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Survival Scenario: Any Car Is Better Than No Car

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Editor’s Note: This post is another entry in the Prepper Writing Contest from Silent Earth. If you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly win a $300 Amazon Gift Card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today.


So long as its reliable

Any car is better than no car, Yup not really applicable to some city dwelling preppers but for the rest of us they are pretty damn essential. Yes we would all love a purposely designed or modified vehicle that can carry us across continents taking us, our families and all we need to survive a very long road trip. BUT in the real world we are far more likely to own and drive something far more mundane.

For ordinary people going about their normal every day lives, a breakdown of the family vehicle can be annoying, very inconvenient and often EXPENSIVE ( that’s why preventative maintenance is essential) BUT it’s rarely dangerous or fatal.

BUT, regardless of if you drive a fully tricked Ford F250 or a 15-year-old Ford Fiesta, what is vital is that you have a RELIABLE vehicle regardless of how modest or basic it is. If you arrive late, tired, stressed and hungry at your home or BOL in a 1 liter micro car AT LEAST YOU ARRIVED and are not dying in an expensive metallic paint covered steel coffin miles from anywhere with a snapped cam belt. Be the vehicle 15 years old or new, fully tricked out or factory standard, loaded with survival gear or just sensible extras, it’s just money down the drain and possibly fatal for preppers if the vehicle fails when most needed (In the UK we call it Sods Law)

We have two cars, both Suzuki’s the other Sunday BOTH were off the road, one with a fractured exhaust and the other with a terminally flat battery. This happened on a Sunday when bus services around here are sparse at best but in fact do not run at all to where our son was (at his girlfriends place WAY up the Dales). He ended up having to stay there overnight and missing an important University seminar.

To suddenly find yourself basically completely stuck with no resources available to get to your loved ones is a bloody nightmare at best. But its compounded by the thought that many people in our positions also live in hamlets with no usable resources such as shops, post offices, garages, service stations, bus or taxis and in some cases people can be up to 90 minutes away from such services (longer in winter). Practical mobility must be a cornerstone of the average prepper, perhaps not so much for a self-employed homesteader but the ordinary family guy turned prepper a degree of mobility is essential.

To suddenly find yourself basically completely stuck with no resources available to get to your loved ones is a bloody nightmare at best.

Vehicle Maintenance is Key

It is essential we stay on top of our vehicles maintenance both scheduled such as servicing, but also PREVENTATIVE maintenance IE giving your car a good check over frequently with the Mk 1 Human eyeball. WHAT you drive is irrelevant, how RELIABLE the car is what is paramount.

Look at the tires for unusual wear, blisters, ruptured side walls, tire pressures etc, Ensure they always have plenty of usable tread. Ensure the wheel nuts are not only correctly tightened BUT that they are not so tight that you cannot unfasten them if you need to change a wheel. Old tires especially cheap tires can get brittle and hard, they may look like they are good for another 20,000 miles but they are so hardened they offer almost ZERO traction.

Keep an eye on bits like the exhaust and its hangers, if it’s getting badly rusted get it replaced (consider a stainless steel one if you plan on keeping the car) .

Batteries can AND DO die suddenly ( especially in winter) its worth ensuring your tame mechanic is encouraged to check its charge rate, fluid levels, charge voltage ( 14.4 to 14.7 = good), Make sure the battery clamps and cables are secure and not oxidized (esp the Negative to Earth lead and its bolts).

Drive / Fan/ Cam and PS belts need to be checked frequently for cracks, fraying and adjustment.

Brakes, a GOOD mechanic will clean the brake, copper slip the bits that need to be slippy and ensure the pads / shoes that are needed to stop you have plenty of depth, are not glazed and are wearing evenly.

It is essential we stay on top of our vehicles maintenance both scheduled such as servicing, but also PREVENTATIVE maintenance.

Do not wait until the vehicle needs servicing BEFORE you check your Oil, Coolant, Screen wash, ATF, Brake Fluid etc ideally you should be checking them no more than every two weeks, more frequently if you do high miles or on dangerous roads.

Check and clean your head and stop / tail light and indicator lights, NOTE modern H4 and other Halogen headlamp bulbs actually decay quite badly in under two years, your bulbs can lose 30 % of their brightness so it’s definitely worth changing your HL bulbs for good quality after market bulbs every two years.

