Project Zomboid How to Hotwire Cars with Confidence

If you’re frantically searching ‘project zomboid how to hotwire’ as zombies surround you, look no further. This tight-knit guide provides the essentials: the skills you need, the tool you can’t do without, and step-by-step instructions for hotwiring any car. Get ready to turn vehicles into your escape pod with nothing but a screwdriver and a bit of game knowledge, all while keeping those zombies at bay.

Key Takeaways

  • You need an Electrical skill of at least 1 and a Mechanics skill of at least 2 to hotwire cars, and a screwdriver is the only tool required.
  • Assessing the car’s condition is key—check for gas, damage, and existing keys before attempting to hotwire.
  • Hotwiring makes noise and attracts zombies, so manage noise levels and be prepared to deal with unwanted undead attention.

Preparing for Hotwiring: Skills and Equipment

A person holding a screwdriver next to a car engine

Before we get into the specifics of hotwiring, it’s worth mentioning that the right skills and tools are indispensable. Without them, the shiny car you’re eyeing would be nothing more than an overgrown paperweight.

Fear not, we are here to help. The subsequent sections will provide answers to your questions about the necessary skills and tools for effective hotwiring.

Acquiring the Right Skills

Just like in real life, hotwiring a car in Project Zomboid isn’t as simple as twisting a couple of wires together. You need a specific set of skill requirements – namely an Electrical skill of at least 1 and a Mechanics skill of at least 2. But how do you acquire these skills? You can pick the Burglar occupation during character creation, or level up your Electrical and Mechanics skills.

Don’t worry if your character doesn’t start with these skills; there are other ways to level up and improve your skill levels. Here are some options:

  • Disassembling car parts or electronics is a key way to level up your Electrical skill. Plus, it gives you hands-on experience and some electronics scrap for repairs.
  • You can also find skill books that boost your Electrical and Mechanics skills.
  • With enough persistence, you’ll be hotwiring cars in no time.

Gathering Essential Tools

Having discussed skills, we turn our attention to the essential tools. In hotwiring, less is more. A screwdriver is all you require. What’s even better? The game does not demand a particular type of screwdriver for hotwiring cars.

But where do you find a screwdriver? A good place to start is the big coffee machine ride in Coffee World in Watery. Keep an eye on the car’s battery too – a dead battery can prevent you from successfully hotwiring the car. Armed with the right skills and a trusty screwdriver, you’re ready to tackle the next steps.

Entering and Assessing the Car

A person sitting in the driver's seat of a car, checking the gas gauge

Before you start tinkering with wires, it’s important to assess the condition of the car. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does it have enough gas to keep the car running?
  • Are any parts damaged?
  • Are there keys hidden somewhere in the car or nearby?
  • And most importantly, are you in the driver’s seat?

Let’s delve into a detailed analysis of these steps.

Checking Gas and Damaged Parts

It’s no use hotwiring a car if it’s out of gas or heavily damaged. To check the gas level without starting the car, you can use the service mode by holding down the start/stop button for five seconds. If the engine is sputtering or stalling, or if steering and braking feel harder, it’s likely the car is out of gas.

Inspecting for damage is also crucial. Parts of the car that usually get damaged are:

  • the front bumper
  • headlights
  • front & rear bumpers
  • tires
  • rims

Check for cracks on the fender and bumper, and keep an eye out for any cracks or patched areas on these parts. A hotwired car with damaged parts can be dangerous to drive, so make sure to conduct a thorough inspection.

Checking For Keys in or Around Car

Before you start hotwiring, it’s worth checking if the keys are just hiding in plain sight. They could be in:

  • the pouches
  • seat pockets
  • glove box
  • under the seats
  • any storage compartments inside the car

You might even find car keys on the ground around the car, near an open door.

If you can’t find the keys inside or near the car, try looking in the nearby buildings. People often leave their car keys in:

  • a key hook
  • inside a drawer
  • on a table or countertop
  • in purses or bags
  • in coat pockets
  • in a bowl or tray by the entrance

A little detective work might save you the trouble of hotwiring.

Getting into the Driver’s Seat

Finally, before starting the hotwire process, make sure you’re sitting comfortably in the driver’s seat, close to the key ignition slot. The best spot to sit in the driver’s seat for hotwiring is with your hips level with your knees. This helps prevent you from sliding forward when braking or in an accident, and makes it easier to reach the controls while hotwiring.

