6 Tips To Keep Your Vehicle Ready For Bugging Out

When talking about emergency preparedness and survival, your vehicle is your ticket Out of Dodge if you decide that ‘Bugging In’ is not your first choice of options.  There are a number of good tips that can help keep you and your family safe as you navigate your way out of an urban disaster area.

1. Keep your vehicle gassed up and ready to go.

Try and maintain your vehicle at a minimum of ¾ of a tank.  Whenever it drops below that it’s an easy and quick stop at the gas station to fill it back up.  Consider that in a TEOTWAWKI or SHTF situation where everyone is trying to get away from the urban disaster, the lines at the gas station may be long if the gas stations are even open at all.  It could be total chaos and if you are spending time trying to procure resources (such as fuel) that are in high demand instead of putting distance between yourself and the city (if that is the most desired course of action for you and your family), then you will have a much more difficult time escaping. (Check out this product that you can keep safely in your car – Spare Fuel)

Car Survival Kit

2.  Keep your doors locked.

This a good rule of thumb whether you are parked (to avoid unwanted visitors waiting inside when you are not in your vehicle) or whether you are driving.  If you are stuck in any type of traffic or situation where you are moving slowly and the door flies open with someone wanting to help themselves to a ride or more, it adds whole new level of complication to your escape plan.  There are also products out there to make your car less vulnerable to thieves and assaults, for example VehicleGard Glass Film Protection helps to fortify your car windows from attack.

Survival Kit for your car go bag

3. Plan multiple routes.

There are no guarantees that the most direct, main road out of town will be open.  This could be due to roadblocks or just congestion caused by everyone trying to go the same way to get away from danger.  Having at least two or three alternative routes to get out of the area could pay huge dividends when time is critical.  Also, make sure you have a good Road Atlas, do not just rely on your GPS, always have a backup.  Remember – “Two is one, One is none”.  Also, see “3 Maps That Should Be in Your Survival Gear

4. Work as a team.

If your wife, husband, children, parents, roommates or friends are part of your bug-out plan and you are planning to take them with you (no judgment here), figure out who is better skilled at driving and who is better at navigation.  The more efficiently you can operate a vehicle in the direction you need to go, the better off everyone will be.  Even those sitting in the back seats can help with keeping an eye out for danger, threats, or other items of interest.  Obviously having a bunch of people shouting at once is counterproductive to the driver and navigator doing their job.  Some good guidance to brief your passengers is, if a threat is identified by them they call out:

A. Direction (threat in relation to the vehicle – front/ left side/right side/back or clock positions in relation to the vehicle with 12 O’clock being straight ahead)

B. Distance (distance of threat or object of interest from the vehicle)

C. Description (what does it appear to be)

Once this information is relayed to the driver and navigator in the front and they acknowledge, they can either choose to deal with it immediately or tell the passenger(s) who identified it to keep monitoring and report any changes.  There are a number of options and procedures you can use to work efficiently as a team and make sure to get to you destination.  It’s important to identify what will work best for you and the people you may be traveling with, to make sure you can help each other and communicate clearly without causing confusion to the driver and navigator.

5. Maintain your vehicle.

This may seem obvious but in the rush of our daily lives sometimes things get pushed to the side, forgotten or procrastinated until the last minute.  Make sure you keep your oil changed, tires properly inflated, brakes in good working order, lights (headlights, high-beams, fog lights if you have them, turn signals, brake lights, tail lights etc) inspected and maintained.   If there are any mechanical issues that you suspect could be a problem, try to address them early and get them taken care of immediately.  You never know when disaster could strike and trying to fix your vehicle when you should be driving it, could cost you valuable time when you can’t afford to be sitting in place.  In addition to keeping a survival kit in your car, also keep an emergency car tool kit.

snow survival emergency preparedness

6. Keep an emergency survival kit in your vehicle.

How robust this kit will be for your particular vehicle may depend on several factors.  We have included a more robust kit below for you to check out.  You may want some or all of these items or none at all depending on the vehicle you drive, geographic location, bug out location that you will be traveling to, and whether you will have the option to travel on unimproved surfaces to get there.

We have a more detailed guide for creating a car survival kit you should check out.

