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Prepper Life Skill (PLS): Tire Repair & Getting Out of A Sinking Car

28 Mar

This PLS is a lot like the PLS about wheel alignment.

If you’re prepping for short-term emergencies, it’s a skill you won’t need. If your tire fails, pull out the spare tire-wheel assembly, change it, and be on your merry way. But, if you’re forced to leave paved roads and multiple tires suffer damage, likely you won’t have more than one spare tire. How do we repair a tire and what tools are needed?

If you’ve repaired your own bike tires, you might think you can just replace a tire tube or patch it. Some smaller tires use tubes, but modern automotive tires do not. The rubber of the tire seals to the rim. To repair a puncture, you need to remove the tire from the rim, patch the tire so that it will hold air, remount the tire to the rim, and (somehow!) fill the tire with air, getting the tire “bead” to seal.

A temporary fix is just using a plug that is applied from outside the tire. This is not considered a permanent repair. But it might see you through till you reach a service station. A patch with plug as describe below is considered a permanent fix.

This video from one of my favorite automotive do-it-yourself channels talks about replacing a tube in a tire. Much of the information, like getting the tire off the rim, is similar to what you need for a tubeless tire.

Here is another tire-change video. (Youtube)

This video talks about replacing the tire’s valve stem.

This video has a nice close up showing how the valve stem fits into the rim. You should purchase a special tool for this job. You should own tire irons and not use a big screwdriver, too!

Now that you have a basic grasp of how to get the tire off of the rim and put it back on later, we can focus on the main topic:

Here is a video showing you how to patch a tire.

Getting the bead to seal can be a bit tricky, especially if it’s your first time. Because most preppers already have way too much interest in things that go bang, we won’t recommend the common lighter fluid-starter fluid trick to sealing a bead. It’s not particularly safe and can’t be good for the tire. Use the ratcheting strap trick described in the following bead sealing discussions:

In short, if you have trouble getting the bead to seal, bounce the tire around a bit and apply a strap around the tire to force the sides of the tire out to encourage the bead to seal. If your rim is old, you might want to purchase a bead sealer to apply to the rim and tire.

If you’re trying to locate a small leak in a tire, you can submerge it under water or use the soap trick¬† I described in the book for finding natural gas leaks through black iron piping. Same concept, different application.

If you have an old tire and rim, you might want to give this a go as a prepper exercise. For not much money, you can learn a new skill that can keep you off-roading even after your last spare tire has blown.

Charlie Palmer -Author The Prepper Next Door

On the news there was a good story about how to escape a car that has crashed into water and is sinking.

Here is a similar news story (Youtube):

Many people will instinctively roll up the window to keep the water out and try to dial 911. Just get your seat belt off, get your window down or break it, and get out immediately. If the car has sunk too far, you won’t be able to open the door because of the force of the water pushing the door closed. Good stuff to know.

Here’s a great video by TheLordHumungus about preparing for everyday life. I highly recommend you check out his Youtube channel. The zombie apocalypse likely won’t happen, but each of us will be subject to numerous emergencies and lesser disasters throughout our life. We should aim to be prepared in everything we do!

We’ll file this one under “don’t make your situation worse.” A Texas lady ran into a problem with a snake in her house. She tossed gasoline on the snake and set it ablaze. Snake’s revenge: It crawled into a wood pile and burned down the lady’s house. Lesson: She should have read the child’s story “The Little Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly.”

Many law enforcement agencies have reported an ammo shortage over the last few months.

Ammunition might become the new cigarettes. Many states are proposing new taxes on ammunition.

Among the proposals: A 5 percent tax in New Jersey and a whopping 50 percent ammo tax in Maryland. Congress is actively pushing tax legislation to force the national collection of sales taxes online. This means an online ammo seller in Texas would be subject to the tax collection authorities in a place like New York. It will allow states to reach across state borders to enforce their tax laws on sellers located in other states.

