SKILLS VEHICLE SUITCASE
IF WE SAT around a campfire spinning yarns about our early exploits into the backcountry, my guess is that the memories, regardless of the details, have been filtered into blissful adventures. They were most likely simple affairs with a full complement of necessities: a cooler of coldies, sleeping bags and camp chairs.
I recall the first trip in my í82 Hilux.
My buddy Rich Currie and I blazed out of town one afternoon, bent on exploring a place called South Fork. The route, a muddy three-mile trench, was a good distance from the pavement and we had the place to ourselves. All was good until I buried the truck to its frame and realised the cooler lid made a poor digging implement. We survived, but the takeaway was that I should pack a shovel next time.
During the next adventure, a friend became mired in axle-deep snow. I attempted to pull him out with an old rigging rope, which immediately broke.
Another takeawayÖ I needed to buy a recovery strap. A year later, the radiator and fan of a friendís Jeep did the tango.
I watched as the ďold guysĒ in my club resuscitated the radiator with needle-nose pliers and coarse-ground pepper. Yet more to add to my toolbox: pliers and pepper.
What do you carry in your 4x4 toolbox?
Specifically, what tools, spare parts, recovery gear and specialty items do you carry that might help you (and your rig) get home alive.
When it comes to self-supported travel, developing a list of what items to bring and what to leave at home can be daunting. After 35 years of takeaways, I suggest crafting one around your personal style of travel. If you favour day trips and
Statch straps (2) Tree protector Winch line extender Winch line damper/sail Pulley block (2) Bow shackles (4-6) Gloves (heavy-duty) Pull-Pal MaxTrax Shovel
WHEN asked about the first modification someone should make to a vehicle, my answer is always to source a quality recovery kit. The basics should include a kinetic energy recovery rope (KERR) or snatch strap, two rated screw-pin bow shackles and gloves. If the vehicle is equipped with a winch, a winch line damper, pulley block, tree saver and additional bow shackles should be included. For advanced winching operations and remote travel, add a winch line extender (50-foot minimum), another pulley block, plus additional snatch and utility straps.
It is important that all components in a winching system have a working load rating (WLL) no less than twice that of the winch. I
should clarify the difference between WLL and minimum breaking load (MBL). The stated WLL includes a safety factor that is usually 1/4 to 1/6 the MBL. For example, I have several Van Beest Green Pin shackles, which have a WLL of 4.75 tons and a safety factor of 6x (MBL of 28.5 tons). Think about this when reviewing the vehicle-to-vehicle recovery tip below.
Without getting into a long dissertation on safety, be certain that every component has the appropriate WLL and MBL for a given use and is in good condition. Personal experience has taught me that a system failure under load can be disastrous. Takeaway: a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
A comprehensive recovery kit should include a Hi-Lift jack and base, Pull-Pal, MaxTrax, recovery straps (2), tree protectors (2), 50-foot winch line extender, screw-pin bow shackles (5), pulley blocks (3), shovel, and gloves.
Introducing a pulley block to a winching system can double WLL on some components.
During a vehicle-to-vehicle snatch recovery, the kinetic energy developed by a 5000-pound vehicle moving at 15mph is 34,485 ft-lb.
Evaluate WLL and MBL prior to purchasing recovery equipment.
ONE OF the most common trail repairs is fixing a punctured or slashed tyre. The task can be as simple as removing the interloping nail, screw or pushrod (yes, this has happened), inserting a plug, and re-inflating the tyre. A basics kit should be a premium unit such as those from ARB, Extreme Outback Products or Safety Seal.
Avoid the $10 discounts, as the low price reflects the quality Ė theyíre cheap for a reason. Severely slicing a sidewall is not a frequent issue, but having the tools to address this scenario will be more reassuring than going on without a spare.
While reviewing tyre repair kits last year I found that Extreme Outback and Power Tank options included the surgical implements needed to fix a lacerated tyre (albeit temporarily): patches and cement, scrapers, and stitching material. Use a cordless drill to bore stitch holes; it makes the job easier, safer, and cleaner than using an awl or other pointy object.
