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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.
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.
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.