Human beings are habitual creatures. They tend to do the same things over and over for no other reason than because it’s easier.
Think about everything you do out of habit: your morning routine (shower, breakfast, getting dressed), making yourself something to eat, surfing the internet or the television.
How many times a day do you say, “how are you?”
Now think about your relationship with your car.
How many times during the week/month/year do you just jump in your car, turn on the ignition and take off?
Before you unlock your car and get in, how many times do you check your oil and coolant levels or look at your tires?
What would you do if you were on your way home after running some errands and an emergency hit that prevented you from getting home?
Would you have enough supplies in your car to keep you alive until you could get home?
If you were driving on Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia on Tuesday, June 23, 2015 around 7 PM when a powerful thunderstorm hit the area, this is what happened.
As trees and power lines started to come down, drivers were forced to pull over and wait out the storm.
Fortunately, the storm didn’t last for hours, but it could have.
If this happened to you, would you be okay?
Your car should be an extension of your home: it should be stocked with essentials, well maintained and clean. This isn’t so you can flee your area in search of shelter, but so you can return to your home in one piece.
Routine maintenance should be done on your car. This includes: tune-ups; oil changes; tire rotation; checking the tire pressure regularly; performing a self-inspection of possible tire wear and tear; as well as changing your windshield wipers every six months to a year, and washing/waxing your car once a month to prevention corrosion.
Here are 10 other things your car should have:
1. Your car should be clean.
Your car should not be used as an extra closet or a dumping ground for spare shoes that you never seem to wear, old newspapers, dirty clothes, take-out menus, food wrappers, maps, dirty/clean cups/plates or eating utensils, toys, bottles (alcoholic or baby), and whatever else people like tossing in the back.
You should be able to see the floor, seats and even the windows in your car.
If you are one of those people who feel that the area by your back window is also a shelf for chatskies, you need to take them down.
Really, do you spend any time at all looking at them or dusting them off? No. The space they take up is space that could be used further down the line if you so need it.
So for the love of Pete and all that is holy in this world, please clean out your car.
2. Running on empty.
Many people don’t think about filling up their gas tank until it’s down to a quarter tank.
Women tend to be the worst offenders by driving around with a quarter of a tank, but men (especially those under the age of 30) do it too.
Preppers should always make sure that their tank is full at all times.
If you have a favorite gas station, try to get a re-loadable gift card so you don’t need to have money on you or a credit card to fill up your car.
If your car manufacturer is suggesting a gas with a certain level of octane rating then it would be wise to only put that type of gas in your car.
They are telling you this for a reason. Usually it’s because a lower octane rating will have a negative effect on the engine.
They have no financial gain with gas suppliers and will not profit from the extra five cents that you have to spend.
There are some people who will keep a plastic container of gas in their trunk. Not only is this dangerous, but gas also goes stale (it will degrade) and will affect its performance.
If you get into the habit of filling up your car regularly, you don’t need to take such precautions not to mention that the container of gas will no longer take up valuable and unnecessary space.
3. Motor oil and coolant.
Although gas is really important so is maintaining correct levels of motor oil and coolant in your car.
You should always carry at least four quarts of motor oil, paper towels, a container of coolant, windshield washer fluid, and a funnel in your car.
To save yourself time, consider purchasing coolant that is already premixed.
There are people who will use water they have on hand in place of a coolant. Any water you have should be for your own consumption or personal needs.
To save money you can purchase the motor oil and coolant in cases, keep them in your garage or by your front door. This way you’ll always have them on hand.
You can store just what you need in the back of your trunk either in a small box (cardboard or plastic) or in an old bag/tote.
By keeping them all together in one place you limit the time spent rooting around for them.
Important tip: Use only the type of motor oil that your car requires. This information can be found either near or on the cap of the oil tank in the front of your car, in your owner’s manual or by asking a mechanic.
At auto supply stores like Pep Boys, they have that information stored in their computers. All you need to give them is the make and model of your car.
4. Battery chargers and booster/jumper cables.
It’s a fact of life that sometimes your car battery will die.
They do a lot of things and work really hard especially if you have a car that has a lot of electric functions to it such as radios, automatic windows, etc.
This is why it’s important to have a battery charger as well as booster cables (also referred to as jumper cables) stored in the trunk of your car.
You can purchase these items online (www.harborfreight.com or amazon.com) or at auto supply stores such as Autozone or Pep Boys. Other stores like Wal-Mart, Loewes and Sears also carry them.
These are a must-have for every prepper.
For a tutorial on charging your car’s battery, please go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMPuzmhYCQc.
5. Spare tires and jacks.
Most people tend not to think too much about their spare tire until it’s too late.
At least twice a month take your spare tire out and inspect it. Make sure it has enough air in it and the treads aren’t worn.
You should consider replacing the jack that came standard with the car because most of them are cheaply made.