A few other must-haves are room temperature vulcanising (RTV) black silicone and Tyrepliers.
Iíve removed tyres by various methods (tyre spoons, Hi-Lift jack, the weight of another vehicle), but a set of Tyrepliers canít be beat.
This little dandy makes quick work of preparing a tyre for patching, stitching, or replacing a torn valve stem. It may collect dust for years, but when the time comes you will be glad you have it.
Takeaway: Tyrepliers can save your bacon.
Self-vulcanising yarns Reaming tool Yarn insertion tool Lubricant Razor blades Needle-nose pliers Valve stems and cores Valve core remover Patches (various sizes) Rubber cement Buffer/scraper Cordless drill and bits Micro paracord/baling Stainless-steel wire Large surgical needle RTV silicone Air gauge Air compressor
I have two overland vehicles and transfer my ARB CKMTA12 compressor to the one Iím using at the time. The tyre repair kits, one for each rig, are from Safety Seal and Extreme Outback Products.
Buy a high-quality tyre repair kit.
Add stitching accessories and RTV black silicone.
A stitched tyre is for emergency use only.
WHAT spare parts to bring has been the topic of many campfire debates. If you drive a late-model vehicle, the list may be limited to belts, hoses and filters. If your love is an old Willys MB or Toyota FJ-40, I suggest you become intimately familiar with its nuances. Read enthusiast forums and query other owners for info on common mechanical issues and what items to carry. The spares kit in my 1982 Hilux (a rock rig) includes axles, drivelines, steering components, a cap, rotor, and an igniter (the list goes on). However, my 2002 Tacomaís inventory is limited to belts, hoses, water pump and a few small parts. I carry extra wheel bearings in the Hilux (a field fix), but changing a Tacoma bearing isnít possible without a press and jig.
Design the spares kit around your vehicle, type of travel and distance from services. There is one caveat: if you carry a part, even if the repair cannot done in the field or you lack the mechanical skills to perform the job, it will expedite the process when you get to a shop.
One interesting scenario Iíve dealt with was when the clutch throw-out bearing on a friendís vehicle flew the coop. Steve, the worldís greatest pack rat, had a used one in his parts box. We set up camp, dropped the transmission, swapped in the used (but functional) bearing and, voilŗ, were able to continue on in the morning. Takeaway: if you have room for a spare part, it is better to have it than partake in a forced march in the desert.
Battery cables Belts Axles and seals Brake line Clutch and brake slave cylinder kit Fuel pump, line, clamps, filter Drivelines Distributor cap, rotor, coil, points Leaf/coil spring Radiator hoses and clamps Steering (tie rod, links, ends) U-bolts and nuts U-joints Water hose (various diameters, 3 feet) Water pump Wheel bearings and seals Thermostat
Spares should be specific to your vehicle. This kit includes a driveline, front axle shaft, rod end, U-bolts, fuel filter, wheel bearings/seals, water pump, hoses, belts, battery cable, and igniter. The ammo cans hold everything from clutch and brake hydraulic kits to lug nuts.
Research your vehicle for potential weak links.
Spares that cannot be swapped in the field are usually low priority.
Include small ďusedĒ parts from previous upgrades.
WHILE pre-packaged toolkits are handy and the plastic cases have a place for every socket and screwdriver, they are far from adequate and occupy too much real estate for the limited assets they carry. I carry two kits. The first is a heavy canvas bag stuffed with the basics: 1/2- and 3/8-inch sockets, metric and ASE spanners, Vise-Grips, Channellocks, needle-nose pliers, screwdrivers and such. I call this my I-donítwant- to-retrieve-my-toolbox bag, and store it behind the driverís seat. My main toolbox, which is buried behind loads of other gear, is a shopgrade, multi-drawer unit. It contains the seldomneeded items such as a multimeter, JB Weld, Teflon and electrical tape, pickle forks, files and punches, along with various small items.
A telescopic magnet and emery cloth are good examples of little implements that can have a big impact. If you need to polish a bearing surface or extract an air cleaner nut from the depths of a carburetor, they are the only tools for the job.
