Preparing Your Vehicle For Emergencies


Car breakdown couple calling for road assistanceMany of us living in suburbia that commute to and from work sometimes take for granted one of the most important preps, YOUR CAR.  It is critical that you remember that your vehicle in a survival situation is your shelter and it will protect you from the elements, insects and predators. There has been case after case of people becoming stranded in their vehicle because of a mechanical breakdown, or they took a shortcut, got lost and their vehicle became stuck.

In many of these cases, individuals left their vehicle to find help, and succumbed to hypothermia, dehydration or from injuries. They simply could not find their way back to civilization. Rescue personnel only managed to find an empty vehicle because the occupants decided to abandon their shelter. One of the reasons they may have left their vehicle is because they did not have any provisions such as food,water and blankets.


Preparing your vehicle is particularly important if you plan to travel outside of your area. People become complacent because they commute everyday using the same routes and nothing ever happens. If their car does break down they call home or a tow service. Once out of your area, and you have a breakdown, are caught in bad weather or your vehicle slides off the highway there may not be anyone to call or there is no cell phone service. At this point, you are stranded miles from anywhere.


  1. Water for three days using the one gallon per day recommendation and if your vehicle is parked outside during cold weather protect the water from freezing by using Styrofoam coolers and surrounding the water with newspaper or clothing inside the cooler.

It is not recommended that you carry extra water for your vehicle’s radiator. You should carry the proper coolant/anti-freeze for your vehicle’s engine.

  1. Have at least a three-day supply of foods that can withstand temperature variations, canned goods cannot be frozen and thawed repeatedly.
  2. Even though your vehicle is your primary shelter, in hot weather you do not want to be inside it during the day. Have several lightweight tarps that can you can use for shade outside the vehicle during the hot parts of the day.
  3. Carry an extra vehicle battery (with heavy-duty jumper cables) and the tools to change out your vehicle’s battery along with tools for minor repairs. Make sure you have a full sized spare tire and the tools needed to change the tire. Carry extra engine oil, funnel to add the oil and hand wipes for clean up. Carry a small fire extinguisher (ABC) for engine fires.
  4. First aid kit, and include hand sanitizer and body wipes to conserve water and common over the counter medications. See your health care professional about obtaining an emergency supply of prescription/maintenance medications that must be taken each day.
  5. Two Emergency thermal blankets (Mylar blankets) and if room allows carry several wool blankets. Have walking/hiking shoes and cold weather clothing. You have to remember that the weather may be temperate when you leave for your destination but can change as the geography changes.
  6. Cell phone and car charger, portable radio and consider a Citizens Band (CB) radio either battery operated or can be connected to your vehicle’s 12v system or 24v if you have a diesel-powered vehicle.
  7. Battery operated lights, avoid lights that require your vehicle’s battery to operate because they can drain your battery or your battery may not be operational if you have an accident.
  8. Emergency flares and brightly colored signal flags that can be attached to your vehicle. This is particularly important in snowy weather. You want rescue personnel to be able to see your vehicle from the air and ground.
  9. Small wilderness survival kit in a backpack that contains a multi-tool, knife, matches, lighters, water purification tablets, spare water carrier, coffee filters for emergency water filtration, compass and maps of the area, state and country. Your kit should also contain insect repellent, lip balm, sunscreen, sunglasses, bandanas, 50 feet of quality nylon rope, work gloves and hat.

You will have to adapt your supplies to your particular situation, room may be a factor but water and food must be a priority, along with cold weather clothing and protection in cold climates. Once you realize you are stranded stay with your vehicle.

If you are stranded in snow, make sure the tailpipe is not obstructed with snow. Run the vehicle for short periods 10-15 minutes at a time every hour for warmth. Heat conducts from warm to cold so to prevent thermal heat loss wrap-up in a thermal blanket. If in whiteout, conditions do not walk away from the vehicle. You can become lost just a few feet away in blowing snow.

Attach signal flags to the vehicle by attaching one on each side of the vehicle by rolling a window up on the flags. If your car has slid off the road, and is not visible to motorists traveling the highway, then attach flags near where the vehicle left the roadway.

If you are involved in a single vehicle accident, (slid off the road, struck a tree) make sure there are no fuel leaks or other dangers. If you cannot stay inside your vehicle set up a shelter close by. You want to stay near the vehicle because that is what rescue personnel will be looking for, make sure they do not find an empty vehicle. Trying to walk out when you do not know how far away help is, is not recommended.

Start a signal fire if it is safe to do so, smoke can be seen for miles during the day and light from the fire can be seen at night.


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