If you fit extra lights such as driving, hunting or fog lights ensure the alternator is capable of handling the extra load. Many modern car manufacturers fit alternators that are only just capable of operating the OE equipment.

Plastic headlight lenses can become badly scratched and opaque over time you can buy lens re-polishing kits off E Bay and Amazon.

Wiper blades are essential in bad weather rain and sleet and snow, did you know your screen wash actually dries out your wiper blades which in turn degrades their performance, so change em annually if you can afford to.

Don’t forget to rotate your spare fuel in the Jerry can if carried, and to add fuel preserver to the replacement refill.

Keeping your engine bay clean can also reduce the risk of breakdowns, an oily grimy engine is a perfect environment for creating electrical shorts and for trapping unwanted moisture, keep your engine bay clean, or get it valeted and not only will you reduce the number of faults you may get, but it makes working on your car more bearable.

Everyone should carry tools, jack, flashlights, light sticks, tire pump, jump leads, bulbs, fuses, relays, emergency rations, water, warm clothes, walking shoes etc, even a blanket or sleeping bag in bad weather, Hand cleaner / sanitizer and some clean clothes are also handy additions. Put as much love and care into maintaining your vehicle as you would in caring for yourself and it will reward you by doing what you ask it to do when TSHTF.

  • Huples

    Sods Law is called Murphy’s Law in the lands of the First Nations.
    Just a quick one how on Earth are you planning to drive around the UK post Shtf? Near impossible now I hear. If you are anywhere near a city the roads will be jammed rapidly and those single lane so called roads everywhere else are easily blocked multiple times.

    • Silent Earth

      In many places bugging out will be nigh on impossible simply because of either population density or poor geography, but not everywhere. Most of us now plan on bugging IN rather than OUT and also because of operational needs many of us have made massive efforts in exploring unconventional routes home and also unconventional transport methods. EG I have roughly a 20 mile drive home if TSHTF so I have a smaller vehicle more capable of getting down back alleys, cycle lanes and foot paths. I also keep a small cheap folding bicycle in the trunk as a back up.

      • The Deplorable Cruella DeVille

        Agreed completely. I’m far enough out that I’ve concentrated on making my primary residence bug-IN-able vs planning on running further out. I personally don’t have the resources for a second “home”, and the additional constraints of getting there in SHTF, as well as stocking a remote location that “could” be subject to pillage by random teen partiers, or other locals seems somewhat self defeating. I DO have a small culvert at my driveway entrance, (looks like the access to a hay field anyway), that I’ve widened to require a small bridge, so it’s removable, along with damming the ditch further down to create a moderate pond. It’s enough to stop all vehicles that aren’t mil-spec. A decent wood stove for backup heat and cooking surface, enough solar to run a deep well water pump, and a few lights or electronic devices. A years worth of basic food stock, and a acre of garden to go with the canning supplies. Guns/ammo/bows/reloading/fletching/trapping equipment round out my stuff so far.
        The 32 mile commute could be an issue as S.E. intimated above, but I’ve gone the same route, ie: small, AWD, added skid plates, ‘Roo bars, and winch mount points, and carry my GHB everywhere. And if I end up having to hoof it, so be it.

  • Huples

    Cool. I spent the last two decades of the Cold War in Barrow-in-Furness which would have been a definite first hit. As air cadet we regularly practised sealing the town off to prevent civilians leaving when war started. I just think a car based evac in most of the U.K. And over here is doomed. Glad you have several back ups. The U.K. Prepping scene is different from the North American one so please keep sending articles. One thing that struck me was you need to maybe alter the language as the Americans might not understand and they get grumpy when people write in real English 🙂

    • SurrealReality

      For someone writing in “real English”, I noticed an amazing number of grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors in the post. 🙂

    • Silent Earth

      The editor changed a few words to Ameicanese to make life easier such as tyre to tire :). But SR’s comments are right I should have proof read it before hitting send. Apologies.

  • christopher

    i personally think having an older vehicle (or at least 1 older vehicle) that you can do the maitenance on, is key.. i have a older jeep wrangler and I can do just about most service issues i.e- lube, oil,spark plugs, rotors,tire rotation etc (including brake replacement). it would be tough to do most maintenance on newer vehicles. I keep spare distrib cap, spark plugs oil , filters just in case. the best thing is its paid off!

