EMP And The Modern Computer-Controlled Car, by Oldgeezer

There seem to be a million different opinions on what will happen to computer-controlled cars, trucks, and vehicles of all kinds after an EMP attack. Maybe my experience will help expand your knowledge base.

My First-Hand Knowledge

I have spent many an hour reading about EMP, watching numerous videos about its effect on civilization, and had some real doubts about some of the claims. While none of us have experienced a true EMP attack, I now have first-hand knowledge of what we may experience when/if an attack occurs.

In 2015, a highway patrol car in our state was struck by lightning multiple times during a severe thunderstorm. With six antennae on the car, it was a rolling lightening rod. The car is a 2013 Ford Police Interceptor Sedan with an Ecoboost twin turbo engine putting out over 365 horsepower. It has a six speed automatic transmission, all wheel drive, 98,000 miles, and is a muscle car under any interpretation. Think of a Ford Taurus SHO on steroids. I also found out that highway patrol and police cars are quite often hit by lightning and often just written off.

How I Ended Up With This Car

Let me tell you how I ended up with this car. The “why” is pretty easy to answer. We were able to purchase the car as surplus/salvage for a song– $2,000. We decided to see what would be necessary to get it back to 100% and if it was even possible. As a long time street car and race car builder (read: grease monkey), the chance of having a full throated muscle car for next to nothing was too much to resist. In addition, as a long time lurker on survivalist sites, the subject of EMP and cars has been of great interest and confusion.

The worst that would happen is that I would have to part out the car and would probably still make significant money. It was a case of “What the heck, let’s go for it”. My wife is very understanding of my whims. In addition, sometimes it is fun to just experiment for yourself!

Continued To Drive In “Limp Home” Mode

While the accepted wisdom is that all of the modern computer-controlled vehicles would die where they are sitting is probably not totally true. The movies, books, and discussion threads all show everything coming to a screeching halt. In the case of our car, it actually continued to run and drive but in “limp home” mode. We could drive it and operate most capabilities, but they were limited.

What Were EMP Problems Versus Wear and Tear

The first step in the process was to figure out what were EMP problems versus what were just wear and tear situations. Some of the problems were because the highway patrol stripped the car of all law enforcement stuff and was done in a haphazard manner. The non-EMP items were probably based more on age/mileage than anything else. An “O” ring here, a broken wire there, it was stuff like that. As a precaution, we replaced all four ABS wheel sensors because the Taurus has a known problem with the detectors. Dirt gets built up in the brake rotors and cause errors in the system. We were also lucky that the engine/transmission suffered no mechanical damage of any sort. Also, the actual wiring suffered no damage. With all those problems taken care of, we moved on to the more complex things.


We downloaded the FORSCAN diagnostics software (a clone of Ford’s diagnostic system). With a ODB II cable, we were able to access the car’s computer network system and start resolving the problems. Every error pulled involved the electronic system. (I use “system”, because the car is a rolling local area network.) The lightning took out just about every control unit except, interestingly, the main PCM. We were able to reset that, but just about everything electronic after that required fixing or replacing. The alternator, the electric power steering, the ABS module, the HVAC module, and four other black boxes needed to be replaced.

Tracking Down Parts A Challenge

Because we were trying to get the car to 100% without spending a ton of money, tracking down parts got to be a challenge. Since ours was the top of the line version, most wrecked local police cars were not compatible. Local police departments usually purchased the downgraded versions, and the highway patrol seldom wrecked cars. We spent a lot of time on eBay searching for “easy to find” parts, but some had to come from a dealer. Obviously, dealer parts are significantly more expensive than used parts. For instance, the car has an electronic power steering system, which from the dealer cost almost $1,400, and the alternator was $250. These two kind of put a major dent in our budget. Most of the other parts were in the $50-$75 range.

Nothing Is Simple

I will admit that we did kind of cheat on our rebuild. Even with my car building background and over 50 years making a living as a programmer and system designer, a local Ford mechanic really saved the whole thing. The system in modern cars and trucks is so complicated that a normal person cannot solve the problems without somebody who knows and has experience dealing with them. Nothing is simple on these. Even with the computer diagnostic software, it is a really complicated. You can’t just purchase replacement computers, because each one needs to be programmed for the car.

In EMP Might Be Mobile For Short Distance

That brings us to the bottom line. In an EMP attack, you might be mobile for a short distance, but the vehicle is probably just a write off. Because you will probably loose the alternator at a minimum, your driving range would be limited to the charge in your battery. You might extend your range by turning off everything that draws power, meaning no lights, no air conditioning, no cruise control, no radio, et cetera. If you are lucky, you might get about 70 miles under ideal conditions. Gasoline won’t dictate your range, electricity will. All I can say is that you had better have a “get home” bag and a plan in your car.

Modern, Computer-Enabled Cars and Trucks Will Not Be Repairable

After about six months (a lot of time spent awaiting eBay parts shipping), we did succeed in fixing the car and have ended up with a real monster for less than $6,000. However, after an all out EMP attack, it is pretty evident that modern, computer-enabled cars and trucks will just not be repairable. Even the best automotive improvisers cannot overcome the complexity of newer vehicles. I suppose one could stockpile a bunch of the parts, but all it takes is one minor missing part and you are out of luck.

