Don’t leave home without a well-stocked toolbox, which will enable you to perform a variety of repairs on the road.
By Donna and Joh Mollan, F293245
Imagine you have recently purchased a new motorhome and are ready to set off on your dream journey across the continent. You pack the necessary food, clothes, patio furniture, and entertainment equipment. But what have you packed in the way of tools?
Tools? “I always take my coach to the authorized service center.” “It’s under warranty.” “Why do I need tools?” “I’m not trained to use tools!”
Whether your background is that of a homemaker, a musician, a lawyer, or an auto mechanic, you need tools! Not only are tools useful for decorating your coach, they are mandatory for everyday maintenance and repair. The constant vibration of a motorhome over the road causes items to work loose, come off, or break.
In our experience, just about every part of a motorhome will need some adjustment or repair at some time. We have repaired drawer slides, light bulbs and covers, floor mats, door locks and hatch latches, mirrors, plumbing fixtures, fuses, audio wiring, and countless other items. We have added lights, radios, antennas, hitches, harnesses, and racks to our motorhomes over the years. Yes, we have a service contract on our current coach, but most of these items take just a few minutes to fix, and most are not covered by the contract.
Certainly, when major items break down, we must find a qualified service center, but much of the smaller jobs we choose to do ourselves. This saves us considerable time and money and enables us to better cope with an emergency. The list below is a minimum suggested tool kit. If you have special talents such as welding or sewing, you may also wish to include tools for those particular skills.
MOTORHOME OWNER’S BASIC TOOL KIT
crescent wrenches (small and large)
3/8-inch drive socket wrench set
1/2-inch drive socket wrench set
Allen wrench sets, standard and metric
nutdriver set (optional)
pipe wrench (optional)
open-end and box wrench set (optional)
channel-lock type pliers, two sizes
Vise-Grip pliers (medium)
wire cutter and stripper
crimping pliers (optional)
electric glue gun
multimeter or circuit tester
12-volt circuit tester
soldering gun or iron
work light (optional)
12-volt air compressor (optional)
battery charger (optional)
assortment of screwdrivers
drill bit set
hammer, claw type
rubber hammer (optional)
steel pry bar (optional)
folding shovel (optional)
A good assortment of wrenches is essential for many tasks. Adjustable, crescent-type wrenches have many uses. This is one product where quality really pays off. Buy good-quality wrenches from brand-name manufacturers and avoid cheap wrenches.
Sets of 3/8-inch- and 1/2-inch-drive socket wrenches will last a lifetime and have a multitude of uses. Be sure your sets have both metric and standard sockets. Avoid poor-quality sets that may stretch, snap, or slip at a critical moment.
Allen wrenches are inexpensive tools that are critical to many adjustments. No other product will do the job of an Allen wrench. Buy sets that fold up into the handle so that you will not lose the smaller wrenches. Both metric and standard sizes are used in motorhomes.
If you do much mechanical work, you will want to carry a set of open-end wrenches or a set of combination open/box-end wrenches. A set of nutdrivers can be a big time-saver. A pipe wrench can be useful for heavy-duty jobs such as changing hitch balls.
A variety of pliers can make for happier motoring. Many novices confuse pliers and wrenches. Pliers are essentially designed for holding and crimping, while wrenches are designed for tightening nuts and bolts. A few devices, such as channel-lock-type pliers, can be useful for both functions. Vise-Grip brand pliers may double as a portable clamp. Some specialty pliers, such as wire strippers and crimping pliers, are used almost exclusively for electrical work. Again, when purchasing pliers, look for quality; make sure the jaws of the pliers meet closely and tightly.
Of all of the electrical tools that we have used, the cordless drill/driver has proved the most useful. Items tend to continually shake loose on motorhomes. A good drill/driver can quickly tighten them and also reach inaccessible places that a standard driver cannot.
An electric glue gun is great for quick fixes and caulking jobs. A drop of hot glue will keep screws from working loose. We find more uses for our glue gun on every trip we take.
A soldering gun or lightweight soldering iron is also very handy for electrical repairs. Be sure to practice a few times, though, before using it the first time.
A multimeter (volt-ohm-milliammeter) is useful for testing electrical items, including bulbs and fuses. If you are unfamiliar with electrical circuits, a simple circuit tester may be easier to use. At least be sure that your tester is designed to be used for 12-volt circuits.
Air compressors come in two types. The high-pressure type is used mainly for inflating tires. If you discover a low tire in a remote area, this compressor will come in handy. The low-pressure compressor is designed for inflatable boats, mattresses, and toys. Both types might be nice to have in your coach’s tool kit.
A 10-amp auto battery charger is a useful option. It can also be used for operating 12-volt appliances such as car vacs and air compressors.
Don’t forget to pack a good, waterproof flashlight and a spare set of batteries. Many repairs seem to take place at night or in the darkest areas. A good work light is another option. It can double as a camp light for evening activities.
A set of screwdrivers will be your most frequently used tools. Again, select only quality name-brand screwdrivers. A variety of sizes can repair everything from eyeglasses to heavy bolts. Be sure you have both standard- and Phillips-type drivers in your motorhome tool collection.
A few hammers will be useful. Both the ball-peen and claw types give versatility. A rubber hammer is a good tool for on-the-spot bodywork.
A hacksaw, a cold chisel, a scraper, and a utility knife also are handy for a variety of tasks. A steel pry bar may also be of use to free stuck items or jammed hitches.
On past trips we have used utility knives to cut loose tire cord that was wrapped around a trailer axle. We have used an ax to clear brush that was blocking our motorhome and have used a folding shovel to move gravel under our wheels in slippery areas.
When packing your motorhome toolbox, don’t forget to include an assortment of essential supplies such as screws, glue, fuses, bulbs, cotter pins, nails, solder, nuts, bolts, and washers.
As you become a more experienced traveler, you probably will decide to add more tools to your list. The more you use tools, the more confident you will become with your abilities, and the more satisfaction you will get out of the job.