I have seen some (sort of) like minded people who are actually driving around in brand new vehicles. This would not be so bad if they were even in the least bit mechanically inclined, but they’re not. So on top of, they can’t fix it themselves, they haven’t even begun to buy the extras they will need when the SHTF. I honestly think that if you can’t lift the hood of your car and name at least ten components, you are in over your head.
The first thing I learned was get a Chilton’s Manual for your year, make and model vehicle. Open it and look at it, take the time to actually read it. If your vehicle requires you to disconnect the transmission or pull the motor to give it a tune up, then you need to get a lot more than basic tools and spend at least three times the amount for parts that you would have to on an older vehicle.
On newer cars if you don’t maintain them, they will run badly or not at all (newer cars sensors or a clogged catalytic converter). Carburetors are easier to rebuild and repair then fuel injection units, shocks and struts are much easier in older cars and trucks, there is no fuel relay in older vehicles Those built before the mid-1970s have no computer on board and have little or no emissions control equipment, the list goes on.
I had brought up in an earlier submission the fact most people can barely check their oil in their cars and I think that this topic needs more. Your car isn’t going to run forever, it will not even make it a few months after TEOTWAWKI if it’s a newer vehicle and you have no clue. Minor problems turn into major repairs when people don’t know enough to even notice early warnings.
I drive nothing new, I prefer 1970s models (or older) to anything else on the road. Why you ask? Well first off, get into an accident in an older vehicle you see less damage to an older one than in a newer one. Newer cars and trucks are made differently. Some [have body panels that] are made of a plastic that will pop back out after an accident. Not bad right? Well not bad if the frame isn’t damaged, if it is then oh well, it gets repaired and the frame is usually weakened at that spot. With some cars and trucks the motor will drop and go under the car in a collision, then you need a new one and the body (they are made that way so you don’t end up with the motor in your lap) is still damaged. Older cars handle the abuse better and are more tolerant of missed oil changes and tune ups.
To set things up for your newer vehicle, just go to the dealer or a parts place and ask them for prices on: oil filters, O2 and other sensors, fuel filters (and how many your car has), starter, alternator, belts, hoses, distributor cap, wires, plugs, rotor and tranny filter, for starters. Then go ask your mechanic how many billable hours each of those items takes to replace (some will take about 1/3 of the time, others will take every minute of it). Then look at your Chilton’s Manual and see just what a pain it’s going to be and what specialty tools you need to buy. If your car needs the transmission unhooked while you work on some of this, then you need a tranny jack. Instead of a lift you may be able to use ramps, but be prepared it could even call for the use of a hoist.
Unless you have a fully stocked and capable garage at your retreat and you’re a mechanic, you need to buy an older vehicle. An older usable vehicle can cost as little as $500 and as much as $15,000. It really depends on what will suit your needs. A $500 dollar vehicle is going to need some work and the $15,000 one is asking people to look closer at you. Nondescript is what you need, something that will cause no one to notice you at all, not now or later.
Is there a certain type of vehicle in your area that seems more available? If there is then I would look at that one, because you will have the chance to buy parts and whole vehicles cheap. One of the vehicles I had as a kid I wish there was more of them still around, the Subaru Brat, cheap, easy, go anywhere and hard to kill, they are hard to find cheap now. Look at the local junk yards and see is they have parts for older vehicles (some only carry newer parts), that may be the biggest problem for some vehicles is the lack of good used parts. Call your local car and truck clubs there is no better way to get good deals on parts than from a member. Look in back yards as you go driving, you never know what you’ll see.
Once you decide on your retreat vehicle you should try to acquire: a parts car/truck, motor and tranny, rear and front ends, gears for them, heads and head gaskets, radiators, carbs, starters, alternators, rebuild kits, tune up parts, wheel bearings, calipers, brake lines, tire repair kit, extra rims and tires, valve stems, distributor shaft and bearings, soldering iron, solder, good hand tools, block and tackle or hoist, ramps, floor jack, line bender, breaker bar, air compressor or hand pump, multi meter and a few larger than normal sockets. Also if you need specialty tools get them now and learn how to use them. [JWR Adds: Most newer vehicles have electronic ignitions, but some of them can be retrofitted to a traditional coil and rotor. Ask your mechanic.]
Get your whole group out there and teach them the basics. If the person who does the major repairs is the only one that knows anything about the vehicles, what happens if they are not right there? As a woman, if I break down on the side of some road and can’t fix my vehicle quickly and on my own the next person who stops could be the wrong one and most states will not allow the police to help in any way except to call a tow truck. I have had to change tires, fix my headlights, run a rope from my throttle arm in through my window, drive on a rim, push my car after the drive shaft let go and sit on the radiator support to try to adjust the distributor after the bearings went bad, hold the shifter together after the bolt snapped (standard) and I can usually find a way to get me car home.
Even now I see people drive around unprepared for even the smallest emergency. Make sure that your car has: a medical bag, road flares, small [explosion proof] gas can, spare tire, jack and four-way lug wrench, flashlight, utility knife, chain, jumper cables, non-perishable snacks, water and some sort of weapon. Most states will not allow you to carry a loaded gun, so get a huge Maglite that can double as a weapon or keep a tire iron handy. The way things are today it is better to have it and not need it, then to need it and not have it.