Get Old Car or Truck

My recommendation is pretty much the same as you see after every one of these articles– get an old car or truck. That means an older vehicle that is either a diesel or one that is a distributor/carburetor based gas vehicle. Pre-1968 would be best, but many through the 1980s can work too. Because these are much simpler, any shade tree mechanic can probably keep it running. Diesels are a bit more complicated, but they can still be fixed with simple tools and knowledge. Be sure and get yourself repair manuals for whatever you decide on. You also need to acquire a decent tool set (both metric and SAE) and things like a timing light, vacuum gauge, et cetera. Also get a spare battery, distributor, coil, ballast resistor and belts. There is no reason you cannot have your vehicle for less than $2,500, if you learn before you leap! Remember, it doesn’t need to look good or perfect to serve your needs.

My Go-To Vehicle Choices

With all that said, my “go to” vehicles are an eclectic bunch. Here are my choices:

  • a 1955 Ford Thunderbird,
  • a 1962 Triumph Herald, and
  • a 1985 Chevy S10 pickup.

Why These

Why did I choose these? It is simple. The Tbird gets 21mpg and because, if the end is near, my wife and I are going out in style. The Herald has an 1157cc engine, so I can drive for a long time on a minimal amount to fuel. We can’t go fast, but we can go far. The S10 has been modified to use a carburetor instead of fuel injection and can haul quite a lot of stuff. For each car, I have a spare generator/alternator, a distributor, and a coil. The common denominator on all three vehicles is that they are bone cold simple to work on. None have power anything.

A screw driver, pliers, and a crescent wrench can fix just about anything on them. If I could only have one vehicle, it would be the S10. Older S10s are practically a dime a dozen and easy to restore/fix. They are ideal for almost every need. A pickup would be the most practical package for most people. I’m a Ford guy at heart, but Chevy/GMC trucks are everywhere. That means parts can be found in just about every tree row. You are going to need a lot of parts over the years, and it will be easier with a GM truck.

I hope this may answer a few questions on EMP type problems in modern cars/trucks. I do not pretend that this is the last word on EMP and cars, but I do think it is representative. An EMP situation is going to be terrible for mankind, and I’m not sure many people will survive. All we can do is make any arrangements and try to cope as best we can.

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

This has been another entry for Round 77 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
  2. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
  3. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  4. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  5. Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  6. A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
  7. Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value), and
  8. American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.

Second Prize:

  1. A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
  2. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  3. A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
  4. A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
  5. A Three-Day Deluxe Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $190 value),
  6. A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
  7. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  3. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  4. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
  5. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances, and
  6. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).

Round 77 ends on July 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.


  1. Great artic!e. I own a 56′ Chevy 4 door wagon, that has a early 1970’s 350 motor and T350 tranny in it.

    It has no power steering, no power brakes and no heater, so it is pretty simple.

    It has a roof rack and a trailer hitch, so it is a pretty versatile vehicle for emp purposes.

    Thank you again for the great artic!e.

  2. I have no idea if a lightning strike is at all similar to and EMP, I’ll take your word for it. I’m running a stock ’51 Ford F3 pick up and a ’89 Ford F150 4 X 4 with the old 300cu straight 6 and a 5 speed overdrive manual transmission at the moment. The ’89 has the EFI fuel injection, I have no idea if that system would survive an EMP, with everything I have been reading I’m apt to believe it will.
    I have extra “everything” for the ’51. Got no extras for the ’89, it runs great, has 170,000 on it but the body is going to rust away to dust one day, the cab supports are gone on the driver’s side and you have to lift the door to close it and your feet get wet when you drive in the rain….. hate to spread out a lot of cash on that old but good clunker.

  3. I think it would be great if someone could come up with a bigger list of vehicles that are as EMP proof as possible. Maybe listing several different kinds of vehicles, with their strengths and weaknesses.

    1. I’m pretty sure your ’70 has a PMC so you could be in trouble. Virtually all vehicles after 1974 had some kind of onboard computer. My ’84 Dodge Raider 4×4 has a carb and distributor instead of fuel injection and it still has a PMC. I have a spare one, along with points and condenser and alternator in a faraday cage–just in case.

      1. a 300D is a mechanically injected diesel once you crank it it has no need for anything electrical, all the alternator does is charge the battery to run the lights radio wipers etc.

  4. Great article, vehicles will be on the road after tshtf they will be very cool to very rough classics to junkers. Old parts will become the new gold.
    Carborators, Alternators, distributors and the battery YOU HAVE STORED IN A FARADAY CAGE.
    I think it will be a cleaner version of Mad Max.
    Get ready now, buy the 85′ on back and keep it running before it’s too late.

    1. FYI – 60’s and into 70’s stuff would fit across the line. ie a 64 olds generator would fit on most 60’s GMC vehicles. Same with Ford and Dodge. Sometimes the holes would be tapped the other way and often time the part just had a different prefix, but usuaally would work.