Jacks are an important tool to have in your car and you need one that is well made; one that will work when you need it to.
Jacks and lug wrenches make really good weapons in cases of emergency as well.
In your bag/box that contains your motor oil, also have a can or two of WD 40 and a good lug wrench.
WD 40 is great to use on rusted or frozen bolts and it prevents them from breaking or being stripped.
If you have hub caps that are locked, make sure you keep the key either on your key chain or in a Ziploc bag that is placed in your glove compartment.
Practice removing your tire and placing the spare on it because it’s not as easy as it looks.
You may need to know how to do this effortlessly or at least have some practice under your belt. Tires don’t always go flat when there’s no traffic around or when it’s sunny outside.
You could also find yourself in an area that you don’t feel 100% safe in and being able to change a tire quickly may be imperative.
To learn how to change a flat tire, here’s a video, courtesy of YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDjbz5TrHJA.
Always carry a good supply of rags (at least 5-8) and towels (10) in the trunk of your car.
Avoid the towels they sell at hardware and auto supply stores. Try to get terry cloth towels. You can also purchase towels at flea markets, garage sales and thrift stores.
Place them in a large canvas tote in the trunk of your car and use them for the basic stuff (cleaning, drying off), but they can also be used if your car gets stuck in the mud:
1. Place one towel behind each tire. The towel should be as close to the tire as you can get. Lay them out flat. The thicker the towels are the better.
2. Put your car in reverse and slowly back up. The tires will grip the towels and pull themselves out of the mud.
There are survivalists who will tell you that you can also use kitty litter or twigs and branches.
These certainly work as well, but if you get stuck you may not want to venture away from your car to find twigs and branches or leaves. Kitty litter will take up valuable room in your car and the bag is cumbersome to pull out.
Towels (and rags) are multi-purpose items and are easier to store.
Fan belts have a habit of breaking when you least need them to.
Pantyhose can be used as a temporary fix to the problem. They are not meant for a long-term solution, but one that can be used to get you to a safer area (such as a well-lit parking lot or an automotive repair shop).
You should never use pantyhose that have already been worn or cheaply made ones because these tend to rip or run easily.
Invest in some of the strongest pantyhose that are on the market such as: Donna Karan The Nudes Control Top ($18) or Wolford Logic ($35).
To learn how to use pantyhose as a temporary fan belt, YouTube also has a video for that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzjYghiW7KQ.
8. A first aid kit.
Having a first aid kit in the car is always important, but purchasing a kit that already has stuff in it is a waste of money.
Make your own first aid kit using an old book bag or messenger bag that is catered for your needs.
Consider filling the bag with:
- A week’s worth of your prescription medicines
- Cotton balls and sterile gauze
- Rubbing alcohol
- Band-aids in different sizes
- Ace bandages (at least 2)
- Large and small Popsicle sticks (these can be used as splints)
- About 3 yards of material (preferably cotton or linen). These can be used to make bandages, slings, etc.
- Tweezers, scissors, nail clippers
- Antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin
- Fishing wire or suture thread and a strong needle
- Hand sanitizer
- Duct tape (medical tape is worthless)
9. The extras.
There are things that you may need in your car that doesn’t fit in any of the categories listed above. They are:
- A small shovel
- A small pick axe
- Set of sharp knives
- Bungee cords
- Electrical tape
- Batteries in various sizes (at least four of each)
- Lighters (at least 5)
- Lint balls
- Garbage bags (both kitchen and trash)
- Moist towelettes
- Twist ties, zip ties and rubber bands
- Solar lamp
- Cash, reloadable gift cards, reloadable credit cards
- Tarp, plastic sheeting
- (1) Mylar thermal sleeping bag
- Change of clothes (2 maximum)
- Set of tools such as hammer, wrenches and screwdrivers
- Screws and nails
- Pry bar
10. Food and water.
It’s important to make sure you have enough food for not only yourself, but for your passengers.
For instance, if your car seats five people you’ll need enough food for five people and that supply should be a week’s worth.
For water, a good rule of thumb is that each person should have three bottles of water and an addition two bottles for other uses.
As opposed as you may be to have bottled water, storing bottles of water in the car saves precious space.
You may be tempted to just load your car up with chips and candy, but you will need food that’s more sustainable.
Invest in MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). These are prepackaged, single serving ready to eat meals that have been used by the military for years. They also have a long shelf-life.
You can also pack some peanut butter, crackers, energy bars, and trail mixes.
Make sure you keep an eye on any foods with expiration dates, using them before they expire and replacing them.
In addition to the food, also make sure you have napkins (or paper towels), plastic eating utensils, paper plates and bowls as well as a P-38.
A P-38 is a military issue can opener that can easily fit on your key ring. Many Army/Navy surplus stores as well as online websites such as Amazon.com sell them.