The “Almost” EMP Proof Vehicle


There is a lot of hype and talk about what type of critical emergency we will face in the future with a check list or “to do” list for everyone.  Included is the possibility of an EMP, not only from our countries enemies but also from a super solar flair from our sun.  It is my understanding that at that time the electrical grid in the US will go down and stay down, cell phone service will be a thing of the past, our homes will go dark and remain that way, and no vehicle built after 1985 will start.  I can’t do anything about the grid or the cell service but I can prepare a vehicle that will start!
The first principle is of course, age.  Make your selection wisely.  I recommend a quick visit with your favorite parts manager at your favorite car dealership to ask one simple question.  What was the last year (Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge…) made a truck that did NOT have one single computer in it?  Start your search and make your selection from a year that is older than indicated by your trusted resource.  I believe you are ten steps ahead of everybody if you just take this first step.  Condition matters…or does it?  Search for something mechanically reliable but can have a few body and appearance issues but that is simply a matter of taste and what you want to be seen in (remember you will be the only one on the road!)
Back to the title of this article.  I said “almost”.  Depending on how far you are from the EMP, your newly found classic may start right up or may have a few issues that are easily taken care of.  The closer you are to the source of the EMP, the more likely the electronics in your vehicle will be effected.   I feel that the most suspect parts are the alternator, starter assembly, distributor, coil, windshield wiper motor and assorted switches that operate the ignition, wiper motor, heater, AC and lights.  Some people are still attached to the CB radio and I would recommend installing that in a quick disconnect holder and putting it will all your other parts.  Not sure about the radio but then again there will be no electricity for them to broadcast with, so what does it matter, besides you WILL have your hand crank radio just for such times as these.  I do not believe an EMP will destroy the battery or the fuses/fuse box…..but could be wrong there….readers can voice your opinion on that one.  Maybe there are few others that I am failing to mention and you can set me straight on those also.
So after you make your purchase, go ahead and buy new/reconditioned parts to match the listing above.  If an EMP occurs and your vehicle does not start, it is a simple process to start with the most suspect item (alternator?  distributor?  coil?) and work toward the hardest to replace, which would be the starter.  Try to start the vehicle after each installation – you might not have to go too far or take too much time.  Everything else is pretty much in plain sight and within reach.  Simple hand tools and a hour or so and you are highly likely to have a running vehicle.   
So, you ask, if the parts on the truck are impacted, why are the other parts not?  Excellent question.  That will be because you are one smart cookie and have placed your spare parts in a Faraday Cage.  Easy to make with all the instructions on the internet.  There are different kinds and different styles but the principal is the same – create an enclosure that will block the EMP.  Something as simple as a galvanized trash can with aluminized plumbers tape to seal the lid to the can will work.  Store your spare parts in the can, seal it up and you are protected.  Don’t forget to take the thing with you if you have to bug out!  You never know when and where an EMP could occur.
Well, that is my solution…..untested of course.  I have not experienced an EMP in my life time and hope I will not have to.  I think the theory is sound.  An once you have found your target truck (I say truck because that is what I would buy, but a good older station wagon may be just what someone else would want) and have it in decent running/reliable shape, you just may find a whole bunch of people asking you if it is for sale.
Bud “Pathfinder” Graham

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29 thoughts on “The “Almost” EMP Proof Vehicle”

  1. You got your vehicle running and you’re riding around town looking for supplies, and what
    happens? The town police commandeer your car for the common good. I’ll bike.

    • MorrisB –

      I absolutely see that happening depending on the circumstances. Certainly emphasizes the need to be way out in the sticks so as not to attract attention.


  2. Pathfinder,

    I was once tangentially involved in an electromagnetic vehicle kill/disable program. Turns out that modern US vehicle computers are really hardened and that the energy levels required to kill the computer was hard on humans as well. Semiconductor junctions are closer these days so the vulnerability increases.

