If you intend to survive for the long haul in Project Zomboid, you’ll need a vehicle sooner or later. Before long, the area nearby your safehouse will be picked clean, and scavenging runs will take you further and further from home. If you want to optimize your supply expeditions, make them a bit safer, and expand your horizons, you’ll need a car. It might even help you survive the dreaded helicopter.
There’s just one problem – the apocalypse smoked out all the bad drivers. The roads are littered with car wrecks, which are little more than scrap heaps for certain parts. What’s worse, apparently most drivers in Kentucky aren’t keen on topping up their gas tanks. Even if you find one in working order, it’s probably running on fumes anyway.
Once you find your unicorn, a car in working order, you’ll encounter another problem. That car needs a key, and you don’t have it. But that doesn’t mean you have to pass up that new set of wheels. With the right know-how, you can hotwire any vehicle that catches your eye.
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Finding a car in Project Zomboid
To hotwire a car, you first need to have one worth firing up. While you can find cars anywhere, they aren’t likely to be functional given the poor vehicular maintenance conducted by Knox County’s residents. Instead, you should head to specific areas with parking lots. Try searching warehouses, schools, restaurants, and other such locations for them. Each parking lot will have a few cars, which are usually in a somewhat drivable condition.
Once you’ve found a decent-looking car, you need to check under the hood. Head over to it and hit the interact button. This will pop the hood and let you see the car’s specs, including how much gas it has. If it’s got some fuel, inflated tires, and is generally functional, you’ve found your new car. All you have to do now is get inside.
Ideally, your pristine new car will be unlocked, just waiting for you to hop in. However, this is rarely the case, and without a key, you’ll need to break in. First off, never, ever break the driver’s side window. Windows are a surprisingly tough barrier, and can often mean the difference between a hair’s-breadth getaway and being bit at the last second.
Breaking the passenger side window is fine, but I prefer to break the rear windows when possible. Either way, you can always nab a window from another car at some point. Next, always have a weapon drawn before you break in. Without one, you risk cutting up your arm pretty badly, possibly even getting glass lodged in it. Once you’re in, you can start hotwiring your car.
Related: Project Zomboid Trapping Guide
Skills you need to hotwire a car
Naturally, you need to know how to hotwire a car before you can get anywhere. There are two ways to do this, and neither needs magazines. First, you could choose to start the game as a burglar. This “occupation” starts you out with knowledge of the finer points of getting into places you shouldn’t be. You’ll be able to hotwire any car from day one, and also have an easier time breaking into houses, too.
The other option is a bit of a slow burner. Your character will need to develop a couple of skills, Electrical 1 and Mechanics 2, which needs a fair bit of investment to do early on. For Electrical, you’ll need to dismantle anything you can get your hands on. The easiest way to do this is by hoarding the digital watches you can pluck from zombies, then taking them apart once you have a screwdriver. Fair warning, you’ll need about 150 digital watches to get the skill without any modifiers, so start your watch hoard early.
The next skill is Mechanics 2. Mechanics is more of a pain to level than Electrical. You’ll need a few tools, a couple of cars to use as test subjects, and a lot of patience. Each car part has an experience gain cooldown, so you’ll have to wait a full 24 hours until you can benefit from working on the same part.
To actively level Mechanics, you’ll first need to grab a set of tools. Specifically, you need a screwdriver, a lug wrench, a wrench, and a jack. Most of these tools can easily be found in auto repair shops and some gas stations. You might find some in the trunks of cars, too. Once you’ve got them all, you can start to efficiently level your Mechanics skill.
Next up, you need to locate a few soon-to-be Frankenstein cars. Quiet roads are pretty good for this, as you’ll likely have a few cars to work with and not much disruption from the locals. At this point, all you need to do is pull the cars apart, piece by piece.
Start with the lights, battery, and radio at first, as most car parts require some level of Mechanics skill to work on. Install these parts on other cars and vice-versa, then wait 24 hours. Rinse and repeat until Mechanics 2. To level this skill faster, you should find the Mechanics for Beginners skill book, as that will give you an experience gain multiplier for the first two levels.
Also Read: Project Zomboid Farming Guide
Hotwiring a car in Project Zomboid
Once you have a car in mind and the necessary skills, you can hotwire your new vehicle. Thankfully, this part is pretty simple. All you need to do is hop into the car and hit V. This opens up the vehicle radial menu, which gives you a few options.
One of these options is hotwiring the car. Click it, and your character will attempt to hotwire the car. You might not succeed on the first try, but it won’t do any damage to the car. Keep trying until you’ve got it hotwired, and you’re good to go. A couple of wires will appear in the ignition, signifying a successful hotwiring attempt. Now both you and any other player will be able to drive the car as normal, no keys required.