By Russ and Tiña De Maris
If you’ve been on the road at all, you’ve experienced it: Something on your rig broke. You can’t always get help with the fixing — you need to do it yourself. Being prepared with a few tools and some of the essential “emergency supplies” can go a long way to making it easier. What should you have on hand?
Absolute essentials are screwdrivers of both the slotted and Phillips variety, in various sizes. Look around your rig, too, and see if the manufacturer has used specialized fittings that “normal” screwdrivers won’t fit. Clutch screws (which look like little bow-ties) and Torx (star shaped) aren’t uncommon. Wrenches are necessary, too, for tightening bolts. While you can maybe “get by” with a couple of adjustable Crescent wrenches, having combination wrenches that won’t slip off the nut and bang up your knuckles is a help. A hammer is a versatile tool, even though you’ll find few nails in most RVs. A sharp utility knife is invaluable. And don’t forget the lowly tape measure.
Some specialty items: A good tire gauge — not a cheap, two-dollar “stick type” (although that’s better than nothing) — but a dial gauge is probably best. If you have dual tires, you’ll need the crow-foot tire gauge to be able to access all tire stems. Find them at truck stop convenience stores. A bottle of soapy-water solution is handy to check for LP leaks. Use a 50/50 liquid dish detergent and water solution either in a spray bottle or use a little paint brush to dab the solution on any suspect joints or cracks.
Electrical issues hit every RVer, so get an electrical multimeter. These devices measure both DC (battery) and AC (shore power) voltage and are invaluable for tracking down issues. If you’re willing to learn more about running down problems, look for one that measures current (amps), as well. While you’re dealing with electrics, get yourself a good wire cutter/stripper; and we highly recommend an electrical crimping tool along with an assortment of crimp fittings. While not critical, a pair of needle-nose pliers make electrical work much easier. Don’t forget a couple of rolls of electrical tape. Find out what sorts of fuses your RV (and tow vehicle) use, and carry spares. The same holds true for extra light bulbs or fluorescent tubes.
Also helpful to have on hand: Duct tape. Buy the best you can afford. “Gorilla tape” is really great. It sticks well and wears well. Get a short roll of Eternabond tape, too. This stuff will fix a tear on almost any type of RV roof, siding and other stuff, too. It’s pricier than duct tape, but duct tape won’t fix a roof leak. A short roll of “mending wire” or a coil of baling wire will help you “jury-rig” a variety of fixes. Teflon tape, from the plumbing supply area, will help you fix leaky pipe joints, and maybe even a roll of the “yellow” pipe tape for gas joints.
A rechargeable, cordless electric drill is at the top of our list for non-hand tools. We can drill holes, drive screws, even stir paint (with the right attachment). And we even keep a “corded” 3/8-inch electric drill on hand. With the right socket fitting, we use it to jack up and down our travel trailer stabilizer jacks. Works a whole lot faster than bending over and hand-cranking them, and then it’s always available when a big drill job comes along that’s too much for the cordless unit.
Where to keep it? Keeping screwdrivers, a utility knife and a tape measure in the “junk drawer” in the kitchen makes it easier for both of us to get what we often need in a hurry. For the regular repair guy, I find having two different tool bags useful. One keeps the heavy-duty repair tools like wrenches and assorted drivers together. The other is strictly “electrical,” with the voltmeter, specific electrical repair tools and supplies, and is nice for just grabbing and going to the “scene of the crime.”
Set yourself a budget, hit the stores and don’t forget pawn shops — they’re often a great place to pick up bargains that can help you make fixes on the road.
photo: RLHyde on flickr.com