In any prolonged survival situation involving a vehicle, the most important things to look for aren’t speed or even ground clearance — the first things you should consider are reliability and ease of repair and maintenance. After all, even the most badass of vehicles tend to lose their appeal when you can’t change a flat or find a replacement alternator when yours goes bad.

Regular maintenance will likely become even more important after a large-scale disaster, as you push your vehicle harder for longer and are forced to make compromises like using dirtier sources of fuel. A clog in a $5 fuel filter can leave a million dollar vehicle permanently planted where it is unless you have the resources and skills required to swap in a good one.

Whether we’re talking about post-apocalyptic survival or just evacuating from the scene of a local calamity, having an emergency set of tools (and coinciding know how) in your vehicle could mean the difference between having a ride and being forced to continue on foot. Some things can’t be repaired in the field, but the right tools could also help you get another vehicle you come across running (I’m not going to go into how to steal a car but suffice to say I’ve gotten barn cars started with the tools listed below before).

Aside from a regular tool kit (I recommend a half-inch drive rather than 3/8 for leverage’s sake) with a full complement of standard and metric sockets, and the rest of the usual emergency vehicle gear (jack, flashlight, tire iron, etc) here are a few tools you may not have thought of, but that deserve a place in your car’s emergency kit.

A Spool of Wire


Although most modern vehicles have complicated electrical systems governed by one or more on-board computers, you’d be surprised how much you can get accomplished simply by grounding a circuit and running a lead to the positive terminal of your battery. A failed driver’s side power window switch, for instance, can render all the windows in your car immobile (all switches run through a primary in many applications) so the only way to get your windows back UP may be to run that lead. In older model vehicles, you can circumvent a number of steps when diagnosing a fuel issue simply by running a lead from the battery directly to the fuel pump (it’s important to include in in-line switch or to remove the lead when the engine isn’t running to prevent burning out the fuel pump motor).

Understanding that most of the electronics in your vehicle operate via a simple mechanism (power on or power off) means that in an emergency, you can hack up some temporary fixes using little more than a spool of wire and some electrical tape. I also recommend carrying a test light to help you ensure current is moving properly when diagnosing electrical issues.

An Impact Driver