How to Prepare Your Vehicle for Survival

There’s no doubt that off-roading and driving out exploring the world is a lot of fun. Driving gives you the ability to cover more ground than you would on foot, allowing you to see more of the world and more of the environment that you’re in.

When you’re venturing out into the great outdoors, you need to be prepared. The most common reason for people getting into trouble is car breakdowns, so ensuring that your vehicle is suitably prepared for survival is highly important.

You need to make sure that you have the right type of vehicle, the right equipment and the correct knowhow of what to do should you get stuck, lost or if your car fails on you.


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Important vehicle checks

Make sure you have a reliable car with high ground clearance so you can easily overcome rough ground. If you’re going off-road, a 4×4 is a must-have as you’ll be driving through rough terrain and can easily get stuck.

Fuel: Make sure your car is topped up with and you carry spare fuel in your car in a metal jerry can. If you get lost, you never know where the next petrol station will be.

Electricity: Check all the electronics on the car and ensure they’re working correctly. Pay special attention to the battery and starter motor.

Lights: Your lights are incredibly important, especially when you’re in unfamiliar territory. Check that all your lights work before you leave and carry spare bulbs with you.

Tyres: Be sure that you have nothing stuck in your tyres that could cause a puncture, and check that your tyres have no existing slow punctures or bald spots. Quality tyres with good tread and traction are essential.

Engine oil: Check the engine has enough oil, and that it isn’t over full. You want your engine to run as smoothly as possible.

Radiator: Check the water levels and make sure your radiator isn’t damaged and won’t cause your engine to overheat.

Essential Equipment

Make sure you don’t cut corners when buying your equipment. Having reliable, high quality gear is more important than saving money.

Water: Make sure you have plenty of water, if you breakdown or get lost, you might not be able to find drinkable water for quite a while.

Map and Compass: Being able to find your way if you become lost and inform others of where you are is essential.

Spare phone: Keep a spare phone in the car that will only be used in an emergency, enabling you to call for help with you need assistance or if your car breaks down.

Traction ladders, spare tyres and changing kit: Traction ladders can help you quickly get out of soft ground if you get stuck, saving you time and effort. Carry a spare tyre just in case you get a puncture and need to change a wheel. Ensure you have a pump as you might need to deflate some tyres to help with traction.

Matches/lighter: Being able to light a fire is essential to survival. Fire will keep you warm, allow you to cook, purify water, and will help you to be seen by anyone trying to find you.

Ropes and shovel/spade: Quality ropes are always useful, especially if you need to make shelter or find food. Ropes can also be used to tow your car if you get stuck. A shovel will come in handy if you need to dig your car out of soft ground if it gets bogged down. You can also use a shovel to help hold up a shelter.

Blankets and spare clothing: Staying warm and dry are both really important in a survival situation. Pack a blanket to keep you warm at night, you can also use it as a shelter. Spare clothes are a must have; if your clothes get wet, hypothermia can quickly set in.

Planning Your Journey

If possible, never travel alone, and If you can, use multiple vehicles. A second car can be used to go and get help or used as a rescue vehicle if the other breaks down or crashes.

Plan ahead and stick to the plan, don’t be spontaneous and travel to areas you’re unsure of. Inform somebody of your time schedule or itinerary. They can get help if you don’t come back when you say you will.

Driving Tips

Stay in a high gear: Pull away in second gear and drive in a high gear to prevent wheel spin and bog yourself down.

Drive in a straight line: When the ground opens up, it can be tempting to have some fun with your car, but stay sensible and drive straight. This will save fuel, tyres and time.

Keep your thumbs out of the steering wheel: If you hit some rough ground or a rock, the steering wheel can sharply turn, this can break your thumbs if they are in the wheel and get caught.

Attach the traction ladders to your car: When you use your traction ladders, make sure you attach them to your car. This will allow you to keep driving once you’ve got the car out and won’t have to stop to get them, risking getting stuck again. Make sure nobody is stood behind the car when you use the ladders, and once you’re on solid ground, stop and collect them.

Other Survival Tips

Don’t be overconfident: Don’t underestimate the great outdoors or be too confident. Think carefully about what you’re doing and treat every decision as though it means life and death. Research the area you’ll be driving in and be aware or what type of land, weather, and animals you’ll encounter.

Conserve energy: Saving energy is important in survival. Keep taking on plenty of liquids and only exert yourself when you need to.

Stay with your vehicle: Your car is much bigger and more visible than you are. You will greatly improve your chances of being seen and found if you are with your vehicle. If you have to leave your car to find food or water, make sure you can find your way back to it.

Find shade quickly: Dehydration is one of the most common causes of people perishing in a survival situation. The sun will quickly drain your body’s resources and dehydration and will cause you to not think clearly.

Distress signals

Knowing how to signal for help will greatly improve your chances of being seen if you’re lost.

Draw a V in the ground

Creating a big V is an international signal that shows anyone who sees if that you need help. Make it as big and as visible as possible.

Wave Your Arms

Put your arms to your sides and wave them up and down, this is a recognised distress signal and shows that you are in distress and aren’t just waving to save hello.


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  1. Pingback: Infographic: Essential Tips For A Road Trip | A multi-disciplined Graphic Designer and Art Director based in Bristol with a passion for technology and digital design

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