Once you’re cozied up in the driver’s seat, press ‘V’ to bring up the vehicle radial menu. From there, you can select ‘hotwire car’ to start the hotwiring process. Be aware, if you’re not properly positioned in the driver’s seat while hotwiring, it could mess up the car, set off the car alarm, and even damage the electrical system or wiring.

The Hotwiring Process: Step-by-Step Guide

A radial menu with 'Hotwire Car' and 'Hotwire Engine' options

Now, it’s time to apply your newly acquired skills and tools as we walk you through the process of hotwiring a car in Project Zomboid. This will involve everything from accessing the radial menu to starting the engine, detailed in the sections that follow.

Accessing the Radial Menu

The first step in hotwiring is accessing the radial menu. This can be done with a simple press of the ‘V’ key, which will bring up the menu containing the hotwiring options. Once you’re inside the car and close to the steering wheel, press ‘V’ to bring up the radial menu. From there, you’ll see the ‘Hotwire’ option.

The radial menu is your go-to for all things hotwire-related. Whether you’re looking for the ‘Hotwire Car’ or ‘Hotwire Engine’ option, you’ll find what you need here. Just remember to be inside the car, close to the steering wheel, before you bring up the menu.

Choosing Between “Hotwire Car” and “Hotwire Engine”

Now comes the decision point: “Hotwire Car” or “Hotwire Engine”? Both options allow you to start the car without a key, but they work differently. ‘Hotwire Car’ is the go-to method because it’s an easier way to start the engine without a key. But remember, it can mess up the car, so only do it if there’s no other option.

On the other hand, ‘Hotwire Engine’ involves manually connecting cables. This option can mess up your car’s electrical system, give you a shock, and even hurt you if you’re not careful. So, unless you’re confident in your cable connecting skills, it’s usually better to stick to ‘Hotwire Car’.

Waiting for the Gauge and Starting the Engine

After you’ve selected a hotwire option, it’s time to wait. A gauge will start to fill up, and once it’s full, you can start the engine. This waiting period is crucial, as it’s when your hotwire attempt comes to fruition. But be patient! It usually just takes a few seconds for the gauge to fill up.

Once the gauge is full, follow these steps to start the engine:

  1. Hit ‘W’ to start the engine.
  2. It might take a few tries to get it going, but that’s where patience comes in.
  3. And remember, if the gauge isn’t filling up, there might be issues with the gauge itself, wiring problems, or a malfunctioning fuel sending unit.

Understanding Dashboard Symbols

Having explored the hotwiring process, let’s discuss the aftermath of a successful engine start. The dashboard illuminates with a variety of flashing symbols. But what do they signify? Let’s start by understanding the two most crucial ones – the engine light and the gas tank indicator.

Engine Light

The engine light is your car’s way of telling you something’s wrong. It often lights up because of problems with:

  • the gas cap
  • oxygen sensor
  • catalytic converter
  • spark plugs
  • ignition coils
  • spark plug wires
  • mass airflow sensor

If the engine light comes on while you’re hotwiring, it’s a sign that one of the sensors in the car has detected a problem.

A flashing engine light is a serious sign of engine problems, like misfires, that need immediate attention. If this happens, follow these steps:

  1. Stop driving
  2. Pull over safely
  3. Check important fluids like oil and coolant
  4. If the light stays on or continues to flash, slow down and plan to see a mechanic as soon as possible.

Gas Tank Indicator

The gas tank indicator is equally important. It shows the current fuel level in your car. A gas tank indicator works by having a sending unit inside the fuel tank. As the fuel level changes, a float in the unit moves up and down, changing the resistance, which is then displayed on the gauge.

If the gas tank indicator is flashing or showing empty, it’s time to refuel ASAP. If you aren’t sure how to read the gas tank indicator accurately, just check how close the gauge needle is to the E marking. That’ll tell you how soon you’ll run out of gas.

Dealing with Zombies and Noise While Hotwiring

A character cautiously hotwiring a car while zombies lurk in the background

Here’s a caveat: hotwiring isn’t a silent operation. The noise produced can draw zombies close, intensifying the complexity of your escape plan.

Let’s explore how to manage noise and zombie attraction while hotwiring in Project Zomboid.

