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EMP Protection for Car 

An EMP, or electromagnetic pulse, has become one of the concerns of all car owners in recent years. With all the electronics surrounding us and continuous talks about nuclear war, it is impossible to ignore the fact that we need to somehow start preparing. Otherwise, the consequences can be very damaging or even lethal.

Despite all the EMP-protection attempts, it is hard to ensure the safety of modern cars not only because of the numerous electronic components they contain but also because there are some other factors that might get your vehicle either damaged or left untouched.

It is hard to say what exact model or year of a car one should purchase to be protected from the electromagnetic pulse. However, one thing that experts do say is that vehicles with no modern electronics inside have higher chances of surviving EMP attacks. In general, these are all the cars made before the 1970-s. However, these vehicles are so old that you might not be able to use them for too long in case of a nuclear explosion, which can be the source of EMP effects.

Note that EMP protection is not the priority prepping step in any case. After the release of electromagnetic energy, you will have bigger concerns rather than EMP-proofing your car. The consequences of such electromagnetic pulses can be fatal, but if you manage to survive, you need to take care of more important things. Nevertheless, it is important to know how to provide at least some EMP protection for your car.

What is EMP?

An electromagnetic pulse (EMP), which, depending on the strength, might also be called a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP), is a massive burst of energy, the electromagnetic one in particular. Sometimes, it comes from a natural source, like a solar flare or a lightning strike. In other cases, it might be caused by human beings, like during a nuclear detonation.

While being safe for any living creatures, including animals and plants, an EMP event can completely destroy all the electronics and the power grid of the nearby settlements. The huge electromagnetic pulse from a nuclear blast or a solar flare overloads the number of impulses received by electronic devices. Electrical components receive the pulses through all the external cables that connect inside of your car. Therefore, a working vehicle can stop functioning in seconds after a nuclear detonation or solar flares.

If the cables and wires inside of your car are long, they transfer more EMP energy to the sensitive electronics that basically make your car work. The most modern vehicle will be the most prone to the damage from the effects EMP produces.

  • Solar Flares and HEMPs

High-altitude electromagnetic pulses, or HEMPs, are usually created by a nuclear explosion. Even though the nuclear EMP is bigger and more powerful, you should worry about the EMP effects of it the least. Just think about it, if a nuclear war starts and a nuclear blast destroys everything on its way, you will not be worrying about getting your vehicle started. Although it can be helpful for your survival, there are more important actions that should be taken in order to keep you and the people around you safe.

A solar flare, on the other hand, is much more likely to happen. Sometimes it is also called a coronal mass ejection. However, it would not destroy all the electronic components of your entire vehicle like a nuclear EMP might. Solar EMPs along with lightning strikes do not produce the same amount of energy as the nuclear blast. Smaller electrical systems are most likely to stay safe.

The problem can come from the bigger critical systems, like the power source of the country. If those are damaged, not only electricity but also resources that generate heat and other crucial facilities might get limited or even unavailable to the population. This is where your prepping might come in handy.

  • The Size of EMP Effects

The true ability of an EMP to destroy your means of transportation does not solely depend on the type and age of the vehicle. There are many other factors that might spare parts of some cars and completely demolish the others. An average person has almost no chance of predicting whether his or her vehicle will be affected or not.

Because of the real nuclear explosion required to study the effects of EMP, even the specialists sometimes can hardly say what will happen. Nevertheless, there are evaluations conducted based on some testing facilities around the world.

These rigorous technological tests show that an EMP event can have different effects depending on the following factors:

  • The geographical location of the EMP source and the vehicle;
  • The status of the Earth’s magnetic field, which is based on the season of the year;
  • The scale of the EMP event;
  • The length of cables inside the vehicle;
  • The amount and connection of important electronics inside the car;
  • The amount of metal and its position in your vehicle.

Thus, even a very old car that is close to the EMP source can get damaged, while a modern electric vehicle located somewhat farther might be safe. You can never predict what consequences such a disaster as a nuclear explosion can bring. That is why it is important not only to choose the right vehicle and protect it but also to be ready to survive without your car.

