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How to Survive in Your Car for 48 Hours

Being stranded in your car can be a scary experience. But if you’re prepared, you don’t need to worry. Follow these tips below to help you stay safe and find the help that you need in an emergency situation.

Don’t Abandon Your Car
Walking away from your car can be dangerous if you’re far from any city or town. Especially if you are caught in a storm, your car offers great shelter. Don’t abandon the car unless you know there is a city or help nearby.

If you get stuck on the side of the road, tie a fluorescent flag on your antenna or hang it outside of your window. If night comes before help arrives, use a flashlight or your car’s dome light. Try and have someone stay awake - or take shifts throughout the night - to ensure that if someone passes in a car, someone is awake to signal for help.

Call for Help
If you have a phone, use it. Try and describe your location as precisely as possible. Where were you driving from? Where are you going? What road are you on? What landmarks do you see nearby? All of this information will help them locate you if you need help.

- Which emergency radio works best for your family?-

Don’t Use Gas All at Once
Run the engine periodically to run the heater for warmth. But even with a full tank, you’d be surprised at how fast the car can run to empty. Don’t run your vehicle for longer than 20 minutes at a time. If you’re stuck in the cold, run the heat on high as possible when the engine is on. Try to go as long as you can between intervals of turning the engine on. Also, be sure that your exhaust isn’t covered while you’re idling.

Go Crazy on the Horn
Your horn and lights are a great way to signal where you are and that you need help. However, your car battery can only go so long before it loses all of its juice. Remember that while the car is idling you can use the horn and lights as much as possible. While the engine is idling, the battery isn’t in use and the engine is powering the lights and horn.

Don’t Drive with an Empty Car
Your car can be a great asset if you use it correctly. So, why not start with the upper hand and add some emergency items to your car? You should have a supply of water and food to help you in a time of need. Also prepare wisely with jumper cables, a flashlight, emergency radio, etc.

- What should you put in your Auto Emergency Kit? -

If you’re stuck in your car during the summer, you will need to stay hydrated and make sure you are drinking water. Even during a winter snowstorm, you’d be surprised at how quickly your body can lose water. Pack water in your auto emergency kit. Especially if you are going to be in your car for 48 hours, you'll need to have food and water.

Try and insulate your heat as much as possible during a winter storm. The metal parts of your car are going to make it a little harder to insulate your vehicle but try and use blankets, floor mats or any part of the car to try and insulate your body heat.

Avoid Overexertion
Shoveling snow or pushing your car can take a lot of effort in a storm. Don’t risk an injury. Besides a risk of injury, the exertion will make you hot and sweaty. Wet clothes lose insulation value and make your more susceptible to hypothermia. Instead, try and do light exercises in your vehicle - stretching your arms and legs from time to time.

Your Plans
So, what plans do you have in place for your vehicle’s emergency kit? Comment below sharing what items are most helpful for you and your family.

37 thoughts on “How to Survive in Your Car for 48 Hours”

  • bre

    I always keep: rain jackets, pants and boots for each of us, jumper cables, crank flashlight, winter coats, first aid kit, emergency food bars, water, a change of clothes, stainless steel water bottles, fire starter and striker, sterno, emergency heater candles and a couple items to stay busy like word puzzles, books, pen/paper. Pretty much what we would need to get us through a small situation. We all wear paracord bracelets and analog watches. I am a mom and will do what it takes to keep my kiddo safe if we break down in a storm in the mountains or such. I also legally and aptly conceal carry a small handgun.

  • Maria Stahl

    Good advice. I plan to print it out for the glove box.

  • Chuck

    I commute 35 miles each way and even though most of it is on the highway I still keep a backpack full of supplies in the car. The Michigan snow can come out of no where and pile up quickly making the roads (and other drivers) dangerous. Although I would rather not spend the night in a snow bank I am prepared to do so.

    Along with food items, water purification, and the common choices like a radio and flashlight I keep a folding shovel, wire saw, and a heavy tow strap. I have stopped to help people several times when all they needed was someone to pull their car back a little but they did not have a strap with which to do it. If someone comes to help, having the strap may mean getting out quickly and waiting for a while.


  • Denny

    I've got a small fire start kit, first aid kit, sterno, AL water bottle, energy bars, foods like individual peanut butter, mountain house meal, gatorade packetss, heavy wool socks, 6v light, headlamp, several cheap orange and yellow ponchos, extreme cold weather sleeping bag and my Gortex/ thinsulate hunting boots. Additionally, I always have my heavy polar fleece and Gortex parka along with a few pair of gloves. Since I travel for work I also always have my weeks clothes with me so plenty of extra I could layer on id needed. Also car stuff like jumper cables, fuze-ee, tow strap, small shovel, basic small tool kit. I try to keep 2 - 1L bottles of water in there but like right now with 18 degree temps, they are frozen hard as a rock.