Attracting Zombie Attention

Hotwiring a car in Project Zomboid isn’t a stealth operation. The noise you make can draw zombies towards you, making your escape attempt even riskier. Zombies are attracted to noises, so when you’re hotwiring a car, be prepared for some unwanted attention.

But don’t panic. There are ways to deal with attracted zombies. You can intentionally gather them in a different spot, like a parking lot or field, to keep them occupied while you hotwire the car. Or, if you have to smash a window to hotwire the car, be ready to deal with any nearby zombies attracted by the noise.

Managing Noise Levels

Managing noise levels is crucial to avoid unwanted zombie attention. You can keep the noise levels down during hotwiring by twisting the wires in the instrument circuit and ensuring a good grounding and bonding design. The type of car can also affect how loud the hotwiring process is, with different cars having different electrical systems and noise levels.

Distractions can also be useful. You can use a walkie talkie to make some noise and attract nearby zombies, or cans filled with stones to create a loud noise and let you know if zombies are coming near. With these tips, you’ll be able to manage noise levels and keep zombies at bay while hotwiring.

Tips for a Successful Hotwire Attempt

Though hotwiring a car in Project Zomboid is a complex task, with patience and persistence, you can surely master it. However, remember that not all cars are the same. Despite your best efforts, hotwiring may not always be successful. In such instances, you may need to consider alternative vehicles.

Let’s explore these tips further.

Patience and Persistence

Hotwiring a car is not a one-and-done process. It might take several attempts to get it right, and that’s perfectly fine. Patience is key when hotwiring a car, as it allows you to wait for the perfect moment to do each step, like:

  • waiting for the gauge to fill up before starting the engine
  • making sure the ignition switch is in the “on” position
  • turning the key in the ignition to start the car

If you find yourself struggling with impatience, there are ways to remain calm. Here are some tips:

  • Try quick meditations or other calming activities to help you relax.
  • Instead of feeling powerless, try changing your outlook on the situation.
  • Remember, if you can’t hotwire a car on the first few tries, keep at it!

Finding Alternative Vehicles

If hotwiring the car you’ve chosen proves too challenging, don’t fret. There are always alternative vehicles to consider. Older cars made up to the mid-90s or cars without a steering lock or immobilizer are easier to hotwire. Some models, like certain Hyundais and Kias, are even rumored to be hotwire-friendly due to their lack of an immobilizer.

But how do you find these easier-to-hotwire cars? Some Australians believe that car thieves commonly use hotwiring, suggesting that these vehicles might be somewhat common. Keep an eye out for older cars or trucks – these could be your ticket out of a zombie-infested town.


So, there you have it – a comprehensive guide on how to hotwire cars in Project Zomboid. From acquiring the necessary skills and tools to dealing with zombie attention, we’ve covered it all. Remember, patience, persistence, and a good understanding of the game mechanics are key to a successful hotwire attempt.

Whether you’re a seasoned player or a newbie to the world of Project Zomboid, hotwiring cars is a skill that can greatly enhance your gameplay experience. So, gear up, brave the zombie apocalypse, and hotwire your way to freedom!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you learn to hotwire in Project Zomboid?

Yes, you can learn to hotwire in Project Zomboid, but it requires having the right skills, specifically Electrical 1 and Mechanics 2. So it’s possible, but not for every survivor.

Why can’t i hotwire in Project Zomboid?

In Project Zomboid, you can’t hotwire unless you have 1 Electrical skill and 2 Mechanical skill or play as a Burglar character with the passive ability to hotwire cars. This is because these skills are necessary to successfully hotwire a vehicle.

What mechanic level do you need to hotwire in Project Zomboid?

You need to have at least 1 Electrical skill and 2 Mechanical skill, or play as a Burglar character with the passive ability to hotwire cars. However, success is not guaranteed even after bypassing the ignition.

What tool do I need to hotwire a car in Project Zomboid?

All you need to hotwire a car in Project Zomboid is a screwdriver. Easy, right?

How do I check for gas and damaged parts in a car?

To check the gas level, use the service mode without starting the car. Look for cracks on the fender and bumper, and inspect the headlights, tires, and rims for damage.

About the Author


Marcus is a gaming enthusiast with a deep expertise in Project Zomboid. His articles are known for their sharp analysis and useful tips, helping players navigate the game's complex world. As an experienced player, he offers practical advice that appeals to both beginners and long-time fans of the game.

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