  5. What’s the point? If there is an EMP event and the electic grid goes down, you will not be able to get fuel from a gas station. Get a donkey….

    1. Diesel. A thousand gallon tank of it will get your vehicle a long way, and nobody will pay any attention to your storing it as heating fuel.

      Gasoline? You have a good point.

      The bigger long term problem would seem to be theft. If you have the only moving vehicle in town, it is very valuable.

    2. Probably an EMP will not destroy everything and may well not even harm half the electronics in range. Probably electric power could be restored in days to weeks for most people.

      IF the EMP actually created an TEOTWAWKI situation your car won’t matter nearly as much as a gun or food would and if it were as bad as many think it will be even those things won’t matter after a few months.

      1. ” Probably electric power could be restored in days to weeks for most people. ”

        Citation please. According to the government’s own EMP report power would take MANY years to restore, and up to 90% of the population would be dead within a year. If you’ve got a better source I’m all ears.

        1. There is a lot of hype about the EMP. I believe that is because it is the perfect SHTF for a prepper so they kind of hope for it to prove them right (yes I’m a prepper). Part of the hype is that it will destroy the entire electric generation/distribution system. It won’t. Even an effective EMP will not destroy the power lines or transformers. Part of the reason is that the system is full of weak links and a power surge will “open” these weak links and no current can flow. Power transformers are incredibly robust. We think of a transformer as wires but power transformers are made from literally copper bar that can be up to 1/4″ thick and an inch wide. They don’t burn out easily. But the connection on the outside of the transformer is a fuseable link and will burn out and immediately the transformer (which effectively is in a faraday cage) is out of the system and not at risk. So after a successful EMP 99% of the distribution/generation infrastructure is still standing and sound and all that needs to be done is reconnect it and find those components that did “fry” and replace them. The electric power workers are dedicated and amazing and I would expect them to work 16 hour days and find and fix problems like the troopers they are.

          There is a lot of hype about the new transformers that cost millions and have no spares. Well they do exist but 95% of the distribution/generation transformers are the old style many of them decades old because they don’t wear out. I doubt that the new complex and expensive transformers are any more delicate than the old ones but if they are and somehow they are destroyed they represent a small percentage of the transformers in the system so the system can be restored without them.

          The 90% death rate is the epitome of hype. I just don’t think anyone can substantiate that number. It would be hard on the sick and the old but most people would adjust and do what they must to survive.

          1. Excellent post but I don’t think the 90% figure is the result of the Government believing its own hype. I think it is somewhat realistic based on how widespread the problem would be. If the National food distribution network, which let’s face it is mostly diesel trucks, goes down, folks in cities and towns are three days at most from empty grocery stores. Even if they have a pantry full of food, when children get hungry it will get very nasty in those places.

            Also, many of us out West are dependent on electric pumps for our water supply and you can only live for about three days without water–less here in the desert. So, unless you live someplace where it rains a lot or near a river or lake, water would end up being the most immediate problem to solve.

          2. The 90% death rate as a result of an EMP is simply unrealistic. Try a simple experiment: Would YOU die if an EMP were set off that destroyed the electrical related infrastructure? Most likely your response would be some version of “well, not me but my stupid neighbors would. That would be my response too. And why is that? Because we know what we would do and what we are capable of doing in the face of a emergency. We are confident we would rise to the occasion. Well most people do indeed appear to be distracted if not a little stupid but I think once the SHTF they will focus like a laser beam on surviving. Like that old saying “nothing focuses the mind so much as the thought of hanging in the morning”. I honestly believe that if such an event were to happen that within 24 hours every able bodied man and woman in America would be focused on surviving and perhaps more importantly helping their neighbors to survive. I also believe that “most” of the government would work to facilitate this. It wouldn’t be a picnic but it wouldn’t be certain death either.

          3. @OneGuy,
            It may not be as simplistic as that. Currently, more than 83% of the American population is centered in urban areas. Urban areas are absolutely non-sustainable with out a constant stream of resources pouring into the city. The assumption is that an EMP takes down the electrical grid. (This is the iffy part. I’m not sure anyone truly knows how vulnerable and to what extent the grid is susceptible.) Assume for the moment that the grid goes down.
            What happens to the unsustainable population? They either move out of the city or they die of starvation, thirst, and/or disease. What happens to the rural country side when an urban population that has no skills moves into it en masse? I suspect that the majority simply die off because they can’t/won’t survive on what they have/know, can’t learn/acquire in time to make a difference, and/or can’t find someone that will help them.
            There will be some that survive because they get lucky, some will learn, some will make or find friends, some will turn to violence and take (I’m guessing a significant portion will attempt this – hunger is a powerful motivator), but I suspect that the government estimation is realistic. Over the course of a year, most of the population will die off. The rural areas just can’t absorb that kind of migration and staying in an urban area is pretty much a death sentence. I would also suspect that gangs will rise and extreme violence would ensue. Weather would also have a significant impact as a late fall/early winter scenario would put resources at their worst.
            That of course assumes the worst case, sudden grid down scenario, which is what I believe the government estimate is based on.