Most preppers have heard about the financial melt down in Cyprus.
It’s the same old story: Banks close, people can only get some of their money. Companies have no money to meet payroll, so workers go unpaid. Stores lack the money to get new product. Few stores accept credit cards, because the store feels it won’t be paid. People with money are rushing to the stores to get food.

Russia is offering to bail out Cyprus in exchange for the country’s offshore oil and natural gas drilling rights.

Closer to home: In America, record numbers of people are now on Federal disability paid by Social Security taxes.
These people don’t appear in the unemployment numbers and most will never return to work. I was surprised to learn that children are on worker disability too. If they can’t do well in school, they’re considered disabled and they get money.

It’s estimated that the Social Security disability trust fund will be “exhausted” by 2016.

Lesson: Never consider any source of income absolutely secure. Things change, times change.

Prepper Life Skill: Changing Your Own Oil

3 Oct

Compared to the other Prepper Life Skills I’ve gone over (wheel alignment: guaranteed to drive you batty, and finding north), changing your vehicle’s oil is an easy job, usually. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a mechanic do this for you, but in the event of a long-term disaster, knowing how to change your oil will extend the life of your vehicle. It’s a gentle way to get into maintaining and learning about your vehicle.

I’m a big believer that when you do things it changes you. You start to see yourself as more capable. You’re more willing to take on other projects. This is why I think it’s good for preppers to tackle small do-it-yourself projects.

Let’s get started. First, you’ll need to buy some things if you’ve never done this before. You’ll need to get the right type of oil for your vehicle, say 5W-30 or 10W-30 oil. I like to stick with one brand, like Pennzoil, because different makers add different additives that might not play nicely together inside your engine. Many vehicles will require about 5 quarts of oil. Be sure you have a bit extra on hand.

Whenever you change the oil, you’ll want to change the oil filter. You’ll need to go to a website like to find out what type of filter you need. I like Purolator brand filters.

When you drain the old oil, you’ll need a large pan to collect the oil. You can get these at any automotive store or Walmart. You’ll need to bring your old oil to a service station or to community hazardous waste center to eventually get rid of it. Because some oil will spill, have a few clean rags handy. You’ll want to purchase a strap wrench (just a few bucks) to remove the old oil filter. You can compare your new filter to the strap wrench size to be sure it will work. Purchase a few funnels, which are used to add oil and other liquids to tiny openings. A box of disposable Permatex Nitrile gloves will make the job cleaner.

You’ll need a socket set or wrench to remove the drain plug to drain the oil. I’d suggest purchasing a good six-point socket set and get a breaker bar too. That will give you more leverage if you need it. If you need more leverage to remove a stubborn bolt, a small section of pipe over a wrench makes a great cheater bar.

Most importantly, you’ll probably need to get your vehicle raised a bit into the air so you can reach the drain plug and filter under the vehicle. For this, I’d recommend 12,000 pound Rhino Ramps, which actually support about half that for a pair or about 3,000 pounds per ramp.

Step 1. Get the car just slightly warm. Warm oil drains best. Don’t have it hot. Just driving your car up the ramps should help warm it. Line up the wheels with the ramps. If you have some sand bags, but those behind the ramps to keep the ramps from slipping. Drive the car right up to the ramps with the wheels pointed straight ahead, put the car in park, and check the alignment. The ramps should be equally spaced and the wheels should go up the center of the ramps. Don’t be too far off to one side of a ramp.

Some people will drive up ramps by feel alone, but I like to place a good-sized mirror a few feet away from the driver’s side door on the ground where it allows me to see the tires going up the ramp. This lets me know when to put the brakes on.

If you hit the end of the ramp, a lip on the ramp will stop your forward progress, but being a sufficiently paranoid, I like to have plenty of room in front of the ramps just in case they’d slide or somehow the vehicle would overshoot. As you drive up the ramp’s incline, you’ll need to gently give the vehicle gas throughout the journey. If you take your foot off the accelerator, the car will tend to roll back down the ramps. Once the car does this, just let it roll back down and try again. If you took your foot off the accelerator and tried to compensate by flooring the pedal, you could overshoot the ramps, drive through a garage wall, or do something else horrible. Slow and controlled up the ramps is the motto.

