Prepper projects: 5 ways to make an old car SHTF-ready
09/06/2021 // Franz Walker // Views

You don't need to buy a new car for your bug out vehicle. In many cases, your old car will do just fine; you just need to make sure you've prepared it right.

Any car can be used as a bug out vehicle, regardless of age. What's important is how you prepare it. Here are five ways to get your old car ready before SHTF. (h/t to

1. Stock food and water

You need to make sure that your bug out vehicle has all the supplies you need. This allows you to just hop in and go when SHTF without having to worry about loading your supplies.

Water is one of the most important things to stock. While people can survive for weeks without food, you'll only last around three days without water – even less when it's hot and you're constantly sweating. Try to pack at least 4 gallons of water or more if you have room.

As for food, choose nonperishable items like dried fruit, peanut butter, canned soup, granola bars and beef jerky.

2. Think about first aid

Injuries can be unavoidable in some emergency situations. You should prepare for these situations by securing a first aid kit inside your bug out vehicle.

Stock your first aid kit with items such as gauze, bandages, sticky tape, cleansing wipes and natural antibiotics. Consider adding practical tools like tweezers, scissors and safety pins. Remember to stock up on emergency medicines and remedies you might need.

3. Perform routine maintenance

All your work stocking supplies in your bug out vehicle will be for naught if it doesn't start in the first place. You also never know when disaster will strike. Therefore, it's important that you keep your old car up and running by performing routine maintenance on it.


If you have the chance, you should do a quick visual inspection of your car every day to see if anything is out of the ordinary. Beyond that, you should also check your fluids, such as fuel, transmission fluid, engine oil, brake fluid and more at least once a month. While you're at it, check your tire pressure as well.

Finally, you should take your vehicle in for inspection by a trusted and certified mechanic at least once a year. This allows you ample time to catch and take care of any issues you may not be qualified or have time to handle when SHTF.

4. Add renewable power sources

Your car's battery can be used to power your devices, but it's still a limited resource. If you use it too much, it can affect your car's ability to start and get going. In addition, trying to keep the battery charged by running the engine is a waste of fuel.

With this in mind, you should invest in some form of portable power pack, preferably with built-in solar panels. If you have enough room in your car, you can also store a generator, which can give you enough power to light your camp and use a few important devices. (Related: How to build your own DIY portable solar power box for emergencies.)

You should also bring along batteries of various sizes for any devices that use them.

5. Install a two-way radio

While modern devices can be convenient forms of communication, the infrastructure that powers them may stop working when SHTF. In this situation, old-school citizen-band (CB) radios are a low-cost alternative. CB radios offer 40 different channels and have a range of up to 15 miles. That said, they're limited to line-of-sight, which means that conversations can often cut in and out.

Other radio options exist but will require a bit more investment on your part. General mobile radio service (GMRS) operates on FM channels unlike CB radios and has a range of 25 miles. But GMRS requires a license to operate and getting one can cost you around $70.

If you don't mind studying for a 50-question exam, you can apply to operate a ham radio. Not only does this have a longer range than both CB and GMRS, but it can also be interfaced with a computer or tablet to send texts, images and Morse code.

Any old car can serve as your bug-out vehicle regardless of how old it is. What's important is that it's able to start and run at a moment's notice. With this in mind, be sure to keep it well-maintained and well-stocked so that it's ready to roll when SHTF.

Follow for more tips on how to keep yourself ready for when disaster strikes.

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