Reprinted with the author’s permission.
Emergency Car Repairs WTSHTF
Well I thought I’d write up a post about what I know to help the prepper community. I’m not ex military or a professional survivalist but I am an ASE certified mechanic and make my living turning wrenches. Often in my job (maybe two to three times a week) I’m forces to go on service calls after broken down vehicles in our fleet. Drivers usually give a vague description over the radio of what is wrong with their vehicle and I have to decipher what I will need to take with me. Now I can’t carry everything with me (that’s what the shop and parts room are for) I do carry a few tools and a handful of parts that may be used. Several times I have been out and the problem is not what the driver described (that’s why they are drivers not mechanics) and I have to rig and fix the best I can with what I have.
So here I will tell you some common problems and how to fix them enough to get you down the road or across town. One thing to mention is that these are not permanent fixes! Do not do these to your car or truck and think everything is good to go for another 100,000 miles. These fixes are not just internet rumor either; I have uses each of these to get a vehicle back to the shop for repair. Sometimes it is just a few miles up the road I have to travel, but more often than not I have to get the vehicle in from way out in the country. These tips and tricks will help you get going again in a SHTF or TEOTWAWKI scenario. WARNING SOME OF THESE ARE DANGEROUS AND WILL KILL YOU IF NOT DONE SAFELY PLEASE KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING BEFORE ATTEMPTING.
First up is coolant problems. Blown hoses, loss of water, etc. Blown hoses can be fixed easy with tape (as long as they are not completely torn up, then you have to use lots of tape).
First thing you would want to do is use electrical tape not duct tape. Duct will not stick if there is any wetness on the hose and coolant itself is kind of slimy even after you wipe it off. You will want to wrap the hose as best you can and as many times you can. Once you get it sealed pretty well and you have coolant back in the system the next thing is to loosen the radiator cap, this will keep the system from building up pressure and blowing your repair off. It won’t over heat with the cap off but it will steam something to keep in mind.
If the hose happens to be a heater hose (two hoses that come from the motor to the firewall together) these don’t need to be repair, they can be rerouted. You will need to remove the good hose from the firewall and run it to where the busted one comes out of the block. This will bypass the heater core so you won’t have heat but the motor will still hold water and you can drive on. Some cars and trucks have heater control valves that cut the flow of water off to the heater core. You can use these to block the water from reaching the busted hose, keeping the water in the motor where it should be.
Once you have repaired or rerouted your hoses you will need to refill the coolant you lost. Naturally a 50/50 mixture of water and antifreeze is what you want (may differ in extreme hot or cold climate) but if you don’t have any antifreeze with you water by itself is ok even in cold weather as long as you keep the motor running and warm it won’t freeze.
Starter problems are the next big thing. Starters have a habit of not working when you need them. The most likely problem with one not turning over is that the brushes are seized up. A simple tap with a hammer, knife handle, or in one case a big rock, will knock the brushes lose for a few more starts. Something you have to beat the shit out of them but try not to do much damage. I have seen some start for months after tapping with a hammer before it finally stopped working.
The second problem is a bad starter relay. The relay is located on top or side of the starter itself. When this goes you will need to cross it out. Locate the large wire (most likely the red one) that runs straight from the battery and a smaller one sometimes purple (it will be much smaller, don’t confuse with the ground that is the same size as the power cable) using a screw driver or knife blade to make contact between these two will cause the starter to turn. Make sure the key is on before doing this or you will just be turning the engine over and not starting it. There will be some sparks so don’t be afraid, you will not be electrocuted.
Alternators are next. There is not much to do when one stops charging, especially on newer vehicles that have electronic controls everywhere. Older cars and trucks with mechanical fuel pumps and few electrics can run for a long time on just battery power. One thing to keep in mind is to cut off everything you can that uses power, lights, radio, windows. This will reduce the draw on the batteries and keep the engine running for a while longer, hopefully to safety or somewhere to get another vehicle.
Once you find a new car in the SHTF scenario most likely the batteries will be dead. Manual transmissions can be bump started by placing the shifter in first or second with the key on and pushing the car to some speed and releasing the clutch. There will need to be some charge in the batteries to get the car running and the alternator charging, 9.5v is enough to energize the alternator to make it charge but not enough to start the motor. (Note alternators are not generator, generators can make power from nothing, alternators need some power to energize it to start creating power) so if the batteries have nothing you can use the one from your other car to help energize the alternator after bump starting.
Last topic I want to touch on is transmissions. For and automatic trans there is not much you can do for it if it goes out. Something simple like a buster shifter linkage is easy to deal with. If you find yourself with this problem, you will need to find the shifter linkage on the side of the trans, here you can either repair the cable or move it by hand.
The car will need to be running and the park brake applied to do this (WARNING KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING BEFORE YOU TRY THIS, OR HAVE SOMEONE HOLD THE BRAKES FOR YOU OR BLOCK THE WHEELS, IF NOT YOU WILL GET RAN THE FUCK OVER!!!) once you locate the shifting lever take note what gear it was in when it broke. Let’s say it messed up in park, that means the lever will already be in the park position, just like the shifter inside move it (easy click) down for reverse, neutral, drive. Just remember to put it back when you stop, the car will not start if you leave it in drive and shut it off.
Manual transmissions are little better to mess with, shifting can be done inside the car on some models if the shifter handles messes up. But I want to talk about blown clutches. These are not the end of the world in an end of the world scenario.
If you find yourself with a busted clutch fear not I can help. Most times when one slips and tears up you can still get it going. First you will need to get the car rolling some with the motor running let the clutch out and drive on. This works most times since taking off from a stop is the hardest on clutch. Once you are moving there is less stress on the clutch and most times it will hold. One thing to learn before the world ends is how to shift without a clutch. Most if not all semi truck drivers shift this way, less wear and tear on the clutch. Once you get the car rolling and the clutch engaged, shifting without it will help you get that last several miles (or days) out if it so you can get to safety.
Shifting up all you need to do is get the engine rpm up while driving, let off gas, and pull the shifter out of that gear, next before the rmps drops to low slide it into the next gear. Don’t force anything. I find it easiest once you get it out of the first gear, is to hold the shifter up against the next one (don’t grind it) until the rpms drop and match inside the trans and it will fall right into that gear.
Shifting down is a little harder and needs more practice than up shifting. From high gear, let off gas while holding the shifter (putting pressure on it like you are pulling it out of gear) the shifter should fall out of that gear. Once in neutral rev the engine up to raise the rmps in the trans while holding the shifter up to the next lower gear. Do this right and it will grab the lower gear.
That’s it for now. If you have any auto questions or topics you want help with, leave a comment and I will do my best to answer.