The problem with emergencies and disasters is that they are not scheduled events we can plan our lives around.
You can find yourself in an SHTF scenario at any time, and there is a good possibility that you will not be at home, have to leave your home to collect family members, or need to bug out.
Our vehicles will always be our first choice for transportation, but if you have not prepared your car or truck for SHTF, you may find that your vehicle could be more trouble than it’s worth.
Fortunately, preparing your car for SHTF is not difficult and will give you a leg up when disaster hits.
Develop Good Habits
A critical aspect of prepping is developing habits that will help us manage a post-SHTF world.
For example, one of those habits we all need to adopt regarding vehicles is never to allow our gas tanks to get too low.
The best way to do this is always to top up the tank when you notice it is between three-quarters and half a tank.
Ideally, you want to never have less than half a tank of fuel at any time. You should also keep track of your mileage and know how far you can drive on a tank of gas.
Related: The Best Places Where You Can Store Fuels Safely In An Emergency
Situational awareness is also an essential habit to adopt. Pay attention to the neighborhoods you drive through daily and try to imagine what issues may arise if you had to travel through them after SHTF.
For example, if you go through neighborhoods that have high crime rates at the best of times, you can anticipate that they will be especially dangerous after SHTF.
Take the time to plan and test alternate routes to and from work, school, the homes of friends and family, and other places that you may need to travel to after SHTF.
A great habit to adopt is to do a weekly once-over of your vehicle. Check fluids, lights, tire pressure, suspension, battery, hoses, and anything else you can think of. Doing this will hopefully identify issues before they become expensive.
Keep up on routine maintenance.
We are all guilty of ignoring the clicks, clunks, and squeaks that usually sound expensive. All vehicle manufacturers list recommended routine maintenance items and intervals, and you should use that as a basis for maintaining your vehicle.
Check the fluids regularly, peek under the vehicle and look at the steering and suspension, inspect the cooling system hoses, inspect and change air filters, and ensure that your tires are in good condition.
Related: Top 5 Awesome Bug Out Vehicles You Can Actually Afford
Every make and model of vehicle has known issues that plague them, so you must be aware of these issues so you can deal with them before SHTF.
Learning how to do routine maintenance on your vehicle is also essential. You need to know how to change a tire, change the oil, fix coolant leaks, properly use jumper cables, replace air filters, change light bulbs, and how to diagnose common issues.
Regardless of what type of vehicle you own, there are a few things that are worth upgrading to be more effective during a disaster or emergency.
- If you live in a region with significant snowfall, buy a set of dedicated winter tires or upgrade to all-weather tires and carry some chains.
- Adding bush bars, skid plates, and roof racks are worthwhile if you have a truck or SUV.
- If you are a licensed amateur radio operator, you should be putting a VHF/UHF radio in your vehicle.
⇒ How To Turn Your CB Car Radio Into A Powerful Transmitter
- If your vehicle does not have a full-sized spare tire, you should prioritize getting one. The spare tires that most cars come with are designed to allow the vehicle to drive at slower speeds for a short distance so you can repair the flat tire. Unfortunately, after SHTF, there won’t be any tire shops open.
Kitting the Vehicle Out
Every vehicle should have a vehicle emergency kit and a get-home bag. A vehicle emergency kit should cover the main issues you might have to deal with during daily life. These items are also valuable in an SHTF scenario as well.
A few notable items to include are:
- Jumper cables
- High-vis vest
- Road flares
- Wheel chocks
- Basic tool kit
- Disposable coveralls
- Rain poncho
- Reflective hazard signs
- Distilled water or premixed coolant
- Tire repair kit
- JB weld
- Bailing wire
- Hose repair kit
- Fire Extinguisher
- Tire chains
This is a basic list of items to start building your vehicle emergency kit. Add anything else you can envision needing for a roadside emergency or SHTF situation.
Your get-home bag should contain anything you need to travel back home from work, school, or anywhere else you may be when SHTF hits.
The bag’s contents largely depend on how far you would need to travel and what obstacle you would need to navigate on your journey home.
These mini bugout bags cover the necessities of survival while being small and light enough to let you move quickly through urban terrain.