EMP Effect on a Modern Car

So, why do vehicles and their electronics get affected by the EMP? It is all because semiconductor-based, or solid-state, electronics are sensitive to nuclear EMP in some special cases. Such electronics also include transistors and computer chips. Because their standard level of energy acceptance is quite low, they cannot handle the huge pulses of it at once. The result is that the electrical system gets burnt out.

Electronic-Damage

Since the beginning of the 1970-s, electronics keep on being some of the most important details in vehicles. Whether you have a new car with a whole electrical system or an old one with few cords, the vehicle might get damaged if the levels of EMP rise high.

As the old models of vehicles might get only partly damaged, it is important to keep backup parts for them. Such things as ignition coils, alternators, and generators can be easily replaced in case of a small breakdown. To make sure they are not damaged by EMP, store them in a protected space, which can be a mini-Faraday cage or anything else that can resist the electromagnetic pulse.

Choosing an EMP-Proof Car

The bad news is that there is no particular model or type of car that will surely be safe from an EMP outburst. Unless you are ready to spend a fortune on an EMP-proof car made solely for the purpose of protecting itself from the impulses of energy, then you never know whether your car will make it or not.

Emp-Proof

Many vehicle manufacturers claim that some EMP tests have been conducted on their models, however, it is often just a marketing strategy and not real EMP protection. Even the older vehicles are not completely EMP-proof, although they have fewer electronics in them.

As we have already mentioned, if the length of the cables on your car is not too big, there are more chances of it surviving the HEMP. Therefore, if you are buying a new car and want it to be less prone to EMP damages, check all the cords.

Probably, the most important trick about having an EMP-proof car is to store some details and tools that will allow you to replace the damaged parts. To protect them, you should put them in something like a Faraday cage, which does not allow the rays of EMP to go through.

Electronics, especially the ones used in vehicles, are not always easy to install. That is why you should study what your car consists of and how the details can be replaced. This knowledge might not be accessible in case of a nuclear explosion, so it is better to prepare beforehand.

Best EMP Protection Options

If there are almost no EMP-proof cars, then what can one do to protect the vehicle? One of the simplest options is to wrap your car in aluminum foil. It easily installs on any surface and it is quite an affordable way of saving your means of transportation. As all the cars are usually already made of some sort of metal, you can wrap only windows and gaps between doors, as they are the most vulnerable parts.

Emp-Proof1

Another good option is creating small Faraday cages. You can turn everything metal, even a trash can. Different extra pieces that will allow you to repair a car can be put in such storage. Just remember about the lid and something to put inside of the can, so that its content does not touch the metal itself.

The safest, yet most effort-requiring option is to build a big Faraday cage. You can make it as big as a garage for your type of vehicle and simply store the car and its details there. A Faraday cage can protect both old and new cars, so even if it has a lot of electronic components, it will be safe.

Emp-Cars-Large-Faraday-Cage

When making a Faraday cage, make sure all the connections between metal walls are sealed properly, so that no EMP generator can affect the insides. If you do not want to buy an additional car to store in a Faraday cage, you can safely put an old one, which has fewer electronics. Just do not forget about extra details and the fuel in any case.

Useless EMP Protection

Nowadays, the market is full of different devices that are supposed to create an EMP shield for your vehicle. However, those surge protectors are not able to protect a car from electricity and magnetic waves that come from a nuclear explosion. You can use them for lightning protection if you want to, but there would be no EMP proof.

An EMP shield only works for the E2 pulses. These are the shorter outbursts of electromagnetic impulses and they are not as damaging. They might come from a coronal mass ejection or a lightning strike. If you want to make sure your car gets no effects from such impulses, then buying an EMP shield might be a good idea.

