What would it take to get a car running if it had been abandoned for a few decades? ?

For context, I'm writing a post apocalyptic story where people are scavenging parts from old cars. They have some access to machine shops, but mostly rely on jerry-rigging and scavenging.


For example, you can trade for refined petroleum and new parts to an extent, but most people can't afford to do so. The characters live outside one of the few surviving cities.

4 Answers

  • elhigh
    Lv 7
    9 months ago
    Favourite answer

    Look up vids on YouTube, there are lots of folks recording themselves wrenching long-abandoned vehicles back to life.  You'll pick up a lot of details that way.

    Generally speaking you want your survivors to encounter a vehicle that has been out of the weather - parked in a sturdy garage or a concrete parking structure. The glass is likely to still be sound that way, and the vehicle not immobilized by a tree growing through it.   It's also a lot easier to work on the vehicle if you aren't in the weather while you're doing it.

    Carburetors are crude but unlike fuel injection don't need computers to run. If the EFI computer in a newer car goes, that's it. There is no starting that engine. Then again, you can keep plugging in computers until you find one (same engine so probably same make and model of car) that works.   Getting a carb back in order may require disassembly to remove varnished gas, replace leaking gaskets, etc.

    Starter motors sometimes stick, but you can literally go full caveman and clunk it with something to unstick them...sometimes.   I have done this myself and it's always hilarious when it works.  "START!"  *whack* "I'll be damned, it worked."

    Engines that sit might get stuck, but carefully rocking the engine - directly with a wrench on the front crank bolt, or indirectly by putting it in high gear and rocking the whole car - might jar it loose. Survivors finding a promising candidate would do well to pull all the spark plugs, fill the crankcase and even the cylinders with oil - or automatic transmission fluid, also a good choice - and rock things to work them loose. Obviously have to get all the fluid out once it's loose.   Letting the oil or fluid soak for a while helps, too.

    Clutches sometimes stick. Unsticking them can be very difficult. Could be an exciting scene, a running vehicle that cannot be gotten OUT of gear because the clutch is frozen to the flywheel.

    Gaskets, seals, bushings are soft or semisoft parts that can become dry and brittle with disuse. A resurrected car may sound awful and smoke from a few places, as well as be loud and clunky when suspension parts move against each other, and be difficult to drive as dryrotted bushings allow a lot of slop into the steering, shifters and other controls. The car is also likely to leak from more than one place.

    I would be inclined to pursue an old pickup truck.  The engines are generally pretty straightforward and the engine bay, especially on trucks older than about 1980, can be fairly uncluttered, affording lots of room to work and the drivetrain layout is similarly inviting.  American trucks are more likely to have multiple examples to find  and thus provide organ donors than foreign ones in the States from this age and older.  Engine outputs were not huge but the engines were pretty decently sized so the engines are likely to be in decent condition since they were so overbuilt for their output.  Old American trucks from before 1980 were either heavily used and thus worn to death and are now gone, or else probably treated with some care and so survived in good working condition.

    This is not a new story concept, so I hope you're bringing more to the story than this.  Otherwise you'll just be one of many, and unfortunately so late into the genre that it will smack of copycatting.

  • Anonymous
    9 months ago

    Story has been done and made into a successful movie series. MAD MAX.(Thunder Road).  Perhaps watch and learn. Maybe before your time?  It is on color film so am doubting it.

    The Aussies beat you.

    You are copying their story. Or Plagiarizing an old idea and not adding anything.  

    Why not strand 7 of them on an unknown island too, all different backgrounds.(Gilligan, skipper,professor, millionaire & his wife, movie star & a boy named Sue.

    Better you write about a Know Nothing Leader of a country That story has not been wrote to its full conclusion YET.

  • 9 months ago

    Read "On The Beach" by Nevil Schute., for pointers. . These Aussies had to make and distill  alcohol, then mod engines to run on it.

  • 9 months ago

    The gasoline would have evaporated and many of the fluids would have congealed.

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