Close this search box.

Personal Safety

How To Change Your Car Into A Survival Vehicle



Featured | parked survival vehicle | How To Change Your Car Into A Survival Vehicle

A survival vehicle can drive on all sorts of terrains. It's equipped with all the survival equipment you would need should you find yourself stranded or in an SHTF situation.

RELATED: Survival MULE: Your Container Store on Wheels

In this article:

  1. A Reliable Survivalist Vehicle
  2. What Makes a Survival Vehicle?
  3. Important Vehicle Checks
  4. Survival Vehicle Essential Equipment
  5. Planning Your Journey
  6. Important Driving Advice
  7. Other Top Tips

How Does a Survival Vehicle Make a Difference

A Reliable Survivalist Vehicle

A survival vehicle is always in top running condition and you know you can rely on it when the going gets tough. Most importantly, it's driven by someone who knows how to handle such a vehicle and isn't afraid to do what needs to be done in a survival situation.

On a long and potentially dangerous trip, it's essential to correctly prepare your ride for any situation with the best bug out vehicle ideas. Whether your car is suitable for the conditions you'll face can be the difference between life and death.

What Makes a Survival Vehicle?

  1. A vehicle with high ground clearance and 4×4 is enough to get through most terrain.
  2. Make sure it’s fully functional and defect-free. Every component is essential.
  3. It should be equipped with supplies. That includes basics such as communication and navigational tools, food, water, rope, and other outdoor paraphernalia.
  4. Have traction ladders attached to avoid getting stuck in rough terrain.
  5. Have spare tires and a changing kit.

Important Vehicle Checks

  • Fuel – Ensure the car has a full tank of fuel before leaving and carry spare fuel in a metal jerry can
  • Electricity – Make sure all electrical functions on the car are working and in good condition, especially the battery and starter motor.
  • Lights – Visibility is very important so make sure the car lights work and you have replacement bulbs
  • Tyres – Make sure the tires are in good condition with no bald spots or slow punctures.
  • Engine Oil – See to it your car has plenty of oil but not over-full. This is for the engine to work smoothly and efficiently as possible.
  • Radiator – Check the radiator has enough water so the engine won't overheat.

Survival Vehicle Essential Equipment

It's far better to invest in high-quality reliable bug out vehicle gear than cut corners and find out your gear isn't good enough when you need it badly. The following are of utmost importance:

1. Plenty of Water


Drinkable water can get scarce when SHTF. You'll never know where and when to get more if you get lost or a breakdown occurs.

2. Maps and Compass

Navigation is key to survival so make it a point to have a reliable map and compass. Being able to find your way and inform others of your location is vital.

3. Spare Phone

Keep a fully charged phone in your car at all times. This allows you to call for help if your car breaks down and you need emergency assistance.

4. Traction Ladders


If you're stuck in the mud, traction ladders can get you out without having to deflate your tires. It can also be used in a variety of ways.

RELATED: Brutal and Beastly: 13 BADASS Bug-Out Vehicles!

5. Spare Tyre and Changing Kit

Always carry a spare wheel and changing kit in case you get a puncture. Have a pump as well for deflating purposes when caught in sand or bogs.

6. Matches or Lighter


A fire-starting tool is always essential for survival. Fire helps keep you warm, allows you to cook food, and purifies water just to name a few.

7. Rope

Quality ropes are good for making shelter and finding food. They're also useful for towing your car out of soft ground.

8. Blankets and Clothing


Staying warm is essential if you have to sleep outdoors. Blankets can also be used as a cover from the sun's heat.

If your clothes get wet, spare ones can save you from hypothermia.

9. Spade and Shovel

Apart from its obvious use for digging, a shovel can also be used to hold up a shelter. You can also use it to make an underground shelter when necessary.

Planning Your Journey

Never travel alone if possible. In the desert, the most common cause of death is vehicle breakdowns so use multiple vehicles if you can.

Inform somebody of your itinerary especially details of your departure and return. This is useful for them to alert the authorities in case you don't return.

Important Driving Advice

  • Stay in high gear. Pull away in second gear and keep the revs low to make sure you don't create wheel spin and bog yourself down into the terrain.
  • Drive in a straight line. When the road opens up it can be tempting to have a bit of fun. Stay sensible and drive in a straight line to save fuel and tires.
  • Keep your thumbs out of the steering wheel so if you hit a bump, the wheel can move freely.
  • Attach traction ladders to the vehicle. In case you're stuck in mud and you've managed to get your car out, you don't want to potentially get stuck again.