However, if you want protection from E1 pulses, an EMP shield will be of no help. We are not even mentioning the fact that it has external cables that, as we already know, are the most damaging in case of an EMP explosion. An EMP shield cannot protect some external cables that are not connected to the power system of a vehicle. Therefore, even if a small part of a car’s electrical system remains vulnerable, there are big chances of it getting completely demolished.

Driving After an EMP Attack

Let’s say you have managed to create EMP-proof storage for your car or simply got lucky and your vehicle did not shut off completely. What’s next? Whether you need to move around town or get out of it, there are roads full of other cars that are also eager to save their lives. The problem with all the vehicles stopping at once is not even the main one here.

With electricity being shut down, all the traffic lights and regulation signs will stop working. Therefore, roads will be filled with crushed cars and traffic. Some of them might be blocked by a couple of cars that got hit by an EMP and thus did not leave any space for other cars to drive. There are also accidents that will probably happen because people would want to escape in a rush.

Emp-Efekt

A daily driver who lives in the city might not be used to driving off-road, however, it is a skill that can save you in situations like this. It is not enough to buy a car that is able to drive off-road, and the way you drive it is also important. Thus, when there would be long traffic on the highway, you might be able to find a way to avoid it.

Another crucial factor for your post-EMP driving is fuel. Vehicles that deliver it to the gas stations will probably be stuck on the road somewhere. The gas stations themselves will probably not work either. So, to actually be able to drive your car after you have protected it from EMP, you need to have some extra fuel stored.

EMP Proof Tests

When we search for the EMP tests done on certain vehicles, we often come across very little information. In a world capable of strong nuclear attacks, it is difficult to test the resistance to EMP of different strengths. That is why there are no devices that can protect the cars from such disasters, except for some constructions like the Faraday cages.

Actually, the tests are conducted, but they are not disclosed to the public for different reasons. Military tests are done in order to check the durability and resistance of cars that might take part in military actions. It is impossible to say what level of EMPs such cars can stand, as it might disclose confidential information about the nuclear weapons of one or another country.

The military needs cars that will survive nuclear explosions made by hostile countries, by neighboring countries, and even by the country itself in case of a war. If they would have shown the results of these tests, all of the data about the levels of preparation for a nuclear war will be available not only to the public but to other countries as well.

Car manufacturers also sometimes test different models’ electronic systems. However, these tests are needed to see how all the separate electronic details work altogether and whether they are powerful enough. It has little to do with EMP, but it can tell us something about the wiring at least.

Sometimes though, manufacturers check EMP resistance, but they do not disclose such information either. The possible explanation for this is that the military makes requests for some particular vehicles to see whether they can be used or not.

Explaining the Resistance to EMP

So, if there are no proper tests on EMP resistance, how do we know that a car will survive a nuclear detonation? Well, there are no definite answers. The only thing that is left to do is to be as prepared as possible. Each car has its own particular wiring system with different lengths of cords and different connections.

That is why we cannot say for sure what manufacturer produces the most EMP-resistant cars. Even the cars of the same brand can widely vary in terms of their power systems. One thing we know for sure is that any vehicle produced lately is full of electronic devices, therefore, it is more prone to being damaged by an EMP attack.

EMP Protection is Debatable 

The topic of EMP protection has been a hot one for many years now. Because of the lack of facts about cars’ resistance to EMP, there is a lot of disinformation, which is used mainly for marketing purposes. Sellers are confidently saying that their cars are EMP-proof and all the required testing has been done, when in fact even those tests are not reliable.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the EMP commission tested some of the cars created back then, and the majority of them passed successfully. However, no one noticed back then an interesting fact: the cars that the commission had taken for testing had to be returned to the sellers. Therefore, it was disadvantageous for them to do full EMP testing because the details would get burnt and they would have to pay for it.

For some time, the media was also full of discussions about the TV show that tested EMP resistance. The hosts have put cars through an EMP generator and watched their reaction. Although the cars did shut down, they turned on easily right after. Many people use this as an explanation for some vehicles’ durability. However, later the producers of the show confessed that it was fake and staged for the purpose of entertainment.