  • Albie

    Carry long lasting candles with fireproof matches in a metal canister. Walmart sells them for a few dollars. Candles can provide heat to keep you warm or melt snow for drinking water and light. There are many websites that provide a list of inexpensive, lightweight, small but valuable emergency items just google emergency preparedness.

  • Eileen

    One question.. We moved to Michigan and having grown up in the Midwest I know to be prepared.

    As to water, will the bottled water freeze and burst open if left in the car? This is a matter of great debate in our house!

  • Buzz

    Good, basic information though a little on the vague side and quite dis-joined from the title. I enjoy most of your articles but I have to comment that this isn't your best writing. It seems like a quick effort to put something in text to meat a posting deadline.

  • Stepcof

    How about toilet paper and perhaps one of those handy foldable toilets? 48hrs is a long time to hold it. :)

  • Katherine

    Thank you so much. I love your blogs! Eileen, I always have bottled water in my car. It does freeze, but I have never had any burst open. Works great!

  • Allen

    Here's a couple of tips for fire starting. I carry a couple of tampons in my kit (fluff them up and they're great for getting your kindling started. I also carry a gallon size zip-lock bag stuffed with birch bark. The high oil content of thebark will even get damp kindling started. Oh, and don't worry about the bark getting wet, just squeeze out the excess water and they still will ignite

  • Mr. Prepper


  • Gary Shade

    You can melt snow for water. DO NOT eat snow! It lowers your body temperature. Bottle water will likely freeze so you need to know how to make a fire.

    Know how to make a fire without matches! Very important if you want to stay warm and keep animals away.

    Have a bright blaze orange rain parka (get them almost anywhere) and attach it to your antenna. Rescue personnel just might see it.

    Carry some granola bars in your backpack, briefcase or purse.

    I carry LifeStraw in my pack for water, fire starting tools, my Ham Radio (walkie Talkie), a small SW radio, granola bars and more. I call my back pack my "fight my way back home pack".

  • Mary Duval

    Either I missed it or no one mentioned always keeping your gas tank filled up. When I lived in NY State for 40+ years I never let my tank get below half. Now I'm in Texas BUT, with all that is going on in this country now, I fill up when the tank is down just 1/4. I have a hybrid which helps but I am careful to watch the gas gauge and fill up frequently. The extra effort may someday prove to be a valuable thing.

  • susan a. thomas
    susan a. thomas February 5, 2013 at 1:49 am

    love all the comments and help plan to print out some of this and get supplies too. thanks to every ones input..

  • Marcus

    I'm going to print this out and put this in my glove box. Thanks!

  • JohnM

    If you fill a plastic water bottle (or 2) about 3/4 full and gently squeeze it before capping it the water/ice will have expansion room. If you get in the habit of putting those bottles on your dash as you do your winter driving the heater will defrost them. If you get stuck keep them close to your body and they won't refreeze.

  • Brenda Jensen

    I enjoyed your article and have loved reading the comments. An emergency car kit is a must. I have not put water in my car because of the freezing factor. We get really cold in the winter. Now I'm going to and only fill them 3/4 full. Great ideas John M. Thanks!

  • Rich Taber

    Living in the brutal winter climate of Upstate New York I have often wondered how do you keep water from freezng in your car if you stock it with supplies?

  • Craig

    I think these are lots of great ideas. Some of the emergency water packs claim to be "freeze-free" though I haven't tested them. I keep plastic bottle of water from the store in my truck and though they do freeze, typically this just pushes out the bottom indentation. Sure, the bottles won't stand upright well, but they don't burst open. I would also add road flares to the list...I keep a sealed plastic container of them (mostly because they have an odor) in my kit. These are great for signaling and for fire starting if needed. I also throw my bug-out bag in there all the time with some MREs since energy bars alone can get old and ony need a little water to have a hot meal. Don't forget wool blankets...they keep you warm even if a little damp. Sorry for the long post, my wife does say I get wordy sometimes.

