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Survival Skills: Scavenge A Vehicle For Survival

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You should be riding around with survival gear in your vehicle. Period.

But just in case you get caught empty-handed, it doesn’t hurt to know about the useful pieces you can scavenge from a vehicle to help you survive. Now I understand that most people usually don’t feel right about destroying their possessions, especially something as significant as a vehicle.

But if you end up in an emergency situation, and you need to tear up your ride for the raw materials as a matter of survival, then it’s time to color outside the lines. After all, your vehicle (and the pieces therein) can be replaced. Your life cannot. Here are some of the most useful parts of a vehicle, which would be valuable commodities in a survival scenario.

Mirrors
The rear view mirror is your easiest target, and it can usually be removed from its bracket by sliding it down the windshield. The side mirrors will take more creativity or destruction to remove, depending on the make and model of your vehicle.

The mirrors can make a fine, clear signal mirror to flash sunlight to distant targets. The mirrors can also be handy for first aid, especially if you are by yourself. Without a second set of eyes on the problem, wounds, ticks and other problems on your backside are awfully hard to treat without a mirror.

Fabric and Insulation
No, your insurance won’t cover your wanton destruction. But it could be worth the dissection and removal of upholstery and foam to create warmth in a cold environment. Anything that would pass for dead air space can be used for insulation. Carpet, mats, and seat covers can all be used for bedding, or makeshift blankets.

Plastic and Rubber
The plastic and rubber on most cars and trucks will burn with a black smoke, which is great for daytime signaling. Floor mats, dashboards and any other plastics can be thrown on a big fire to make the desired dark plume. Tires require more caution. Never roll an entire spare tire onto a fire. The pressure will build and it will explode dangerously. Let the air out of the tire, too, before you start cutting it into pieces to chuck into the bonfire. Caution: Stabbing a pressurized tire has caused blades to blow back on their wielder and do bodily harm.

The Battery
The vehicle battery and a bit of wire can give you sparks to start a fire. Be extremely careful that the wire doesn’t weld itself into a complete circuit, which could cause the battery to melt down or even explode. If you’re part electrician, or part MacGyver, you can wire up the battery to the vehicle horn and/or a headlight. This rig can be used for a heavy, yet still portable, signal device.

Other Useful Car Parts
Many other useful car parts abound. If the vehicle is old enough to still have a cigarette lighter, you can use this as a safer way to make fire than previously explained. Motor oil and other oils will burn with a black smoke to create a smoke signal. Wires can be used for snare lines.

Older cars can have some magnesium parts, like distributor caps, which can be shaved and used for fire starting. Newer cars may have even more magnesium under the hood. Steering column mounts, tranny covers, engine mounts, exterior cowl (Mustangs), dash frames, seat frames, etc. can be scraped or shaved to make dust which will light with a hot spark.

By Tim MacWelch

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Editors Note: In addition to the articles above, there are tons of other uses for parts of the vehicle from alternators to hook up to wind turbines or exercise bicycles to power batteries, to springs and just spare metal for fabrication. In a total grid down scenario abandoned cars will offer plenty of supplies for the enterprising prepper.


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  • Joshua

    Awesome article! I am sure when the shtf a lot of cars will be sitting around after the gas stations run out. Just like in all the movies and videogames all you can find is abandoned cars. Good stuff to know.

    • prepperjournal

      Thanks for the comments Joshua.

  • Jay Edwards

    Good read!

  • desertdweller

    Magnesium distributor caps? 40+ years working on cars and I have never seen one.

  • James J.

    Long time reader first time post. In a SHTF scenario. Attracting attention is the worst possible idea. Before you start breaking into an abandoned vehicle, lets look for an alarm. Usually a blinking light somewhere, or get up underneath and look for a siren. Second step is to kill the ground. Underneath most vehicle you can cut the ground wire from the battery fairly easy. (Been installing security systems for over 15 years.) This should get rid of most alarms, (yes i know some have back up batteries, run if they come on.) Battery is by far the most valuable thing in the car, by eliminating any strain on the battery it should save some juice by eliminating power used by lights or other electronics. Also, check the door, (CAUTIOUSLY) its probably already unlocked, but this technic was/has been used as a lure an many war situations. Father who spent 25 years in the military told me once or a horrible story based on this.

    • prepperjournal

      Thanks for visiting our blog James!

      You have some really good points here about vehicles. Something to consider if we aren’t too far down the road from normal. An alarm would be bad news if you were trying to avoid detection.

      Pat

  • Zeph

    The stuff about avoiding car alarms makes me wonder if this is about being the bad guys.

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