So What’s in Your Vehicle?

Vehicle Every Day Carry (EDC) for the urbanite.
Most of your readers are familiar with this term, especially as it applies to the individual.
No, this isn’t an example of VEDC!

The same idea, though, can be applied to your personal transport. Actually, it should definitely be applied to your personal transport. No “if”, “should” or “maybe” on this subject.
Some of this information will be dependent on the class of vehicle you drive. There’s not much use for a winch snatch block on a Honda Civic. But much of it will be common to all vehicles, at least cars and trucks. Another factor to consider is the area or region that you drive in, likewise also weather issues. I primarily operate in the Southwest U.S., so many of the things that I carry are geared towards dry land and hot conditions. I don’t have much call for carrying items to deal with deep snow drifts, icy conditions or starting an engine in subzero weather. If any readers would like to chime in on what they carry for their specific areas that’d be great. I’m sure some of you have other ideas that I haven’t come across.

So – you’ve got your daily commuter car or truck. You drive it to and from work, use it for errands and maybe even use it as a work vehicle. (I’ll deal with this first one as primarily an urban vehicle. In following posts I’ll hit on suburban and rural). Your commute is anywhere from only a few miles to a couple of hundred. Yes, no exaggeration there with the mileage. I’ve had to do commutes in excess of two hundred miles one way at times, and I’m sure there are plenty of others out there that live in bedroom communities and have long distances to drive in to work. Manufacturers have a decent idea as to what’s needed for emergency use, and they usually include a basic stock of items. Or at least they used to. If you get a chance take a quick look at an old car or truck owners manual from the 1930’s or thereabouts. It’ll have detailed information on the spare tools (usually in a tool roll) that were supplied with the car, along with a spare tires, sometimes spare fasteners too. The owners manual would also go into far more detail than the more contemporary manuals on how to deal with repairs. I’ve seen some standard owners manuals that would be called shop manuals today. There is that much information in them – information such as how to rebuild a head, swap out the water pump and on and on. Current times though? Well, let’s just say that outfitting your ride is pretty much up to you, the owners. That space saver spare wheel and tire, along with a rudimentary jack and a lug wrench isn’t going to cut it. You need to upgrade your VEDC (Vehicle Every Day Carry) to a realistic level.

So what’s a realistic level for VEDC?
For our survivalist or prepper urban commuter, in any car or truck, here are the very basics:

