Like what seems to be most of SurvivalBlog readers, I am stuck near a city by the need to work. I have an exit plan (a.k.a. Bug-Out plan) that we are following. I decided to share some aspects of our actions. If you do the suggested vehicle maintenance and repair work then this will assist you to avoid being broken down along the road during your Bug Out exit. These checks and corrections will also benefit by eliminating typical defects that arise in normal use.
The beginning part of each check is an inspection of your Bug-Out Vehicle (BOV). I will guide you on what to examine. You then have the options:
1. Do any corrective work yourself for lowest cost and probably higher quality, or
2. Have the work done by someone else.
If you aren’t sure that you have correctly identified a potential concern then please have someone that you trust review your discovery. Right now–in relatively “normal” times–you have the option to repair immediately or plan to take action soon. But if you wait until much “later” then the time or parts may not be available.
The Vehicle Interior:
Begin by cleaning all glass surfaces. This enables you/all to see further. The improvement in vision after looking through dust or other junk may seem to be major. I typically do this cleaning every six months. I am always amazed at the vision improvement. The clean vision may give you enough extra reaction time to avoid problems.
Adjust all mirrors for comfortable vision of what is behind you. Did you clean the mirror surface? Please do so now.
Let’s move to the vehicle exterior from front to back:
First, clean all parts of all headlight glass. Please replace any damaged lens ASAP if the glass has been chipped. While on level ground, point the front of the vehicle toward a vertical wall, after dark. Turn the headlights on. Visually check that both the high and low beam filaments in all bulbs are working. Are both of the high beams orientated correctly both left/right and up/down?
Reminder: When you load the rear of a vehicle it tends to squat down. This rear squat causes the light from the headlights to be directed higher. Oncoming traffic sees this light as aimed toward their eyes. The easy and inexpensive solution is to use low beams if oncoming traffic is near.
Next, clean all parking light lenses. I suggest, where possible, that you remove and clean the inside surface of each lens.
I’ve found that a flexible paint brush and water works well to help remove dust. Do not try to clean the glass surface of the bulb if it is either on or warm to the touch. The cold water may cause the glass of the bulb to shatter. The interior of the bulb glass may have what appears to be a black or dark layer. This dark layer is material which was vaporized from the bulb filament. This gas vapor then condensed and stuck to the cool glass. This dark layer is partially blocking light. Solution: Replace the bulb. The benefit, to you and others, is that traffic can see your lights from further away. This earlier warning gives all extra time to react and avoid an accident.
Note: The small bulbs are low cost. I recommend that you carry a spare of each size on your vehicle.
If you are towing another vehicle or trailer, then repeat the clean, inspect, or replace any / all weak or defective bulbs.
Have you ever followed someone who is towing something? Did their lights on the trailer flash randomly in bright / dim cycles? This light change is almost always caused by a poor ground path between the vehicles. An inexpensive test: At night connect a battery jumper cable between the tow vehicle battery ground terminal and the frame of the towed vehicle. If the lights on the trailer brighten then a poor ground path has been found. The solution is to connect a 10-gauge wire between the tow vehicle battery ground and the trailer frame. I recommend using large Anderson Power Pole-style connectors as a connect/disconnect method between vehicles. I routed my ground wire inside the frame. This protects the wire from being snagged by brush or “helpful” people.
A Crucial Check of Your Tires
Check the tread depth on all tires including the spare tire. It is well known that 90 % of all tire failures occur in the last 1/8 inch of tread. A tread depth gauge [ Slime No. 20177 at $3.99 ] is available from both AutoZone and Advance Auto Parts. You can also get this gauge from Amazon.com for less than 3 dollars.
I suggest you purchase and carry a tire pressure gauge. You should inflate all tires to their maximum rated pressure if carrying a “bug out” or other heavy load. By the way –What’s the tire pressure and tread depth of the spare tire(s)?
I highly recommend that you purchase a wheel lug nut wrench. This tool may be also known as an “X” or star
wrench. Place a wrap of tape of the side of the wrench that fits the size of the lug nuts on your vehicle. This will eliminate the usual question of: “What side of this thing do I need to use? Another suggestion would be to paint only one arm of the wrench a bright color.”
Another suggestion, before we move on, is to carry a 2″ thick piece of wood that is square or rectangular and about one-foot size. This wood gives your jack a firm base if the ground where you need to replace a tire is either soft or muddy. My experience is that flat tires always seem to occur in the worst possible location. Clean the wood after use or leave it? Your call. I will simply leave it and replace it later.
My final suggestion for this section is to carry a 2-to-3 foot length of Schedule 40 or Schedule 80 steel pipe. This pipe should fit over a wrench arm. This extension “cheater bar” can give extra leverage to loosen the lug nuts.
Note: The star lug wrench and pipe extension can allow a member of the “weaker sex” to remove any lug nuts that were put on by ‘Godzilla”.
I recommend that you begin by treating each vehicle to a under-hood cleaning at your local car wash. This cleaning will make it easier to find and trace any leak back to the problem area. And by removing the old oil/grease there is less combustible material to burn in the event of a fire.
Check all belts on the motor for major tears. If the belt has multiple groves minor tears are typically found in the small partitions. However, if the base of the belt is torn more than 1/16 inch in depth the belt should be replaced immediately. I carry a full set of replacement belts. This would eliminate both a towing charge and wasted downtime.
I recommend an oil change before doing your bug-out run. The oil, air, and fuel filters should also be changed. You should also check the fluid levels in the power steering, transmission and brakes. Did you catch the suggestion to replace the fuel filter? These fuel filters tend to be forgotten until they plug up and stop flowing fuel. Any water stopped inside the filter can freeze during cold weather. All fuel flow is then stopped. The result is an expensive tow, lost time and high list replacement cost. A major event may cause lots of people to travel and need fuel. The gas stations may be selling the fuel from the bottom of their storage tanks if their fuel delivery is delayed. I don’t want to coast to a stop in my BOV with a motor that can’t run. Do you?
(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 2.)