Be Ready For Emergencies
A car or truck can end up being a cage that holds us inside after a collision or if it ends up in a river or lake. In these cases, breaking a window and cutting ourselves out of seat belts can be the only way to extricate ourselves from certain death.
Therefore, it would be best to have a glass breaker/seat belt cutter available to cut yourself out of the belt and smash the window. These tools are inexpensive, so there is no reason not to have one in each vehicle you own.
Wherever you decide to keep it, make sure that it is easily accessible and secure enough that it will not go flying in the event of a rollover.
Injuries and accidents happen, and when you are away from home, you must have a first-aid kit ready to treat any wounds or injuries you might encounter. So build a dedicated first-aid kit for each vehicle independent of your bugout bag or get-home bag.
Take a good defensive driving course and understand the capabilities of your vehicles.
It doesn’t matter how good your car is or how well you’ve prepared it for SHTF; if you wreck it in the first few moments of a disaster, then all that preparation has been for naught.
In North America, cars are essential to most people’s daily transportation, so we must take measures to prepare our vehicles for SHTF.
By keeping up on maintenance, making sure the tank is full, and keeping an emergency kit and get-home bag in the trunk, we can become better prepared for SHTF.
You may also like:
30 Primitive Skills Every Prepper Should Know
How An EMP Will Affect Your State (Video)
DIY Wilderness Soap And Shampoo From This Plant
Why You Should Put A Coin In A Cup Of Frozen Water In Your Freezer
i won’t get the certs for ham radios but i will run a radio rig in my truck. No need to pay the fed for permission on using a radio.
Chains are nice but most states won’t let you have them. winter tires are nice if you have a spare set of steel rims. Learning how to drive in snow and ice would be the first thing i would recommend.
Cheap cat litter and cardboard is a must. Get a plastic bucket and strap it down. After a SHTF scenario are you going to obey state law? Get chains in all sizes and corresponding tensioners. Having many vehicles over the years and buying chains for the different size tires. In the short term are tradable assets. Plus visiting junk yards I’ve been able to get free chains. I know some of you are thinking why. I store same size chains in buckets with cheap oil to keep them from rusting. After fewer vehicles are on the road and I traded what I could. The steal can be forged into knives and/or other weapons. That’s why.
Cat Litter – get the cheapest you can purchase as it’s not to be used for anything but helping one in the snow and icy time. I got a few small food grade buckets from a local bakery for a dollar each which included a lid. they work great and hold about 3-4 pounds of litter.
I use the larger size coffee cans. They are plastic ( light weight) and have lids. Work great for cheap cat litter.
Cat litter is the worst thing to put down on ice, it absorbs moisture and makes it slicker, it’s made of pulverized clay. Get a bag of sand to get you out of low traction spot.
How can you prep your vehicle against an EMP?
Ann it can be done but not cheaply. You have to purchase all the electronic components to have as spares, then seal them in a Faraday shield. or you could just purchase an older model car from before all the electronics. That was my choice an old 4 wheel drive 4 door pickup.
Also if you do have to bug out leave the hi vis vest in the trunk don’t wear ever.
Three components for best protection, a TRAP, surge protector between the battery cables, and high saturation ferrites between the battery and fuse box. Easy install.
Or for a garaged vehicle, the same company also has an EMP-proof cloth to cover the whole vehicle with.
the one thing i don’t see in this kit is a rifle and chest rig to carry ammo.
Some of us don’t advertise just a friendly reminder to those who Brag. If you have one of these in your group get rid of them and relocate anything they might know where you stashed. Your safety begins with you and your family. And in some situations you don’t tell them everything. Plus your Skillsets don’t talk about what you know and you want to keep certain items in your head alone. However, the choice information you need to write down for your family to access only. And you find a hiding place for this information, where your family can access it.
Brag about what? You would kick people out for open carrying?
If you leave you car out in the street with a whole bunch of supplies, the junkies will ltake it. Garaged, that’s different.
I know people who keep guns in their cars .which is stupid considering you live in junkieville. Car break ins everyday. Just CC like a responsible adult and not some John Callahan wannabee.
so i am gonig to CC a rifle ?
i don’t CC a pistol when i am out and about . Open carry is more of what i rather do.