Ideas for your Emergency Survival Car Kit

  • Air pump/compressor
  • Axe
  • Blanket
  • Bow saw
  • Bucket
  • Bungee cords
  • Can opener
  • Candles
  • Cell phone and/or CB (Note: steel whip CB antennas can be dangerous out on the trail)
  • Cigarette lighter
  • Coat hanger – don’t underestimate the number of uses for the common household coat hanger!
  • Compass/GPS unit
  • Duct tape
  • Emergency Bivvy
  • Extra motor oil (1-2 quarts)
  • Fire extinguisher
  • First aid kit (packed in a tight weatherproof container)
  • Flares
  • Flashlight/lantern/spotlight – with extra batteries
  • Food (dehydrated foods take little space and last a long time)
  • Hydraulic/hi-lift jack
  • ID card, with emergency phone number contact info & medication/allergy information
  • Jumper cables
  • Leather gloves
  • Maps
  • Mirror (in addition to what is mounted on your vehicle)
  • Multi-fit hose and a roll of rubber-weld tape – to repair a blown radiator hose
  • Paper towels
  • Pen & paper (a china marker writes on anything!)
  • Radiator Stop Leak / Tank sealant putty
  • Rags
  • Repair manual for your particular vehicle
  • Rope
  • Rubber gloves
  • Shovel
  • Spare clothes
  • Spare Fuel
  • Spare key kept on your person
  • Survival Knife
  • T-style lug wrench
  • Tarp (6’x6′) – to keep yourself out of the mud and to catch small parts
  • Tire pressure gauge & tire pump; fix a flat
  • Trash bags – heavy duty
  • Water – enough for you (to drink, clean up) and your vehicle (battery, radiator, washer fluid)
  • Waterless hand cleaner
  • Waterproof matches
  • WD-40/lubricant
  • Whistle
  • Winch kit – including straps, snatch block (pulley), shackle
  • Zip ties/cable ties
  • Wood or similar to provide a foundation for jack on soft surfaces

The most important factor in any disaster situation is to have a plan and include others that will be involved in helping to develop and accomplish the goals of that plan.  If you have other tips that you’d like to offer readers, please comment below.  Remember that the more people who are ready for survival when and if the time comes, the better off everyone will be.

Photo credits:


Written by Joel Jefferson

Joel is one of the original founders of SurvivalCache.com. After college, he joined the USMC where he served as an (0302) Marine Infantry Officer. Joel is an avid outdoorsman and spends much of his free time in the mountains. Joel’s hobby is researching survival gear & weapons as well as prepping. Read his full interview here. Read more of Joel's articles.

24 thoughts on “6 Tips To Keep Your Vehicle Ready For Bugging Out”

  1. Some people here in the Rochester/Buffalo area learned the hard way preparedness is needed. The highway patrol closed down a large part of 490 earlier in the winter season due to a heavy snow storm. A bunch of drivers got stranded for over 20 hours on a stretch of the highway.

    • Same just happened here in Atlanta. People left their vehicles on the road and walked out to safety. People really showed their character this past week. 2 women almost came to blows over the last loaf of bread. We were set up, just hunkered down for a few days and burned a lot of firewood.

    • There was a situation in the D.C. area a couple years ago where a 126 (if memory serves me) car "accident" shut down a roughly 10 mile stretch of a major highway (rt 66 if I remember right). The governor of VA actually declared a state of emergency as a result. My family was asked to establish and run a disaster shelter at a nearby high school and I went out to help give first aid to people and direct them to said shelter. The crazy thing was that the weather was not "bad" by any stretch of the imagination, the collisions were caused by people tailgating and not paying attention. What was even crazier than 120 some-odd drivers completely oblivious to their surroundings, was that the grocery stores and even gas stations were completely wiped out of "staple supplies" within about 3 hours, similar to when there is a report of inclement weather. My point, is that it doesn't take a serious storm or other "act of god" to cause a situation where you might need an emergency kit, or need to "hump-it" out of dodge… sometimes all it takes is a couple of the lunatics that drive our roads every day!

  2. In a pinch you can use an egg-white for a temporary radiator stop-leak. I think a can of GO-JO is also an important piece of the car kit, do you really want brake dust, grease, ect. on your hands when you go to eat something?

    As far as EDC in my vehicle, I have chains, "Max-Axe", first aid kit (good for anything short of a sucking chest wound), hunting knife, 2-ton floor jack, 2"x6"x2' – 2 pieces of wood, extra clothes for the weather, small ~100pc home-made tool kit, 6 MRE's, 4 gallons of water, water purification tablets, fire-starting kit with "Tommy cooker" and 3 trioxane bars, in the winter I also have an extra pair of insulated boots, hunting suit, and a Wiggy's sleeping bag. I also have the average roadside kit, jumper cables, flashlights, flares ect.

    I have to recommend the "Max-Axe" for anyone looking to save space in their vehicle, I drive a '09 JEEP Wrangler JK. There isn't a monstrous amount of space in there. The "Max-Axe" gives me a shovel, pick, hammer, Maddox and axe all in one. They aren't cheap, but well worth the investment!

    • Black pepper works very well has radiator stop leak and can be kept for longer periods than an egg, plus gives you a seasoning for food. Also, a small thing of actual radiator stop leak isn't expensive and is designed for this very poor event should it occur. These will all work in an emergency, but flush the system ASAP or you'll have a higher chance of your water pump, thermostat, and other components being damaged from it.
      If you actually have a BoV, I'd recommend having spare filters (fuel and air especially), serpentine/fan belts, fuses, and wiper blades for sure. These are some of the common fail items for a vehicle. For the record, I am a certified diesel technician and manage a 15 person automotive shop. There are several other items and things to watch for on a vehicle used for off roading or for scenarios after TSHTF.