  • Bolofia

    Great article. A thought I would add about tires: Proper maintenance is always important, but your choice of tires is equally important, if not more so. In a genuine SHTF situation, the probability that you will be forced off paved roads is quite high. Therefore, you should have tires with a strong sidewall rating and with a tread that is capable of handling mud/snow/sand conditions based on the terrain you are most likely to encounter. Consider purchasing tires that have the highest profile and widest footprint that will work on the size of your vehicle’s wheels, as well as the turning clearance afforded by the wheel well. Those choices will boost your ground clearance and improve traction.

  • mike day

    I am a old school Mechanic who has made a living in the care pand repair of autos and Trucks up to and exceeding two tons .All this means is I have seen the real world problems with the iron horse ,so let me recommend simple to repair cars and trucks for pepper community and where to find info about each pick . Jeeps are top of the list all the way from early 70s to 1998 ,the why is they are everywhere ,most should be keep as Stock as possible,info and how to can be found anywhere there is a library,parts store YouTube .look for Fords such as f150 to early late bronco’s these are everywhere ,fuel injections for both are simple and with little bit of time can be learned ,older carb models can be rebuilt again & again with a little time invested to learn the repair for each .Jeeps are lite so lifting can be simple?e floor jack and stands Fords are heavier but can blow thru things jeeps cannot .Autos start with a old school VW Bug lite fast no water cooling problems but they are not found everywhere any more but they are easy to repair and will run on bad gas better than anything and this will be a problem in a SHTF world .this is a short list just to fire up people to write about but these vehicles here can a should be used as daily drivers in all weather conditions!

  • The Last Conservative Democrat

    Good article, hits a lot of points I always cover to my neighbors, coworkers, and friends when the topic comes up. I ridden, raced, and hooligan’d on motorcycles for 40 years. One thing I never seem to see mentioned is how a motorcycle is a perfect tool in a preppers arsenal:

    Motorcycles benefits: 2 wheels can always get through when the roads are clogged. It doesn’t do you any good if it’s at home and you are at work, though, so if riding it to work is not a option for you the just buy a cheap, older bike or even scooter and throw it in your works parking garage or parking lot for long term storage, or in the back of your truck (got a neighbor who leaves his street legal dirt bike in the back of his truck, always, just for SHTF situations). I personally stopped daily riding, but feel confident that as long as I pay attention to traditional and online news I should be prewarned enough to either start riding to work again or to load up my bike in my truck and take it to work until either SHTF or the danger abates. Oh yeah, I almost forgot: all motorcycles can offroad travel. I once chased down a guy on a 80cc dirt bike, offroad and at night, while riding my 250cc Ninja after he grabbed my high school girlfriends behind then took off down a trail. Once, after I road rashed the fairings on the racetrack, I put the stock tires back on my GSXR 750 and followed my brother and his friends around at a huge local off road vehicle park. Even climbed a few hills. I once met a forest ranger who road a old scooter around the forests because it was super quiet, light, and easy to get on/off. Just Stay away from mud unless you got knobby tires.

    Bicycles? Beats walking by a long shot, are very easy to carry in your vehicle or leave at work, are very stealthy, and can easily be carried over obstacles. Besides the lack of carrying capacity and relatively low speed, the main downside is you can be guaranteed the minute the roads get clogged and people panic, the bicyclist riding through a group of walkers might as well be a Tbone steak worn around a chickens neck that is surrounded by wolves. You have to pay attention to what’s ahead of you, and make your choices BEFORE someone makes them for you. Situational Awareness is your friend. When it comes to getting 35 miles to my home in SHTF, I’d rather be unarmed and on a bicycle then carrying my AR15/H&K USP .40/tac vest and backpack and walking.

    Motorcycles offer a surprisingly large amount of stowing and carrying capacity with multitudes of luggage options available to fit all your gobag desires. Bicycles not so much. Motorcycles are fast and heavy enough that even if people have time to get in position to stop you they will think twice about blocking it’s path. They also get an average of 50mpg, and most are very EMP proof. You see, unlike cars computer control is still not universal, and most ignition control modules (the only critical electronics on both non-efi and efi bikes) are inside the engine making them totally EMP proof.

    Word to the wise: at freeway overpasses, always take the freeway off ramps to freeway on ramps. Overpasses are a natural funnel point and your chances of being accosted are dramatically higher there, plus overpasses offer warmth and shelter to those on foot (something to remember if you are on foot and need a place to stop for the night – or you want to acquire a bicycle or motorcycle yourself).