Other Top Tips:

  • Don't be overconfident and treat every decision as if it's a matter of life and death. Pack your equipment accordingly and be aware of the weather, the terrain, and possible animals you'll encounter.
  • Conserve energy and exert yourself only when you have to. Energy conservation is essential and will improve your chances of survival.
  • Stay with your vehicle so you have more chance of being seen and found.
  • Find shade quickly and avoid dehydration by exposing yourself to the sun. Dehydration is one of the most common threats in a survival situation.
  • Make sure you can locate back to your vehicle in case you have to leave it. Use a rope or a long string if need be.

The infographic below from shows you how to turn your car into the “ultimate survival machine” by making sure it's properly equipped for whatever road you find yourself on.

Infographic | How To Change Your Car Into A Survival Vehicle

Prepping your survival vehicle properly is essential before starting your journey. If the car breaks down easily, there's not much you can do about it other than using it as a shelter.

Follow these important tips and you'll most likely make it out safe in case things go out of your way.

Got any survival vehicle prepping tips to add here? Tell us about them in the comments section below!


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on December 15, 2015, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

Continue Reading


  1. Pingback: ResQme Car Escape Tool Review | ResQme: Car Crash Survival At Your Fingertips

  2. Noland

    April 22, 2018 at 8:20 AM

    You made some good points, but you also mentioned “shtf”. If you ever find yourself in a SHTF situation, if it’s anything you “Do not” want is to be noticed, so keep it stealthy if possible. I own a Chevy Avalanche Z71 4×4 and the first thing I did was change the exhaust to a much quieter performance system. For me, it is the perfect survival vehicle as it is a crossover with lots of room for gear and passengers and has an enclosed (water proofed) bed and lots of hidden storage space, you can also push the back seats forward and lower the mid gate to make room for more gear or an enclosed (8 1/2 ft) sleeping area… and yes “rope” lots and lots of rope, it will be your best friend in almost any situation, it’s only downfall is a lack of imagination, so learn your knots and practice them often, you never know when a figure-8 will be needed until it’s needed.

  3. Art Northrup, Jr.

    April 23, 2018 at 6:30 AM

    There are two items which can replace “traction ladders” & be even more useful: 1) a Hi-Lift jack & 2) a winch.

    1) High lift jacks are sold in 4×4 shops & farm equip. shops too & if you get stuck, you can jack one end of your vehicle up 3 to 4 feet. Then just push the vehicle sideways — it will fall off the jack, but the tires will land away from the ruts they were in. Also, you may have to deal with soft muddy ground, sand, etc., where a regular jack for changing a tire is useless.

    2) An effective winch needs to be able to pull TWICE the weight of your vehicle. If you really get stuck, axles in the mud stuck, it’ll take a winch that’ll pull a vehicle that weighs twice as much as yours to get yours out. And a winch can be used for many other things, like pulling a big tree that’s fallen across the road out of the way.

    One more note: it doesn’t matter how high you raise your vehicle with a “lift kit” — when it sinks down to the axles in mud or sand you’re stuck. The only way to get the axles up higher is with taller tires. Run the tallest tires that will fit your vehicle without cutting the fenders or using a lift kit — unless you happen to have the $$$ to modify the vehicle for taller tires. Taller tires will make the speedometer read slow & the vehicle will lose some acceleration, but off-road, the distance between the axles & the ground is critical.

    • Butch Brodeur

      April 25, 2018 at 5:02 PM

      I would like to add to Art’s advice, A high lift jack( also called farm, tractor jacks) can also be used to winch vehicles and move trees . It is just a little slower than a power winch and much cheaper if you’re on a tight budget! I’ve have carried one in my truck for years now and not needed it but it’s there in case I do! just make sure you keep it lubed so it will work when you need it! Also you will need a long length( about 25 feet) of tow cable, strap, or chain! I once got a jeep unstuck with a big rock and a small fallen tree ( about 4” in dia, as a lever and fulcrum, lifted that jeep like it weighed nothing! use anything you can find to get our of a situation!
      Also have a good shovel because you may(will) have to do some digging out! An axe to cut trees that have fallen in the way. I could go on and on but you get the idea!
      Happy trails!

  4. Pingback: Brutal and Beastly: 13 BADASS Bug Out Vehicles!

  5. Pingback: Brutal and Beastly: 13 BADASS Bug Out Vehicles! - Survive!

  6. Pingback: Brutal and Beastly: 13 BADASS Bug Out Vehicles! – survivalgear

  7. Pingback: Mike Glover Talks about Lessons Learned from the Colonial Pipeline Shutdown [PODCAST] | Best Go Bag

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply



Enter for a chance to WIN a pair of these Tactical Boots when you sign up today for our exclusive email newsletter subscription.