    I have a 1974 Jeep tucked back in my sheet metal barn – just in case. I also have extra points, condenser, coil, and voltage relay. stored in a sealed metal container. I worry less about the starting motor as I live on a mountain and of course that vintage has a standard transmission. The fine wire secondary wirings in the distributor coil are certainly vulnerable as is the capacitor or so called condenser. Anything that can arc might and if the condenser goes then there may be welded ignition points. Starting motors are robust and worst case, I would think that the solenoid might freeze (for the same reason the coil would fail). Any electrical motor with brushes might well have problems and for that reason you should stock extra brushes for drill motors, starters, etc. Of course if you vehicle has an alternator, it is silicon diode rectified and there’s another semiconductor junction to fail. My old Jeep has an generator – and voltage relay to regulate battery charging. The fine wire windings in the relay are also vulnerable.

    Interested readers might want to review an article I wrote for MS regarding vulnerabilities of diesel JD tractors and Kubota UTX diesel motors. Those things are EMP proof, and only a handful of relays would be required to get on back up and running – but then again you need that replacement handful of relays in a protected environment.

    Great post. It should generate a lot of thought and hopefully comment.

    By the way, my Jeep is nicknamed TEOTEAWKI. People ask how I came by that old Indian name.


  3. We have bicycles and a draft horse and a good tractor .However one can only store a limited about of fuel and that will become an issue.Many of us will be remaining at home or at our retreat guarding it. The article was good though and the follow up discussions always helpful. Arlene

  4. Good article. Here’s a twist on it for you to consider. Its my understanding that an EMP fries electronic circuits that are “on” or “juiced up” by reversing the polarity of electricity. Kind of like if you hooked your battery in your car up with the positive terminal hooked to the negative and vice versa. If electricity is not flowing through a circuit at the time of an EMP or solar flare, there is a good chance those electronics will not be affected. Things that are ‘on” at the time will however likely be fried. The power grid, your phone, anything hooked up to the power grid and a vehicle with its battery hooked up will certainly be toast. Along with storing backup electronics inside a faraday cage you may want to consider installing a battery quick disconnect in your vehicle and using it. This is somewhat impractical on modern vehicles as they require constant power to the vehicles computer to keep its memory. But, on older vehicles or vehicles that are to be left sitting for a period of time, its a good idea to kill the juice to them. Those of you who have street bikes who put them away in the winter can relate as we all mostly remove our battery and store it for the winter. Now, while an old pickup or car that runs on old school electronics without a computer is a good idea for a doomsday/EMP vehicle, you may want to consider alternate vehicles. For example, if I were an enemy of the US, and I wanted to detonate an EMP I would want to do it at a time when it would have the most devestating effect. I would set it off somewhere between 7-9AM or between 4-6PM during the busiest “rush hour” times in the country. This would ensure roads and highways would become giant parking lots. Accidents would kill people, and there would be literally millions of stranded motorists everywhere. Children would be stuck in schools, and families would be divided and going crazy to get back together. Of course, parents wouldnt be able to call their kids schools and day cares, husbands couldnt call wives, and ambulances and other emergency vehicles would be either out of service or unable to get to those in need. In this instance, it would be good to have an older motorcycle or ATV that is able to weave through traffic or go off the side of the road if necessary to get around. My own personal bug out toy is a custom made Honda TRX450R turned into a trike. Its carbureted, thus no computer, and when not in use, the battery is disconnected ensuring no electricity is going through any part of the electrical system. As well, even if the battery fried, I can still push start the thing by running with it in gear and popping the clutch. In the event of an EMP, dont forget, gas stations wont be pumping gas either. So youre going to want a vehicle that doesnt burn too much fuel as you may find yourself scavenging fuel from abandoned or disabled vehicles. Id suggest having several gas cans, a nice big funnel, and a hammer and a punch to knock holes in gas tanks. Also, discuss with your family what your plan is if there is a solar flare or EMP. My family knows to stay put and wait for me to come get them. First, I must get home which could take a couple of hours, then fire up the trike, then I go pick up my wife from work and bring her home, then I go pick up my daughter from day care and bring her home, then I check on my parents. Expect lots of chaos if this ever happens. Dont be surprised if people attempt to shoot at you even to steal your BOV. There will be lots of desperate confused people out there, and the police will not likely be anywhere to be found, and many will be doing what they can to protect and round up their own families. So be prepared for anything because and EMP / solar flare is one hell of a bad SHTF scenario thats likely going to kill millions of people.

