" Hope for the best, prepare for the worst "

Lets talk about tools, the bush mechanic’s essentials

Breakdowns happen, and no amount of the preventative maintenance can completely rule them out. Broken axles, snapped wheel studs or bent tie rods can quickly stop you in your tracks.

The right tools, a few spares and a little luck can shift the odds of getting back on the road in your favor.

Until recently, I’ve kept two socket sets and a bag full of tools in my trunk just in case I should run into any trouble down the road.

The problem is deciding which tools to take and which to leave behind. You can fill your trunk with all kinds of specialized tools you may never need, but they’ll take up valuable space.

Just the essentials

In order to downsize my toolset, I decided to focus on the essentials; the tools I know I’ll need when working on the Jeep.

Thinking back to my work on the Jeep’s suspension this summer, I considered which of the dozens of tools in my kit I’d actually used.

With my tools strewn across the floor, I started going through them. The majority of them made more sense in a home toolset, not in the back of the Jeep.

The spanners, screwdrivers, vice grips, wrenches and pliers all made sense, but the claw hammer, level and about a dozen other tools didn’t.

Next, I turned my attention to my socket sets. These, by far, took up the most space, but had proven to be the most useful.

Since the Jeep exclusively uses metric bolts, there was no reason to keep any of my SAE sockets or wrenches.

Sure SAE sockets are nice to have if your buddy breaks down, but they weren’t essential to fixing my vehicle and that’s what this post is all about.

My tool kit

Note: My tool kit is in no way comprehensive. I am probably missing “essential tools.” If you think so, please leave a comment in the comments section below.

This toolkit does not include recovery equipment. I consider recovery equipment to be in a different category altogether.

Tool Roll

  • Sockets: 10mm, 13mm, 15mm, 16mm, 17mm, 18mm, 19mm, 21mm and 24mm (1/2-inch drive)
  • Ratchet (1/2-inch drive)
  • 12-inch breaker bar (1/2-inch drive)
  • Socket extensions: 3-inch & 5-inch
  • Spanners: 10mm, 13mm, 15mm, 17mm
  • Adjustable wrenches: 6-inch & 10-inch
  • Pliers
  • Needle nose pliers
  • 10-inch vice grips
  • Slim multi-bit screwdriver
  • Screwdriver bits: Torx – T10, T15, T20, T25, T27, T30, T40, T50 Philips – #3, #2, #1 Hex – 1/8, 5/32, 3/16, 7/32
  • Cable ties
  • Electrical tape
  • Scissors
  • Multitool (Mine doubles as a small hammer)

Other Tools

  • BFH: 3-pound steel hammer
  • 1/2-inch torque wrench
  • 1/2-inch breaker bar (24-inches doubles as my tire iron.)
  • 12-inch pry bar
  • 5-inch C-Clamp (can be used to change bad u-joints)

Quick fixes

  • Gorilla Tape (Duct tape works too)
  • Bailing Wire
  • Ratchet Straps
  • Epoxy JBweld
  • large (11-inch) black cable ties
  • Red RTV silicone gasket maker

Essential Fluids

Fluids are an unfortunate necessity. There is no way to get around the fact that fluids are heavy and take up space in your vehicle.

Because my vehicle is heavily armored with thick skid plates, I hedge my bets and carry smaller volumes of fluids I am less likely to need (engine oil, transmission fluid, and coolant). For longer remote journeys or those over rough terrain, I will carry a full supply of fluids.

  • WD-40
  • Engine oil (6qts 5W-20 or 30 for the Wrangler)
  • Differential oil (3qts)
  • Engine Coolant (10qts)
  • Brake fluid
  • Automatic Transmission Fluid

Basic Spares

  • Wheel studs and lug nuts x4
  • U-Joints 2x
  • Serpentine Belt

Further reading

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll enjoy these, why don’t you take a look?

Please comment and share

So tell us in the comments section:

  • Did I miss something?
  • What’s in your toolkit?
  • How do you handle the issue of fluids?

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  • lupus lefou

    Must be that time of year because I just did the same evaluation and culling of the unneeded tools. Good list you have here, especially the torque wrench and spare u-bolts. I forgot to add those to my kit so this is a good reminder. I broke my tools out into three tool rolls: metric wrenches, pliers/screwdrivers and ratchets. Keeps things organized and much more compact that just a pile of tools in a bag. Two things I include that I don’t see on your list are a breaker bar extension, (1″ x 36″ pipe), and some PB Blaster. Both of which can be instrumental in breaking free those seized steering and suspension nuts if a trail repair was required.

    April 20, 2017 - 7:36 pm Reply
    • tobiasmann

      It is a time for spring cleaning I suppose!

      I find that WD-40 is as affective and more versatile than PB or Liquid Wrench, but my suspension is pretty much new. That may change in a few more years.

      I’ve got a 11-inch and a 22-inch breaker bar. My philosophy is that if it takes more than that to break a nut loose something else is wrong. I will be added a Hi-Lift to my rig before long the handle should work well as a cheater bar if I really needed it.

      April 25, 2017 - 7:53 pm Reply
  • usathroughoureyes

    Looks like you have it covered. Duck tape is critical.

    April 20, 2017 - 8:14 pm Reply
    • tobiasmann

      You can never have enough duct tape!

      April 25, 2017 - 7:54 pm Reply
  • Customs -N- Classics

    Great list and a good reminder. For most of my travels, I need tools as well, but generally only for tire changes, as on the road, I probably will not break something that requires a lot of oil. (Radiator is the exception)
    I may have to do a survey to find out what the most common tools are for guys driving to shows.

    April 24, 2017 - 10:34 am Reply
    • tobiasmann

      I’d be interested in reading a post about what the guys at car shows are carrying. I imagine some of those cars are pretty old and prone to failures. I would certainly make for a good blog post.

      April 25, 2017 - 7:55 pm Reply
  • Mart

    Great list, love the tool roll. Cable ties, never thought if that, they will be added to my kit. Correctly as you say this mobile kit is just to get you fixed temporarily if you have to. ??

    July 28, 2017 - 2:19 am Reply
    • Customs -N- Classics

      Mart, this is where I got the idea for my blog post, originally. He did a great job and I think anyone can take ideas from his list. Your post was a great one as well, with things I hadn’t thought of.

      July 28, 2017 - 9:32 am Reply
      • tobiasmann

        Thanks for the shout-out Dennis. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and helped others start thinking about it. You have no idea how hard it was to find a good vehicle specific list. Do you have any plans for a post like this of your own? Did I miss it? Throw a link to in the comments if you have. I’d love to send my readers your way.

        July 28, 2017 - 10:07 am Reply
    • tobiasmann

      Mart: This is true. It is only a mobile kit, but you’d be surprised how many time’s I’ve been able do maintenance without needing a bigger kit. I have to say I really liked your list and will be adding a few more tools to my kit soon. I need to find a good bag first.

      Cable ties are a must. There is a lot of plastic in modern automobiles and when that snaps, cable ties are your salvation.

      Thanks for the comment Mart. I love where your blog is going by the way.

      July 28, 2017 - 10:04 am Reply

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