Takeaway: toss the plastic organiser in lieu of a handy canvas bag and proper toolbox.
Metric and SAE spanners Metric and SAE sockets (ľ, Ĺ, ĺ inch) Screwdriver set Allen set Channellocks (large, small) Crescent wrenches (large, small) Vise-Grips (large, small, needle-nose) Files (combination, keyhole) Hacksaw Dead-blow mallet, hammer Hub wrench Pinion nut socket Pickle fork (two sizes) Pry bar Snap-ring pliers C-clamps (small) Brake line bender Multimeter Telescopic magnet Gasket material Wire kit, wire, crimper Fuses Brass punch, metal chisel/punch Tape (Teflon, electrical) Cleaning brush Spark plug thread bore Emery cloth Dental tools (picks, tweezers) Alligator-clip jumpers JB Weld, Loctite, fuel cell epoxy Stop leak Utility knife
A spare part wonít do you any good if you donít have the appropriate tools to install it.
My tools are separated into two categories. Basic tools are stowed in a handy location (canvas bag on right), while seldom-used items stay in my main toolbox.
Store a basic toolkit in a handy location.
Seldom-used items reside in your main toolbox.
Small items can be a big asset.
and C-clamps Ė while others are brand-specific.
Certain brand-specific tools come at a substantial cost if purchased from the dealer, but you can often fabricate your own at a fraction of the price. For example, I mentioned that I carry wheel bearings in my Hilux. They too need a press, but I made a slide hammer that can manage the job. I also created a tool for adjusting ring gear backlash and another for holding the crank in place in order to remove the pulley and main seal. Takeaway: web forums can be a great source of information on your vehicle.
Drill and bits Bolt extractor set and reverserotation drill bits Die grinder (various disks, wire wheel) Pneumatic or electric cut-off tool C-clamps (large) Gear puller Vise-Grips (C-clamp style) 5-pound sledgehammer Safety goggles 50-foot air hose Vehicle-specific tools
Specialty tools are applicable for all vehicles.
Shown here are large C-clamps, Vise-Grips (C-clamp style), a gear puller, hacksaw, drill bits and EZ-Out set, pneumatic cutoff tool, cordless and pneumatic drills, 50-foot air hose, siphon hose, and O-ring, fuse, and electrical kits.
Carry specific tools required for your vehicle.
Save money by fabricating specialty tools yourself.
Pneumatic and electric tools will save time and elbow grease.
FLUIDS are also items that cross all vehicle makes, and a full selection should be carried at all times.
In the mid-1980s, I was on the Rubicon Trail stuck behind a group with a broken vehicle (bad power steering pump). They would not allow us to get around on a bypass (one of them actually said, ďyou %#&@ Toyotas can go back to the &%#@ highway where you belong). After we waited patiently, the knucklehead walked back and asked if we had any power steering fluid they could have. I sarcastically said, ďOf course, donít all prepared four-wheelers carry the basics... yours is back at the highway.Ē
I handed over a quart to get them out of our way.
Takeaway: donít be a knucklehead.
Motor oil (2 quarts) Diff/transmission oil (2 quarts) Oil pump Power steering and brake fluid Brake cleaner Carb/mass air-sensor cleaner Drain pan, kitty litter Used oil container Bearing grease (high temp) Siphon hose (shaker type) Starting fluid WD-40 Hand cleaner
Every vehicle should carry basic fluids: Brake cleaner, power steering and brake fluid, engine and differential oil, WD-40, starting fluid, bearing grease, shop towels, and hand cleaner.
Store them in a leak-proof container, as they will eventually leak.
Standard fluids will work on any vehicle (temporarily).
If each vehicle carries an array of fluids, you will have enough for any job.
Bring a drain pan and container to store used fluids.
AS YOU read through this section you might think, what good will welding equipment do if I donít know how to weld? Welding may not be in your skill set (substitute any subject here), but when the need arises there is a good chance that someone in your group Ė a passerby or local Ė will know how to run a bead.
