O’Reilly Auto Parts isn’t exactly the store of my dreams, although my husband could spend hours just browsing. However, it may be one of the most useful places to head to when faced with the apocalypse, and fortunately, a lot of folks don’t realize it.
It’s the obvious place to pop by the local car parts place for new wiper blades or an oil filter here and there, but those who work on their own vehicles a lot can vouch for me: your local auto parts store probably has a bunch of useful goodies that you would normally walk right past on the way to the warehouse store or grocer for your prepping supplies once the zombies are on the move.
There’s one caveat here: like many chain stores, O’Reilly and other auto parts stores will vary in size and focus their stock on what sells well in their area. I highly recommend that you head to the various auto parts stores near your home and start learning what they stock. Not all of these stores will have as deep of stock or as many departments as described below so, true to the cliche, your mileage may vary!
Batteries, large and small
Most of us can safely assume that O’Reilly stocks car batteries, but some also have batteries for lawn equipment, off-road vehicles, and boats. Large batteries will be handy for your automobile, lawn mower, and the like, but also for creating your own energy storage system for solar or wind power. Don’t ignore the “normal” batteries for flashlights and other small devices; in an emergency, you may also be able to snag some of the tiny coin batteries (used in auto key fobs) for mini flashlights, firearm scopes, and children’s toys.
Roadside emergency kits
Yep, this one’s pretty obvious too, isn’t it? Most consumers probably safely assume they can pick up a roadside emergency kit – and this is where we get into the “great gift” zone! Keep an eye out, because like with anything else, stock varies. One kit I saw is a general auto emergency kit with items like a first aid kit, thermal blanket, jumper cables, and duct tape; another is specific to winter needs and includes candles, matches, and mittens.
Roadside recovery kits
There is a difference between an emergency kit and a recovery kit. Avid off-roaders can tell you that having both is a good idea, especially if we’re looking at TEOTWAWKI*. Recovery kits will have a tire repair kit, tow straps, and other items necessary for getting yourself or a fellow driver out of mud, muck, or worse.
Flares and warning triangles
Another one for the day-to-day prepping list, flares and warning triangles are vital for plain ol’ break downs, but also for signaling or starting fires.
Speaking of fires, my O’Reilly carries fire extinguishers in a variety of sizes and extinguishing types. Having a fire extinguisher (or several) in your home, barn, and shop is never a bad idea, and it could mean the roof over your head is preserved in a bigger crisis. If you don’t already have at least one, I’d put this on the “buy now” list, personally. But stock up heavier on your last-chance trip too. If you’re not sure which type of fire extinguisher to use for different types of fires, read this.
Locks, locks, and more locks
Everything from padlocks (key and combination), cable locks, and hitch and receiver locks. Have a trailer full of preps to get out of Dodge? Throw a lock on it so nobody else with a rig can just hitch up and make off with your hard-won supplies! By the way, knowing how to pick a lock could save your life under these extreme circumstances. Learn how to do just that with this set of lock picks AND a transparent practice padlock.
The uses for this abound. Mark a trail through your property, make kids and pets more visible by putting it on jackets and collars/harnesses, and more.
One more for the handy-any-day list, this would make a good stocking stuffer for someone looking for nonlethal defense items for the office, school campus, shopping, or fitness forays. Pick up as much as you can during your last-chance trip as it could be a good deterrent for garden-raiding critters as well. Look in your favorite gardening book to learn how to use a spritz of this hot stuff (usually listed as homemade deterrents) on the fence rows.
Auto parts stores offer a variety of backup and dash cams, as well as the cables, antennas, and alarms that go with them. They could certainly be rigged up as a layer of security around the house as well.
Bug spray and repellant
Off-roaders often participate in other outdoor activities, so many stores will have bug spray, but the average garage and auto shop also have to battle bugs, which means insecticide spray. Grab some if your local store has it and you’ll be able to fight the creepy crawlies that come calling during the apocalypse. If you think about the number of backyard swimming pools that will become gigantic mosquito breeding grounds, you’ll know just how important these products will be.
