10 Survival Items to Scavenge from Abandoned Vehicles

Scavenge Abandoned Vehicles

Stripping Abandoned or Disabled Vehicles for Survival Gear and Materials

Only on a survival reality show would you expect to find an abandoned vehicle sitting along a wilderness path or crouched in the middle of the desert. However, if you had to bug-out from an urban area because of a crisis you would find a multitude of abandoned vehicles along the way to your safe haven.

In addition, your vehicle may break down leaving you stranded while traveling across a desert region, while in the mountains, or in any remote area, so it can be used to help you survive. Of course, people would be reluctant to start tearing their vehicle apart and logic dictates you stay with the vehicle if you expect to survive, but if your vehicle were on roadway in areas that may have avalanches, for example, then you would have to get away quickly leaving the vehicle behind.

In some cases, the only way to survive is to make your way out on your own, but before setting off you need to consider what your vehicle can offer you in the way of survival material.

A vehicle is shelter primarily if you become stranded but if traveling on foot and you come upon one, and you cannot remain in one place then the vehicle can be salvaged for survival items.

1.) Seat Covers

Seat covers can be used as shelter material, covering for the body, ground insulation or even made into a pack for carrying items. Leather seats can be harvested to make shoes, clothing, leggings/chaps for traveling though thorny, heavy brush or used as a poncho.

The padding in the seats can be used for ground cover or for insulating the inside of your shelter. The springs inside the seats could be used, but they are under pressure and unless you can identify several uses for them, it may be better to leave them alone, because they can cause an injury. The wire cutters on a multi-tool would not likely be sufficient to cut through the springs.

2.) Wiring

Wiring of course can be used as cordage and it has multiple survival uses from snares to shelter building. Stripped copper wiring can also be used with the vehicle’s battery to start a fire.

3.) Headlights

The glass can be used as a cutting tool if the shard is long enough to wrap in duct tape to create a handle. The headlight case and lamp can also be used as a parabolic reflector/lens to create a fire. The lens reflector is well polished so it can be used as a signal mirror as well.

The reflector that houses the bulb can be used to start a fire by placing tinder in the center and placing the reflector in direct sunlight. The reflective sides will direct sunlight to the tinder and it will magnify the sun’s rays enough to create an ember in the tinder. Use the glass from the headlights as you would eyeglasses or a magnifying glass to create a fire.

4.) Junk in the Trunk

Junk in the trunk can be useful stuff, such as a tire iron which would be a valuable tool for digging, prying or for self-defense against animal and human. You may find siphon hoses which can be used to make a field expedient slingshot, used as a tourniquet and can be used to lash items to your pack or to tie items into bundles.

The carpeting can be used for shelter building or ground cover. The scissors jack or other types of jacks could be used for some things, but once again, unless there is a clear purpose for items you should leave them behind, because remember you will have to carry everything.

The plastic lenses over the backlights/brake lights can be removed and used as cups for drinking or eating from or used as containers to gather water and food in.

Battery cables would have a specific use if the battery had any charge in it. The clamps could be used for clamping insulation to shelter walls, or securing items to a pack or for hanging lightweight items off the ground or for securing illumination overhead in your shelter.

5.) Under the Hood

The battery would be useful if it had a charge, because you could start a fire by attaching the battery clamps to their respective posts and tapping the ends together to create a spark away from the battery. Another way to start a fire is by clamping a thin bare piece of copper wiring to one clamp and before attaching the other clamp to the opposite end place the bare wire in some dry tinder. Once you attach the remaining cable to the wire, the current will cause the thin wire to heat up enough to ignite the tinder bundle.

6.) The Hood or Trunk Lid

It is not likely you would have the tools available to remove the hood or trunk lid but it may already be done for you in some cases, and if you could, get them removed they could be makeshift shelters. It would be rather easy to create a lean to using a vehicles’ hood, providing the vehicle itself could not be used for shelter, for example, because the glass is smashed out and/or four legged tenants have moved in.

Leave the insulation attached under the hood to help reflect heat from the sun and to retain heat if building a fire underneath in cold weather. Using them as makeshift sleds/travois however, would be difficult because of the weight and design.

7.) Door Panels

You can us the door panels as sleds however. The panels are light enough to drag over sand, grass, gravel or snow. Some panels are attached only by clips, some will have both screws, and clips holding them in place, and the screws are usually under vanity panels at the handles. This is where having a multi-tool on you comes in very handy.

8.) Tires

Tires today have steel cable running through them making them very difficult to cut up for shoes or for other uses. They can be burned however, to make a signal fire but the smoke is toxic and in most areas, it would be illegal to burn tires, but in a survival situation, you get out alive first. Better to be tried by 12 than carried by 6 is the old adage.

9.) Inner Tubes

In older cars, you may find old inner tubes, which can be cut up to make essentially large rubber bands. The bands can be used for lashing items to your pack or body, used for tourniquets and can be used in shelter making. There are literally dozens of uses for rubber bands in a survival situation.

10.) Window Glass in Doors

The top of the glass is not polished and that unpolished portion can be used as a knife sharpener. Duct tape the sharp edges leaving the rough surface exposed to carry as a knife sharpener. Make several sharpeners this way so you have extras. Glass today is layered with plastics and resins so the surface may wear somewhat with use, so having extras means you have a fresh sharpening surface when needed.

The rest of the glass can be used as cutting tools. By knapping, you can shape the glass with a stone or other hard object, and then use duct tape and/or use leather from the seats for a handle.

Final Thoughts

Of course, there are many more parts and materials in a vehicle that can be used for any number of things, but remember you will have to carry everything on your back. Any item you carry should have more than one use. Otherwise, it is just extra weight.

Survival reality shows have shown the experts collecting gasoline to make fire. While gasoline can be used, it is however, very dangerous to use it for fire making.

Gas tanks can be dangerous if you try to puncture one to gather fuel for fire making. One spark can cause the entire tank to explode even if no fuel is present in the tank. Vapors in the tank can cause it to explode, and the vapors can remain long after the vehicle has been abandoned in some cases. Use caution when working around any vehicle and only take what you need.