Iím not a great welder, so I always ask the best welder available to perform this type of repair Ė egos are best left at home. Iíve listed several welding options: Batteries, Ready Welder, and Premier Power Welder. The latter is vehiclebased and the crŤme de la crŤme of bush tools, while the former two are grab-and-go affairs; the only catch is that you must have at least two batteries available at the repair site. Iíve used all three systems to repair everything from a cracked frame and separated spring perch, to broken steering components and shock mounts. To keep my welding rod dry I made a storage tube out of ABS pipe. Takeaway: a basic welding kit can mend a broken frame when torn apart.
Ready Welder or Premier Power Welder (optional) Welding rod (6011, 6014, 7014) Storage tube Welding shield Gloves, brush, hammer Battery welding kit: two-gauge cables (two 24-inch) with terminal-mount ends Jumper cables or welding leads, two or three 12-volt car batteries
There are three basic systems for trail welding: the old-school method of twobatteries, jumpers and rod (left); the battery-powered wire-feed Ready Welder (right); and the engine-mounted Premier Power Welder. I carry the first two.
Use a capped ABS pipe container to keep the rods protected.
The best welder should manage the repair.
Multiple batteries are often required for a proper welding jobbie.
WHILE most of the items listed here may seem obvious, Iím surprised at the number of people I meet on the tracks with only a cooler of drinks (me, 30 years ago).
Iíve heard people say Hi-Lift jacks are bulky and dangerous, rubber gloves are for wimps, and that they donít need ďall that other mumbo jumbo.Ē I agree that a Hi-Lift is heavy, can be dangerous if not used properly, and will pulverise anything in its path if stored improperly.
However, it is on my Top 10 list of must-have tools of the trade. It can be used to realign an axle housing or broken frame, as a press, wood splitter, to reposition the cab of a rolled vehicle, and yes, it can even lift a vehicle. Ratchet straps, bungee cords, and zip ties are three of the Seven Wonders of the trail. An axe, shovel, machete, and the rest are all commonsense basics.
Another handy addition is nitrile rubber gloves. They are a must when you need to drop greasy parts and want a clean hand to grab a sandwich. As for spare metal plating and hardware, they come in handy for patching up the aforementioned broken parts (these will save you from using expensive tools as filler material).
This list may be a bit intimidating, but I gathered much of it from hanging around old Jeepers driving Willys CJ-2As and CJ-5s (and they made it all fit). Takeaway: rubber gloves... so Iím a wimp!
Hi-Lift jack and base Axe Shovel Saw Machete Bungee cords, ratchet straps, zip ties Rigging rope and paracord Collapsible bucket Jumper cables Fire extinguisher Tyre iron (4-way star type) Macís Tiedowns utility mat Safety glasses Nitrile rubber gloves Medical kit Flares Bug repellant Canteen, water filter or tablets Compass Extra food (three-day supply) Flask of spirits (your choice) Flashlight/headlamp (extra batteries) Sleeping bag for each occupant Fuel sticks (fat wood) Waterproof matches Knife and multi-tool Spare ignition key Sunscreen Toilet paper Biodegradable soap Baling wire Duct tape Ziploc bags Shop rags Hardware (various sizes) Metal flat bar, angle iron Tarp Poncho
There are a host of items that should be carried in your vehicle. The list includes an axe, saw, sleeping bag, poncho, water filter or purifier, handheld UHF radio, medical kit, hot wood and lighter, trash bag, zip ties, bungee cords, ratchet straps, food rations, and a flask of your favourite spirits.
Basic equipment should be in your vehicle at all times.
Hi-Lift jacks, ratchet straps and bungee cords are amazing.
Carry a selection of metal and hardware for major repairs.