Driveway de-icer/ice melt and salt spreaders
Essential goods if you’re staring down another Snowmageddon.
Snow brushes, ice scrapers, and snow shovels
Also essential for winter weather preparedness – and now you know that if the hardware store is out after a large snowfall, your local auto parts professionals may stock the goods for clearing the driveway, the windshield, and other important areas. This article contains a detailed list of what you should have with you for winter preparedness if you’re ever stranded in your car.
If you’re new to cold areas, you may not realize that block heaters can be added to your vehicle as an aftermarket item. If the apocalypse that’s coming is something like the Grand Solar Minimum, you’ll want to grab these for each vehicle you’re trying to prep. (A friend in Canada invested in one for a gift for her spouse – one more item for that holiday shopping list too!)
Tire chains and traction boards
Most of us think of chains as being for winter weather, but traction boards are handy year-round if you off road or live on an unimproved road where access will only get worse without large machinery to maintain it.
Air fresheners and trash bags
Come TEOTWAWKI, you may not care if your car still smells like Piña Colada Surprise or Pumpkin Spice Parfait, but air fresheners in an outhouse or other areas can help as sanitation options change after a disaster. Having plenty of trash bags for waste is a must post-apocalypse as well, especially the heavy-duty, black contractors trash bags.
Little digital clocks meant to be added to older vehicles are still out there, as are compasses, thermometers, and combination units. These inexpensive items may not be the most accurate on the planet, but if you just need a basic idea of the cardinal directions and how cold it is (indoors or outdoors), they’ll give you what you need.
Floor and cargo mats
Grab these for getting traction in bad weather, putting over barbwire if you need to cross a fence or two, using as a ground mat under a sleeping bag, or even as entry mats to try to keep dirt and debris out of your home. Cargo mats are often more rigid with shaped sides to keep dirt and even limited amounts of liquid from ruining a vehicle’s interior – one could fashion a small sled with a sturdy cargo mat to haul kiddos, goods, or harvested game over snow or sand while on foot.
Utility bags and organizers
Trunk organizers and duffle bags for keeping gear properly stowed in your cargo space could come in handy for getting your haul home from the auto parts store. They can also be used in the day-to-day prepping category: set up your trunk or console with a first aid section, a towing/recovery bin, a spot for food and water, and whatever else you want in your vehicle emergency supplies, but don’t want rolling around in the trunk making weird noises with every turn. Keeping your gear organized is a key to survival.
Look for bug/tar/sap remover, glass cleaners, and headlight lens repair kits. Quite a few of these items can be used around the homestead in a pinch.
Hand and foot warmers
Yes, we want these for our standard emergency kits and bug out bags – and we want even more of them during this last minute run before doom arrives! Pre-apocalypse, you may want to check out these electric-powered hand warmers that can be charged with a solar charger. If you live in a very cold part of the country, these will keep your hands warm for hours and they have 3 settings, so you can adjust the heat level.
Depending on your region, your store may stock rain gear, T-shirts, and/or winter clothing, as well as useful accessories such as sunglasses, brimmed caps, and even socks. Your first layer of survival isn’t a handgun or bug out bag. It’s the clothing you wear on your back and the shoes on your feet.
Even if you are already an accomplished prepper with a decent amount of fuel stored at home, will it really hurt to grab more cans and fuel with a crisis on the horizon? If you’re wondering how to safely store fuel, you need to read this.
As appropriate – oil, fuel stabilizer, transmission fluid, various lubricants, and if you drive a newer diesel rig, make sure to grab plenty of diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) to keep things running properly. Have a generator? We recently looked everywhere to find the right oil for ours, only to find it well stocked at the local O’Reilly instead of the home improvement stores. Lesson learned!