Step 2. With the vehicle on ramps and in park, open the hood and remove the oil filler cap. Also place something to block the rear wheels. You can purchase wheel chokes. Get underneath the vehicle with your wrench and oil pan. Loosen the drain plug. Drain out the old oil. When the oil flow has become a slow drip, retighten the drain plug. You don’t need to tighten them too much. Don’t strip the threads in your oil pan.

Step 3. Find your oil filter and unscrew it. You’ll probably need your strap wrench. Clean the surface where the filter mates with a rag. Pour some oil into the new filter and run some oil over the rubber seal of the filter. This helps it seal better. Tighten the filter by hand. If you’re not strong, you might want to tighten just a tad with the strap wrench, but only very little. Don’t over tighten the filter, once it’s snug it should be fine.

I like to wipe the oil pan area and the filter with a rag to remove any old oil, which could be mistaken for a new leak.

Step 4. Put your funnel in the oil filler hole and pour away. Don’t overfill. To find the oil capacity for your vehicle, you can look at the owner’s manual. As I emphasize in The Prepper Next Door, you should also purchase the official service manuals for your vehicles.

Step 5. Drive down the ramps and check the oil level on the dipstick. Add, if needed. Look at the filter and at the pan. There shouldn’t be any leaks. Congratulations! You’ve just changed your oil.

Now that you’ve changed your oil, you can lean about other aspects of vehicle maintenance. If your vehicle breaks down during an evacuation, it’s nice to have some skills to deal with the most common problems. Know how to change a radiator hose, replace a blown tire, jump start a car with a dead battery, etc.

Prepper Life Skill: Finding North Direction

10 Sep

Finding North is a skill many urban preppers will never need. But, it’s good to learn.

If you have a compass and you know your area’s magnetic declination, you can find true north easily. Your compass will point to magnetic north (which changes slightly with time. In the 1970s, it was about 6 degrees easterly declination down the center of Minnesota. Now, it’s less, because of westward movement of the isogonic lines.)

If you have a map, it will give a little picture showing declination. Even if you don’t have a map, it’s good to know the approximate declination in any wilderness area you frequent. NOAA has a nice declination map you can zoom in on.

Declination is the angle between True North (The North Pole, approximately the North Star) and magnetic north. Declination (measured in degrees) is a measurement of how much true north differs from magnetic north. Easterly declination means magnetic north is east of true north. On a map with north at the top, magnetic north will be to the right of true north (for easterly declination).

The way I remembered it (not saying this is proper!) is that the line from the Great Lakes down to Florida was the line of zero declination. Think of the magnet as being there, along that line. If you’re to the west of that line, declination is easterly. If you’re to the east of that line, declination is westerly.

If straight ahead is north and you’re west of the zero declination line, magnetic north must be east of you. The magnet is off to your right on the map. The compass points right to the magnet. Declination is easterly.

Here’s a really wonderful explanation of how to use a compass by crawlingroad on Youtube (3 parts):

He discusses magnetic deviation and errors that can occur due to local magnetic fields in Part 2. That’s really important. Inside a house, I can get a compass to point in just about any direction by walking around close to walls. As Bradford Angier wrote in the 1970s, the only house you can trust a compass inside is an Igloo!

For those learning land navigation, it’s good to choose a compass with an adjustment for declination. One important reason is that your compass has an orienting needle in addition to the magnetic needle. If your compass doesn’t have an adjustment for declination, you’re left with two bad choices. Because the orienting arrow always points North, you must either orient your compass by trying to get the magnetic needle to point to six degrees or whatever. It’s much easier to get the magnetic needle lined up inside the orienting arrow. But, to make use of the orienting arrow, your compass card sits askew, with it saying true north isn’t where it is. The third option you have is doing math in your head.

With the adjustment for declination, you can free the compass card and the cardinal directions N, S, E, W from that silly orienting arrow. What this means is that you line up the magnetic arrow with the orienting arrow (set for declination) and the compass card will show you north immediately. The compass card will be aligned correctly.