          4. I won’t argue with anything you said. It won’t be a picnic. But do you seriously think that 90% of the population will die? Or even 80% or 70% or even 50%? I do not. I think people will act in their best interest, leaders will come forward, groups/tribes will form and people will actively try to help those who need help. I also believe that government will rise to the challenge, perhaps not as effectively as one would hope but effectively enough to save lives and restore civilization. I believe that the sick and weak may well die and those with a propensity to violence will probably receive violence but most will come together and do what it takes to survive. I say this with a straight face and believe I am not naive about human nature. I truly think that most Americans have what it takes but we don’t see it day to day because life is so easy for us. It will be an adjustment for many but I think we can rise to the crisis and survive.

          5. @OneGuy,
            I know it’s depressing to think about it, but we already have evidence on a small scale of just what human nature is capable of and what it will do when resources are scarce. Think back to the EBT gliches a couple of years ago that caused localised riots at Walmart’s. How about that cruise ship that was disabled and stranded passengers for only 5 days. You can even look at societies that are only partially crumbling, but still have electric grid and gas such as Venezuela, Rio de Janiero in Brazil and others. Even the old Yugoslavia as it broke apart had some services and look what happened there. What happens if, as the government predicts, the entire grid goes down causing a cascading failure of supply delivery? No, I don’t think even 50% would make it out of that alive. The government couldn’t even handle localized emergencies like Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy with resources pouring in from all over the nation. How will they possibly handle a nationwide crises with a total lack of resources coming in? In order for a population to come together, it has to have common values and that pretty much doesn’t exist anymore. I would expect society to de-evolve into tribalism just like Yugoslavia did, but without outside help and on a much larger scale. (That of course is a worst case scenario assuming a total grid down situation.)

    3. “What’s the point? If there is an EMP event and the electic grid goes down, you will not be able to get fuel from a gas station. Get a donkey….”

      Donkeys are not much good for hauling things. Sure, if you live in a remote bugout location, you can live surrounded by all of your preps and may think that you will have no reason to need a vehicle. All of that is easy to say now, but the reality will likely be quite different.

      I doubt that the most well prepared survivalist will blithely dismiss the need for any transportation after an EMP attack. There will always be some things that can be added, or friends and relatives who can be helped (unless the survivalist has none and does not care to have any).

      During the first couple of days after an EMP attack, most Americans will simply be befuddled about what has happened. It is during this critical period that last minute additions to preps will be possible if transportation is available. It is also during this period that help can be extended to others if transportation is available. Having a few extra five gallon cans of fuel on hand will have a critical impact on the ability to do this.

      After those first few days, it may be difficult to maintain control of a working vehicle. Car jacking would be a threat. Being commandeered by a public entity would also remove the vehicle from the owner’s control.

      Still, in those first few days, a good working vehicle could, in the long run, make the difference between life and death–or at least serious suffering.

  6. I have a 79 Dodge power wagon…with everything imaginable (electronic) wrapped in foil and stored just in case…however not an alternator..so I think i’ll add one of those…I rebuilt this pk from the ground up, so I know it intimately…thanks for the article…very good insight.

  7. Lightening strike and EMP do not similarly attack electronic systems!

    It is surprising how robust modern vehicle computer systems are from the perspective of electronic interference from a variety of sources. EMP is known to originate from three different sources, all have similarities but each is different: coronal mass ejection (CME), high altitude nuclear burst (HANB), and conventional explosive pumped vircator type devices. Of these, HANB exhibits the shortest overall duration event and shortest rise time. Short rise time can be likened unto high frequency and as many know, high frequency has short wavelength. The shorter the wavelength, the smaller the aperture that will communicate the energy (think openings) into electronic devices.

    The Starfish Prime tests proved that HANB are associated with equipment killing EMP. The HANB destroyed the test equipment set up to measure the EMP, and 1000 miles away in Honolulu the EMP destroyed a microwave relay link and some street lights. It is believed to have killed TELSTAR and eventually 1/3 of LEO satellites failed.

    What we know from these tests is that there are no reports (that I can identify) of conventional ignition (coil, points, condenser, and distributor), in normally aspirated gasoline engines being damaged by EMP. That generation vehicle used a generator with solenoid type charge regulation for starting battery charging. It is not known how modern alternators would fare however one could posit that the high current diode rectifier bridge would likely survive but it is less likely any modern IC based charge regulation circuits would survive.

    Until about 2016, many diesel engines used banks of relays for engine control, including my 5000 series John Deere tractor and 2013 diesel Kubota UTC side-by-side. Of note, the alternator in the Kubota was designed for easy tear down and replacement of both the rectifier bridge and charge regulation circuitry. Those components plus replacement relays in protected storage should easily restore both such machines to service.

    I reviewed 2018 diesel engine tractors from a variety of manufacturers; all utilized computerized controllers most commonly in the emissions control machinery and likely any diesel engine that requires exhaust fluid will be computerized.