    • A sucking chest wound is easy to treat…just use a three sided oclusive dressing…basically tin foil taped on three sides to create a valve of sorts…

      • While I'm not sure how the sucking chest wound comment found its way into this post, I AM going to tail-gate on it. Try the Halo Chest Seal from PMI, normally not available without doctors medical clearance but readily available on Amazon.com and ebay.com .Its a super simple product to use, just cut away the clothes from the hole in the body and stick the big round sticker on it. If there is a second hole/exit wound, use the second sticker on that one. It claims to even work with blood in the way! Easypeesy, just not for the easy-queesy.

    • My 1995 Dakota cracked the radiator in the middle of the night on my way from Colorado Springs to Ft Bragg near Hays Kansas. My dad drove from the Springs with some sand paper and a tube of Quick Steel. We dried sanded and slapped the Quick Steel on, gave it about an hour I think to setup. Not only did I make it to Bragg but it held for about 2 years before I replaced the radiator.

      It wouldn't work on plastic of course and I'm sure it has a shelf life, but I will always have some in my car.

    • I keep my water in a small cooler in my JEEP. I use regular bottled water (Deer Park 1L) and have never had them freeze yet. It doesn't get extremely cold here in central VA compared to other places, but I imagine it would work in all but the worst cold weather conditions.

  3. i know you have fix a flat on the list but a tire plug kit is small and ive seen tires go 50 K miles + with one or more plugs in them

  4. Great kit list … but to add an extremely important element to the equation is training, in particular in recovery efforts with jacks, shovels, come-a-longs, etc. You don't want the first time that you try to use that type of equipment be in the middle of an emergency. Conduct drills in your vehicel with family and friends as you would a fire/evacutation drill in your home.

    • This brings up an excellent point: I would love to see a list of useful skills to know (or master) before the SHTF. I am a competent mechanic, so I always keep tools in my vehicles, but I know there are OTHER survival skills that I should be learning. I have met people that just don’t have the first clue about how to even jump start a car, so jumper cables will only help them if they find some one who does (or learn how to in advance). I don’t criticize these people, because I am fairly certain there is some useful skills that I am not prepared to use. That being said: Drilling for these situations is PROBABLY the best way to find out what you don’t know.

  5. If the chaos is due to an EMP event knocking out the grid and computers, remember that computer controlled vehicles won’t run. I still own a few cars with carburetors and breaker point ignitions. I don’t know if a pulse would be strong enough to ruin solid state ignition systems, but computer chips are sensitive.

  6. I am finding the current weather problems an interesting not so dry run. The transportation grid lock is only a beginning to the problems if it goes global. It is a good time to see what is missing from the pantry and what the true burn down rate of your supplies are.
    I would add flare gun/pen (I have the pens – .38 caliber and very effective) and a laser pointer. The green laser used by astronomy groups at star parties are the same lasers that idiots are pointing at aircraft and blinding pilots. The key is they are incredibly bright, visible in daylight, and only cost about $10 on Amazon. Using one to identify which one of 120 stuck cars you are in could be quite useful.
    My final comment is that cell phones tend to be on us all the time but are also unreliable in an emergency. Very heavy rain or snow can shorten the phone,s range tremendously. Terrain can also blank out signals. A CB or Ham radio could be much more valuable in a survival sense as they are less effected by the weather due to frequencies used. Another thought is an EPIRB ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distress_radiobeacon ) can be quite useful. They are detected by satellites and a fairly good location can be plotted. I've been on several searches where the EPIRB led us directly to the distressed vessel. Not cheap and it is probably of no use if things really fall apart but the technology is there.

  7. The 24″ + master key (bolt cutters) are a must to get access to fire roads or other alternate roads. In CaliforniA a lot of wilderness roads are secured with a simple chain and pad lock. Opening that chain could be the difference between life or death.

  8. I have a jeep and don't remember the last time I let the gas tank dip below 3/4 of a tank. Plus, I tend to keep an extra 5 to 10 gallons in my garage. No matter how bad gas prices get I will NEVER purchase a vehicle that isn't 4×4, because you never know when you will need to get off the pavement.

    • Hmmm….. I simply don't know ….. anyone know for sure?

      Still, I tend to not rely on cell phones. Back in the day, I was trying to get information from a call center in Denver and they were almost off line because the snow was so bad their cell phones were inoperative. I've seen rain do that as well, so depending on your area, be forewarned.

    • Under this condition: they have been used in the past, and the provider allows it, I know for a fact that track phone will allow a 911 call from a phone with no min on it(MUST OF HAD MINETS ON IT AT SOME TIME)

  9. This type of instruction is really useful for all car users. I'm glad to get this valuable instruction which will help me to maintain each and every part of my car. I appreciate for your good work. Love this issue. I think that all the visitors will be helpful by getting this instruction.

  10. Vehicle preparation for emergency situation is very much vital issue for anyone. We most of the Vehicle owner frequently unaware about our Vehicle for emergency situation but you provided tips must make an awareness among them. I highly appreciate here provided tips to Emergency Survival Car Kit. Thanks


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