Many survivalists and preppers have a vehicle specifically designated for bugging out. If your bug out location is more than about 30 miles from your home, a vehicle may be your best option. However, fuel may be hard to come by. In many disaster scenarios fuel costs would skyrocket, gas stations would be flooded by vehicles, or the government would seize as much fuel as possible. What you have in your tank may be the extent of your fuel supply.
So how do you make the most of it? Conditions will likely not be ideal for fuel mileage. You will probably have stop-and-go traffic or road blocks to deal with. You may have to weave between stalled cars or even head off-road to avoid obstacles. There could even be situations where you are being pursued by assailants or government vehicles. This can kill your gas mileage. In this article I want to cover some simple steps you can take to make sure you get every possible mile out of the fuel you have.
I know most people immediately think about the vehicle when trying to improve gas mileage, but how you drive the vehicle can affect your MPG as much as 15%. First, try not to drive over 65 MPH. I know this is no fun on the highway, but it makes a big difference. As you get to higher speeds, wind drag gets to be an issue. This will make your engine work much harder to maintain your speed. The extra few MPH would only get you to your destination a few minutes faster, so unless you are being chased you need to slow down.
One of the easiest ways to maintain good gas mileage is to use the systems build into the vehicle. Cruise control is one of those systems and will keep you from going too fast and keep you from having to accelerate when your speed dips. Also, overdrive is a good way to save some gas. This is the most efficient gear any vehicle has, so once you get up to speed on the highway make sure you shift into overdrive. It will make a difference in your gas tank.
You also need to watch your starts and stops. The worst practice for gas mileage is racing to a stop light, slamming on the breaks, and then gunning the throttle when it turns green. Your goal is to slowly roll up to red lights and gently accelerate when they turn green. Pay attention to anything several hundred yards ahead and gently let off the gas instead of using your brake pedal. If you can avoid coming to a complete stop, then you are doing it right. These practices make a huge difference in how far a tank will take you.
Another way to suck the MPG out of your vehicle is air conditioning. It may seem like a necessity these days, but this luxury feature drastically reduces your fuel efficiency. If you can avoid using the A/C, that would be ideal. Idling is another practice that hurts your efficiency. In a bug-out situation, sitting in one place is a probability. Instead of idling, shut off your engine and start it up again when the traffic moves. Idling is one of the most inefficient things you can do in a car.
Maintenance and Modification
Tire pressure is one of the most important factors for gas mileage. You should be checking your pressure as often as possible, and do not rely on sensors alone to alert you that they are low. Low tire pressure creates more resistance on the road, and that means burning more gas. Your tires should be labeled with the ideal PSI, so be sure to stay within that range or just below the maximum.
Your fuel has a lot to do with the miles you get out of it. However, extra or premium fuel is not the answer in most cases. If you have a high compression engine that suggests premium, then you need to buy the expensive stuff. It should say so right inside your fuel port. Otherwise, save some money and go with standard unleaded. You can also use an additive in your fuel to clean your injectors, and that could equate to better MPGs.
Anything that creates drag on your vehicle has to be removed unless absolutely needed. This would include roof racks, bike racks, and luggage carriers. Drag greatly affects your fuel mileage. You do not have to throw these items in the trash, but only use them when needed. You can also buy tires that reduce resistance. Most people are not aware of this, but there are actually tires specifically designed for better gas mileage. For a few extra bucks you can really increase your efficiency.
Change or clean your air filter on a regular basis. Efficient operation of any engine requires fuel, ignition, and oxygen. If you have a dirty filter, you are not getting enough oxygen to the engine. If you have the inexpensive paper filters, change them regularly. If you have a washable filter, wash it as often as you can. In dirty or off-road conditions, you must pay special attention to this.
Spark plugs are another factor in this equation… ignition. If your plugs are not operating properly, you will lose efficiency. This is an inexpensive way to ensure your engine runs smoothly. Regular oil changes are another good way to keep things going. This seems like common sense, but most people push their engines beyond the suggested life of their oil and filter. You can also ensure there is a spare tire, but that does increase the weight by around 1 %. These maintenance items are vital.
How much fuel is in your tank is a common assumption to affect gas mileage. However, it does not move the needle as much as expected. Whether full or empty, an unleaded tank acts about the same. However, the weight of your vehicle can greatly affect your gas mileage. Storing additional fuel in separate tanks is a good idea, but your other gear needs to be as light as possible. When you are looking at bugging out, bring gear that weighs less if you have the choice. This is especially true for heavy equipment like chain saws, generators, and pumps.
There are a few modern maintenance procedures that could make a big difference. One is an ultrasonic cleaning of your injectors. This is the only way to be sure your fuel injectors are clean. Clean injectors mean a proper ratio of air to fuel, so that is essential for good gas mileage. You can also look into having your vehicle’s computer remapped. This is not a common practice, but the computer of modern vehicles are very capable of adjustments based on fuel economy.
Alternative Power Source Vehicles
Buying vehicles that do not rely on only gasoline or converting vehicles to use alternative fuels is getting more popular. This could mean buying a hybrid and using battery power to improve your gas mileage, or it could mean buying an electric car. However, finding a working charging station may be tough. Even solar cars are getting to be a more realistic option. You have to think about how the vehicle will operate after a potential collapse.
It may mean converting a diesel into a biodiesel vehicle that can run on recycled cooking oil. If you plan to stay near civilization, you will likely always be near restaurants having a vat of used cooking oil out back. This supply of fuel will likely exists years after restaurants shut down. There are even ways to covert vehicles to be powered by firewood or compost. If you are worried about running out of unleaded, do some research and get creative.
When your goal is gas mileage and your life depends on it, focus is the key. To get the most out of your fuel, you must constantly be monitoring the condition of your vehicle and the way you drive that vehicle. It is more about a mindset than any given action. Those of us that have the right mindset know that we can tell when it is time for an oil change without looking at the calendar. We know to check the tire pressure or the air filter without being reminded. This mindset is vital.
However, to be truly ready to bug out by vehicle you must do more than that. You must have a proactive mindset. This means owning the right vehicle and modifying it if needed. It means taking steps to prepare your vehicle months before you may need it. You cannot just be good at maintenance. You must build the perfect vehicle for survival. If you take the time and make the right moves, the fuel in your tank will easily get you to safety when it counts.