How To Lose a Tail

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Last Updated on January 16, 2021

We have seen this in a thousand movies, twice as many TV shows, and even the endless “live car chases” that the broadcast media loves to play out. But what is the reality? What should we be prepared to do? So you’re in your bug out vehicle and you suspect you’re being followed. What should you do? Do you know how to lose a tail?

Once you suspect someone is following you, do not drive directly towards your intended destination especially if this is your home or bug out location even if it is adequately equipped to provide you with good levels of defenses. The guys following you would take note of this location and come back with enough backup and firepower to overthrow your position and take all your supplies and possibly worse.

The first thing you want to do is to determine if you are indeed being followed. This can be easily achieved if you are in an area with several short roads. Your strategy will be to take 4 consecutive right turns (or left turns) such that you perform a complete circle (well actually a square). It is highly unlikely that anyone would perform such a maneuver since it brings you back to the same location.

Thus if the car following you makes the same consecutive turns, then it’s very likely that you are being followed. On the other hand, if you are on the highway or any long stretch of road, it will not be possible to perform the 4 consecutive turns. Instead, you have to make significant changes in your cruising speed and analyze how the following car reacts.

Say you’re going at 60 mph. Change lanes and reduce your speed to 40 mph. If the following car mimics your change, drive for a few minutes at 40 mph then raise your speed to 70 mph. If the car matches your speed and moves it’s very probable that you’re being followed.

How to lose a tail if you are being followed

This will all depend on what vehicle you’re driving, what vehicle the pursuers are driving, and what measures you have prepared for this situation. If the situation is not bugging out then head for the nearest police station and drive on into the parking lot. If you are followed then this will bring things to a head quickly. Hit the horn and take a defensive position, and let the cops know about it. Let them draw weapons first and address the following vehicle. If it is a bug-out then forget the police station, they will be busy elsewhere.

Vehicle Preparations

Since the majority of us don’t have the luxury of owning an armored vehicle or a vehicle that has been outfitted (armor plates, bullet-resistant glass, etc.) for use when the SHTF, I’ll base these strategies on the assumption that you’ll be driving your average car; i.e. a sedan or SUV that you use for driving to work and dropping your kids at school. You might also be riding a motorcycle in which case your best strategy would be to use speed and narrow roads to your advantage.

However, drive within your skills because if you fail you’ll have made it way too easy for your pursuers to take from you whatever they want. Another assumption I’ll make is that there will be one person driving your vehicle while one or more persons are busy handling the defenses. All of the strategies I list below can be adapted to a situation where there is only the driver in the vehicle. This however makes the strategies more difficult to accomplish and less effective.

Using firearms if someone is following you

Firearms are one option to deploy if you are considering how to lose a tail.

One of the most convenient ways to stop a car from pursuing you is to make sure that you have some form of firearm with you in your vehicle. In this case, the bigger the caliber and the faster the rate of fire, the better. A pistol (9 mm or bigger) or a shotgun would be a good start, but an assault rifle chambered in .223 or larger would be ideal.

If your pursuers are not shooting at your vehicle, then you have a choice. Brandishing a weapon may make them go away or start shooting, and it is a crime in most states. Shooting first suddenly makes you the aggressor. The choice may determine who lives. If they are shooting at you first and foremost do not expose yourself.

Have you ever tried to fire a weapon effectively from a moving vehicle? It is way more complicated than it looks in the movies, and as you are moving you are continuously changing the lines of fire, the potential to harm others not involved, and to make a bad situation very much worse.

On the other hand, stopping to make a stand makes you a much easier target. While this only works in the movies, the reality is, at some point, this may become the only option as you can only assume they are persistent and hope they will run out of gas before you do, or, more likely, you have a crash and now you at your most vulnerable.

How To Lose a Tail - The Prepper Journal

No matter the position of fire, should it come to that, there is the position that you could shoot at their tires. Slow them down or stop their vehicle because shooting at the engine will not stop the car unless you’re equipped with 50 cal BMG rounds or bigger. You might damage the radiator but it will take a considerable time for the engine to overheat enough to seize the engine.

Of course, this mentality is akin to those who feel that the police or a citizen being attacked should simply shoot the gun out of the hands of the assailant, you know like they do in the movies. The reality is you are going to engage it all, the tires, the engine, the windshield, and especially anyone hanging out aiming a gun and getting out armed with anything.

Make Them Skid

How To Lose a Tail - The Prepper Journal
A favorite of the movies, you can throw some lubricant to make their car skid. Again unlike movies, you need quite a large amount of lubricant and it is better used while negotiating a curve since a car is unlikely to skid while going in a straight line. For this technique to be effective you need to keep a decent supply of lubricant (hydraulic oil or engine oil mixed with diesel) in a container that has a large opening that will allow you to deploy all of the contents at once.

A two-gallon bucket sealed with a lid would do the trick. Now, who pours it and out of what window? Additionally, you have to keep in mind that this bucket will be taking up valuable space in your vehicle so I’d rather forgo this piece of Hollywood magic for a more space-saving option.

Using Caltrops

How To Lose a Tail - The Prepper Journal

Caltrops are antipersonnel weapons composed of four spikes arranged in such a way that one of the spikes always points up. Caltrops for use against vehicles are made of hollow tubes such that once the tire has been pierced air will escape through the tube. They are ideal for getting rid of a tail as they are inexpensive, take up very little space (a few hundred can fit in a shoebox), and are very effective.