Paint and body department
Smaller stores may only have body repair compounds and basic tools, as well as sandpaper and other abrasives. Larger stores may stock a variety of interior repair items, as well as respirators (and the appropriate cartridges), dust masks, and other supplies to protect folks from hazardous chemicals on the job. Some locations even stock supplied air systems and the requisite hoses, hoods, and air canisters. You may never again have the chance to buy replacement hoses and other parts for your vehicle, so now is the time to stock up on them.
Other personal protective equipment (PPE)
On that note, look for back and knee braces, nitrile/canvas/leather gloves, ear protection, eye protection, aprons, coveralls, shoe covers, and even full “moon suit” coverage. If your last-chance prepping is because of a pandemic, these items can go far in creating a sick room and keeping germs or chemicals out of your living spaces. Here’s a list of what you should have on hand to prepare for a pandemic.
Seat and steering wheel covers
No, we’re not overly concerned about keeping the car pretty or adding some flash. Think of a steering wheel cover as a method of protecting hands from hot objects and seat covers for insulation and warmth, under or over you. Not your favorite cozy blanket, but almost anything is better than nothing if your other option is freezing.
Keep hot sun out of your vehicle or house by blocking windows with sunshades, of course – but did you know that a windshield sunshade can also be used to create a DIY solar cooker? Research it ahead of time and consider making a small investment for a family project. (If you need to get everyone hooked, baking cookies in a solar oven usually goes over well for these sort of family experiments.)
Emergency hammer and seatbelt cutter
Vital for your car emergency kit if you don’t already have them; great gifts for new drivers as well. Outside of the vehicle, they can still be very handy as they will certainly break or cut other items around the house.
Box cutters and pocket knives/multitools
Lots of folks need these items for daily use in a workshop or garage, so they will be available in even the smaller locations.
Safety flags/cones/traffic wands
Yes, you can use these items to mark hazards around the homestead, but the flags and wands can also be used to communicate with others from a distance. Work out a code in advance with your family or preparedness group if you don’t already have folks who know Morse code or flag semaphore code.
If you know how to weld, you can get all kinds of useful items at the local auto parts store. Even if you don’t, grab some welding blankets. In addition to the usual things you’d use a blanket for, these can be used to cover equipment or isolate hazardous operations when there are sparks being shed by someone welding.
Heat shrink sleeves/tubing, wiring, and electrical tape
These small items can be used for keeping any number of items secured, especially the electrical tape! Use the electrical tape to secure a Faraday container, as detailed here.
Lawnmower blades, spark plugs, and other lawn equipment parts
If your mower or lawn tractor are still working, they will be vital tools for keeping your grass trimmed and keeping pests (especially rodents and biting insects) at bay. Swarms of bugs of every size and description are going to be a major problem, so start the apocalypse off on the right foot by limiting the areas of your home that are prime breeding grounds and refuges for creepy, crawly things.
Soap and sanitizers
These will often be available in large containers so mechanics can restock easily around the garage. Stock up while you can, especially on hardworking soaps like Lava or Gojo for really getting clean after a hard day in the apocalypse.
Toys and games
Depending on your store, these may be as simple as some Hot Wheels cars or as involved as magnetic Battleship and tic-tac-toe for on road trips. While they’ll certainly keep kids busy on the road, they are also something to boost morale for littles dealing with trauma or being homebound during a disaster. Even fuzzy dice can be tossed around in a variety of made-up games around the house.
Snacks and drinks
Keep an eye out, especially by the registers, for pre-packed snacks and coolers or mini fridges with bottled water, sports drinks, and the like. Worst case scenario, even soda will do, and a candy bar can be a great morale boost too. (And isn’t chocolate on a lot of must-have prepper lists?)
As you can see, there’s a lot of variety at the auto parts store. While it’s fun to make a last-chance “zombie invasion” list, I’m sure you now see there are loads of things that will fit our needs just for stocking the car, ATV, or boat for general emergency kits as well. If you’re into working on your vehicle, it can already be fun to just go wander these sort of stores; hopefully, this list will open your eyes to all kinds of items that would be useful in an emergency as well!
*TEOTWAWKI – The End Of The World As We Know It