    As mentioned earlier, the 1960s era vehicles had generators with solenoid charge controllers and I can find no reports of those being damaged which would leave one to suspect that the engine control relays might just survive an EMP. It is also highly likely that magneto ignition systems such as found in piston aircraft engines and some small gasoline engines would be highly immune to EMP.

    My thoughts.


  8. RE WKB’s comment.

    Any non-computerized vehicle will be resistant to the effects of EMP. One can always keep a complete alternator and even a complete breaker point type ignition system in protected storage. A few years ago, I put a crate engine in a 1970s era Jeep CJ5. By so doing, I had a new engine in a robust vehicle with standard transmission. I topped it off with a new Holley carburator and new Accel conventional coil/breaker point ignition system (not the HEI IC chip version). A complete alternator with internal rectification and charge controller, along with appropriate installation tools, is kept with the vehicle in protected storage. The old CJ5 now has a new highly EMP resistant Chevrolet engine that should be good for a quarter of a million miles with modern lubricants.


  9. It would be great if you’d had plenty of gasoline too cause if the grid goes down you better have the capabilities to make “shine” to run that truck with ’cause the gas stations are not gonna be any help. I’ll wave to you when I pass you by on my Ho-Chi-Minh bicycle.

    1. Long term gasoline storage, my true story:

      I just started my two motorcycles after they sat in a trailer for FIVE YEARS with the gas in their tanks. Yes, I first had to replace both batteries as they were not float charged.

      The 04′ Honda fuel injected 6cyl Rune started INSTANTLY, and purred!
      The Kawasaki took 20 seconds of cranking, as it has dual carbs and needed to fill the bowls. It also PURRED, no missing.

      The equivalent RECIPIE I used in their tanks before trailering them here in 2013 from the east coast, and actually now in Idaho I do this for all my gasoline & 2-cycle machinery on the homestead:

      mixed in 5 gallon steel NATO fuel can:

      1) Ethanol Free high octane fuel (you can test* to verify no ethanol is in fuel)

      2) 1/3 oz Shell PRI-G fuel stabilizer (their reccomended amt for 5 gal)

      3) 1 oz Marvel Mystery Oil

      4) 1 oz Sea Foam

      5) 1 oz Techron

      To verify your station has ethanol free gas (which has 10% more energy also, improving fuel economy by ~ 10%) you will get a small container of gas, and add a smaller qty of WATER. Shake, and if there is no ethanol, the existing fuel will absorb the water. Here is the kit I bought back in 2008 when I started reading SurvivalBlog:

      (note: they now include a dye that makes it easier to see the meniscus line indicating the percentage of alcohol present. nice. )

      Note: I replaced TWO idle stop solenoids in a 1985 Honda Accord due to corrosion by ethanol gasoline. That was a lot of drama…. So, if you are stocking up on EMP-resistant old iron…you better keep alcohol out of the fuel systems too 😉

      East-North-East in Cataldo

  10. Old Toyota pickups are my choice of vehicles. They are near indestructible and, at least where I live, are everywhere, so parts are common and plentiful. Also simple to work on. The pre 1986 4×4 models have the solid front axle and are very capable off road vehicles. The only drawback is that they are getting to be fairly expensive. What was a $2500 truck 10 years ago is now a $4000 to $4500 truck.

  11. Great article and exactly right. Even with an OBDII scanner you still need google or another search engine. Some codes are straight to the point but other codes are misleading due to another part being bad and sending bad signals. It usually takes some good forum reading and experience to hunt down a bad sensor, and after an EMP it would be a nightmare. I also have a 91 S10 with the 2.8L and a 93 S10 blazer with the 4.3, they are easy like you said. I am always looking for more for a good price.

  12. Best post EMP vehicle is a horse (or two)
    If you’re lucky enough to live in a rural area, look into keeping them.
    Wagons can be found very inexpensively as well, and are as easy to work on.
    Fuel is always available for free; you can graze almost anywhere in rural areas.

  13. First off, thanks to you, Oldgeezer, for writing this. It is a practical look at EMP effects from someone other than a disaster salesman. I’ve always thought the biggest threat to vehicles by EMP would be the loss of reliable electricity, thus choking off fuel and lubricant supplies. If the refineries can’t run then fuel disappears pretty quickly. I was beginning to think horses and mules or a wood gasifier modification was necessary.
    Could you please do a follow-up article on diesel engines, parts needed and maybe a suggested vehicle list?
    Note to SB editors, this gets my vote for best article so far in this round!

    1. Yes, Wood gas modification… not the best solution, but fuel is available anywhere trees grow.
      Alot easier and cheaper to do than distilling alcohol… which requires a source of sugar or carbohydrates and a fuel source for heat. (save your corn for eating and your rot-gut for drinking).

      FEMA published a document back in 1989 (Construction of a Simplified Wood Gas Generator for Fueling Internal Combustion Engines in a Petroleum Emergency) showing how to modify a tractor. (you can find it as a pdf file online.)

      Not surprisingly, Rocket Boy (North Korea) still uses wood burning tractors and farm machinery because of their “fuel shortage.”

