How to strip a car when SHTF
04/20/2017 / By JD Heyes / Comments
How to strip a car when SHTF

Okay, so the proverbial stuff has hit the fan. You load up your vehicle and you head out thinking you’ve got a jump on everyone, but something happens to stall your escape. Either the highways are filled to capacity and no one is moving, which you didn’t expect so suddenly, or a nuclear device has been detonated, sending off an electromagnetic pulse that just fried your car’s electronics and turned it, and every other vehicle within sight, into useless pieces of metal and rubber.

Only, don’t be so quick to write your vehicle off as a total loss. While it may no longer get you where you need to go, that’s not to say it is now totally useless. (Related: Read Can You Bugout From Your Vehicle And Escape Being Trapped On The Highway?)

Far from it, in fact.

Modern vehicles can provide a trove of useful items and materials that will assist you in any number of ways. Besides acting as ready-made shelters that protect you from the elements, there are several things you can strip from your car or an abandoned vehicle (make sure it’s really abandoned) to help you along the way (h/t Ask A Prepper).


— What’s lying around? So-called cabin clutter – things that are just lying around on your seats, on your floorboards or in your glove box can really come in handy. For instance, I’ve always got a set of heavy duty gloves laying in the back of my car; no question such gloves would come in handy were stuff to go bad. But more than that, there’s no telling what other people have in their vehicles. You never know what you’ll find in the glove boxes, floorboards and trunks of cars and trucks. Everything from tools to clothing to weapons, food, ammo and water are likely to be in vehicles, especially if they were quickly abandoned.


— Tools: In rural and suburban areas, there are lots of people who drive pick-up trucks that have tool boxes in their truck beds. Aside from tools, obviously, some people may be carrying emergency supplies in their truck bed tool boxes. I know someone who does just that – they don’t carry many tools but keep sleeping bags, a bugout bag, a first aid kit and some food and water in their tool box. But obviously any tools you could find – screwdrivers, hammers, saws, nails, screws, pliers, etc. – would eventually come in handy.

— Gasoline: Abandoned vehicles may have a supply of gasoline left in their gas tanks, especially if the car or truck was hastily left behind. A long rubber hose and a plastic gas container will allow you to siphon off that remaining fuel, which you can then use for any number of things (including your generator). Place the rubber hose in the fuel tank and suck on the other end until the fuel almost reaches your mouth, then quickly lower it into the fuel-catching container you brought with you. Don’t punch a hole in the tank to drain it; you don’t want to create a spark that may ignite the fuel inside.

— Vehicle fluids: Brake fluid, radiator fluid and window washing fluid are all useful. Ask A Prepper says:

If you carry a survival kit you should keep some potassium permanganate crystals in it. This has a lot of uses, including water purification and as a disinfectant, but if you can drain some antifreeze from a vehicle you can also use it to start a fire. Mix the two 50:50 and in a few seconds it will ignite. 

Oil, brake fluid and screen wash can also be drained from vehicles and used to top up your own. Screen wash also makes a useful disinfectant – it’s a mix of water and alcohol.

— Batteries: With some studying beforehand, you can learn how to connect a bank of car batteries to store solar power or wind-generated power at your bugout location or home. Obviously, the more batteries you collect, the more power you can store for a rainy/windless day.

— Wiring: Automobiles are manufactured with quite of bit of copper wiring, which also comes in very handy. In fact, there are yards and yards of copper wiring in an average car or truck; stripping as much of it out as you can will allow you to use the wiring for electrical projects down the road. Also, copper wire is great for making snares.

— Mirrors/vehicle chrome: These can be utilized as emergency signal devices or to start fires on a sunny day. Use a knife to pry mirrors off the inside windshield or from the car’s door. (Related: Read Choosing The Best Knives For Your Prepper And Survival Needs: A Quick Guide.)

Additional considerations: Seat belts can be salvaged and used as straps because they are very, very strong; upholstery provides a good barrier to the ground if you’re sleeping in the rough; vehicle spare parts are also good to have around for your vehicle, if you find one that runs.

J.D. Heyes is a senior writer for and, as well as editor of The National Sentinel.

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