty much fits into a large rubbermaid tote. Conditions can change quickly up here and/or be very localized, so it is a good idea to always be prepared. We have a slightly modified kit for summer, leaving out the extreme cold weather gear, of course.
We always suggest everyone have something of this sort available, tailor it to your environment and your individual and family needs. And even if it doesn't go with you every day to work, if you're going more then 50 miles, you should take it, esp if there is a chance for the weather to turn.
Driving to visit my daughter studying in Ohio I missed the turn and found myself stuck on several inches of snow so, with the help of several highway workers, we tried and tried to move the car but to no avail....until I got an idea.
Instead of pushing the car that's floating on thick snow, I asked them to climb up the hood to increase the load so that the wheels can touch the hard surface of the road. It worked like a magic.