  14. I appreciate this article, thank you for helping to educate everyone with real world first hand information. We plow our long driveway with a 63 4×4 F250. It’s great to have an EMP-proof vehicle that is driven regularly, which keeps it from deteriorating and helps justify the expense. Stick shift (push start if needed – think about that, it could be an issue). Just a reminder to folks to construct Faraday cages to store your spare ignition modules, points/condensers, alternators and so on in. Stay safe eh?
    Carlos in the UP

  15. Nice article OG! Might add a note that I have not seen anyone address: in my adventure into older model trucks I came upon the problem of Chinese replacement parts. Not just electrical components, but run-of-the mill parts. My first experience was with a fuel pump. Tried two different pumps, one from Auto Zone, another from Advance. Both were Chinese, both failed within hours/days. Had to track down original new parts, ( seems harder and harder for the older models as time goes by.) In the fuel pump case I called national dealer (Dennis Carpenter Ford). They had something like 12 in stock for my ’73 F350. Shipped in original Ford box with “made in Canada”, worked fine, still works…..so I bought 2 more for spares. How to find new fuel pump after that inventory is sold out and there are no more “made in USA (or Canada) parts to be found? Don;t know but I do know the Chinese stuff is *^%#, so I;m stocking up on all parts, not just electrical.

  16. RE: Batteries

    Many batteries will not be damaged from an EMP pulse. Normal car batteries (12V lead acid) have no electronics inside and won’t be damaged. So, you don’t need to worry about putting these in a faraday cage.

    However, many lithium batteries, like those found in laptops or flashlights (18650), have electronics that prevent them from being overcharged or being discharged too much. These batteries may be damaged, depending upon the source of the EMP. If you are worried about an EMP, make sure that you have placed your lithium batteries and chargers inside the faraday cage along with the electronics that you wish to protect.

  17. A direct lightning strike on a vehicle would discharge millions of times more energy than the EMP resulting from a high altitude (~250 mile altitude) nuclear explosion.

  18. I know this is a little off topic, but would EMP affect vehicles stored in metal pole barns? I live in a pole barn house that is fully grounded. Before we had WI-FI we had to step outside to use our cell phones. I have not seen any information regarding this,,,,,,

    1. I believe if you have a metal barn and you park on a cattle panel and ground it to the metal wall it should be like a Faraday cage. I hope the rebar in the slab of a metal building would be fine also. On a new stucture leave one rebar longer sticking out of the slab and ground it to the metal wall. Cars in underground parking garages should be fine also.

  19. I have a 1968 f100. It is power nothing, points and plugs, and 3 on the tree. The bronco, mustang, and almost all other ford vehicles used the same parts. The f100 could come with a 302, 5.0L, motor. I have been able to find every part on this truck brand new except for the hood, as reproduced factory metal parts. All the sub assemblies are rebuildable. The very few electric components could all fit inside a foot locker. I have measured my fuel milage at 19 mpg on the highway and regularly get 17 mpg in town, by driving properly. I agree that the chevys are a bit more prolific. I just love my old ford.

  20. Sorry, not buying it. The reasoning of the article is basically: IF an EMP causes as much damage as multiple lightning strikes THEN it is going to be nearly impossible to fix the car in a SHTF situation. This really tells us nothing about the basic question: how much damage does an EMP cause to car? Only a tiny fraction of the energy released by the bomb is converted to waves of the frequency that can do damage to electronics. How big the fraction is classified so the government may know but they are not saying. Also, a car’s metal body acts as a Faraday shield. How effective a shield is unknown but, in my car, the engine is completely surrounded by the body sheet metal. That is the definition of a Faraday shield. So Zac is correct, a direct lightning strike discharges a huge amount of energy to the car body and components. How this compares to an EMP is not addressed by the article and is the key question.

    1. Bob, you might want to read Newell Frank’s note about specialized EMP nuclear devises. Also, the sheet metal body of your vehicle does not create a faraday cage. The metal must completely surround the items to be protected. No openings for wires, no glass or plastic portions and no openings at the bottom of the engine compartment. No vents, etc. Also, the parts to be protected just not touch the surrounding metal. Thus your car will not work as a faraday cage.

  21. The article did remind me of people finding it hard to get newer car parts or to repair them. I have been told of cars being scrapped because they couldn’t find parts. I thought this seemed stupid but have heard this several times from various people.

  22. When considering the damage done by an EMP, remember this difference — Unlike a lightning bolt, which is a defined amount of electricity hitting a car or electrical system, an EMP is pervasive in the environment and the car or other metal surrounding the electrical system acts as an antenna gathering electricity from the environment and concentrating it into the electrical system.

    Read accounts of the Carrington event of 1859 and imagine what happened to the telegraph system happening to our complex electronic systems.

  23. The best information I can find indicates that Starfish Prime and the Russian K tests were all conventional fission weapons. By this I mean that no “special design” work was done to the weapons to enhance the EMP production. I have not been able to find information in the public domain that indicates how many volts/square meter was laid down by the various tests. I have read test data about modern vehicles that have been tested for EMP damage at levels of 100,000 volts/square meter. All of the tested vehicles were damaged but all of the vehicles were also operational after restarting. Modern “super EMP” weapons are designed to channel most of the fission energy into gamma ray production which is how the E1, E2, and E3 waves are driven. The small (2kt) super EMP weapons are reputed to be able to lay down as much as 200,000 volts per square meter up close (directly under the blast). How far away you are from the detonation has a huge effect on the lay down created by the blast. It is also a line of sight effect so if you are lucky enough to be over the horizon there is no effect.

