Tool Overkill?

Herbie

Rendezvous Conspirator
So I thought I'd start a discussion to see if people might want to admit (or at least be open to the idea) that some of us carry more tools than might be necessary.

I was very inspired by Jonathan Hanson's writings on his tool kit back when I got started in Overlanding, and I've definitely obeyed the rule of "If I use a tool from the shop to work on the rig, the tool gets moved (or duplicated) into the rig". The problem, now, of course, is that I probably have somewhere north of 50lbs of tools in the van.

This year I've been putting the van on a diet (in a lot of places), and it's time to address the tool kit. I'm hoping to use a more focused set of criteria for evaluating which tools to keep. In its current configuration and use, my rig is basically a short-term camper, in North America. I know we all fancy ourselves world travelers, and if I were planning to do Morocco to Capetown or something, then obviously I'd need a more comprehensive tools (and spares) package, but the reality is that right now this rig gets used for 3-day to 2-week trips, with a mix of highway and soft-road travel. No rock crawling, no solo treks across the Rub' al Khali. More than that, I need to realize I'm basically driving a Minivan with pretensions to greatness - over-preparing actually causes it's own set of problems because I don't have the payload budget of the "big boys".

Of the myriad tools I've carried in this rig for the last 10 years (holy crap I've had this van 10 years!), the tools I've actually used in the field comes down to a shockingly short list. (Multi-bit screwdriver, a few combo wrenches, side cutters, pliers, snap knife...) Obviously I'm not going to remove every tool that's never been used - a lot of the stuff that's there is there for the reasonable "what if" scenarios - things I might reasonably be expected to face (and tackle) on my own. But let's face it, in the places I'm going to be traveling in the foreseeable future, the tool to fix a torn CV boot is duct-tape and zip-ties, followed by the swift application of a cell-phone and a credit card.

I promise I will re-spec and re-pack the tool kit if the mission changes, but until then, I'm keen to knock the tool kit down by about 10lbs, at least. First pass was to eliminate the majority of the SAE tools. The van is metric, aside from a few SAE fasteners added when I built the new bench/bed conversion, etc.

Next pass is to re-evaluate the "nice to have" vs. "need to have" and the redundancies therein. I'm currently carrying a full set of metric 3/8" sockets, plus 3/8" deep sockets, plus a full set of ratcheting combo wrenches. (Plus some overlap at both ends in 1/2" and 1/4" drive.) It's super convenient to be able to reach for the easiest way to undo a fastener, but I have to wonder how many jobs require one or the other that couldn't just be done slower with a different tool. For example, I'm 95% certain the only reason I have a 1/2" drive 21mm socket is for snugging up the leaf spring hanger bolts on the rear suspension, which is a job just as easily done with the 21mm combo wrench. (Which is also only in the kit for that purpose, I suspect.) For the smallest fasteners, I have 1/4" short and some 3/8" short and deep sockets, (and again the ratcheting combo wrenches). Probably don't need 4 different ways to turn a 10mm bolt, and I'm positive that there are no 5mm or 7mm fasteners anywhere, so having the "full set" on some stuff seems silly.

So my current plan is to at least try to identify redundancies and pull stuff out.

After that, I want to re-evaluate my jacking situation. Years ago, I switched to a bottle jack + Bogert Safe-Jack kit, plus the "jack stand" kit. There's a lot to like about that kit, but it's heavy stuff. I've since realized that with an axle-tube adapter I can do all of the same lifts with the factory scissor jack. I'm questioning whether the 20-30 lbs of bottle-jack-and-iron is justified vs. the factory jack.

What other methods can we use to identify crucial tools vs. "nice to have"? Any strategies for avoiding the "every tool in my shop eventually ends up in my van" issue? Is there any way to ID all the factory fastener sizes without going through the vehicle and trying everything? I have a digital copy of the FSM, but its up to use an old virtual machine and it hasn't run right since Windows 7 was a thing...
 

billiebob

Well-known member
"If I use a tool from the shop to work on the rig, the tool gets moved (or duplicated) into the rig"
hahaha...... oh wow !!!

no, no, no

The idea is to build and maintain a rig to be bulletproof and only take enough tools to jury rig an unforeseen breakdown.

wow what an expense, doubling the tool budget. This is so wrong. Add the miles of the overland trip between major cities offering services. And get that service done when you get there.

Maintenance is so much cheaper than on the road repairs. This is backwards thinking, reverse intelligence, Total lack of foresight. Just WOW.
 

billiebob

Well-known member
the tools I've actually used in the field comes down to a shockingly short list
exactly

On eliminating the tiniest tools, if they fit in the tool box, why not. I agree tho 1/2" drive is overkill in any under 10K# rig. I have a 1/2" bar, extension, socket for my lug nuts, everything else is 3/8". I WISH the manufacturers would list all the fasteners on a vehicle so we could only carry them. I carry metric.SAE because with a Jeep, who knows?