Nothing is ever easy. I was going to recommend good old Silva of Sweden compasses, but apparently some other company owns the name in the US and sells Chinese and other compasses under that name. (The last compass I purchased was decades ago). The compass the guy shows in the video looks great. It’s the Suunto M-3G. Don’t know where it’s made, but I want one!

One thing I noticed immediately about the compass was its rounded back where it is held in the hand. I have an older Silva one that has a square, clear base. When holding it in the hand for a while that crummy corner cuts into your palm.

Another way to find true north is to use the North Star, Polaris. This is most easily found using the cup of the Big Dipper as a pointer. Polaris is within 2 degrees or true North. Some travelers use the North Star to confirm their compass’s declination.

Here are some links to help you learn just enough astronomy to find the Big Dipper and the North Star:
(Nice shot of sky)
(Info about finding the north star and big dipper)

The final method I’ll mention is using a sun compass. You need a string, a straight rod, a sinker (to use as a plumb bob), and some rocks or sticks. Because the sun rises in the east (more or less) and sets in the west (more or less), we can use the movement of the sun to estimate North.

Place the rod in the ground and use the sinker and string to assure the rod is pointing straight up and isn’t canted. Tie the string around the rod at the bottom and follow the string to the end of the rod’s shadow. Tie a twig to the string at that point. Mark where the shadow is (with a rock or another twig) and then trace out a circle the string’s distance away from the rod.

At a later time, the shadow will again touch the circle. Mark that point. (Do this before noon. The shadow will be shortest at noon.) Draw a line between the two points on the circle. A line perpendicular to that will be North-South.

In the Northern latitudes, the shadows will point to the North. Oppose in Southern Hemisphere below 23.5 degrees latitude. This 23.5 degrees allows for the earth’s tilt. In the Northern areas, another way to think about this is to draw two lines from the rod to the two points where the shadow meets the circle. It will look like a mouth, like in the Game Pac-Man. The mouth points to the North.

You can determine North  another way by remembering that the sun is moving westward. Treating yourself as a compass, pointing north, your back to the south, your right arm is to the east and your left is to the west. By knowing which way is generally west, the movement of the sun tells you which way is north along the north-south line.

One thing that confuses some: You’ll see the shadow moving. So, that must mean the shadow is moving to the west? Correct? Or not? Try this: Use two flashlights. Use one as the stick in the ground. Use the other as the sun. Move the flashlight in one way to as if it were the sun, observe which way the shadow moves.

Here’s a really nice video about using the sun compass (from colhane). Warning: He is in the Southern Hemisphere, which changes the orientation of the shadows. There the shadows point not to the north, but to the south, so the Pac-Man mouth doesn’t work.

Natural Compass: Shadow Stick Method:
(from ryanjcus)

This site has a summary of the sun compass method.

Backpackers today still know how to use compasses, but the GPS is becoming the land navigational tool of choice. If you travel into woods, I’d recommend learning how to use a compass, but I’d also carry a GPS. And, learn to find the North Star.

I searched for some Internet commentary to discuss the errors in the sun compass and the watch compass and found this.

Here’s a link to Field Manual MAP READING AND LAND
NAVIGATION (pdf). This has some good stuff, but I prefer the civilian books that aim to teach campers. Every serious prepper should get one good book about land navigation and study it.

Charlie P., author, The Prepper Next Door: A Practical Guide For Disaster And Emergency Planning.

Write a short story for a chance to win a free copy of The Prepper Next Door & other goodies (contest on Who knows. Maybe you’ll become the author of the next Hunger Games.

The driest season: Global drought causes major worries
Will the drought lead to food shortages in part of the world?

Plague, hantavirus, West Nile: How to avoid them

1300 residents of Alvarado were temporarily without water. In most situations, emergency workers truck in water to a city without water, but if something ever happened so that emergency water wasn’t brought in, things would quickly deteriorate. Having at least one week supply of drinking water should be one of your very first preps.