    • Gary –

      Thanks for all the info and ideas. I have talked to several “experts” ad the bottom line with EMP is no one knows for sure what will happen and what the exact effect will be – until it actually happens. Those that are supposed to be in the know do not have a lot of faith in the “take the batteries” out method of protection.

      Lets hope we do not find out.


  5. You might want to consider “nesting” your parts in multiple Faraday cages. Small parts are fairly easy. Drop the part in a zip lock bag, wrap the bag in a couple of layers of aluminum foil then tape the foil. Another zip lock bag, more foil and tape and a final bag. This will provide two additional layers of protection as long as each layer of foil is electrically insulated from the others. Each Faraday cage will cut down the pulse to some degree. “Nesting” cages will significantly increase protection.

    Sealing the lid of a 33 gallon trash can Faraday cage with aluminum tape is worthwhile but doesn’t insure a complete electrical path. The glue on the tape is non-conductive thus allowing frequencies of that wavelength in. I sealed mine with aluminum foil wadded up around where the lid seats on the can as well as sealing the lid with aluminum tape.

    • Back in 1796 their transportation was emp resistant. And it was capable of making copies of itself. Imagine if you had two Fords and they were capable of manufacturing copies of themselves.

  6. Most domestic vehicles went to computers in 1980, most had electronic ignition in 1975, except Chrysler had it earlier. I don’t think electronic ignition would survive an EMP. I also don’t believe disconnecting the battery would save it.

  7. This is an interesting premise and there are so many differing opinions about EMP hardening of various components. Several examples exist out there if one knows where to look for them. My own personal experience came with a 1981 Ford Courier manufactured by Mazda with the Ford 2.3 liter engine. While parked near the building my wife worked in during the afternoon, a transformer on the pole next to the building blew up.

    Many cars in the parking lot would not start but my wife said she did not know why the truck started and others did not when she came to pick me up. After I asked her if anything unusual had happened that day and she said only that transformer blast had occurred. She was already aware of EMP since I had explained it to her but had not told her that it did not require a nuclear blast to accomplish it but a CME event just like the transformer would also trigger the event. Our truck had transistorized ignition but the firing module was well armored and grounded so the charge would be absorbed by the body of the truck and this is why it still ran. We really had some pissed off people in that parking lot that day.

  8. Joe, the vehicle in 1796 was a horse and EMP would not have been a problem, seriously though having horses, mules and bicycles as Arlene do is great. PR, glad you have an older jeep, I know my 1978 J20 had a computer and an alternator. I just keep looking for an older vehicle that can use older non electronic parts. As far as fuel one of the people on this site was investigating into the construction of a wood gassifier and if he is successful I hope he does a DVD on it.

  9. Man I’ve been worrying about this issue for a couple years now, great info, thanks for sharing it guys 🙂

  10. John P

    I failed to mention that TEOTEAWKI is not power plant original. For reliability and more power, it has a crate 283 chevy engine with mechanical fuel pump, 500cfm 2bbl Holley, and an old point style distributor with external coil.

    In my youth I found the 283 simple to maintain, long lived, and economical for the reliable power it generated. I returned to this venerable engine for the Jeep. Nary a computer nor semiconductor rectifier in old TEOTEAWKI. The 283 is an easy mod often done to older Jeeps. Addition of an even older 12vdc generator and mechanical voltage regulator is a snap and there’s even room for a functional alternator so one could leave the generator/VR unconnected and with a little mechanical planning, unbelted. Were the alternator to die, then unplug it, connect the generator and relocate the belt. Not complicated at all.

