So what do you do if you’re stranded on the highway in the dead of winter or a severe winter storm knocks out your power for an extended period of time?
You can construct a simple homemade heater that can be used in your vehicle, which
• An empty one pound coffee can or a 30 oz. fruit can
could save your life, and is very easy to make. Items needed are as follows:
• A regular roll of white plain toilet paper not scented,(because of fumes)
• Four 8-ounce bottles of 70 percent isopropyl alcohol – again, plain unscented
and do not use a higher percent alcohol
• Also an empty large popcorn can, I believe it is a 3 gallon size like the ones
that you buy at Christmas
• Two aluminum square cake pans or pie pans ( without holes in the bottom)
• Matches or a lighter
Start your project by removing the cardboard core from the toilet paper, (not the
cheap loose rolled type) and push the roll into the coffee or fruit can so the roll is below
the rim. The coffee can will have some space above the roll; if you use a fruit can, the
roll will be just a little below flush. Either can, the roll should fit firmly without space
around the roll. A larger can will allow the paper to burn around the sides, which you
don’t want; also I found that a plastic lid from a peanut can will fit loosely on the fruit
can. This lid is used for storage purposes.
To use the heater, pour about 2 or 3 ounces of alcohol onto the paper, the saturated
paper will act as a wick which can be ignited with a match or lighter, I suggest keeping
both on hand, each stored in separate sealed containers or sandwich bags to prevent
fumes from soaking into the matches and lighter which render them useless (this was
learned from giving demonstrations).
Operation: Use the heater to warm the vehicle up, then put the cake or pie pan over
the can to extinguish the flame, as you don’t need to run the heater after the vehicle is
warm. You can also use the cake or pie pan to melt snow for drinking. Do Not eat
snow, as it will bring down your body temperature. Four pints of isopropyl alcohol will
keep a car at 60 to 70 degees for 24 hours, so you can carry more if want.
Safety: Isopropyl alcohol does not produce carbon monoxide, but a window should be
cracked open for fresh air while burning. The burner can will become hot at the top,
and maybe warm at the bottom so perhaps you might want to put one pan under the
burner. This extra pan could be used to water pets.
Warning: These heaters are safe, but make sure flame has been snuffed out before
adding more alcohol.
The empty popcorn can be used to store items for a winter survival kit such as the
burner, alcohol, pie tins, lighters and matches. Other items to include in your vehicle
winter survival kit include: flashlight and extra batteries, winter type clothing (hats,
gloves, extra pair of long johns, scarf), first aide kit including any medications needed,
extra diapers for little ones, bottled water (allow room for expansion, as it will likely
freeze), high energy types of food (candy, nuts, granola bars), small bag of sand or
kitty litter for traction, bendable shovel, basic tool kit (leatherman, swiss army knife),
paper towels or toilet paper, spare tire, signaling devices (flares), blankets and/or
sleeping bags, windshield scraper, booster cables, tow rope or chain, compass and
road maps, cell phones or ham radios, and finally a hand held Weather Radio.
Carry the popcorn can in the back seat rather than the trunk. If you slide in the ditch
and end up with the trunk buried in a snowbank, have a frozen trunk lock, or have
damage to the trunk; the trunk might not be able to be opened.
Dress appropriately when traveling across the high plains in the winter. How many
times have you seen women driving alone in freezing temperatures dressed in heels,
nylons and blouse and hear them say “ my car has a good heater, and I have a cell
phone”…teenagers with sneakers, blue jeans, and T-shirts… men with dress shoes,
slacks, shirt and tie – when the fan belt breaks, or the gas line freezes, and it’s usually
many miles from anywhere? So be firm everyone, and demand that your family members dress for the unexpected, you might save their life.