When deploying the caltrops make sure that none of them fall beneath your own vehicle and pierce your back wheels, and everyone behind the vehicle that was tailing you is now going to want to tail you and kill you. And if their vehicle is equipped with run-flat tires, you have simply limited their pursuit to only another 50 miles or so….


If you haven’t prepared adequately or if you have already used up your supplies you can improvise by keeping a small container full of rocks (tennis ball sized or slightly bigger) which you’ll throw towards the pursuing vehicle. These will cause limited damage but a shattered windshield may slow them down.

One Final Thought

How To Lose a Tail - The Prepper Journal

Apart from trying to stop your pursuers, you should also be careful that they don’t stop your vehicle. They might shoot at you and unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to stop that apart from shooting back using the blind fire technique explained above. Your pursuers might try to use the PIT maneuver in which the pursuing vehicle aligns its front portion with the rear portion of the leading vehicle and rams the latter sideways causing the leading vehicle to spin out of control.

It’s the typical move police use for stopping fleeing suspects. Whilst being followed you have to keep an eye on your pursuers and make sure that they are not trying to perform this maneuver. If you notice their vehicle coming into this position you should immediately accelerate. If you are already going at full speed you can hit the brakes hard such that the pursuing vehicle ends up in front of you, ideally in such a way that you become the one able to perform the PIT maneuver.


As with everything else related to preppers the key to surviving a car chase is to have made the necessary preparations by adequately equipping your vehicle with the items listed above and possibly installing some form of static defenses such as bull bars to increase the robustness of your vehicle. You could also take a defensive driving course in which they teach you how to perform specific maneuvers to outrun chasing vehicles and how to make them lose control.

Editors Note: A guest post from TekNik to The Prepper Journal

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If it’s a true shtf situation, and you’ve determined another vehicle is definitely following you, I don’t see any other option than to concentrate fire on the windshield so as to kill the occupants. Now, before all the armchair rangers puff up and say how are you going to drive and shoot at a vehicle behind you at the same time, yes there are caveats. My truck has an electric sliding rear windshield window that I can open with the push of a button. So in order for this to work, you will need a similar feature on your vehicle.… Read more »

Wild Bill

Thanks for the input, it is appreciated, and you are correct about how to engage the threat. BTW James Bond methods of dispersal were not intended or referred to….although there are a lot of big diesel trucks that can achieve the oil spray effect without any modifications….

Walt E

Windshields are tricky. I know a lot of guys who had to engage cars with M4s in the sandbox and, well, that’s what Ma Deuce is for I guess.

What about the radiator/front end? Good size target, and while you might not get immediate results a car can only follow for so long without coolant. (That’s a question btw – not claiming to be an expert).

I think an article on losing a tail on foot would be good. Now *that* I have done (once), but I’d be interested in other perspectives.


Barring anything short of a .50 BMG, the best way to stop a vehicle is to take out the driver. It’s just too unpredictable by actually shooting the vehicle. Regarding windshields, the only thing guaranteed is that nothing is guaranteed. Kyle Lamb is the guy I heard that from. If you don’t know who that is, google him. He knows his stuff. But if you can shoot a burst in the same area, you will get them through to the driver in short order.

Wild Bill

I would be interested in that article.

Walt E

Not to be too pedantic, but I seriously doubt anyone will have an assault rifle. That is, words mean things, and no one I personally know with a full auto rifle would ever keep it in their car.


If you were traveling in a true SHTF situation, it would be foolhardy to NOT travel with a carbine or rifle. Depending on where I’m going I will load up the AR pistol in the truck with a bandolier of 6 mags. With a 10.5” barrel, I can shoot and hit with confidence out to 200 yards.

Walt E

cabine (AR15, etc) =/= assault rifle. Which was my point. The gun grabbers get that wrong every time, we need to do better and not give them ammo (figuratively) to argue otherwise.


By the technical definition, one key aspect of an “assault rifle” is that it has full auto capability. From a legal definition (by idiots who don’t know or want to change the technical definition), an assault rifle is a semi-auto with a removable magazine, and a specified set of “evil” features, which have nothing to do with the operation of the weapon. This can include some combination of collapsing or folding stock, pistol grip, vertical forward grip, flash hider or bayonet lug. Some laws add threaded barrel or “hand guard”. None of which affect the functioning much, just the appearance… Read more »

Wild Bill

We know different people 😉

Walt E

No doubt, LOL. How about this – no one I know (including ex-SOCOM guys) *admits* to owning an actual assault rifle. 🙂

And honestly, 99% of people out there would just waste ammo with one. Hell, even set to burst I see troops that can’t hit a damn barn. But then I’m a REMF, so it’s not like I see the top shelf sort of bubbas.


Just pull over and let them go by.


Unless they’re following you for a reason, like because they want your gear, gas, and women. Then by pulling over and stopping, you’ve just made their job easier.

James M

Newer vehicles have a lot more points of failure vs older. And are made from materials that are lighter and more fragile. Common sense that disabling a 2004 dodge neon is easier than a 1970 mustang. Most vehicles have radiators mounted in the front. Transmission lines also run to the radiator. And a lot of vehicles have oil coolers mounted in front. Pcm’s, air bag sensors, batteries, Not to mention the vehicles that have composite upper intakes. A .22 cal hole will cause major loss of power if able to run at all. No vehicle is going to run far… Read more »

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