It is important to check all the information you see online or watch on the TV, especially the one that is positioned as the true fact. You would not be able to do smart prepping if you blindly believe everything you are told. To make rational choices and to be as ready as possible for any situation, you should learn a lot about the thing you are getting ready for.

EMP Shielding Takeaway

Thus, it is almost impossible to say what exact model, type, or year of issue of a car can be safe during an EMP outburst. Although it is better to have an older vehicle, which should be manufactured before the 1970s, there are no guarantees that it will not get damaged. In general, everything with electronics has a chance of getting badly affected by EMP.

One good solution for protecting your car from EMP is a Faraday cage. It can either be as small as a metallic box for extra tools, or as big as a garage where your car can be parked. As long as there are no ways of EMP waves getting through the walls of the cage, your means of transportation is safe.

It is not for sure that each car that contains something electronic will get destroyed. It all depends on the magnitude of the EMP, your geographic location and the location of the impulse’s source, the magnetic field of the Earth at the moment of pulse, and many other factors. Nevertheless, it is better to prepare than to be left with nothing.

Just remember that prepping your car for EMP should not be the priority. In case of a nuclear EMP explosion, your main goal would be protecting yourself and your close ones. You might not even be able to use your car due to the blocked roads and lack of fuel. While it is important to have some car preparation for such events, you should not get too obsessed with the idea of making your car protected from any kind of impact.

Frequently Asked Questions — FAQ

Will an EMP attack affect cars?

An EMP attack is most likely to affect modern cars, as they contain more electronics inside. The more electrical devices there are and the longer the cords and cables are, the higher chance of your car getting damaged by EMP. Some cars might stop working at all, while others might only need some detail change. However, older cars that are made before the 1970s should be less affected by any EMP outburst.

Can you protect your vehicle from an EMP?

There are several ways of protecting your car from an EMP, but none of them provide you with complete safety. The least you can do is wrap your car in aluminum foil in places where there is no metal. You can also build a Faraday cage, which is an isolated box that does not allow any EMP to get through. It can be big enough to fit your car or of a smaller size to store some equipment. There are also boutique cars that are made specifically for EMP attacks, but they do cost a fortune.

Does EMP shielding actually work?

The EMP shield works great as solar flares or lightning protection. As those outbursts are only the E2 pulses, an EMP shield will be enough to make sure nothing happens with the electrical parts of your car. However, if you want protection from nuclear EMP, the only proper thing you can do is to build a Faraday cage. An EMP shield will not protect your vehicle from E1 pulses that are longer and stronger than the other ones.

Can old cars survive an EMP?

The best cars for EMP survival are those with no electronics, mainly all the ones made before the 1970s. Search for those that have the least electronic details, as they get affected by EMP. However, even with the old cars, you cannot be completely sure that the EMP will not damage them. What is more, these old cars might be completely dysfunctional after 50 years of life, or you will have to repair some details constantly.

What is an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)?

An electromagnetic pulse is an outburst of electromagnetic energy, which can be created both naturally and with human powers. In nature, EMPs can be generated from a bolt of lightning or a solar flare. The humanly made outbursts are usually created by nuclear detonations. The naturally-cause EMPs are called E2 pulses, while the nuclear ones are named E1 pulses. The latter is more powerful and more damaging. These EMPs damage all the electronics by transmitting too much power through them, which causes them to burn out.

What is the best vehicle to acquire to start my EMP-proof motor pool?

There is no certain answer to this question, as it is not clear what affects the resistance of a car to EMP. In general, older cars that are made before the 1970s are the best choices, as there are almost no electronics in them. One can also purchase a specially equipped car that is made just for survival under the EMP attack. However, note that these cars are much more expensive than the regular ones.

Author

A former USA Army sergeant and a highly educated survivalist and prepper with a degree and interest in Engineering and Electronics, Mike Millerson applies his extensive expertise in survivalism, homesteading, backpacking, hiking and hunting, spreading his deep knowledge about handling emergencies and prepping for them reasonably and effectively.

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