  • Matt

    I keep a machete, a canister full of petrolium infused cotton balls, a magnesium stick and striker, two days worth of food, a sleeping bag and survival blanket/tarp and a gallon of water in individual bottles. I travel 50 miles one way for work and refuse to be a victim to the elements, love my family to much to leave them

  • Rod

    Living on the Wasatch Front and the earthquake fault line, I have both of my vehicles prepared for a bug-out event of 30 day supplies and longer if I get the chance to get to my hunting guns. If there is a massive quake there will only be 1 emergency personal for every one thousand people so no use in sticking around. I have found that reusing items make huge savings in a prepper’s budget such as:
    Metamucil plastic jars are strong and have heavy lids for building mini survival kits such as:
    Half rolls of toilet tissue/fire starter
    Butane cigarette lighters
    Waterproof matches
    Container /metal/boiling/water
    Food 2 Cases Auto's
    Food/Freeze Dried House
    Dog Food 1 ea Auto's
    Dog Food 1 ea Auto's
    Batteries Cell phone 1 Auto
    Batteries AAA 1 pkg Auto
    Batteries AA 1 pkg Auto
    Batteries C 1 pkg Auto
    Batteries D 1 pkg Auto
    Batteries 9V 1 pkg Auto
    Batteries 6V 1 pkg Auto
    Battery Back Up 12 Volt 1 Auto
    Blankets Emergency 1 Auto
    Blankets Regular Wool 1 Auto
    Can Opener 1 Auto
    Candles 1 pkg Auto
    Emergency Contact Info 1 Auto
    First Aid Kit Items Large 1 Auto
    Antiseptic Soap Auto
    Cleaning Agent (Soap) 1 pkg Auto's
    Cotton Balls 1 pkg Auto's
    First-aid Manual 1 ea Auto's
    Hand Sanitizer 1 ea Auto's
    Compass Auto's & Home
    Cell Phone Chargers AC/DC & Solar Auto's & Home
    Cooking Fuel 1 ea Auto's & Home
    Cooking Pot 1 ea Auto's & Home
    Cooking Pot Kelly Kettle 1ea Auto's
    Day Packs 1 ea Auto's
    Duct Tape Rolls 3 ea Auto's & Home
    Flashlights HeadLamp 1 ea Auto's
    Flashlights AA Auto's
    Flashlights C Auto's
    Flashlights D 1 ea Auto's
    Good Shoes 2 ea Auto's
    Gun & Ammo 2 ea Grab Bag
    Hunting 24 Hour Day Pack 1 ea Auto's
    Jumper Cables 1 ea Auto's
    Knifes 3 ea Auto's
    Leatherman, Knife/Tool 1 ea Auto's
    Lighters / Propane 1 pk Auto's
    Lantern 1 ea Auto's
    Matches 1 pk Auto's
    Maps 1 ea Auto's
    Mess Kit 1 ea Auto's
    Motor Oil 1 ea Auto's
    Mouthwash & Toothpaste 1 ea Auto's
    Note Pad & Pencils 1 ea Auto's
    Poncho's 1 ea Auto's
    Pot Coffee 1 ea Auto's
    Portable Water Carriers 1 ea Auto's
    Radio Weather 1 ea Auto's
    Radio, Two Way & CB 1 ea Auto's
    Rope 2 ea Auto's
    Sanitation Bucket & Supplies
    Saw 1 ea Auto's
    Signaling Items 1 ea
    Shovel 1 ea
    Short Wave Radio 1 ea Auto's
    Snow Chains 1 ea
    Sizzor 1 ea Auto's
    Stove Propane 1 ea Auto's
    Steel Wool 2 ea Auto's
    Tape Electrical 3 ea Auto's
    Tarp 1 ea Auto's
    Tent and Rope 1 ea Auto's
    Tools 1 ea Auto's
    Toilet Paper 1 ea Auto's
    Toiletries 1 ea Auto's
    Tow Strap 1 ea Auto's
    Water Purification Tablets 1 ea Auto's
    Water Storage Containers 1 ea Auto's
    Water Proof Matches 1 ea Auto's
    Whistle 1 ea Auto's
    Wipes Disinfecting 1 ea Auto's
    Wipes Baby 1 ea Auto's
    Wire 1 ea roll Auto's & Home
    Zip Ties 1 ea Auto's

  • Patricia Emergency Supplies
    Patricia Emergency Supplies February 18, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    All very great advice. I know growing up in the midwest, my parents always stressed the importance of being prepared,especially in the winter. I always make sure to carry warm blankets, gloves, scarves and boots. Don't forget the importance of body heat. If you are stranded out in a cold vehicle, cuddle up. If you need to, take off your shoes and sit on each others feet. Anything for body heat. Always be prepared and expect the unexpected.

