Close your eyes for a moment (after reading this) and think about the apocalypse. Think about all the supplies you have gathered and all the plans you have made. You have your nice bug out bag, ten years worth of M.R.E.s, enough weapons and ammo to make Ted Nugent jealous, and an escape route up into the mountains where a cave awaits you and your family. Now think about your form of transportation, your bug out vehicle if you will, is it up for the journey? Maybe? How far will it go when you are driving like a mad man trying to flee the city? Will the motor or transmission blow after a couple full throttle take offs while fleeing from a horde of shambling zombies? Maybe not? Well read on.
So let’s see. You made it out of the city with your whole checklist of survival gear and family, and you even remembered to grab your mother-in-law on the way to the mountains. Everything is going great until your BOV decides to puke its oily metal guts all over the highway half way to your destination. What would you do then? Hoof it? But its three hundred miles to the cave and mother has a bum hip. Try to fix your BOV? You do have some mechanical experience, but face it the motor is toast. Acquirer a need ride? But you have been on the road for weeks and every vehicle in sight won’t start. Fear not that’s why I’m here.
First things first, don’t brush off your blown and busted BOV. There are many useful things you will want to grab off of it. One major item would be the battery. Your cars battery will be freshly topped off from your journey up until this point so it will come in handy for jumping the next vehicle. Don’t forget the fuel either, some vehicles you may come across could quit possibly have run out of fuel and left while others could have been drained by someone passing by. Also don’t over look the tires, spare tires, jacks, and lug wrenches. They will come in handy if you are lucky to find a car or truck close to what you have that was left behind because of a flat. There is also no shame in riding on two or more spare tires when the SHTF.
In the height of the panic the follows whatever apocalyptic scenario you find yourself in, cars will be left on the road either stuck in gridlock or because they ran out of fuel. Some may have even been left with the doors open or lights on draining the battery completely. This is where the battery you lifted off you old BOV will come in handy. There are only so many different types of batteries on the market so luck may be in your favor and you may be able to just swap the new one in. If you can not swap out the old battery, jumper cables will work, just like jumping off a car with another car hook the two batteries together. Remember the battery will only have a set amount of life since it won’t have an alternator to keep it charged up while you attempt to start the dead vehicle. If the battery starts getting low while cranking you can stop and wait awhile, if the charge hasn’t dropped to low most times the voltage will climb back up after a few minutes and you can try again. This wont work for long so make you’re the new BOV is ready to go and doesn’t need much other work.
Now that we have the battery either hooked up or replaced, you will need to focus on the ignition system. Now I have seen lots of movies where a car thief just reaches under the dash and pulls a handful of wires down, cuts two wires and off they go. That’s not the case in real life. All ignition-wiring systems are tightly bundled together and tucked far under the dash and are rather hard to reach. Cutting the wires for the starter solenoid may turn the motor over but won’t send power to the rest of the systems that make the car work. I would stay away from trying to “hot wire” something unless you know exactly what you are doing for that model car. If luck smiles upon you and the keys were left inside then that’s great! If not that’s ok too. Try to find an older vehicle that dose not require a coded or micro chipped key. Several trucks and cars have an ignition that consists of a key tumbler and switch. These are very easy to get around. The key tumbler is the only thing that safeguards the vehicle from behind started without a key. Using a hammer and screw driver or some sort of puller most key tumblers will fall out with a little elbow grease leaving a slot where a screw driver can be inserted and turned like a normal key. This will power up the vehicles system and will start the motor. Keep In mind there may still be a steering column lock to deal with, grab hold of the wheel and turn like hell and you car break the lock, allowing the wheel to turn free.
Before you start trying to crank the engine on your new ride you should check out its fuel system. Cars and trucks that have set for a while may need to have their fuel system primed. With a limited supply of battery you will need to get the engine running with as little cranking as possible. Now most vehicles with electric fuel pumps will prime themselves once the key is turned on but older vehicles (gas and diesel) may need some extra help. Especially the ones that ran completely out of fuel when abandoned.
One of the fastest ways to prime a fuel system is with a can of ether or starting fluid. This highly explosive aerosol can be used on both gas and diesel. A quick two to three second spray right into the air intake system, after the air filter, will help get things going. Once you spray it crank the engine over and don’t wait too long or the fumes will dissipate. Hopefully you can get the engine to run long enough for it to prime the fuel system off a shot of ether or two, if not keep trying. Be careful, ether has its dangers and too much sprayed at on time can damage an engine.
If you don’t have a can of ether a rag soaked in gas held over the intake works well. On vehicles that run carburetors, I quick splash of gas down the carb straight into the plenum will help get the motor running.
Diesels are a little different to get running. They love ether and a rag soaked in gas, but sometimes they need a lot more. Diesels that don’t have an electric lift pump most likely will need to have the air bleed out of their fuel systems manually. Larger trucks may have a hand pump close to the first fuel filter (the one with the clear bowl on the bottom of it). Pump until it gets tight then try the motor. If you are still having trouble getting the engine to catch the next thing to try would be to crack open the injector line fittings. The injector lines will be the hard metal lines that run from a pump close to the front of the engine and run straight into the head. With a wrench loosen the lines at the head, but don’t take them all the way off. Crank the engine and watch the lines, one will start spitting fuel then another then another. Tighten down each line’s fitting when it starts spitting. Once most of the lines have fuel in them and are tightened down the engine should go ahead and run, flushing out the rest.
I hope this post will help someone down the road one day. Remember these tips are for reference only and are not a complete guide. Do your research and learn how to work on your particular model of vehicle, especially before the SHTF. Also one last thing, please don’t use my tips for acquiring a BOV in times of duress to steal someone’s car or truck. If you do I can’t help you or take responsibility for your dumb actions and I hope they shoot your ass. Have a nice day