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We receive this question more than any other here at Toolmonger, so we decided it’s time to sit down and work out the details: what tools, in what storage medium, make up the perfect car toolkit?

We have lots of ideas, but we want yours as well.  With any luck we’ll all collaborate and create the perfect kit — which we can then point everyone to when they ask us this question.

So, we’ll start things off:

For car kits, we prefer tool bags.  Tool rolls are ideal, but unless you’re willing to take the time to make a custom roll for the exact tools you want to carry, you’ll end up with a mess.  We also think that a basic car tool kit should start with the following:

  • a set of combination wrenches (metric/standard) in standard sizes
  • a medium Phillips and standard screwdriver, or better yet a multi-bit driver where the bits store in the handle
  • a 3/8″-drive socket set (metric/standard) with a ratchet
  • slip-joint pliers
  • needle-nose pliers 
  • one large standard screwdriver (doubling as a pry bar)
  • a utility knife
  • a medium flat file
  • a compact hacksaw
  • electrical tape
  • a small roll of connecting wire
  • a small roll of bailing wire

I’m sure there’s a lot more — and I’ll contribute more once I get a chance to run down and look in my own kits — but if you would, jump in and share your additions/subtractions/better ideas in comments.

 

25 Responses to Reader Question: What Should One Keep In A Car Toolkit?

  1. fjr says:

    I would include a multitool, and possible some hex bits.

    For anyone who drives a Honda Only 8, 10, 12, 14, 15, 17 and 19mm sockets and wrenches are needed.

    I know they are more supplies than tools but I dont feel comfortable without a jug of water/coolant and some oil and power steering fluid.

    I would also include some Duct/Gaffer’s Tape and some good electrical tape.

  2. jeh says:

    Jumper Cables should be a must.

  3. Blind says:

    Haven’t put myself together a proper car toolset yet, but, like fjr suggests, one should consider some more emergency type supplies as well I would think. So on that note, I’d at least mention for consideration:

    1) Jumper cables

    2) Small air compressor or pump

    3) Tire repair kit. Green slime if you’d rather. Yeah, slime should never go into the tires because it’s a bitch to get off, but if you already used your spare and you need to fix a second tire so you can drive somewhere safe before you can get repaired, it’s better then nothing.

    4) if you have a truck, I’d at least toss a tow strap in somewhere incase you need to try and help someone’s car out of a situation. Not like they take up too much space (Chains and ropes would take up more, but i can’t remember which of the three would be preferred)

    4a) folding shovel if you plan on being in mud or sand at all to help try and dig your stuck wheels out.

    5) Small flashlight (a 1~3 watt LED would be perfect I would think) or a large maglight (the 6 d-cell one works great as a club to hit things with)

    Getting back to tools, a breaker bar or (possibly preferrably) a decent length of pipe that will fit over the lug nut wrench and ratchet. Especially with how a lot of the monkeys at the various shops around use the air ratchet wrong you might have some trouble loosening up the bolts when you need to get in at something. it may not be the right approach, but if i’m stuck on the highway trying to fix something so i can get on my way, I want that bolt loosened toot sweet.

  4. Randy says:

    Just adding:

    Zip ties – Plastic and metal
    Leather gloves
    Crescent wrench

  5. Randy says:

    Oh yeah, and some hand cleaner or wipes.

  6. Stuey says:

    How about a description of what some of the tools can be used for. I mean, a flat file?

    Hell, I’d call AAA before I’d figure out what to use a file or hacksaw for.

    Then again, the most extreme repair I’ve ever done on my car was replace my headlight bulbs.

    In addition to some of these tools, I’ve got a hammer (because it was a cheapie from home that I replaced with a better brand), two glow sticks, a gasoline siphon (it came in an all in one car tool kit), a mylar blanket (it came in the same kit), and some powdered graphite lube.

  7. John says:

    Just some small additions to throw in the bag

    Latex or other type of disposable surgical gloves. much easier to throw on a pair before poking around the engine bay/flat tire than trying to scrub out the grime afterwards. easier than hand cleaners.
    Flashlight, with extra (fresh) batteries
    zipties
    duct tape
    wire hanger. the pant hangers with the paper tube are best. makes a quick roadside slimjim. Or use the wire to hold something together.
    small pad of paper (steno note pad)
    pen/pencil
    cheapie disposable camera with flash (in case of accident, document the scene and CYA if it’s the other guy’s fault)

  8. John says:

    Oh, and like others said, jumper cables (or better yet one of the jump packs) are a must, along with a compressor. Spare tires are notoriously under-inflated/flat just when you need to use it.

