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 toolbox essentials should you have on hand?
Screwed up without these
Absolute toolbox 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. They don’t call those things “knuckle-busters” for nothing! 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.” That’s better than nothing, but a dial gauge is better. We’ve found that an electronic gauge, though more spendy, is an easier read and stays accurate. Have dual tires? You’ll need the crow-foot tire gauge to access all tire stems. Here’s one from Amazon. 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 paintbrush to dab the solution on any suspect joints or cracks.
Don’t neglect the electrics!
Electrical issues hit every RVer, so toolbox essentials mean 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. 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.
Stick it to it!
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 don’t forget 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. Also, it’s always available when a big drill job comes along that’s too much for the cordless unit.
Where to keep it?
Keep screwdrivers, a utility knife and a tape measure in the “junk drawer” in the kitchen. It 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. It’s nice for just grabbing and going to the “scene of the crime.”
Stock up your toolbox essentials. 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.
What would you add? Drop us a line by using the form. Please include “toolbox” on the subject line.
You forgot to mention channel lock pliers and needle nose pliers plus vice grips to hold something together until you get to the hardware store.
A combo 11-in-1 type screwdriver tool saves space and weight. I carry one in the Montana and one in the F-350. Very handy!
I have a tool kit in a small locking Sterilite plastic storage container. One item in it is a holder with a dozen different shapes and sizes of screwdriver points–Phillips, slot, square, star, etc. Has come in handy many times and can be used with my small, lightweight, 4.5v electric screwdriver.
A Kobalt (or other brand) saw handle that accepts reciprocating saw blades for wood or metal cutting. Takes up no more space than a medium sized screwdriver.
I carry a small coping saw that I bought in Whitehorse when I had to build a wooden cradle for the slide motor. The motor was just lag screwed into the wallboard/foam insulation, but the high torque tore it loose. My cradle was screwed into the floor and much stronger than the OEM attachments.
One thing not mentioned are “zip” ties. They are invaluable for holding things together. I carry an assortment of different sizes. Use them to hold cabinet doors from opening while traveling when the latch fails, bundle the wires behind the entertainment center, repair the sewer hose when the fittings come loose, etc.
Amazing how many uses they have.
+1 on the zip ties. The wider and longer the better. Harbor Freight sells wide 24 inchers at $1.99 for 12. Super glue and VHB (Very High Bond) tape are also handy.
Estate sales are also excellent for tools.
I would also recommend only carrying tools for jobs you are comfortable and confident you can do.
Well I would love to carry my toolbox. But it weighs a ton and a half so I guess it stays home.:)
Harbor Freight sells a tool bag that will hold most of the tools you need on sale for less than $5.
I would have the tools needed. Even if I couldn’t use them, perhaps a fellow RVer that is helping me would need it! 😊