Saturday, September 30, 2023


Carry some basic tools – even if you can’t use them

By Greg Illes
Well, that’s sort of a joke title — why carry tools if you can’t use them? Actually, the answer is simple: You will use them when you have to.

This article is not for the accomplished do-it-yourselfer, who likely can give us all advice on tool kits. This tip is for the people who can’t remember the last time they picked up a screwdriver. The list which follows is meant to give you a small working tool kit, with only a small investment, which will allow you to fix a lot of simple problems that crop up on an RV. These tools’ usage is pretty much self-explanatory, and none require any advanced skill for their use.

All of these tools are sold in any hardware store — but be sure to buy “decent” tools. Stay away from the $2-special table, because the metal in cheap tools is soft and poorly formed. And don’t be tempted by one of those “all-in-one” tool kits because they have stuff you don’t need and poor-quality versions of what you do need. Shop carefully, buy quality and get familiar with the tools before you tuck them away for later use.

• Screwdriver, multi-blade — Get one of those six-way screwdrivers. You will have large and small Phillips, large and small slot, and 1/4-inch and 5/16-inch nut drivers, all in one tool.

• Pliers, locking slip-joint — A really great plier with a grip range around 0-3 inches. Good for pipes, squeezing stuff together and tearing stuff apart.

• Pliers, needle-nose — Good for twisting wire or fetching tiny things from remote cracks and crannies.

• Hammer, ball-peen — Just a small hammer for tapping, not a big pounder.

• Wrench, adjustable, small and large — Get two of these, sometimes called “Crescent” wrenches — but that’s a brand name like Kleenex. They will fit any nut or bolt, but they often won’t fit into spaces where the bolts are. You would need a set of wrenches and sockets for such versatility, and that’s beyond this “super-basic” tool set.

• Duct tape — Another universal tool. The only tape I use any more is the Gorilla brand, far superior to anything else I’ve tried.

• Utility knife with retractable blade, and spare blades — Universal tool with many uses.

• Voltmeter — A principal electrical diagnostic tool. This is the only tool which needs a tiny bit of education to use, but it is invaluable (maybe even just to let a helper use it). It will tell you everything from your battery’s state of charge to whether you have a bad switch or connector.

• Inspection mirror — There are a lot of places that this comes in handy to peek into.

Yes, there are thousands of tools that you could buy and carry (and I carry hundreds) — but if I think back on what I grab first and use the most, this list covers 95% of them.

So there you go. Put everything in a sturdy case or soft-sided bag for safekeeping. For less than $100 or so, you can stuff this in a drawer or the back of a storage compartment and drag it out when something breaks. You’ll be a hero to yourself and your traveling companions!

Greg Illes is a retired systems engineer who loves thinking up RV upgrades and modifications. When he’s not working on his motorhome, he’s traveling in it. You can follow his blog at



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2 years ago

Re: carry tools even if you don’t know how to use them–someone else will!

I used to drive my jeep on rugged trails. I carried tools and parts I couldn’t use–figuring someone else could. One time I broke down in the backcountry of Death Valley and a military helicopter-mechanic trainer was in the group. He wouldn’t touch the tools but he stood there and told me what to do step by step.

Mike S.
3 years ago

If you have an RV, you need a set of Robertson (square drive) screwdrivers). For some reason, a lot of RVs use these in huge quantities.

3 years ago

A real man can fix anything with a WD-40 for things that don’t move and should, and duct tape for things that do and shouldn’t.

Of course, I’m not a real man, so I carry a Tuckertote of tools next to a small buzzbox welder, generator, hitch winch, pole saw, electric impact…etc… etc… and yes, have used them all.

Gene Bjerke
3 years ago

I wouldn’t go anywhere without my Leatherman multitool. Back when I had a sailboat, I did half the work on her with a Swiss Army Knife.

3 years ago

a screwdriver a hammer and duct tape will acomplish most anything

3 years ago

A small assortment of plastic wire ties has often come in handy for temporary repairs and takes little room and negligible weight.

3 years ago

Make sure to include flashlights- the l.e.d. kind. I keep at least 3: one next to the bed, one near our dinette, and one near my tools. The cell phone’s light is not focused or adequate.

3 years ago

I would suggest a 15-in-1 screwdriver rather than a 6-in-1 because they have the square bits that are needed so often in an RV. You have a great list and I agree about the Gorilla Duct Tape.

3 years ago

Good list Greg. I would like to add a # 2 Robertson bit for the screw driver. That’s a little square one that will fit most screws in RV s. Also a headlamp to see in dark areas, and an extendable magnet to pick up dropped screws and nuts.

3 years ago

Hubby is ok at fixing things and has a small tool kit which IS NOT tucked away because something always needs tightening. Anyway we were in a very old fashion hardware store (woodfloors) and hubby sees this big crescent wrench. He vacillated whether to buy or not then decided what the heck only $20 might as well. Later that day as pulling out of space our 5th wheel hitch broke (another story cause it had been replaced that day). A good samaritan helping us asks “You don’t happen to have a 2″ crescent wrench, do you?” “As a matter of fact I just bought one today!”
Moral of story, you need a tool box while rving!

3 years ago
Reply to  Jane

The 2 second half of the “Moral of the story” is even if you can’t use a tool, a good samaritan may! We carry a few medical supplies we aren’t fully qualified to use– for the same reason.

3 years ago

Add a small roll of silicon tape. Sticks only to it’s self. Good for emergency repairs.

3 years ago

There are many RVers who don’t know which end of a screwdriver to use! Very Sad!

OR, how about changing your Fan Belt with the Engine Running?? There are those RVers who would believe you can do that too! Very Sad!

We live in an era of poorly educated people, who only know 2 things, talk and text on Cellphones while driving! Very Sad!

Let the bashing begin!

3 years ago
Reply to  Notfunny

When my daughter was young, I had her watch and/or help me do things around the house including working on my cars. She laid under the car with me while i changed oil. When she was old enough to drive I had her remove and replace a tire on the car. She kept up with the learning experience after she got married. She is more handy than her husband.

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