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ASK A TROOPER: What should I have in car for cold weather

ASK A TROOPER: What should I have in car for cold weather

From the COLLECTION: Ask a Trooper series
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Sgt. Troy Christianson mug

Sgt. Troy Christianson of the Minnesota State Patrol

Question: What items should I have in my vehicle during this extreme cold weather? What is the proper procedure if I become stranded and/or go off the road?

Answer: With the recent below zero temperatures, being prepared with an emergency kit and plan can save your life.

We recommend the following items be in your vehicle, especially in the winter:

  • Bag of abrasive material (sand, salt, cat litter) or traction mats
  • Snow shovel
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Window washer solvent
  • Ice scraper with brush
  • Cloth or roll of paper towels
  • Jumper cables
  • Tow chain or rope
  • Extra warm clothing (gloves, hats, scarves)
  • Blankets
  • Warning devices (flares or triangles)
  • Drinking water
  • Non-perishable snacks for both human and pet passengers
  • First-aid kit
  • Basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench)
  • Mobile phone and car charger pre-programmed with rescue apps and important phone numbers including family and emergency services

If stranded, stay in the vehicle and call 911. Provide the Dispatcher with the following information:

  • Problem you’re experiencing
  • Your location (Get in the habit of looking for mile markers and cross streets/roadways)
  • Any injuries to yourself or passengers
  • Preferred tow company, otherwise the closest approved tow company will be dispatched

At night, keep your dome light on and activate the vehicle’s emergency flashers.

Be aware that snow can plug your vehicle’s exhaust system and cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to enter your car so make sure the exhaust pipe is free of snow and keep a window slightly open while the engine is running.

Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained and that you have at least a half of a tank of fuel.

Question: I am getting my 4 place snowmobile trailer ready for a trip, do I need brakes on all the axels?

Answer: Brakes are required on all trailers with a gross weight of 3,000 pounds or more. If brakes are required they need to be on all wheels of a trailer manufactured after June 30, 1988.

Trailers equipped with three or more axles and manufactured prior to July 1, 1988, are not required to have brakes on the front axle provided the brakes on all other wheels meet the performance standards prescribed by law.

The manufacturers of many new vehicles equipped with anti-lock brake systems require any towed unit be equipped with electric brakes and the towing vehicle be equipped with an electronic brake controller.

Every trailer with a gross weight of more than 3,000 pounds shall be equipped with a breakaway brake device which will automatically apply and hold the brakes should the trailer accidentally become detached from the towing unit.

If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson – Minnesota State Patrol at 2900 48th Street NW, Rochester MN 55901-5848. (Or reach him at, Twitter: MSPPIO_SOUTH


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