  9. Steve Thompson says:

    I keep a can of slime and a compressor (I don’t have a spare) and used to keep disposable gloves – but picked up a pair of mechanix gloves on sale for the trunk. I had to fix a radiator hose on the way to a wedding reception once and having an old towel to throw over the engine compartment was helpful too.

  10. The kit I built for my mom is detailed here, back when I posted under the name “Myself”: http://toolmonger.com/2006/10/08/deals-sunday-and-monday-craftsman-tool-sale/

    In my own kit, I carry all of the above, plus a compressor (her van has one built in), a tow strap, more types of tape, a bottle of dry-gas, a beefy first-aid kit (hers is separate), and a pile of bungie cords.

  11. melvin says:

    I carry small spool of stainless MIG welding wire. Compared to baling wire it’s stiffer and it won’t rust, either before or after application. So you don’t get rust marks on your hands/clothes and if it takes you six months to get that muffler welded up the wire is as good as day one.

  12. Jon says:

    6 inches of 2×6 wood if your kit is big enough, in case you’re stuck on a soft surface with a flat tire.

    Years ago I found a wedge-shaped truck box that fit behind the seat of a single cab. I still use it in my Xterra with the shade bar pinning it to the back of the second seat. Works like a charm!

  13. Fred says:

    A disposable camera. They come sealed in plastic and cost $5 or so. This is to get your own documentation of that accident.

  14. shrique says:

    So has anyone done a quick check on how much weight we just added to the trunk of the car? (GRIN)

  15. T says:

    I keep a couple of large black trashbags in mine as well. Don’t take up much space or weight and they work as emergency dropcloths or ponchos, in addition to holding trash.

    I second the crescent wrench, but carry two in case of opposing fasteners.

    On the flashlight side, if you use a AA powered light, get the new lithium batteries. Lithiums will last longer in storage than alkaline. There’s nothing about a broken car having a dead flashlight helps with…

  16. Stuey says:

    Squeegee or towel…

    I just caught up in an out of nowhere torrential downpour. My rear window was covered in sludge and I couldn’t see any details from the rearview mirror. I pulled over and squeegeed it out of the way with the winter brush I didn’t take out of the trunk yet. An old towel or one “borrowed” from a hotel will work too.

  17. TL says:

    Depends entirely on the car we’re talking about. For the MR2 my only “tools” are the standard jack kit, a first aid kit, a duct tape patch, a LEDS flashlight, and a Leatherman. Anything more would take up too much storage space. The truck on the other hand has all of that plus tow straps, tie downs, metric wrenches in standard Toyota sizes (8,10,12,14,17, 19), pliers, zip ties, garbage bags, gloves, and an emergency poncho. If I’m planning on being off pavement the list grows.

  18. Crispy says:

    OMG Ray that was awesome. I hurt from laughing so hard.

  19. Eric G. says:

    As a side note on flashlights, I pull out the batteries in my trunk flashlight and put a piece of electrical tape over one of the ends of a battery, that way if the switch gets accidentally turned on while it’s rattling around in my toolbox in the trunk the batteries don’t get drained.

  20. John says:

    The other John (05/16, 12:41) just described the contents of a kit I picked up at Sam’s Club.

    FJR and TL bring up a good point — if you’re driving a Japanese car, don’t bother with SAE wrenches; anything American before about 1970 can skip the metrics. Theoretically, if you work on your car enough, you’ll learn which sizes you always use and which ones you can leave at home.

  21. Rob says:

    I keep locking pliers (Vice-grips), screwdriver (bits in the handle), jumper cables, duct tape, hose clamps, some shop rags, some rubber gloves, small compressor, flashlight, small 1/4″ ratchet set and plastic grocery bags and a newspaper. It’s a fair amount of stuff but I’ve used everything in there at one time or another either for myself or someone else who was stuck.

  22. Rob says:

    One thing I forgot, I keep a T-style lugwrench with me all the time. I learned that one when my factory once broke while I was changing a flat.

  23. ambush27 says:

    I’m surprised nobody mentioned a fire extinguisher.

  24. fxer says:

    What small compressor are people using in their trunks, the $50 Black & Decker model?

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