And I carry tools intended for home repairs cuz often trips involve fixing stuff at my kids homes. But still I carry 1 3 drawer tool box cuz it fits.

trlr 019.jpeg
 
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IdaSHO

IDACAMPER
hahaha...... oh wow !!!

no, no, no

The idea is to build and maintain a rig to be bulletproof and only take enough tools to jury rig an unforeseen breakdown.

wow what an expense, doubling the tool budget. This is so wrong. Add the miles of the overland trip between major cities offering services. And get that service done when you get there.

Maintenance is so much cheaper than on the road repairs. This is backwards thinking, reverse intelligence, Total lack of foresight. Just WOW.
Unless your life is on the road, and isn't broken up into trips....


I don't roll with a tool for every possibility, but I do roll with a (complete) basic set of sockets & end wrenches, specific to the vehicle,
along with any vehicle specific tools that might be needed for routine maintenance or common items.
 

billiebob

Well-known member
Unless your life is on the road, and isn't broken up into trips....


I don't roll with a tool for every possibility, but I do roll with a (complete) basic set of sockets & end wrenches, specific to the vehicle,
along with any vehicle specific tools that might be needed for routine maintenance or common items.
absolutely but look at what I was replying to.

"If I use a tool from the shop to work on the rig, the tool gets moved (or duplicated) into the rig"
 

nitro_rat

On a Suburban Excursion
If you have a matching spare tire make sure you have an adequate jack and something to remove lug nuts with. I carry a spare serpentine belt and whatever tool fits the tensioner. Maybe some basics but I don't really carry much. Sometimes not even what I listed. If I'm expecting something to fail I might carry tools for that. I'll buy a cheap socket set at a parts store if I have to change something in the field. Got to get to the store to get the part anyway. It will be something you didn't bring the tool for anyway...
 

Herbie

Rendezvous Conspirator
hahaha...... oh wow !!!

no, no, no

The idea is to build and maintain a rig to be bulletproof and only take enough tools to jury rig an unforeseen breakdown.

wow what an expense, doubling the tool budget. This is so wrong. Add the miles of the overland trip between major cities offering services. And get that service done when you get there.

Maintenance is so much cheaper than on the road repairs. This is backwards thinking, reverse intelligence, Total lack of foresight. Just WOW.
Well, you certainly invented a whole backstory there to go with the original premise. Obviously the rig is maintained. My general lack of mechanical field issues over 10 years of ownership was built right into my initial post. Nowhere did I say "double the tool budget", the only things that have been duplicated into the van are items like screwdrivers, pliers, etc. where I'd lament a trip out to the driveway if I needed to turn a screw in the kitchen. The other tools that currently live in the van are either the special tools (like the cut-down allen wrenches needed to service the blind nuts on the roof rails), or the aforementioned sets of wrenches, sockets, etc.

As for moving over the tools that I use to work on the rig - the point was to be able to handle all the same jobs I do at home - the toolkit was setup like I needed to be able to tackle these tasks without assistance, since we almost always travel solo. Obviously I'm now addressing the overkill of the situation - I'M THE ONE WHO STARTED THE THREAD. Do you take a dump on your friends when they ask for advice too?

Bob, you can scoot right on out of this thread.

For everyone else, I'll shoot a photo of the current kit tomorrow. It's definitely less than I've seen some carry, but as I've said, probably more than I need or should realistically carry for the current type of trips.


If you have a matching spare tire make sure you have an adequate jack and something to remove lug nuts with. I carry a spare serpentine belt and whatever tool fits the tensioner. Maybe some basics but I don't really carry much. Sometimes not even what I listed. If I'm expecting something to fail I might carry tools for that. I'll buy a cheap socket set at a parts store if I have to change something in the field. Got to get to the store to get the part anyway. It will be something you didn't bring the tool for anyway...
Yep, fullsize spare. I do a 5-tire rotation which helps keep the winch happy and lubed. As I said, currently carrying a bottle jack and Bogert jack and jackstand kit - considering just swapping back to the factory scissor jack and welding up an axle adapter for it. My only issue with depending on buying tools on the road was that the two times I've used the wrenches, both were more-than-walking-distance from the road and one of them was a suspension issue that really did need attention prior to driving further. But you're central point stands - under most circumstances, Murphy assures me I'll be needing whichever one tool I don't bring.
 
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Verkstad

Raggarkung
Along with some misc. hardware parts. I only bring tools to fix things what may fail and reasonably able to fix roadside.
For example, Rodbearing repair, no.
Fuel clog or starter connection, yes...
Along with is regular maintenance and condition inspection, things dont go wrong unexpectedly.
Further, Things like hose clamps & brackets. Make effort to position them for easier access with non optimal tools rather than cleaner appearance.
Another example, I changed my fuel system bleeders to be opened with wrench, pliers or flat screwdriver.
I keep alot of spare nuts,washers,bolts threaded into things what normally wont need anything there.
 
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IdaSHO

IDACAMPER
Yep, fullsize spare. I do a 5-tire rotation which helps keep the winch happy and lubed.
As do we.