    See: for your old technology 283 today.

    But of course we have about a dozen hayburning fertilizer generators including a venerable cranky old burro.

    Bottom line everyone, keep ole Bob and boots in your vehicles.

    One of my favorite, if fanciful, emp novels is WEST OF SHERIDAN. It had a more than a little to do with where we ended up.


  11. My EMP vehicles consist of three 1978 era cars with 0 computers and minimal electronics that are stored as backups (coils, generators, starter, points and condenser sets) in a EMP vault. Two of the cars are Mazda racecars that although very loud would have their uses. The third is a Lotus Esprit (my stupid simple ’55 Chevy)so that I can play James Bond come the apocalypse. The speed and low profiles would make for difficult targets, but not much ground clearance for off-roading.
    Regards, D.

  12. D,

    Sounds like we are both wrench heads. I have a restored 30s model Plymouth with an ultra modern vertex magneto, the ultimate in emp survivable ignition. I mention this for those of you who might want to go that extra step in reliability beyond breaker point ignition. There several firms in California that will manufacture custom magnetos for most gasoline engines. Magnetos produce and distribute their own high tension electrical energy. Magneto equipped engines need no external power source such as a generator or battery to operate. Because magnetos produce so much sparking power, engines so equipped start easily when just ‘bumped’ over. One does not ‘turn off’ a magneto, one grounds its P lead, otherwise, it is always ‘on.’ Pilots are loathe to move propellers by hand for fear of an open P lead where just a little movement can cause the engine to start.

    Most small airplane power plants such as manufactured by Continental or Lycoming have not only one magneto but two as a redundancy. Each magneto independently energizes its own set of spark plugs of which there of course two per cylinder.

    So my friends when you read that last greatest emp novel and the small planes are falling from the air, remember my comment that those type engines are among the most emp resistant gasoline powered internal combustion engines ever made by man. Besides, all pilots know that it is not the engine and wings that keep planes aloft, it is money, and a lot of it.


    • Ah hah! Thank you for your information regarding magnetos. If correct, this means I can cut firewood with my chainsaw, rototill my and neighbor’s gardens, run my outboard – I live on an island and there may be opportunities to transport people for medical service(?) or help people get home. (Gotta be careful who you offer rides to though.) Do some motorcycles still use magnetos? Some gas stations carry non-ethanol gas (89 octane) which can be treated with additives like STA-BIL will last over a year if properly stored.

  13. My long term goal is to do just as you described, but with one small change – I want my “EMP Proof” vehicle to be diesel. Why? Two very good reasons:
    1. Diesel engines don’t have near as much “electrical” as their gasoline brothers. Basically, all you will have to keep a spare of is the starter. As long as you can start a diesel engine, no further electricity is required (except that most will need electricity of some type to “kill” the engine).
    2. Diesel is MUCH better suited to long term storage. Gasoline will go bad a short time after an EMP, but diesel will stay fresh much longer.

    Bonus #3 – An older diesel engine will (if there is no other viable source of diesel fuel) run (for a while) on pretty much any flammable oil – cooking oil, waste motor oil, citronella, etc.

    Good topic!


  14. I’ve owned a number of diesel powered pick up trucks. I highly recommend any 90s era or earlier Ford with the old International diesel engine and standard transmission with manual 4wd gearbox. Of course our tractors and side by sides are diesel. In a dire situation, our travels will initially be foot patrol. The side by sides would take the place of highway vehicles because of their much better fuel economy and ability to negotiate rough terrain. We have a number of trailers for the side by sides which along with the hydraulic dump beds provide great carrying capacity.


  15. Your hard parts such as switches will be unaffected. They can pass more amperage than a momentary surge will create. The E3 component of an EMP strike (the hydrodynamic part) is what creates huge pulses in transmission lines, pipes, rails, etc… and creates overtemp conditions in grid transformers. Our vehicles aren’t subject to that. They will be most affected by the first component, which has a quick rise time, just as quick a decay, and propagates well within circuits not necessarily tied to the earth.

