If you have a mechanical issue with your car or lorry, a few tools can mean the difference between being stranded for hours or being able to get going again with a few minutes of effort. You don’t need a huge number of tools and they won’t break the bank, either.
Cars and lorries
Puncture repair foam
Remember to check your spare tyre’s pressure every couple of months if you do have one, but not every car does. A can of puncture repair foam can get you to a place where you can do a proper fix. You’ll need two or more cans if you have a lorry tyre to fill. Read the instructions on the product as it may not be suitable for supporting very heavy loads. Keep your speed down once it’s filled with foam until you can find a place to do a proper repair.
Take some Philips and flathead screwdrivers of various sizes. Flathead screwdrivers are useful for prying things open as well as tightening screws.
Things that aren’t tightened with screws will be tightened with nuts and bolts. A socket set can be used for those as well as for changing spark plugs.
Pliers can be used to grip items where you need more leverage and to grab things that have fallen down the sides of a seat, for example. Some long nose and stub nose pliers are good to have.
Some kind of multi-purpose knife with folding blades is convenient as they often have additional tools, too. At minimum you should have a box-cutter type knife.
Tyre iron/wrench plus jack
To change a tyre you’ll need to undo all the nuts, so you’ll need a tyre iron. On a lorry, you should be using plastic wheel nut indicators to let you know if they are coming loose. You shouldn’t be tightening wheel nuts without a proper torque wrench, though, and you should only do it if you’ve been trained.
Rags or paper towels
Don’t bring any grime back into your vehicle’s cabin or spread it over your steering wheel and controls. Wipe your hands if you’ve been touching anything oily or dirty.
Everything on the outside and in the engine bay of your vehicle will be dirty. Car drivers can keep a pair of disposable rubber gloves in the glovebox (that’s the original purpose of it!) while lorry drivers might have specialist gloves of leather and/or rubber to help with the requirements of pre-trip inspections.
You might never need them yourself, but you’re bound to come across someone who does. They enable you to start your vehicle from another vehicle. Lorries will need ones that are more heavy-duty.
If you frequently drive in remote areas or at night, an emergency kit with some resources (foil blanket, medical supplies, water, etc) could mean the difference between life and death, particularly if you’re in the high country and it’s cold.
Cold weather supplies
Something to keep you warm if you break down in cold weather is a good idea – some kind of blanket is ideal, or a spare jumper. If you’re driving when it’s icy, anti-freeze, a deicer and a snow shovel are the basics. Snow chains and traction mats are options if you’re on roads that don’t get gritted or cleared regularly.
An emergency triangle and hi-vis vest will alert other drivers to your predicament. A head torch is very useful if you need to search for things at night, whether that’s in the boot or in the engine bay, or if you need to walk to get help.
Not many vehicles carry a fire extinguisher nowadays as the risk is very low, but it would depend on what you’re using your vehicle for as to whether you should carry one.
Tyre pressure gauge
Many petrol stations will have a pressure gauge you can use, but if you need to check in remote areas, a tyre pressure gauge is what you need. You can also use a tread depth indicator to let you know when you need to replace your tyres.
As you’ll be doing a pre-trip inspection and you’re likely to be carrying heavy loads, there are a few other tools which will help.
Puncture repair kit
With large lorries there are sometimes different tyres on the trailer, the drive axles and the steering axles, so which one do you carry a spare for? Large puncture repair kits are available, if you don’t want to or can’t use foam, but you’ll need a source of air, so a compressor is handy. Carrying a spare is dead weight.
Rubber mallet or metal bar
You’ll need one to test your tyres when doing your pre-trip inspection. Listen for tyres that sound lower in pitch when you hit them as they might be slightly flat.
These are helpful to keep chains tidy and also to secure things in the cab.
Pre-trip inspections should pick up any issue with fluids, but if you want to be really safe, have some spare oil, washer fluid and coolant.
This is a long metal bar that can be used to tighten chain lever binders or twitches. They’re used less frequently now, but this bar is good for prying things.
It’s good practice to chock your trailer when you are being loaded.