And doing a 5-tire rotation on the road I've found it actually requires LESS gear and weight than a typical 4-tire rotation.

Drop the spare, then jack up the corner the spare goes (typically R-F). Swap tires, then move to the next corner.

You can do a 5-tire rotation with a single bottle jack. No jack-stand or second jack needed.

We still carry the OEM scissor jack though, just in case ;)
 

Latetom

Observer
Does anyone believe the tools and spare parts you carry depend on where you are driving and for how long you will be gone?

We drove Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Nepal, India, Italy and other European countries with a side trip to Tunisia and the 4Runner is currently parked in Morocco. Most of this driving was done between June 2015 and Nov 2018 over about 30 months. Six days before our flight back to Barcelona my wife's doctor called to say ..... We didn't make it back to Spain until August 2019. And you all can guess what happen in March of 2020 while we were in Morocco.

We carry a basic set of tools, I'am no mechanic and am not capable of fixing my transmission or much of anything else that requires more than a screw driver or duct tape. The tools are for someone who can help me. I carry several spare hoses, belts, an oil filter, wiper blades, etc. Surprising the little things you need because even though we drive a Toyota some of the parts are English measurement parts. After Morocco we were going to drive to South Africa so I added an alternator to my spares.

Like others I look forward to seeing what others believe are a reasonable set of tools to carry, am always looking for ways to reduce the weight. In Europe more than once it cost me over $100 for 19+ gals of gas.
 

IdaSHO

IDACAMPER
Your abilities as a roadside/trail mechanic certainly come into play here....

Many are better off with a god cellular signal than a wrench.

The rest of us, we will do what we can to simply continue motoring on, or at least enough to limp it to the next town for proper parts,
and at the very last straw, limp it or have it towed to what most closely resembles a shop and mechanic.

For much of our travels in the PNW, a breakdown of any kind that you cannot address yourself is likely a REAL situation, especially off the pavement and beyond a cell signal.

Mechanical know-how or not, I suggest whoever you are, and whatever you drive, to become as familiar as you can with your vehicle.
This will at least give you a fighting chance to get back to civilization safely without too much hassle.
 

Latetom

Observer
IdaSHO, you are correct in that I wish I had much much better mechanic skills. However, my wife and I both 65+ at the time of our departure didn't want to spend the time learning to be more mechanically efficient. We wanted to get on the road before we died.

We do carry an InReach with us. And yes, we have gone many hours to more than a day or two without cell phone service.

So far have only dealt with a broken brake line - very slow two hour drive, mostly downhill, to a resort that had helicopter rides and therefore a helicopter mechanic. For cash directly to him we were good to go and had a brake shop and later a Toyota dealer who said they couldn't improve on his fix. Several tire punctures. Over heated brakes in the mountains of eastern India - a 10%+ incline/decline is no big deal in these mountains - and for several hours of driving not just 15 minutes. I might add when driving in India we only counted the hairpin curves I had to back up to complete. Lost our roof top table between southern Australia and Darwin on a dirt highway/road -- my #11 hiking shoe stamped the table back into shape and tie wire held it in place until a shop in Nepal provided a better fix.

I do have our 4Runner looked at by Toyota dealerships on a regular basis: Australia, tried in India but they said no because it was a 4Runner, Italy, and Spain. Also used mechanic shops in Australia, India, Nepal, Spain and one or two other countries. Got lucky and when our alternator died we had just pulled into an underground garage in Budapest -- getting this fix by a Toyota dealership is another story and why I have added an alternator to my spare part stock.

Please understand I agree with you and wish I had the talent of a mechanic that you and many others have but I don't. I wish I could have spent the required time and had the skills to do all the up grades to our 4Runner we had done. But working with my hands is not a skill I possess nor do we feel I have the time to learn. Instead we will take our chances on the open road -- no matter the condition of the road or its location -- and hope for no trouble or a rescue by InReach.
 
@ Latetom - reminds me of the story my cousin tells:

"...sometimes, when i just want to go into a restaurant and have a steak dinner, i really don't want the waiter to explain all the parts of a cow."
 

BritKLR

Kapitis Indagatoris
A simple approach to dealing with what tools to bring along can be as easy as picking a nice weekend, park your vehicle in the driveway, pull out a good selection of handtools, start at the front bumper and work to the rear bumper touching each nut, bolt, fasterner. Determine which ones can be turned by the same sized tools (eg: screwdriver, etc..) and which ones are "close enough" (sae wrench on the bolt head and a metric wrench on the nut. If your vehicle has both SAE/Metric fasterners) Dont forget the non-standard stuff on all your bolted on accessories. Add some vice grips for clamping off brake lines, fluid lines, hydraulic lines. Hammer to help loosen those rusty bolts. Once done, return the tools that don't fit to the garage and buildout your travel kit with the ones that do fit. Dont forget the duct tape, bailing wire, elec tape, zipties and misc small tubes of lube and liquid weld. Cheers!
 
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