Scenario – Stranded, how do you use your vehicle to survive?

Here’s a hypothetical disaster scenario that we can think about and bounce ideas off of each other on what to do and not to do.

While driving on a road trip with your spouse and dog, your car gets stranded. Lets say you wreck and damage the car badly that it no longer runs. Battery is still charged and the electrical system of your car still works but the engine just won’t start from too much damage.

You have no cell service, are on a back road, and are not expecting anyone to drive by for the next few days. You are at least 30 miles away from where you can reliably find another driver.

Luckily you told your family at home your route and estimated time of arrival so they will be sending out a search party to find you soon, but who knows how long that can take?

You have two granola bars and a small Dasani bottle of water. You smack yourself on the head for not being better prepared, but too late now. 

What do you do to maximize the amount of time you can survive? How do you use the various components of your vehicle to aid in your survival, and rescue? Do you eat the dog? (just kidding, that’s not allowed)

Best of luck! I hope you survive this situation and are rescued. 


  • Comments (10)

    • 8

      I do nothing.  Folks know your route so just wait for help.  Its not like you will be out there for days, so just sit back and take a nap.  Stay with the vehicle, as it is your shelter.

    • 5

      Start  walking immediately.  You won’t suffer long (recent examples demonstrate this).

      Seriously, hang tight.  how on earth can you know when someone else will pass by?  Water is the critical resource.  With luck, there will be dew on your vehicle and surrounding plants.  With luck, there may be water nearby.  Do not exert yourself, but save your energy.

      Back roads will be high on the priority list for searching.  make your car conspicuous, put out SOS signals, and acquire a signal mirror (rearview mirror is a likely prospect).  Be alert for aircraft passing overhead and try to signal them with the mirror.

      Visibility from above and at a distance is critical.  Environmental conditions aren’t specified in the problem statement, so let’s hope we are in a barren area with a good view.  Let’s hope the local agency is clued in and does a competent job of initiating a search.

    • 3

      “Battery is still charged and the electrical system of your car still works”

      Well that’s a relief. Good thing my car’s electrical system includes a CB radio. I’ll call for help and hope a nearby trucker will help us out. 🙂

    • 3

      Assuming no one needs medical attention, like Redneck, I’d stay with the car. It’s easier for search and rescue to see a car than a person and it’s a shelter from the elements.

      I don’t know how much water a Dasani bottle holds, but my partner and I can go a few days without water, so I’d give most of the water to my dog. If I ran straight water in the radiator, which I don’t unfortunately, I’d take a shirt or sock, or something to filter out the big rust particles that would no doubt collect and drink the radiator water in a pinch. I always use straight water in my wiper fluid, though, so there’s a wee bit extra water there.

      For food, my dog would probably eat anything you fed him, but granola may not be great. It may be a bit fanciful, but I’d try to use some car debris as a deadfall trap, using some of the precious granola as bait. I could try to use other, sharp car panels to skin and gut the catch and to cook it, I’d start a fire with the car’s lighter thingie (yes, my car is that old, it still has one).

      What do you think? Would we make it?

    • 4

      Depends on the weather, is it desert or alpine? Bald or forest? Snow or sand? 

      Seat covers and stuffing and carpets and headiners are good insulation or ground sheets, overcoats, foot wrappers for nighttime, the cabin is probably the warmest if sunny—it is a greenhouse.

      If the windshield is loose it would make a solar still to distill radiator water or just ground moisture.

      Of course you can use some gas and spark for a fire for heat or signaling.

      If it is mild just kick back and listen to Spotify.

    • 5

      Battery still charged so us it to start a signal fire for the night, and a splash of engine oil during the day to make a smoke signal.

      Break off a wing mirror for signalling passing aircraft

      Use plastic bag to over any nearby folliage to trap moisture

      Stay inside the van if its cold, shelter in the lea of the vehicle if its hot

      Check the screenwash bottle to see if its holding ordinary water not screenwash.

      Same with cooling system,

      Stay with the vehicle as it is easier to spot than people for search parties

      Use the battery and one HL bulb to flash a light  on and off for 5 minutes on each hour after dark.

      Draw off fuel and mix it with dirt to make a second fire for warmth  if needed

    • 4

      Popping the hood of your vehicle is the international sign of vehicle distress, so make sure you do that. If someone seeing your car smashed into a tree isn’t enough of a distress signal.

      I would stay put, conserve calories, and set up some rain catchment system to collect as much as you can to stay hydrated.

      • 2

        Whenever I see someone’s hood up I try and ask if they need anything such as a lift to a mechanic or a jump. 90% of the time they don’t, but nice to ask.

    • 4

      Sounds a lot like some of the things that have shaped me, and my way of being prepared.

      Once spent four hours alongside the road, cause we needed a screwdriver, didn’t have one.

      Ex and I once spent the night in  a car, cause we didn’t have a jack.

      The above situations were pre cell phone.

      As to the OP’s thought exercise, stay with the vehicle unless it is dangerous to do so, especially if you know folks will be looking for you. The rule of threes applies here

      Weather is also a factor in the proper actions to take. Warm weather, sit tight and wait. Cold weather, warmth is a priority.

      Now in My corner of the ‘verse, the OP’s scenario, as stated, is a complete non starter. No disrespect intended. In my corner of the ‘verse, if I am in my truck, so is all my truck gear, and my Personal Emergency Resource Kit.

      • 1

        Glad to hear your stories and how in the past you were stranded but today it is no longer an issue because you have learned from your past and have prepared accordingly.

        Great success story!