You can get a weapons rack for rifles and shotguns.. that do lock them in.
Don’t be foolish enough to leave things where they are visible, that’s when criminals steal things most often. And MOST of the time, when stuff gets stolen (including cars) is when the cars are unlocked.
Of course if you’re driving a luxury vehicle criminals are more likely to want to dig through your console and glove box for valuables. They are looking for cash and things to pawn or trade, not first aid kits and jumper cables.
My old bug out truck never leaves the garage not even for oil changes or other repairs. I I have to take it in for more work everything is unloaded into the garage until it is returned then reloaded.
A heavily insulated long coat with the sleeves stuffed with extra clothing and packed tightly in an air tight bag in a trunk could do miracles when needed. You could stuff the pockets with protein bars, jerky, nuts and other high energy snacks, as well as items like a small led flashlight, lighter and kindling material, poncho, knife and other small items. These long puffy “Grampa” coats can be found pretty cheaply at thrift stores. I’d go with one that’s a few sizes larger than what you normally wear. They can also double as a nice warm blanket.
I agree. Having a shelter-in-place plan for your car that is related to the season might determine life or death. This goes for summer as well as winter and should be switched out between seasons. Water, food, and shelter (think keeping cool as well as keeping warm if you find yourself stuck in your car for a period of time.
Agree. I know the current focus will be on winter prep, but summer sun (in Australia) can be pretty darn deadly. More than once I’ve stopped on the side of the road to hand some woeful tourist a couple of litres of water out the car window as they struggle to change a tyre on the side of the road. Driving in rural Australia at any time of year without water is a mugs game.
During summer you need shade, water and sunscreen. And it’s wise to toss a towel in the car so if you do have a break down you have something to lie on as you fix things, rather than possibly give yourself a burn from the rather warm ground. Carry enough water to fill your radiator as well as yourself.
What is a SHTF? As good practice in writing an article spell out acronym when using it for a first time.
Willie, If you are on this thread, I believe it was assumed you knew the phrase “shit hits the fan”. Sorry we don’t always remember that people that are new to prepping are trading here, too. Thanks for the reminder.
Sh*t hits the fan.
“Shumer” Hits The Fan. 😏
in regard to the spare tire >>>
for many cars now they don’t even exist – you get a can of “inflate-o” – not even a donut temp tire anymore >>> do some of your own research with vehicle tire crossovers and hit the junkyard for a honest to God rim-mounted spare – buy a matched pair if the deal is good
another related topic is the OEM tools for tire changing – try changing the tire at home with only what is available in the car >>> a lot to be desired – never been good and even worse these days – get yourself a hydraulic jack, 4-way lug wrench, 18″ breaker bar with lug nut matching deep socket, wood blocking, blue tarp, emergency breakdown warnings >>> and give everything a try while you can …..
I think you left out EMP protectors. I think they are about $350 on Amazon. If your car doesn’t run because of an EMP, nothing else matters. You are stuck.
What do you mean, “scam”? A mechanic friend suggested one. I am not selling them.
I’ve read about EMP whole home and whole car protectors, but can’t figure out how they work, or if they work in the real world. Newer cars have electronic components throughout, fuel system, transmission, electrical system, differentials, lights, sounds, windows and doors. Every tiny little circuit is an antenna to an EMP and no one knows the actual extent of damage possible. Also interesting, more and more electronic components are incorporating Faraday shielding in their design. Giving consideration to getting an EMP protector for my 66 F250, no micro circuits but a mile of wiring with inline fuses and two fuse boxes, worry about the switch also. Not going to do me any good anyway until I get my lazy arse underneath it and change the pinion bearing…
Meh they come Shielded from the factory
The EMP “protectors” that I’ve seen shunt excess voltage in the positive circuit of a vehicle to the negative side. Similar but differently-named devices are sold to protect from stray welding voltage.
The problem is that during an EMP, any conductor can have voltage induced in it. In a car, this would include both the positive AND negative. Shunting excess positive voltage to the negative side will be of no help whatsoever.
