6 Ways to Protect Your Car During a Storm or Natural Disaster

Flooded car | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet
Flooded car | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

From the flooding in Texas a while back, to the volcanic eruptions in Indonesia, natural disasters threaten our cars from every angle. While everyone else is hurriedly rushing to the basement for shelter, or climbing on the roof to await helicopter evacuation, car guys are sobbing in the garage as they say a final farewell to their beloved automobiles. Hell, you don’t even have to be a car guy to suffer from the strife associated with knowing that those freshly detailed leather seats are about to get engulfed in flames.

So what are you to do when Mother Nature comes a calling, with Poseidon and Vulcan hot on her heels? Common sense tells you to get the hell out of town, but avoiding something like a tornado or a flash flood is easier said than done. In situations like that, car owners have to rely on instinct and whatever cheats they already have in place, and then just hope for the best.

Naturally, a garage is always a great place to start, but a roof and a rickety door aren’t going to protect that ride from every form of environmental malady. You need a special set-up, uniquely tailored around the kind of natural disaster your region of the world encounters.

In order to get the bottom of what works best we turned to the guys over at Hagerty, who specialize in protecting collector cars. The transit and insurance specialist says that drivers should first decide what kind of car shelter will best fit their budget, and whether it is best to keep your car in a remote location. Remember, there is no guaranteed way of protecting a vehicle from the wrath of the gods, you just hope that you can lessen the brunt of their blows with the following six cheats.

1. Tornadoes and High Winds

Source: YouTube
Tornado | National Geographic via YouTube
  • Have a garage door that is made of a solid material like wood or metal and that has braces and reinforced door tracks.
  • Entry doors should have a minimum of three hinges, a deadbolt on a security lock at least one inch long, and head and foot bolts (at the top and bottom of the door) with at least an inch of locking length.
  • Windows should be made out of a polycarbonate (plastic), a sandwich of glass and plastic, or have impact-resistant shutters to cover them.
  • Anchoring the roof to the walls with rafter ties (also known as hurricane clips) and straps is also a good idea, and always brace the end wall of a gable roof, as they are much more susceptible to wind damage than hip or flat roofs.
  • Solid ground anchors at the foundation are never a bad idea either, as that will help keep the structure attached to the slab it sits upon.

2. Wildfire

Source: iStock
Wildfire | iStock
  • Have a fully charged fire extinguisher and keep oily rags and other flammable materials in approved safety cans away from the walls of the building.
  • Clear any flammable debris from within fifty feet, stack firewood at least one hundred feet uphill (if you live on a hillside or near a pine forest, that zone should be at least 100 feet), and make sure wooden fences don’t connect to the garage.
  • Structures that are built or retrofitted with nonflammable materials stand the best chance of survival, so stucco, stone, concrete, and brick are good choices, as they do not melt like vinyl siding.
  • Installing noncombustible screening to all vents and openings is a good idea, as are double-paned or tempered glass windows.
  • Water faucets with high-strength garden hoses and sprayers are always a bonus.

3. Volcanic Ash

Source: iStock
Active volcanio in Hawaii | iStock
  • If you are dealing with a volcanic eruption, and you must evacuate amidst a cloud of ash it is important to know that you might want to stock up on air filters, as they will become clogged very easily, thus causing the engine to not function properly.
  • Volcanic ash gets everywhere, so the U.S. Geological Survey recommends stocking up on compressed air to keep crucial car parts clean after driving.
  • Grab as many cabin air filters as you can in order to keep the blower working in your car, as this will pressurize the inside of the vehicle, thus keeping dust from entering through body gaps.
  • Change your oil every 50-100 miles when driving in heavy ash, as this dust is so fine that it will seep into the engine and cause engine oil to sludge-up prematurely.

 4. Hurricanes and Floods

Flooded car | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet
Flooded car | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet
  • Having a sharp rake (slope) leading up to your garage is a great place to start if you are planning to build a home for your ride in an area prone to flooding.
  • Install flood vents, as they offer permanent openings in the foundation’s walls to allow water to escape.
  • Any electrical panels, outlets, switches, light sockets, baseboard heaters, and wiring must be at least 12 inches above flood level.
  • To avoid electrocution, have a licensed electrician connect all receptacles to a GFI circuit.
  • If you have the proper roof height we recommend putting in a lift so that the car can gain an even loftier position and remain plugged into one of the aforementioned wall socket, both safely located well above flood levels.

 5. Hail and Ice Storms

Cars stuck in snow | BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
Cars stuck in snow | Brendan Smialowski via AFP/Getty Images

Fox News reports that The Highway Loss Data Institute estimates the average claim for hail related damage is over $3,000, and figures at the time showed that nearly $800 million in claims were paid out in 2011. Fortunately, there is something called The Hail Protector, which is designed to both protect your vehicle and turn it into the world’s largest meatloaf at the same time. This revolutionary device runs on batteries, AC power, or a lighter socket, and comes with an app that sends you a warning when the local weather service detects a possible hailstorm approaching.

6. Earthquakes

Earthquake | Omar Havana via Getty Images
Earthquake | Omar Havana via Getty Images

There isn’t a whole lot one can do to prevent their car from being swallowed-up by a bottomless abyss. But for industrious car owners with small convertibles, a shipping container can serve nicely as an “automotive panic room” during earth-shaking experiences.

These massive metal containers can cost anywhere from a few grand to tens of thousands of dollars, and once modified are a great way to keep that classic from getting crushed. Once interior tie-down locations are located or welded in, park the soft top inside and hook the set of tightly stretched, heavy-duty tow straps to all four undersides of the car to prevent it from crashing around inside. It also wouldn’t hurt to install heavy-duty integrated locks on the doors in order to keep looters at bay. Just be sure to check your local zoning laws before buying one of these metal boxes, as it is against code to have shipping containers in residential areas for extended periods of time in certain municipalities.

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