  • Vic

    The Preppers List by Rod is a great one. I would add:
    local maps (& with street break downs)
    Light stick w/red flashing (200 hrs)
    medicine that you require
    lotion/face cream/chap stick
    Cold Weather Leggings
    Cold Weather Face mask
    Cold Weather Hat
    Cold Weather Goggles
    Crow bar (in case you need to help someone out)
    Working Gloves (4 emergencies, protect your hands)
    Face Mask (for viruses or cold weather)
    Gas/Chemical mask (helps w/smoke or other things)
    Warm heater patches for: Toes/Hands/Back
    100 hr liquid candles
    clay or porclien flat brick (to put sm cook
    heater on in car-if needed)
    Cooking utincils, & Fork/Spoon/Hunting knife
    Window hammer/with seat belt cutter
    Anti-freeze (in case of leak)
    Emegency light sticks (8 to 12 hr)
    Plastic bowl (for cleaning, cooking, carrying)
    Gas can (with at least 5 gals gas)
    Cards, writing tablet, pen/pencils
    Colored vinyle tape roll (for marking)

  • Dave

    Most of these comments focus on winter survival. Staying by your car in the heat of summer is a good idea as well, since searchers will find it more easily. Use your folding shovel or a hubcap to dig a shelter trench lengthwise under your vehicle starting from the back, to provide some shade from the heat.

  • Gunner

    Remember also that a burning spare tire does make a lot of signal smoke and provide some heat and light no matter what the season if you are really stranded in a lonely place. Just another reason to have several means of starting a fire on hand.

  • Beano

    Reading all of these comments I decided to tow my house behind me. SOLVES EVERYTHING!

  • Jason

    ALWAYS keep in mind when stranded in a car, especially in winter, is to make sure the tail pipe is unobstructed by snow, mud, etc, to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in the event you run your car for heat, etc. it wouldn't hurt to crack the windows too.

  • Irish-7

    First, I want to thank Rod for sharing his elaborate list. I also believe in being prepared and subscribe to the theory "It is better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it". I keep a Bug Out Bag (mainly high calorie food and warm clothing) plus a Survival Backpack (mostly camping items) in my vehicle at all times. They take up considerable space, but I don't care. I keep a few firearms, .22 rifle and .45LC/.410GA rifle/shotgun . In my area, it is perfectly legal. I think if you travel frequently that your vehicle should store a few basic emergency supplies. At a minimum, I would say bottled water, high energy foods like granola bars, fruit snacks or life raft cookies and toilet paper/baby wipes. Also, a plastic or canvas tarp to make a shelter, or a few military ponchos (they snap together), a multi-tool, folding saw or hatchet, small shovel, Space Blanket & All Weather or wool blanket per occupant, a decent first aid kit and basic tool set. You should have the means to make fire, lighters, matches, flint/striker. It is cheaper to build your auto kit, but there are pre-made auto emergency packages available from many vendors.

  • Peggy Selden


  • Harold

    If you have a GPS, it will provide your exact coordinates for reporting by cell phone if you are in an unfamiliar area.

  • Janet

    a candle in a coffee can can keep you warm for hours

  • Jim Stachowiak

    Along with supply's to last 3 Days, I just got a Delorme "In Reach" Its a GPS , Satellite Texting ,SOS Beacon all in one .Very cool

  • Kirsten

    We just moved from Earthquake prone Vancouver Island to Colorado. I already had the under-storage of my van packed with a backpack of food and water, light sticks, first aid, spare clothes, ponchos, solar blankets, matches, utility knives, work gloves, and vehicle break-down stuff including tire chains.

    In Colorado I've included spare winter gear, a wool blanket and a shovel.

    I'm curious to read through the comments to see if I need to add anything else. Thanks for keeping me on my toes.

  • Don

    Carry a roll of aluminum foil and duct tape to cover the windows and reflect your body heat.

  • Tanya Sheehan

    when I was younger we went on a trail in the mountains that the jeep couldn't make it out of. We were stuck and scared. It was my parents and me (8) and my sister (5). My parents had brought a GIANT costco peanut butter for our crackers. Before we were stuck the other trail riders were making fun of the size of the container. But they weren't laughing when both vehicals got stuck and thats all we had to eat for 2 days. At night my sister and I slept in the seat covers and my parents would occasionally run the jeep to run the heater. They tried siganling planes with flashlights but it didn't help. Eventually we rebuilt the road enough with rocks in two sections that the jeep could make it back up.

  • Trish

    I haven't seen this mentioned... maybe everyone know it already... I've learned that feminine pads are very good for bandages. You can also use them for a makeshift potty by putting them in the bottom of a sturdy plastic bag or coffee can. They are clean (for bandages) and will hold a lot of liquid. (Either) I would imagine if you ripped them open, parts of them would be good for starting a fire too... like tampons.

  • Medcom

    I also live in Michigan and have what I call my water kit.I keep 4 half ltr bottles of water in an insulated cooler just big enough for the the water bottles and 8 of the large disposable heat packs with the adhesive backing.When needed you just stick 2 heat pack to a bottle and put it back in the cooler (leave the other bottles out)in about 30-45 minutes the the ice will have melted into drinking water.since the heat packs last approx 12 hrs you can either melt more ice or place the packs inside your coat at the arm pits(Brachial Artery) or center of chest over heart.

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