I have 3 bags. The “repair vehicle stays in trunk. I leave my emergency “Go Bag” at max 5 lbs in trunk always. If you need to hike to safety, you don’t need auto tools. Mice get into food unless it’s in glass! So I have separate 3rd “Go Bag” beside the house door I take in & out with me. It’s also less than 5 lbs filled with dried food so I can carry both (front & back) or have companion carry one. Plus, keep a glass-jarred candle & little bic lighter inside car. If you get stuck in snow, crack your window 1/2” & light it. Incoming air is necessary but candle inside will keep you from freezing to death.
An empty metal container – coffee can, larger canned food – would be better for candles, and less dangerous, because glass can break. The metal can will disperse the heat as well. Use candles that melt the wax, not soy-based as they evaporate. Buy extra wicks or cording, melt the wax to remake candles. You could use smaller cans to pour the wax into, & place inside the larger metal can.
I continually hear of people’s cars being broken into and their handgun being stolen. Personally, I feel anyone leaving a firearm in a vehicle unattended is screaming for trouble. As for the rest, my choice is to carry my EDC weapon if I’m planning to be within 5 miles of the hacienda. Much beyond I will stowe the GO big bag. At any time however, as a retired nurse I like to keep emergency medical bag as well as a hundred rounds of whatever EDC I’m wearing and a lg fanny pack with 2-3 loaded mags.
Someone mentioned maintaining situational awareness, that is not just intellegent thoughtful planning, it’s paramount to get to your destination in one piece…or the fewest pieces possible
Hard to carry a rifle at all times
One item I noticed missing from the car prepper list is a highly insulating blanket and pillow 9 or sleeping bag. Sounds simple but if you ever get stranded on a cold night or snow storm, it makes sleeping in your car bearable. Some people stranded in snowstorms freeze to death wiithout thermal protection.
Joe, I always carry a wool sleeping bag and small pad, with me when I travel. It is part of my EDC in my vehicle.
I think one idea is to make your vehicle look undesirable. Trashy vehicles get broken in to less. Ask yourself what a gray man or woman would be driving.
If looters detect a fancy, kitted-out SUV or something with obvious supplies inside, they will gladly extinguish your life to get it. Political or firearms-related stickers, expensive antennas, flashy paint jobs/chrome, fancy stereos or radios in plain view, bush bars, roof racks, lift kits, extra lights, winches, loud exhausts and the like – all paint a target on your vehicle.
Kitting it out without making it look kitted-out has distinct advantages.
Keep a quart of used motor oil if you have to park, to create the illusion of a major oil leak that has rendered your vehicle useless. A little antifreeze could do the same job, or add to the effect. Don’t forget that liquids naturally flow downhill.
Experiment with your vehicle and know which relays/fuses to pull to disable the ignition/fuel system.
Some people have hidden custom switches that will disable any or all vehicle lights, and turn on a single, hooded, forward-facing dim red light – making it easier to elude potential bad people on the road.
I like these suggestions!
Around here it’d also be any Land Cruiser, Prado or Pajero that would get jacked. Everyone knows they are work horses with lots of parts and go and go and go. (Australia) Drive a Jeep or anything European and it’s not worth stealing LOL. Driving a well known ‘work horse’ even if it’s shitty condition might paint a target on it. No one (sensible) is going to jack your Porsche Cayenne, but they might go after your Prado or even Amarok.
Make your bug out vehicle not just a shit box, but a very well maintained sleeper car that no one realises is a good car worth jacking… is the trick.
I like the idea of the kill switches, and the night time operations lights. Going to consider those. Dirty oil is a nice trick. Another might be to disable your fuel switch too so if anyone does get a go at looking it looks like it’s almost out of fuel?
A common vehicle is also easier to hide. A Ford Ranger stands out less than a Saab.
Michael Major – here are a few questions or ideas for you per your listing:
Jumper cables – don’t purchase the cheapest but don’t purchase the most expensive.
High-vis vest – would suggest in getting oversized so one can fit over outer clothing you are wearing.
Road flares – would 6 or a dozen flares work? storage?
