Three Letters Re: Vehicle Recommendations

Hi Jim,
One of the most common failures which will cripple your G.O.O.D. (Get Out Of Dodge) vehicle is a broken fan/accessory belt. Granted, the newer [flat, grooved] serpentine belts last a lot longer than the old V-belts, but failure will mean overheating or the eventual loss of ignition due to battery discharge, especially at night if headlights are needed.

So a spare belt and tension release tool (usually a 1/2″ ratchet or breaker bar, for a serpentine belt) is a must for your emergency parts kit. [JWR Adds: Whenever you change your vehicle’s serpentine as a part of a regular service, save the old one to carry in your vehicle as a spare. An old belt is better than no belt.]

Also consider some thick, sticky caulk that you can work with your fingers, which can be used to plug a radiator leak. The fire-stop used by electricians works well. Be sure to open the radiator cap to release any pressure (Watch out for scalding steam!) and leave it loose. I have seen a vehicle driven hundreds of miles in that condition after being hit by debris from the road.

Keep up the good work. – Larry P.


Hello James,
Like many others, I’ve just finished reading “Patriots” for the second time. The first time, 10 years ago, I didn’t take notes while reading it, this time I did! I have just discovered your site and was reading a post about your vehicle. While the extra ignition and fuel components are nice, the EMP (electromagnetic pulse) will very likely take out the alternator regulator as well. It could also quite likely take out your car’s computer and possibly the electronic dashboard (depending on the model). Even analog looking dashboards these days are full of electronics instead of actual, physical things like speedometer cables, or a capillary tube to a pressure switch. The computer may go into “limp home mode” if it’s not getting information from the throttle position switch, mass air flow sensor, or manifold absolute pressure switch, the crank position sensor, etc. Another possibility is that the vehicle won’t run at all.

If at all possible, for those who need not go very far to get to their retreat, buy something old like the Bronco in your book or an old CJ or Willys overland wagon. Basically anything that uses points. Tune it up, yank the points distributor, and store it along with a distributor wrench. Install an electronic ignition distributor, and run a jumper wire across the ballast resistor, as electronic distributors need 12 volts and points need 6 volts. If you have a GM product, remove the “resistance wire” that is used instead of the ballast resistor and replace it with a regular wire and ballast resistor from a Ford or Dodge.

When EMP destroys your distributor, install the points distributor and motor happily away for the next 15K miles as the EMP will not affect a points distributor in the slightest. Be sure to remove or cut the jumper wire on the ballast resistor, or you will only motor for 500 miles (Bosch) or 1000 miles (Standard) on a set of points, running them at 12 volts. Just a thought. – Bill J.


Mr. Rawles,
I recently started reading Survivalblog and find it very helpful. In hopes of providing some help of my own, I would like to address the question of survival vehicles especially in regards to EMP survival. I am an ASE certified master automotive technician with a background in not only automotive repair but also agricultural and diesel mechanics as well as welding.

To get right to the point, today’s automobiles have so many electronic components and control modules that there is no way to stow enough parts to make them operational after exposure to an EMP. The only way to be confident in your vehicle’s ability to function after an EMP is if it is equipped with a carburetor rather than fuel injection (unless it’s mechanical like some of the old European autos or an older diesel) and a mechanical fuel pump. As for the ignition system, electronic ignition has been standard since the mid 1970’s. However, there is a chance to stow enough spare parts to get an older electronic ignition back up and running if it is a simple design like the old GM HEI that doesn’t use an external engine control module. The best and safest bet, though, would be to get your hands on an old points-type distributor that would be installed in your vehicle if it did fall victim to an EMP, especially if a second or third or more might come.

I would also recommend a standard transmission and, if the vehicle is 4-wheel drive, a manually operated transfer case and front wheel locking hubs. The reason for this is because starting in the mid to late 1980’s even automatic transmissions are computer controlled and any truck with push button 4-wheel drive is also using a computer to engage the transfer case. In fact, virtually any automobile built since the mid to late 1990’s uses computers to do even such basic things as turn on the head lights! There is a reason that the government keeps coming up with things like cash for clunkers and emissions inspections to get old cars to the crusher!

My personal vehicle is a 1985 Toyota Landcruiser with a carburetor, electronic ignition, manual transmission, transfer case and manual front hubs. It’s not fast, fancy or efficient but it is simple to repair and super tough. The only weakness from the factory is the electronic ignition but it can be repair with just one part after and EMP or be fitted with an older distributor. Other models that I would consider for my personal use would be a Chevy, Ford or Dodge truck build before 1986 (that’s the year electronic fuel injection became pretty much standard on domestically made truck, 1984 for cars) but it would be even better if it were built before 1980 since Detroit was using some super finicky feedback carburetors after that. Most all trucks that fit that production range can be fitted with an older distributor if desired but they all definitely have a simple electronic ignition system. The best thing to do would be to find a survival-minded mechanic and get his advice and help with your plans. – Elijah K.

JWR Replies: Thanks for that suggestion. I am constantly amazed at the depth of knowledge provided by SurvivalBlog readers. I will be including some details on carburetor and timing adjustments for unusual fuels like natural gas distillate (“drip.”)in my forthcoming sequel to my novel “Patriots”.