These 4 simple tips for vehicle preparedness could be the key to saving your life in the face of disaster!
I spent most of my 20s as an auto technician in oil change shops helping people maintain their cars. Changing oil and auto fluids, mounting, rotating and balancing tires, and overall vehicle cleanliness were second nature to me.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t to a lot of my clientele. Oh, the stories I could tell.
It really gave me a blinding understanding of how many people were totally unprepared for disaster in their vehicle.
If disaster were to strike, and you had to get in your car and leave right now, how long would it take you? What would you have to grab on the way out the door?
What if you’re already in your car when disaster strikes? Would you be ready?
Tips for Vehicle Preparedness
Keep Your Gas Tank Filled
In our house, it has become a habit to keep our gas tanks over half full. There’s an old thought that your gas mileage drops when you’re at 1/4 of a tank, so we’ve always figured it helps out gas mileage. Whether or not it actually does doesn’t matter to us, we always know we’re not going to run out.
Also, we never have to pay an arm and a leg at one time to fill our tank completely.
If you’re in an emergency situation at any time, you know you can probably go wherever you need to go without having to stop for gas. It’s also not one of those situations where you have to stop to get gas before you actually “get on the road.” If something were to happen, and you had to go somewhere right now with your vehicle’s tank empty, you’d have to get gas before you did anything else.
Now you’ve put yourself 15 to 30 minutes behind schedule getting wherever it is you need to go. Instantly, the emergency is compounded with additional stress.
Another point to think about is something like a massive power outage. If the power’s out, the pumps won’t work. No pumps mean no gas, and just like that, you’re stuck.
The bottom line here is to keep your gas tank above half a tank. Even if you’re tired after a long day, and you see that you’re going below half of a tank, stop anyway. Get your tank full, and rest easy knowing you don’t have to stop in the morning.
Just in case, though, if you have room in your vehicle, keep a 1-gallon or 5-gallon gas can full of fuel just in case you happen to run out.
Keep Your Vehicle Maintained
During my time working in and running oil change shops, I saw a lot of problems with cars that stemmed directly from people failing to maintain their vehicles. The biggest problem is when you haven’t been performing regular maintenance on your car, the problems arising in your engine, transmission or other car part may not be evident until after you get the maintenance done.
Change Your Oil
For example, if you have a car with high mileage (over about 100k miles), and you haven’t been changing the oil regularly, you may not know there’s a leak somewhere until after you get your oil changed. Why? Well, the carbon build-up and metal shavings in the oil tend to block minor oil leaks. Once the oil has been changed and you run your engine for a few days, you may notice the leak. The new, fresh oil will collect the old gunk and wash it away from the leak site causing oil to drip from one area or another… or worse, from multiple locations.
Change Your Vehicle’s Other Fluids
The same can be said about your transmission, differentials, and radiator. Their fluids need to be changed on a regular basis, as well, to keep them in top shape.
Check your vehicle’s owner’s manual to see the recommended mileage to get your oil and other fluids changed. Typically, oil will be changed every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. Other fluids may need to be changed at the 15k and 30k mile ranges.
Find a mechanic or lube shop that you trust and build a reputation with the technicians and the manager. Get to know them like you get to know your doctor. The more you talk with them and learn from them, the better they will take care of you down the road.
If you do your maintenance yourself, keep track of when you change your oil, fluids and filters in a vehicle maintenance log book.
In an emergency situation, a poorly maintained car may break down before you get to where you’re going. Now you have to find a ride the rest of the way and figure out how to get your car back to your mechanic’s shop, pay for expensive repairs, and then figure out how to get home. Emergency effectively expanded exponentially (say that five times fast).
Change your fluids, keep your tires aired up, rotated and balanced, and change your air, oil and fuel filters regularly. Not only will your vehicle last you a lot longer, but you’ll get better gas mileage, too. The resale value on a well-maintained vehicle with records kept will also be much higher than one that hasn’t had the oil changed in 2 years.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
People usually talk about this the most around the holidays, specifically to women, but it should be important to everyone 365 days a year. Car jackers, thieves, and other nefarious types are coming up with new and creative ways of getting you out of your car while the keys are in the ignition.
Don’t Fall for It!
People put fake $100 bills on the back window or under the passenger side wiper blade. You get in your car, start it up, and then you see it. You put the car in park, get out (leaving the door open) and run around to get what you think is an easy payday. Meanwhile, the culprit is already sitting in your driver’s seat, locking the doors and driving away with your car (and most likely, your purse, too, ladies).
The newest thing is marking cars with grocery bags tied to the passenger rear door handle or other inconspicuous places on your car to show their people that you’re alone and perhaps an “easy target.”
Pay attention to everything.
Paying attention to your surroundings is called “tactical awareness,” and should be practiced by everyone. I’m not suggesting you should always think you’re about to get robbed or kidnapped but being aware may prevent such things from happening.
When you’re approaching your car (even in your own driveway), walk around your car so that you can see all sides (it wouldn’t hurt to glance at your tires, too, to be sure you don’t have a flat). Peer into your back seat, look at your windshields, door handles and mirrors before you get in. Then, when you get in, lock the doors immediately.
Don’t open the door or roll down the window for someone you don’t know. Never, ever get out of the car in an unfamiliar area. Always park in a well-lit area.
I know that sounds awful paranoid, but if more people were more aware, less people would have horror stories to tell about their car being stolen or worse.
Emergency Survival Kit
By now, you’re used to hearing about “72-hour kits,” “bug-out bags” and “EDC (Everyday carry) bags.” You should be familiar with the basics of what to put in an emergency survival kit, but you need to also think about being inside your car, the dangers of driving, and what might happen if you have an accident.
Cell phone chargers, jumper cables, flares and an emergency escape tool should all be on your list. Of course, you’ll want water (both for drinking and possibly pouring into your radiator), a change of clothing and some spare cash handy. I usually keep $10 to $20 in a hidden spot in my car. Don’t forget the first aid kit for your car, too!
You’ll also want to think about the season. You might not need 3 blankets in the summertime, but you shouldn’t be without them in the winter.
Having a survival kit in your vehicle will have you prepared for any emergency. If your car breaks down, you have a flat tire, or you’re caught in a snowstorm (or worse, all three), you’ll have a little water, some food, blankets, and can hold out until you can make repairs or call for help. Don’t forget the solar charger for your phone, too!
One of the Most Important Tips for Vehicle Preparedness: Use Your Common Sense
The biggest thing to remember is that common sense should get you out of any situation. Knowledge weighs nothing! Know the route you’re traveling daily and be even more aware of your surroundings in unfamiliar places. Keep your car maintained and some tools handy just in case. And ALWAYS keep your phone charged and near you. If nothing else, 911 is only 3 numbers to dial!
Patrick & Jessie homestead in Middle Georgia with two of their four children and their three dogs. They love gardening, food preservation, and keeping their family prepared for any disaster that may come.