When Prepper’s think of the things that they need, we normally plan for a SHTF event. However, when it comes to your vehicle, something we use every day, we need to take a step back from the doomsday scenarios. Having the necessary tools and supplies in your vehicle can help you now, as well as during your exodus out of dodge. Personally, I spend about two hours a day commuting to and from work. I sit in the driver’s seat, listening to Country music, more than I sit on my couch watching TV. And, as the amount of time I sit in my vehicle increases, so does the possibility of something happening to my vehicle. If something were to happen, I could call road side assistance or a friend for help. And, this for the most part works. However, as preppers we need to plan for the worst case scenario.
Our vehicle series is separated into three categories: Vehicle Specific Items (Part I), Tools and Expendables (Part II), and Recovery Gear (Part III).
The Vehicle Conundrum
In the present [normal day to day life], having help on speed dial has made us complacent. If you are lucky enough to have a reliable vehicle, then a flat tire is probably your biggest inconvenience. The newer your vehicle is, the less likely you are authorized to conduct basic level maintenance on your vehicle; you could void your warranty. While the manufacturer is cramming as much technology into a small space as possible, your service department is trying to squeeze every available dollar out of your pocket for maintenance and repairs. Even if you have an older vehicle, one that can be worked on easily, finding available time is challenging. So is finding the confidence to work on your own vehicle, accumulating the necessary tools, and trusting your repairs.
If something goes wrong today, you can call roadside assistance or a friend to come help. Or, you can call the dealership, and they may even loan you a courtesy car. If you need to change your oil, Jiffy Lube to the rescue. Need a tune-up, take it to Joe Schmo’s auto repair. Stuck in a ditch, call the towing company. And, this is exactly why we have become complacent.
Long gone are the days of self-recovery and self-maintenance. I often think about what happens here in Northern Virginia, following a little snow on I-95. While the northern states are used to snow fall, you wouldn’t believe how a little snow can bring the Nation’s capital to a standstill. I have watched numerous people get stuck following a mild snow storm, waiting for a tow company to pull them out of a ditch. They could sit there for hours. Now the Prepper’s “What If” decision making process steps in. What if there isn’t anyone to help or the tow company is inundated with other stranded motorists. What if, someone can pull you out of a ditch, but neither of you have recovery equipment. What if, you large four-wheel drive SUV gets stuck; having four-wheel drive can only get you so far, even off-road capable vehicles can get stuck. What If, what if, what if…
Vehicles and SHTF
Now let’s look at this from a SHTF standpoint. Even if you plan on bugging in, most of us will still rely on our vehicles; that is as long as the fuel lasts. And, if you plan on bugging out, more than likely you have put a lot of thought into what type of vehicle you drive. A four wheel drive vehicle is recommended, although any vehicle can get you from point A to B. Additionally, your vehicle should be able to transport your family members, and the amount of supplies you deem necessary.
If you commute to work as I do, at some point you have thought to yourself that an event may significantly delay you from getting home. Honestly, this is a real fear, as you will be miles away from the safety of your home and your primary responsibility of protecting your family. One scenario is you walk home; however if you have done your homework, hopefully you can take an alternate, less congested, route. In the chaos that will likely ensue, there will be many obstacles between you and your family, which may include going off road, jumping curbs, or forcing your way through other vehicles.
My personal choice is a lifted ½ ton pickup truck, with four-wheel drive, and a towing package. It is large enough for my family of four, and I can transport a good amount of supplies in the bed and/or trailer. Since the truck is lifted, the added ground clearance allows me to navigate terrain most vehicles simply could not travel. I have added a CB radio, on-board air compressor, and front brush guard. Future additions include an ARE DCU Truck Cap and a hitch mounted winch, so I can move it between the front and rear of my truck.
Vehicle Specific Items (Required)
The following are required items that you should always keep stored in your vehicle, take with you on extended road trips, or have stored at your home. The size of your vehicle and available space, will dictate if you have all of these items in your right now.
1. Fire Extinguisher – You never know when a fire can break out, and it is recommended to always have a fire extinguisher stored in your vehicle. I have let other motorists use my fire extinguisher, on multiple occasions, and have even used a fire extinguisher to put out a small fire started by a cigarette. Personally, I do not like the small vehicle fire extinguishers; however a large fire extinguisher stored in your vehicle is not always practical.
2. Fuel Can – Stored at your residence, it is recommended to have enough fuel to completely refill your vehicle’s tank. At a minimum, you should have five gallons of fuel in reserve, for emergency situations. A full five gallon gas can is one of the items that I recommend having stored in your vehicle; however it is not always realistic. Adequate ventilation is required, and all fuels are fire hazards. Fuel should be stored externally, such as the bed of a truck. If you have a car or SUV, I recommend installing a hitch so that you can use a hitch mounted cargo carrier. This will allow you to safely carry fuels, or other things that cannot fit inside of your vehicle. You can always purchase a budget fuel can, but it is recommended to purchase a quality one.
