“The best gun is the one you have with you when you actually need it.” We’ve almost all heard or read that old saying at some point in our lives. It is such a common saying because we all recognize the simple truth inherent in those words. It doesn’t matter how many “tacti-cool” guns you have at home in the safe if you’re miles or just blocks from where you live when you suddenly need to defend your own or someone else’s life. The gear you have with you (or close at hand) is the stuff you’re going to war with when the next emergency, disaster, riot, civil disorder, or whatever craziness to happen kicks off.
Our personal vehicles are absolutely central to our everyday lives. Nearly all of us spend a great deal of time in our vehicles. Our modern life as we know it would not be possible without them. While a reality-TV viewing audience would insist that the best way to spend money on a vehicle would be to “pimp their ride,” equipping it with flashy rims, a bounce-to-the-house hydraulic system, and a stereo that rattles the neighborhood, you can get the jump on any number of TEOTWAWKI -scenarios by “prepping your ride” instead.
Effectively preparing your vehicle for involvement in an emergency scenario is like everything else. It requires some forethought and planning. You already plan and train to defend yourself and your family at home, and you need to put some consideration and training into doing the same thing when you’re on the road.
It’s the old “P6 principle” at work— proper prior planning prevents poor performance. As a former LEO, I’ve gained great insight into “auto preparedness” and am convinced a large percentage of the population never gives any thought whatsoever to their course of action should they experience the unexpected while on the road. Many even have little idea of what to do with difficulties as commonplace as how to change a tire or jump start their car, much less how their vehicle should fit into something as “extreme” as having a survival plan.
Let’s assume you’re someone who sees the benefit of thinking about your vehicle and how you can equip it (and yourself) to operate more effectively from it in the event of a crisis. Let’s first ask a few critically important questions.
Does It Run Reliably?
We’ll assume your vehicle already runs, as having one that doesn’t is about as effective as trying to eat a soup sandwich under a fire hose. The real question here is, have you maintained your vehicle in good, mechanical working order? The fanciest bug-out kit in the trunk of your car is actually less important under most conditions than your car being a reliable source of transportation. That’s what a car should do, now and under TEOTWAWKI rules, right? If your vehicle can get you from point A to B, you’ll likely never need to use that bug out bag in the trunk.
A poorly-maintained vehicle can leave you and/or your family members stranded by the side of the road at the wrong time and in some bad areas. In other words, poor maintenance and insufficient care of your vehicle’s normal operating requirements can actually create a crisis for you. Society does not have to be collapsing all around you for a situation to be dangerous for you or your family. A simple flat tire or breakdown in the wrong part of town or at the wrong time of day is potentially as dangerous a situation to you personally as a riot or civil disorder might be.
Gas: Your car is going nowhere without gasoline. Given that we all already know that, why do so many people consistently drive around with less than a quarter tank of gas in their car? In a disaster there will be no gas in the affected areas and even in surrounding regions. We all know that people hoard in crisis situations, or even in situations they perceive to be a crisis.
Even a regular power outage means no gas, as nearly all pumps are powered by electricity, and only some stations have a backup source of power—i.e. a generator. Also, without electricity, that credit and debit card in your wallet are nothing more than rectangular pieces of plastic. So, unless you are clairvoyant and know exactly when the next disaster or crisis will strike, it’s a good idea to keep your tank as close to full at all times as possible. It’s an even better idea to have a regularly rotated supply of stored gas treated with a fuel stabilizer on hand. Treated fuel is good for six months to a year before it should be used and replaced by fresh fuel. You need at least ten gallons of treated fuel on hand at home.
Oil/Coolant: Without being lubricated by the proper weight auto oil your owner’s manual recommends, your engine will seize up and your car will go…that’s right you guessed it, nowhere. Ideally, you should know how to change your own oil, but, at the very minimum, you need to know how to find the dipstick and determine whether or not you need to add oil. It should go without saying that you also need to know where to pour the oil into your engine. You should have at least two unopened bottles of the oil your engine requires somewhere in your vehicle. Hopefully, that would be enough to at least get you and your vehicle down the road and out of harm’s way in the event that your car began leaking oil. Know where to pour your coolant if you need to do that. Make sure you have some good heat resistant gloves in your vehicle if your engine has been running. Mechanix gloves  are a must for your car’s kit, and they do great “double duty” as tactical shooting gloves too.
Tires: It is the friction between your tires and the ground that makes your car move. If your tires are excessively worn, you are placing your life and the lives of everyone around you in needless jeopardy every single day. In short, you are creating the groundwork for a crisis/emergency. As any law enforcement officer can tell you, even people who change their oil and perform basic maintenance often overlook their tires. They don’t ever look at them, don’t rotate them, and are driving around on borrowed time, riding on bald tires.
You should know (from your vehicle’s manual) what the recommended psi for your tires is and do your best to keep it close to that. You should get into the habit of doing a brief walk-around before you enter your vehicle. This not only allows you to take note of hazardous-to-tires materials on the ground, like broken glass, (and potentially avoid them) but also to do a quick visual check of the state of your tires and of your vehicle in general.
You should know where your car’s jack, the jack’s turn-handle, your lug wrench, and your spare tire are located and how to use them. If the only spare-tire you can locate while in your car is around your waist, you need to train, both physically and with regards to your car and the location of its equipment. I’d definitely recommend buying a 4-way lug wrench  to keep in your car. They make removing rusty or pneumatically-tightened lug nuts much easier than the standard lug wrenches that come with your vehicle. It is a good idea to determine which head on the 4 Way lug wrench fits your car’s lug nuts, and then spraypaint that head to allow you to efficiently distinguish it from the three other heads when you’re changing a tire at night beside some poorly-lit stretch of road.
Some Emergency Items Every Vehicle Should Have:
- Good Jumper Cables: Train in the use of good jumper cables . Write down the procedure on a 3×5 index card and laminate it. Punch a hole in the card’s corner and attach it to the cables with a zip tie or paracord. You may already know how to use things like jumper cables, but does your wife? Does your daughter? How about under stress in the dark while it’s raining?
Think about anyone who might have to use such equipment, and never assume they know how to use it safely and properly. It’s like the saying goes, “Never assume anything.”
One of the best alternatives to jumper cables are battery packs, like Duracell’s Powerpack 600 . They can be safely stored in your vehicle and can be used to quickly jump start your engine without the need to find someone willing to give you a jump. The Duracell powerpack can also inflate tires and more, so the end-user (you) has extended capability out of this single platform. Buy two of them, because as the saying goes, “two is one and one is none,” and because you can keep one being charged at home and swap it out with the one riding around in your vehicle every few days.
- A Spare Gas Can: A five-gallon size should be more than sufficient. Two to three gallon size cans are likely better, as they take up less room in your trunk and carrying a full five gallon can might prove challenging for smaller and weaker individuals, especially if they have to carry it over any distance. Remember, if you’re using this piece of kit, you’ll be walking. While an empty gas can is light, humping a full one on the way back to your car will be a different story. Most service stations don’t carry such cans regularly; selling snacks and soft drinks is a more profitable use of their shelf space. You can’t count on someone happening along anytime soon who will have one that they’ll let you use.