The undead walk the earth in Project Zomboid, but thankfully they’ve lost the ability to drive. As you scavenge Kentucky in search of resources, you come across abandoned vehicles, mostly scattered around suburban areas and at the side of roads. While there are workarounds to get inside without keys, you still need them to turn on the engine. Thankfully, there is an alternative if your character has the right skills. This guide explains how to hotwire cars in Project Zomboid so you can hit the road in no time.
Not Everyone Can Hotwire Cars From the Get-go
Hotwiring cars is a simple mechanic, but it comes with a catch. Your character needs to have Electrical level 1 and Mechanics level 2. This means that if you went for, say, chef (great choice) or police officer (why?) as your occupation, you won’t be able to access the mechanic right away.
There are two main ways to bypass this. The first is straightforward enough: choosing Burglar lets you hotwire cars by default. While this occupation isn’t focused on Electrical or Mechanics skills, it comes with hotwiring as a passive trait, which is a great bonus.
If you’re opting for a different job, however, you have to manually level up the needed skill levels. Opting for either Mechanic or Electrician will provide you with some leverage, as either skill will be at level 3 already. But you can still get there with any other occupation — it will just take longer.
If you’re lucky enough to find books for these skills, take the time to read through them (preferably somewhere safe, away from zombies). You will need the Beginner version of either the Mechanics or Electricity books, which correspond to levels 1 to 2. Keep in mind that books don’t automatically level skills, rather, they give you an experience boost to make that leveling easier.
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For Mechanics, you can easily gain experience by disassembling car parts. You can do this with any car you find in the wild — once you’re close enough to it, either press V or right click over the car to access the menu. Then, choose Vehicle Mechanics. Your character will then move to the front of the car and examine it (this sequence takes a couple seconds, though). From here you can right click on any of the car parts to see the disassembling requirements.
We recommend to focus on car batteries, as this only requires a screwdriver. Other parts may ask for either skill levels or specific tools like wrenches, which you may not have on hand if you’re starting a new game. Disassembling and then installing car parts is a good way to grind the Mechanics skill.
As for Electrical, the process is fairly similar. Instead of cars, you can disassemble TVs and radios. Once more, a screwdriver will do the job just fine.
Once set, you’ll be ready to hotwire any car. This is a fairly simple action, but it has a few steps.
How to Hotwire Cars – Project Zomboid
First, you need to get inside car. Once you’re close enough, press V to open the radial menu. We recommend entering directly, as sometimes one of the doors may be unlocked (you can select between them individually). If not, you can smash the window and then unlock the door manually using the same radial menu.
Make sure you have a weapon to do so, otherwise your character will start bleeding (although you can always use bandages if you have them). This method will cause noise, which may attract surrounding zombies.
Once in, press V once more to open the menu. The hotwire option is on the top right, signalized with a key icon. If you have the needed skill requirements (otherwise it will just let you know) you can go ahead and attempt to hotwire the car.
Even if you’ve chosen Burglar as your occupation, there is no guarantee that you will succeed in this action immediately. It may require several attempts, but be warned: each failed attempt causes noise.
If successful, you will notice on the car panel (found at the bottom of the screen whenever you’re inside a car) that the key lock on the right has wires coming from it. Another way to confirm this is by just accelerating — even if the engine has no fuel, the panel on the left will blink the engine light, which signals it’s working.
And that’s all! In the zombie apocalypse, hotwiring cars is not exactly a felony, but if you feel bad about the prospect you can always search for the key either on the floor around the car or inside. Once you’re in, the loot screen on the top right corner will let you search both the seats and the glove box. There’s no guarantee of finding the key, and if you’re in a rush, hotwiring the vehicle will be your best choice. Remember that you can also siphon gas and, if worse comes to worst, lose weight by sprinting away from the scene.