Following a major catastrophic event or economic collapse, we’ll call it post-SHTF, the plethora of cars we have in everyday society will quickly become useless. Whether its immediate, as a result of an EMP, or delayed as liquid fuel either runs out or goes bad, the bottom line is that we will have a lot of vehicles sitting around doing nothing. That is unless we plan to use those vehicles for a variety of alternate uses. The following is an outline of basic alternative uses of vehicles in a post-SHTF world:
- Greenhouse: Each spring, unless you live in a very warm climate, many preppers begin to sprout seeds to extend the growing season. However, even many preppers will not have had the time or resources to build a greenhouse prior to the poo hitting. This is where a vehicle can come in great use as a makeshift greenhouse. Simply park the vehicle with the front windshield towards the south and place your trays of seed starts across the dash board and on elevated platforms on the front seats. Just make sure that you open the windows as necessary to keep the temperature in check. The ideal greenhouse temperature is around 80 degrees, although cool weather vegetables like beets, broccoli, cauliflower, chard, kohlrabi, lettuce, and spinach germinate best at temperatures between 40 and 75 degrees. Depending on how early you start your seeds, you may also have the bring the trays inside at night to protect them from temperatures below 40 degrees as the inside of the vehicle will quickly match air temperature after sunset. One final consideration is a little breeze, which seedlings need from time to time in order to develop thick stems.
- Dehydrator: In a post-SHTF world, most people will find themselves busy attempting to preserve their garden bounty in order to survive the winter. A vehicle makes an excellent solar dehydrator! Simply park the vehicle with the front windshield to the south and prop up window screens (or similar material) from the dash to the front seatback. The windows should be cracked to allow moisture to escape via convection, but the vehicle should be allowed to get quit hot. You may need to place screen over the cracked windows to keep disease spreading flies and other bugs from getting inside. You are now ready to dehydrate all of your fruits and veggies on the screened trays.
Listening Post Outpost (LPOP): Security will be a major concern for most preppers post-SHTF and a non-working vehicle would make a great location from which you could monitor the far corners of your property. Preferrably, you should pick a dark colored vehicle for this purpose to aid in camouflage and any shiny surfaces should be removed or painted. Additional camouflaging material, like brush, would also be necessary. It may be advisable to keep some mirrors in place to aid those on security detail in maintaining 360 degree awareness. Keep windows rolled down to allow for listening as well.
Energy & Mechanicals
- Battery: Don’t let all the 12 volt batteries in those dead cars around you post-SHTF go to waste. Most car batteries will last quit a long time if they are maintained properly, which means keeping the water levels up and preventing full discharges. Keep a bottle of distilled water on hand as part of your preps and use that water to periodically “top off” the levels by removing the caps on the top of the battery and pouring in a little as necessary. The water level should be just at the bottom of the refill hole without overflowing. Keep in mind, this water inside the batteries has sulfuric acid and will burn your skin. In addition, car batteries should not be completely discharged when they are used to power devices. A complete discharge is very bad for the longevity of a car battery.
- Alternators: Car alternators should be removed from any abandoned vehicle post-SHTF as they will be a valuable source of energy in the future. An alternator can be hooked to a bike, wind turbine, water wheel, etc. to produce 12 volt DC for charging batteries and subsequently powering devices. Keep in mind that some modern alternators have a built in regulator to maintain constant voltage with changes in revolutions while others rely on external regulators that would be mounted separate inside the vehicle.
- Water Pump & Radiator: Most vehicles also contain 12 volt centrifugal pumps to circulate coolant through the radiator system. These pumps can be used, together with the radiators, in a variety of 12 volt powered solar heating systems. Radiators can be placed inside solar collectors and the pump used to transfer that heat indoors via hoses filled with coolant.
While I am sure there are a large number of additional uses for vehicles in a world without fuel… this list will hopefully get your creative juices flowing. Make abandoned vehicles a part of your resource plan, but keep in mind… use those last few drops of fuel to position them for whatever use you ultimately intend.