    Having spare electrical components for any vehicle, EMP or not, is a really good idea. Alternators can go more than 100,000 miles but it is also not uncommon to have one die at or before that. No doubt the best gas burning vehicle to survive high EMP levels would be the venerable Model T Ford. No alternator, no generator, not even spark plug wires!

    In terms of easy to repair, awesome fuel economy, and reliable, the old diesel rabbit pickup trucks are a good pick too.

  24. Many moons ago, Police cars would shut off if a truck with a powerful linear amplifier keyed its mic.
    So they hardened most of the ECUs, perhaps not to a military attack EMP level, but to resist even some fairly strong RF.

  25. Direct coupling (a lightning strike) is NOT the same as an EMP laydown. As far as the old points-and-condenser systems, the Russians documented the 1940 to 1950 era vehicles failed, too. It is easy to harden modern ICs against EMP and EMI. It is inexpensive if done at the design level, and the filters and chokes are only a few dollars.

    Sol-Ark’s inverters (these also contain an MPPT charge controller) are loaded with ICs, and yet they survive many hits on simulators to 150,000 volts per square meter while in full operation…solar panels, too. The tech exists to harden just about anything.

    Auto manufacturers have been toughing up power train electronics for years. Not so much for superfluous gear like wipers, door locks, radio, etc.

    The author is experienced with vehicles, not so much about electrical and RF engineering. Wrenching on transmissions does not make one a systems engineer. Not to say he isn’t competent at what he does…..it’s just outside his skill envelope.

    I think people will lose interest in the vehicle thing in a few hours, when they get thirsty.

  26. A friend attended training on behalf of his city in Southern California. He was told that the LAPD and FEMA would seize vehicles if there was an EMP attack. Of course, LAPD policy applies to LA only. FEMA will be spread so thin after an attack as to be nonexistent for weeks or months.

    Even in the boonies where law enforcement assets are few and far between and FEMA efforts are unknown, commandeering vehicles for government use will take time. After all, the cops will need to have a running vehicle in order to chase down other moving vehicles.

    It’s just my opinion, but only in the most “Mad Max” of “Mad Max Worlds” will a cop shoot a driver for merely failing to stop and surrender a vehicle simply because the cop is trying to seize a working vehicle. I don’t believe that concepts of morality will be turned upside down that fast.

    Car jacking threats? That’s an entirely different situation. Simply being on the road in a working vehicle may involve a serious risk to life and limb. Of course, it was simply a Hollywood treatment, but the scene in “War of the Worlds” when the crowd at the ferry mobbed Tom Cruise and his family in order to take his working vehicle rings true.

    For me, it is that first few days after an attack that having a vehicle is critical. After that, I expect that I will be pretty much hunkered down, and I fully expect that my 1946 Willys CJ2A with its early 80s 3-cylinder, German air-cooled Diesel engine will have done everything that I hoped it would do.

    After that, someone will need to “pry it from my cold dead hands.”

  27. I think post-EMP the problem won’t be a shortage of gas, but the ability to recover it and store it. First, most cars that are affected will have gas in the tank. Most gas stations will have thousands of gallons stored in tanks. Trucks and trains hauling gas will be everywhere as well. The majority of folks, unlike those of us with running vehicles that have prepared, will not be hunting gas – they will be hunting food and water. The problem we need to solve is having the right tools to access where the gas is, securing ourselves while we retrieve it, and having some way to store it long term. Regardless of how well we store it, it is at best a short term solution because it will eventually go bad, but it would make a couple of years more bearable. After that, we will find out how much easier it is to pull wagons with modern wheels and suspensions with livestock, than it was in the old days of wooden wheels and greased-by-hand hubs.

  28. Re: comments regarding lightening strike and EMP.

    The problem is that EMP concentrates mega jules of energy in a very short pulse with rapid rise time. Many are familiar how some electronic components (ICs, etc) can be damaged by static electricity during replacement/installation and with grounding wrist straps. Now imagine the intensity of that static burst magnified about 10Exp8 times. Extremely small microscopic semiconductor junction sizes is what causes vulnerability to EMP; the smaller the junction, the greater the vulnerability. Wires connecting the microprocessor to whatever it controls serves as a conduit into the device for EMP (see front door and back door coupling. See WIKI Radiofrequency MAISNT).

    Many confuse the ability to shield RF energy as being synonymous to shielding against EMP. The two are not the same and just because your AM/FM radio or cellular telephone might not work in a metal skinned building does not equate to EMP protection. It is a wavelength function and the short rise EMP burst will penetrate extremely small apertures.

    The vulnerability of modern electronics to EMP is governed by a number of factors including the size of semiconductor junction, strength of the local EMP burst (which may take place in outer space thousands of miles away and even be moderated by metal shielding), and burst duration.

