The important thing to bear in mind is that the quality and selection of tools you take along is significantly more important than the quantity. Chosen carefully, you can reduce the weight and size of your tool kit without compromising its effectiveness. Another point to bear in mind is the means of carrying your tools. Although a macho-looking red metal tool box with ball-bearing runners and chrome hinges will look impressive, it will be very noisy as all those tools clatter around while you are on the move – and very heavy, too. A better alternative is an old holdall – it can be squashed into the corner of a locker, will deaden the sound of the tools, and weigh next to nothing compared to a box.
So what tools should you take?
WD40 – A can of this is seen much like the ‘magic sponge’ on the football pitch: a sort of cure-all; and that’s pretty much the case. It’s ideal for sorting out seized fixings and stopping squeaks. But it’s excellent for electrical work, too. If you find a gungy electrical connection, a quick clean with some emery cloth and a squirt of WD40 is usually enough to sort things out.
Spanners – The secret is not to take a full set, which might well consist of seven or eight pieces and weigh a couple of kilos – there are not that many times that you are likely to need a spanner in the course of general maintenance of your motorhome. Leave most of your spanners at home; you’ll need the one for changing the gas bottles, and a small one (typically 12 or 13mm) for removing the battery, but little else. Pack a small adjustable spanner in case you have a loose nut here or there, but unless you’re going to carry out serious mechanical work, there’s little call for a spanner.
Screwdrivers – As with spanners, there’s little point in taking a whole load of screwdrivers with you when, in all probability, two or three would suffice. One large flat-bladed screwdriver will double usefully as a pry-bar for removing wheel trims and generally ‘persuading’ troublesome bits and bobs. A regular Phillips and a flat-bladed screwdriver will be good enough for general work but put a small electrical screwdriver in, too, for those fiddly little jobs. If you have a modern motorhome, buy a couple of torx-headed screwdrivers for removing interior trim: T20 and T25 sizes are very popular in Fiat and Peugeot models.
Torque Wrench – A torque wrench may seem a touch extravagant but it is essential for checking that your wheel nuts are tight. Throw away your standard wheel brace and replace it with a large, good quality, torque wrench equipped with the correct socket for securing your wheel nuts. It will also help ensure that you do not over tighten the nuts and damage them.
PTFE Tape – PTFE stands for Polytetrafluoroethylene… otherwise known as Teflon! This thread-sealing tape is ideal whatever problem you encounter, be it a plumbing or engine leak. Simply wrap the stricken thread in tape, retighten the fitting and there’s a fair chance your problem will be solved. PTFE tape costs pennies to buy and weighs almost nothing.
Utility Knife – There is no substitute for one of these when you need a blade to remove something. The knife is an old design – neither clever nor sophisticated, but it really works well. The cheapest models cost as little as £1, but put a good blade in the handle and it will be as good and effective as the best.
Insulating Tape – Quite simply, a must have. If a wire’s insulation gets damaged, or you need to join two wires, wrapping any bare wire with insulating tape will prevent trouble in the future. A length of wire – A piece of wire is always useful to have around. If wire gets cut or damaged, you can always bridge the break with a piece you have to hand. As you never know the particular use the wire is likely to be put to, it is best to opt for a heavy gauge. In an emergency, if you end up using a wire which is too thick it will be unlikely to cause a problem, but if the wire is too thin, it will heat up and, in extreme cases, could even cause a fire.
Cable Ties – These are great for get-you-home repairs. You can use them to hold all sorts of items in place: starter motors, air filters, wheel trims, wing mirrors and the like. Cable ties cost just pence to buy, are virtually indestructible and even a large handful of them weigh next to nothing.
Pliers – A simple pair of pliers can be as cheap as £3 or £4. They can be used for cutting and stripping wire, gripping screws with broken heads and you can always use your pliers when all your normal tools have been defeated.
Engine Oil – Your motorhome is likely to have a pint or so of water on board for emergency topping up, but many owners travel without engine oil. Keeping the oil level correct is simple and essential maintenance.
Length of Rope / Strong String – The number of possible uses for a length of rope is endless and you really should have some with you. Whether it’s for tethering a piece of luggage, something which has broken, or just providing extra security for your bike rack, it’s never a bad idea to have some on board.
Electrical Terminals and a pair of purpose-made Crimping Pliers – Wires and terminals can break due to a number of factors such as vibration, carelessness and corrosion, so having a means of joining wires or replacing fractured terminals is a must. Electrical terminals cost pennies and can quickly fix many simple electrical problems.
A Piece of Rag – A ready supply of rag is invaluable. A clean rag is good for dusting the dashboard and wiping the windows, a manky one, kept under the bonnet, is handy for wiping the dipstick, mopping up oil and screen-wash spills and general dirty work.
Foot Pump and Tyre Pressure Gauge – Tyres are not a fit-and-forget part, so a pressure gauge is a must, to guard against under-inflation. If your tyres are soft, a foot pump is just the job for getting them back up to pressure.
Motorhome Insurance – make sure that you check your insurance cover before setting off. Is your policy due for renewal?