Kinetic straps (2) Tree protector Winch line extender (50 ft minimum) Winch line damper/sail Pulley block (2) Bow shackles (4-6) Gloves (heavy-duty) Pull-Pal MaxTrax Shovel
Self-vulcanising yarns Reaming tool Yarn insertion tool Lubricant Razor blades Needle-nose pliers Valve stems and cores Valve core remover Patches (various sizes) Rubber cement Buffer/scraper Cordless drill and bits Micro paracord, baling/stainless steel wire Large surgical needle RTV silicone Air gauge Air compressor
Battery cables Belts Axles and seals Brake line Clutch and brake slave cylinder kit Drivelines Fuel pump, line, clamps, filter Distributor cap, rotor, coil, points Leaf/coil spring Radiator hoses and clamps Steering (tie rod, links, ends) U-bolts and nuts U-joints Water hose (various diameters, 3 feet) Water pump Wheel bearings and seals Thermostat
Metric and SAE spanners Metric and SAE sockets (ľ, Ĺ, ĺ inch) Screwdriver set Allen set Channellocks (large, small) Crescent wrenches (large, small) Vise-Grips (large, small, needle-nose) Files (combination, keyhole) Hacksaw Dead-blow mallet, hammer Hub wrench Pinion nut socket Pickle fork (two sizes) Pry bar Snap-ring pliers C-clamps (small) Brake line bender Multimeter Telescopic magnet Gasket material Electrical connection kit, wire, crimper Fuses Brass punch, metal chisel/metal punch Tape (Teflon, electrical) Cleaning brush Spark plug thread bore Emery cloth Dental tools (picks, tweezers) Alligator-clip jumpers JB Weld, Loctite, fuel cell epoxy Stop leak Utility knife
Drill and bits Bolt extractor set/reverse-rotation drill bits Die grinder (various disks, wire wheel) Pneumatic or electric cut-off tool C-clamps (large) Gear puller Vise-Grips (C-clamp style) 5-pound sledgehammer Safety goggles 50-foot air hose Vehicle-specific tools
Motor oil (2 quarts) Differential/transmission oil (2 quarts) Oil pump Power steering and brake fluid Brake cleaner Carburetor or mass air-sensor cleaner Drain pan, kitty litter, used oil container Bearing grease (high temp) Siphon hose (shaker type) Starting fluid WD-40 Hand cleaner
Ready Welder or Premier Power Welder Welding rod Storage tube Welding shield, gloves, brush, hammer Battery welding kit
Hi-Lift jack and base Axe Shovel Saw Machete Bungee cords, ratchet straps, zip ties Rigging rope and paracord Collapsible bucket Fire extinguisher Jumper cables Tyre iron (4-way star type) Macís Tiedowns utility mat Safety glasses Nitrile rubber gloves Medical kit Flares Bug repellant Canteen, water filter or tablets Compass Extra food (3-day supply) Flask of spirits (your choice) Flashlight/headlamp (extra batteries) Sleeping bag for each occupant Fuel sticks (fat wood) Waterproof matches Knife and multi-tool Spare ignition key Sunscreen Toilet paper Biodegradable soap Baling wire Gorilla tape Ziploc bags Shop rags Hardware (various sizes) Metal flat bar, angle iron Tarp Poncho
FROM an experience standpoint, most of my skills have been learned out of necessity on the trail. As Trail Co-ordinator for Sierra Trek, my crews and I have been confronted with everything from broken frames to pretzeled drivelines. During the past 35 years Iíve amassed a few opinions regarding MacGyver trail fixes and what to bring. When it comes to your rig, I say go light on fluff. Instead, pack as many tools and supplies as you can reasonably fit. My wife, Suzanne, says, ďPack like a Collard, not a Kardashian.Ē
Iíve heard many people say, ďI drive a new vehicle. Why should I carry that stuff?Ē
While this may be true, I canít tell you the number of times I have provided supplies and equipment to someone who showed up for the party empty-handed.
The funny thing is that Iíve been that guy. Over the years my kit has grown, sometimes to the point of absurdity. That is when I re-evaluate and cull the to herd. I pack many items I hope to never need, but the reality is that Iíve used nearly all of it at one point. Each adventure is a learning experience, and I promise you that being as prepared as possible will make your experiences that much sweeter. Takeaway: prepare like a Boy Scout and donít pack like a Kardashian.