    Should a modern computerized vehicle be stopped by an EMP, before abandoning the vehicle, I suggest removing the positive starting battery connector, waiting a full minute while saying a prayer, and then reconnecting. The purpose of this exercise is to cause a hard reboot of the computerized ignition system which may restore some functionality to a wounded but not killed microprocessor, and its associated circuitry.

  29. Great article, I am getting too old and fat to be crawling around on old cars and trucks, I do wish I had an old PU to work on, but for now, I’ll just try to keep the three I have in good running condition. There are ways to reduce the effect of EMP, using foil based zipped on cable covering all bonded together. But any PN junction, and that is most sensors will be a perfect target. It would be best for me to keep one of these vehicles in my metal pole barn shop that has a really good RF attenuation. I do believe it would work pretty well to help protect at least one of my foot and knee savers. I have elected to go with electric, or gasoline powered bicycles. I purchased two gas engines for bicycles from Bike-Berry, a chinese company they run about $300 ea I think. They do have an electronic ignition. but a few spares wrapped in aluminum foil within the original packaging will pretty well protect them. Yes Clear gas is best for these machines, but regular gas will do.
    I would presume that after an EMP attack at least for about the first 3 months, that anyone with a motivating vehicle including a peddle bicycle, would be a bulls eye driving down the road. So our major preps would have do do for at least that period of time. by then most of the die off will have occured for the normal unprepared mortals.
    Yes, I am a pretty well prepared Rawlesing prepper. But. by the end of about three months my thought would be that mostly people who were prepared will make it through. then Anyone who wasn’t a prepper and survived is most likely your enemy, and a then a target, if your approached by them with a negative attitude.
    Most military equipment that is not in use by any surviving military should also not only run, but be fair game for survivors to obtain… Like the equipment the NG had in Patriots became the citizens property.
    Our thinking out of the box is very important. I am a HAM, and have thought out of the box for a long time. I have 5 complete Radio systems all set up in EMP protected enclosures ready for use after several days after an EMP. My thought is that there won’t be just one EMP episode, but several over a course of at least a week. These are to ensure that most of the damagable replacement equipment is reduced to junk. Staying off the roads after an EMP for several days or weeks will be most important. Establishing communications of any kind after an event must incorporate great caution, and situational awareness.
    Blessing to all , and hello Jim
    Dave of Oregon

  30. IMHO, the only country that will launch an EMP weapon on the citizens of these united States is the government of the United States. I think we’re safe, for now, until TPTB decide to take out Trump. He’s no savior, but he is the best we’ve had since Reagan.

    As far as the EMP proof vehicle goes, my choice is a mid 80’s or older Jeep Grand Wagoneer. I might even go as new as ’91 since it was still carburated and had relatively few electronics to worry about. Then, later, if it fits, converting to a Cummins diesel from a Dodge Pickup, ’98 or older. I don’t know if it’s even a possibility, but worth investigating. I need some level of comfort for my physically challenged wife. The truck is just too tall.

  31. Probably the best advice offered above is to stay off the road and hunkered down for several weeks. That dovetails nicely for the average Joe prepper who isn’t necessarily preparing for the end of the world. Instead he prepares for his family to not have to contact others or go to town for a month or more. That covers a wide range of disasters and provides the basis for long term survival.
    After that period, there will be a lot fewer people to compete with for resources.

  32. I realize that I am coming into this discussion late, but it seems to need some illumination. First, I concur there is a need for an EMP resistant vehicle. I have a 1963 Ford F100 pickup with no electronics. However, it is important to understand what all would be damaged and how. The lack of transportation may be the least of our problems. A high altitude nuclear detonation (HAND) produces three damaging waves of energy.

    The E1 wave is a high frequency, fast rise pulse that damages electronics. The most critical damage of the E1 wave is to the control electronics for the grid, water plants, sewer plants, oil refineries, etc.. Most electronic equipment that has ESD and RFI protection is designed to resist no more than 5KV/m3. Even a modest HAND produces between 50KV/m3 and 200KV/m3.

    The E2 wave is similar to lightening. Therefore, it will damage those items susceptible to lighting damage. This is of the least interest.

    The E3 wave is a long lasting, slow rise pulse which damages primarily the power grid components such as transformers.

    It is the combination of the E1 and E3 waves which causes the grief. Not only will the electrical generation and transmission capacity be greatly reduced, the control electronics for many areas of the national infrastructure will be rendered inoperative.

    There will be no gas production, no food production or distribution, no sewer or water service, no fire and police, no communications (except ham operators), no medical service, no pharmacy, no banks, no ATM machines, etc..

    Yes, 90% will die within the first year. The government will not come to the rescue. Your neighbors will not come to the rescue, in fact, they will be your most immediate problem.

  33. Good article, definitely some points to think of. I love how the picture on the main page is a screen grab from Star Wars: Clone Wars, “The Zillo Beast”. My children and I were impressed. That series is an interesting one, often showing how big government good vs evil conflict, that it is often hard to see the truth of the matter during times of crisis.

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