  • Owners manual. Read it, cover to cover.
  • A full size spare tire and wheel, in good condition and properly inflated.
  • Fix-A-Flat, and get it in the large tire or truck size. You’ll probably need more than you think, and you’ll often have to refill once before it seals properly.
  • A lug wrench that fits, and that will help you pull off any hubcaps, center caps or other decorations on the wheel. (that “straight screwdriver” end of the lug wrench is designed to be used as a pry bar)
  • A spare set of lug nuts, or bolts if that’s what your vehicle uses.
  • Penetrant/lubricant. You’ll often be dealing with stubborn fasteners, especially in a harsh environment such as a wheel surface. Anything to make the fastener glide a bit more easily is a good thing. Don’t forget also that any time you’re running a fastener into threads or a surface, use lubricant. Something like WD40 will work in a pinch. If you’re specifically outfitting something like this kit, though, consider a better penetrant like Kroil or PB Blaster. Anything is better than nothing, so if all you have is some butter from your lunch, use it.
  • A basic shop manual. I’m not talking about the manufacturers manual (even though you’ll want to eventually pick one of those up), but something from one of the two most common publishers: Haynes or Chilton. If possible, get both, but if you can get only one, get a Haynes. They’re often more complete and have better information than Chilton.
  • A full spare set of belts. You owners that have more modern vehicles often have something called a serpentine belt. These are a great idea, and they replaced multiple belts with a single belt. (I could throw something in here about “don’t put all your eggs in one basket, but then again I’m not a highly paid automotive engineer. So what do I know?) The problem with the serpentine belt, unlike having multiple belts, is that if the serpentine breaks – everything it drives loses power. You’ll lose electrical power, power steering, sometimes power brakes, etc. With a multiple belt system, if one belt breaks you can often get by for a short amount of time. Also, having those smaller V-belts instead of a very long serpentine belt lets you do a field repair if need be. Back in the day, one of they commonly used field repairs to deal with a broken V-belt was stealing your wife’s nylons, and then using them as a V-belt replacement. It would actually do pretty well for a while. If you can’t run a full spare set of belts for a multiple belt vehicle, then at least carry one of the universal fit style belts. You can size these for different applications, they’ll last quite a long time, and as a plus they often run more quietly.
  • Tools to help replace those belts – whether it’s a simple screwdriver, or a wrench/ratchet/prybar combo, carry them. Also learn to use them. The worst place to learn to use them is on the side of a freeway. Take an hour out of your off time and poke around under the hood. Learn what needs to be done in case of a basic failure of some of the engine systems. Just don’t expect to learn what needs to be done when you’re standing next to your vehicle on some narrow shoulder while you’re trying to avoid being smeared by oncoming traffic.
  • Spare fluids. You don’t need to go overboard, at least just yet. You’ll get there eventually, but for now carry the simple things. A quart of oil, gallon of universal coolant, gallon of windshield washer fluid, and a gallon of distilled water. (that distilled water has plenty of uses too – from topping off the battery, to topping off your coolant system or washer system. You can also drink it, wash with it or use it to flush wounds. The container is a nice thing to have too, with multiple uses).
  • Spare caps – one for your radiator, and one for your gas tank.
  • Replacement bulbs for your lights. Headlight, brake, turn signals and running lights. If you’re like me you’ll get tired of replacing bulbs and you’ll start to replace them with higher efficiency LED units. They’ll have a longer lifespan, less current draw, but you still need to carry spares. Also carry the tools needed to replace those lights. It might be as easy as a Phillips #2 screwdriver, or you might need specialty clip removal tools. All of that, of course, is in the shop manual that you’re very familiar with. You’ve read it, right?
  • A decent set of jumper cables – I’ll get into what makes a decent set of cables in a separate post.
  • Emergency markers
  • Road flares. I’m a fan of the larger ones you’ll find in truck stops and heavy truck supply houses. They’ll burn for quite a bit longer and don’t cost that much more If you can only get the regular flares, then those are fine. Quantities I carry for VEDC range from 2 – 6, but carry at least a few of them. Learn how to use them also.
  •  Reflector triangle markers. These are usually something you see commercial trucks using, but they’re something everyone should carry. Carry at least a couple of them and learn to deploy them.
  • Either a compact mesh safety orange vest, or at the least something that will mark you as you work on the side of the road. Remember, you’re planning for the worst case with your VEDC kit, and the worst case in this situation means you will be working within inches of multiple thousand pound projectiles that are operated by distracted drivers. I use a vest and a flashing belt LED marker. Cheap insurance.
  • Tarp. I’m fairly happy with the military style casualty evacuation tarps. Mylar on one side, and rip stop on the other. Available in subdued or international orange colors. Yet again, something with multiple uses. The most common way I’ll use mine is as something to lay on while I’m working underneath the vehicle.
  • Write In Rain notepad, and a pencil or two. Use these to drop a note on your vehicle when you have to temporarily leave it. Hopefully the friendly Highway or State Patrol won’t immediately tow your vehicle as long as you have a decent explanation on it.
  •  A spare key or two, either concealed on the vehicle or carried with your personal EDC.
  •  Zip ties, duct tape and baling wire. (Yes, seriously…too many applications to list! Carry multiple sizes of zip ties too)
  •  A decent small cutting tool. I’m fairly happy with a folding razor knife from Dewalt, but there are many others out there that do just as nicely. Carry a pack of extra blades too.
  • A small headlamp. Something that’s inexpensive like the offerings from Energizer or Duracell should be fine, but if you want to spring for a Petzl more power to you. Carry extra batteries too, and pack all this stuff together. You’ll be using this headlamp at 3 AM while you’re changing that tire out on the side of the road.
  • Small AA flashlight.
  • Spare AA batteries. I prefer carrying them in something called a pilots caddy. I’ll post more information in a later list, but those caddies are a terrific item to have.
  • Paper maps of your area of operation. AAA is a good source for these, and if you’re a member they’re free for the asking. Oh, and learn how to use the maps too. Practice with them until you’re comfortable.
  •  GPS – either dashboard or windshield mounted. Know your local laws for these too. The more advanced units will often have some kind of traffic monitoring built into them and can usually automatically re-route if necessary. Where this comes in is during those disasters, either big or little. Most GPS units these days will have a database of rest stops, fuel points, markets, law enforcement, etc that they can spit out when queried. Small disasters like finding out that you’re almost out of fuel in an unfamiliar area aren’t as much of a problem as they used to be. If something has gone seriously awry, then being able to get a definite route through neighborhoods or frontage roads you’re never been on is absolutely invaluable.
  • Small First Aid Kit

OK, so there’s your list of absolute basics to carry. All of this (except of course the spare tire) will fit into a single maxpacker or similar box, and can be stuffed into a back corner of the truck, or behind a seat. All of these items have multiple purposes too. I’m not going to go into VEDC defensive items in this list, but I’ll hit on them on another list. Likewise communication items, and intel gathering items.

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