3. Radiator Hose and Clamps – If you have an older vehicle, one that is prone to over-heating, or one with over a 100,000 miles, it is recommended to have a spare radiator hose on hand. Do not forget the clamps.
4. Jack – Having a jack is common sense, but not everyone has one. Knowing how to use your jack, and to change your own tire, is also important. Ensure you have all parts of your jack, and you always keep it in your vehicle. Practice changing a tire. If you have a lifted vehicle, or one with larger tires, the standard jack may not work.
5. Jumper Cables – You should always have a set of jumper cables stored in your vehicle. With the amount of electronics in our vehicles, our battery is a real failure point.
6. Lug Nut Wrench – Lug nut wrenches are used to change your tire. If you have aftermarket rims, or security lug nuts, ensure you have the adapter.
7. Replacement Lights – Replacement lights for your low, high, and brake lights should be stored in your vehicle at all times. Additionally, learn how to replace the lights. For most vehicles, you can find a video on YouTube.
8. Oil, Oil Filter, Oil Filter Wrench – At a minimum, you should have one quart of oil in your vehicle at all times. Stored at your residence, you should have enough oil for a complete oil change, a replacement oil filter, and an oil filter wrench. Also, ensure you are storing the correct oil type and oil weight. Check with your mechanic, or whoever changes your oil, to determine which oil you should use. And, learn how to change your own oil.
9. Replacement Fan Belts – If your fan belts go out, then you will not be able to cool down your vehicle, and/or recharge your battery. It is recommended to have a spare belt or belts. Look under your hood to find out if you need more than one belt, or check with your mechanic or local auto parts store. Most belts are relatively inexpensive; you will not get far if your belt is destroyed and you do not have a spare.
10. Spare Fuses – Most, if not all, of the electronics in your vehicle are fused. Fuses ensure that you do not destroy you electrical system, and a blow fuse will disable everything on that circuit. It is recommended to keep a spare fuses stored in your vehicle. There are several types of fuses, so make sure you have the right ones.
11. Spare Tire – Common sense, right? Most vehicles come equipped with a small tire, known as a donut. However, it is recommended to have a full spare. If you have large tires, ones that will not fit in standard vehicle mounting locations, ensure to account for the space a tire, or tires, will need.
12. Tire Pressure Gauge – Improper tire pressure can lead to accidents and unnecessary wear on your tires. In addition to a tire pressure gauge, you need to know how much pressure should be put in your tires. On most tires, the limit is posted.
Vehicle Specific Items (Optional)
1. Alternator – Alternators generate power for your electronics, and charges your battery. Without an alternator, your battery is forced to power all electronic devices. And, since vehicle electronics are inefficient, your battery dies very quickly. Dead battery; and you cannot start your vehicle. If you have a new vehicle, having a spare alternator is probably not a major priority. However, if you have an older vehicle, let’s say with 100,000 miles or more, you should invest in a spare alternator. Additionally, learn how to replace it. Some alternators use pressure mounts, and you will need a crow bar to wedge it out of place.
2. Battery – Depending on the type of vehicle you have, you may be able to install a second battery under the hood. Batteries are major failure points in vehicles, as it is too easy to deplete your charge. Have a backup so that you can switch out a battery, or use it to jump start your vehicle.
3. Brake fluid
4. Can of Coke – Coca-Cola can be used to clean battery terminals if they are corroded. Corroded battery terminals will cause your battery to die from being discharged, because it will limit the charge by the alternator. Ensure you use normal Coca-Cola (the red can). To use, expose battery terminals, and pour a little on the corrosion. Give it a few minutes and your terminals should be clean.
4. Filters – It is recommended to have a spare intake filter for your vehicle.
5. Repair Manual – Having a repair manual can go a long way if you vehicle needs major repairs, or if you would like to learn how to repair you own vehicle.
6. Second Spare Tire
7. Siphon – A siphon is used to transfer liquids between two storage tanks. You can use it to safely extract fuel from another vehicle to yours.
8. Spark Plugs, Spark Plug Wires, Gap Tool – It is a good idea to have the parts needed to conduct a tune-up on your vehicle. Remember, the auto parts store may not be around.
9. Thermostat – For older vehicles, if you are going to replace your water pump, then go ahead and replace your thermostat at the same time.
10. Transmission Fluid
11. Water Pump – Water pumps are prone to failing in older vehicles, and vehicles that are lifted. Have a spare water pump on hand, and a thermostat.
Vehicle Specific Items Notes
Depending on the age and mileage of your vehicle, you may want to go ahead and replace some of the components (belts, alternator, battery, water pump, etc.). Contact a mechanic to determine which components will most likely need to be repaired or replaced. It is also recommended to get supplies for a complete oil change, and to top off other fluids. Additionally, you may want to have items for a tune-up. Even if you don’t know how to change your oil, hopefully someone in your group does.
Remember if you are using this list, you are planning for something bad to happen, or a situation where taking your vehicle to a mechanic will not be feasible. Take the time now to learn how to conduct basic maintenance on your vehicle; YouTube is a great resource.