    Spares in an EMP box are the way to go. Two spares, if you’re paranoid about late trigger strikes. If we’re talking CME, one set will do.

    I wouldn’t expect the battery (s) to be affected. Your starter passes huge currents as part of its design – it will be safe. Alternators might have an issue with their internal regulators.

    In short, what will potentially have problems are devices with integrated circuits. Their small paths ways, sometimes measure in microns, ca not pass great volumes of current. They quickly overheat and melt, breaking the circuit. They may even be damaged, and fail sometime later.

    The one thing we have going for us is that the lengths of wire in our wiring harnesses are not very long. This limits their ability to collect energy and pass it to sensitive electronics. They are practically non-existent when compared to power lines. Prep by having spare computer controls, and sensors that include integrated circuits in their designs.

    I believe in using modern vehicles equipped with spares. The reason for this is that the older units are going away. I see fewer of them every year. I see plenty of the recent rigs, and that means I have access to spare engines, transmissions, accessories… you name it. If a guy has electronics squirreled away, he really isn’t as limited as is commonly believed.

  16. Ah LP, I agree with you about the higher current devices. Starfish Prime tends to support this as well. In addition to integrated circuits, many modern vehicles, tractors, and utility equipment, use fine wire wound solenoids. The secondary winding of the older ignition coils is fine wire as well. Depending upon the intensity of the EMP field, these devices may be vulnerable. Be sure you have protected spares.

    Spare computers have to be configured to the particular motor/transmission. I suppose one might have the connectors, protected programming computer and software to do this. I don’t. I once owned one of the infamous 2006 Ford diesels (the one the company did not stand behind when engines failed by the thousands). This vehicle nickled and dimed me out of $17,000. First it was the injectors, then the turbocharger, then the engine again, then the transmission, then all three computers, etc. I watched the dealership install and program the computers. Would you believe that they never got all of them working correctly? And this was a big dealership that does volume mechanical work. Of course Dodge, Chevrolet/GMC, and Toyota may be different but I think not. It takes a lot more effort than just snapping out the old computer and replacing with new.

    How I wished I had kept my fleet of International engined Ford diesels. Parts may be harder to obtain over the decades but anyone with a lathe, milling machine, and patience can duplicate most anything metal.

    My son and I both have 50 year old re-engined Jeeps. I suspect my great grandchildren will enjoy the old relics someday – and that they will be as functional then as now. The old vehicles are started once a month and driven in the pasture, fluids topped off and PM performed. Then back inside the metal barn they go. These are our deep reserve highway transportation. Anyone with a Jeep knows that they haven’t surplus room. Our Jeeps have universal receivers and high single axle trailers. Anyone with a Jeep should have a trailer.

    LP, you touched on something I suspect not many have considered. I would think that any EMP attack would have at least two strikes. The first to take out the infrastructure, and a second some time later to take out any reconstructed infrastructure. For this reason, we have protected reserves, and deep protected reserves. The latter are the highest quality in commo and other electronics and are not intended to be broken out for some time after such a strike, and hopefully after intelligence indicates the opposing nation/terrorist state has been neutralized.

    As long as we have boomers at sea with nuclear strike capability this nation has a measure of MAD. Which is why I believe we haven’t seen an EMP strike here – or elsewhere.


  17. Excellent commentaries by the two most recent contributors. I have to possibly disagree with PH on his last sentence. There’s a very strong possibility that an EMP attack may not have “fingerprints on it. That, and a hesitant president and those boomers may be just sitting out there with all that potential-and not be used.

  18. even though I have 3 pre-electronic vehicles, I am still wondering about the 1800’s Carrington effect that destroyed Electro-Mechanical Telegraph equipment and wires. Is is possible that the hard wire in vehicles can be effected the same way? My second concern with the few remaining running vehicles is gangs using them for targets, to obtain supplies.


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