Flashlight – the choice of a flashlight is a wide range of sizes – get a small light that has a large light LED with 3,000 Lumens – leave in cardboard box and wrap in foil to keep safe from EMP.
Wheel chocks – purchase rubber chocks – got mine from Harbor Freight.
Basic tool kit – again don’t get cheapest and don’t need a big set of tools.
Gloves – type? leather or rubber?
Disposable coveralls – suggest getting oversized by a few sizes to fit over your clothing. Hood or no hood?
Rain poncho – light weight or heavy duty? What color? yellow, green, or orange? slipover or button? shortsleeves or longsleeves?
Reflective hazard signs – how many are you recommending 3 – 6 – 12?
Distilled water or premixed coolant – anti-freeze?
Tire repair kit – basic repair kit which means you’ll need a tire inflation system.
JB weld – what kind? cold weld steel, etc…
Bailing wire – 20 – 16 – 14 gage? used for?
Hose repair kit – Not a garden hose repair kit but the engine hoes repair items and sizes.
Fire Extinguisher – make sure it is a car fire extinguisher.
Zip-ties – various sizes
Shovel – folding
Tire chains – I own a 4X4 chevy silverado extended crew – do I get one pair or two pairs of chains? My 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness – chains are not recommended basically due to clearance.
Understand I know these answers to these question but after reading most of the other comments a few sound like they might need some further guidancce.
“bailing wire” >>> not posting to just nitpick correct – but it’s “bale or baling wire” – but don’t be asking for that either at the hardware/home improvement center – you’ll just get a head scratch from Wonder Apron ….
before sisal twine and now poly twine for the square bale hay ag equipment – it was lite weight economical wire – it was also the universal Ford Model T fix of the day – I still call the all purpose cheap wire – “bale wire” – it’s a Midwest thing for us older guys …..
you should have a wad of sisal or poly in your preps – $$$$ skyrocketed along with everything else – used to be $20 for 3 miles worth of good tie time in the garden ….
in regard to today’s common bale wire – probably re-bar wire from the masonry department comes close – cheap – bendable & twistable to the max without snapping – can’t have too many rolls in the stockpile ….
What I have done with my Jeep Wrangler (I am single ): Removed both passenger and back seat. I carry a sleeping bag, wool blanket, small mat for underneath, (to put on my shelf I have installed over the back window ledge). Propane heater and tanks, food, ‘lighter’ adaptable cooking bags, coolers, water, winter clothing and boots, emergency items for vehicle (in case of accident) emergency kit with surgical items, and dental kits, light options, system for hanging curtains for privacy and secrecy, (and to prevent heat loss) Protection and ammo. A small blow up boat (in case of flooding and getting stuck in high water that will carry lots of items with me).
Recent events reminded me to carry vehicle liquids and maintenance items, repair tools. I also recently bought a roof rack so I can carry non rain effected items on top and keep inside for items that require dry.
Suggestions for keeping the vehicle from being targeted: Garage is best.
A cover for your vehicle; having tinted windows (which will help with keeping vehicle warmer), or, I found an article recently that gave detailed instructions for making window covers that looked like there weren’t any covers but allowed for total privacy from outside viewers even with dome lights on:
Make The Best Privacy Window Covers – Complete Guide
I plan to add a bicycle or folding bike, a wagon or ‘grocery cart ‘ (yes, like old people use to walk their groceries home).
The shelf will hide most of this from prying eyes, and tarps inside will help the rest.
Consider a collapsing bike trailer – you can get ones that fold flat, but have a ‘pram’ bar handle. Great if you decide to swap to a bike for transport as they ahve reasonable carrying capacity, but can be used like a twin stroller (but bigger!) in the interim, and packs flatter than most grocery carts so can be stored easily. Bonus is rain resistant so can go on your roof rack along with your boat and other bulky light objects. (I wouldn’t put heavy up there – it can change the weight distribution of your vehicle and be hard to load/unload)
However, it’s important to keep in mind that renting a luxury car can be expensive and may require additional insurance coverage. Overall, Luxespeed seems like a good option for those looking to add some luxury to their wedding day.