What’s in Your Toolbox?

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A garage full of tools  is a beautiful thing, but not everyone has a garage – or the money to spend on a full array of tools.

Or even needs them.

But having a few basic items on hand can be extra-handy when some minor problem crops up – especially when you’re on the road.

For example:

* Basic socket set –

Get a portable, plastic case filled with about a dozen or two of the most commonly used SAE standard and metric sockets, plus a ratchet driver. Look for set that has both SAE and metric sockets, ideally from about 1/4 to 13/16 for the SAEs and 4 mm or so to 16 mm for the metrics. This will cover most automotive, motorcycle and household jobs. Try to find a set that has a few deep well sockets for commonly used sockets such as 3/8, 1/2 and 9/16 (SAE) and 8, 10 an 12 mm for metric. Or add these on your own, separately.

Cost: About $50-$100

* Multi-tool with both types of screwdrivers –

Plus, ideally, a blade (to cut/scrape), scissors and a file.  Swiss Army knives, a Leatherman – etc. These things can be kept in the glovebox, console – or your pants pocket.

Cost: About $30

* A tube of RTV gasket maker –

Also called RTV (for room temperature vulcanizing). You can use RTV for all kinds of things – from fixing a roadside leak  to securing a piece of trim that would otherwise fall off or flap around in the slipstream.

Cost: About $3 for a tube.

* Tape set –

Every tool kit should include a roll of electrical tape and a roll of duct tape. With these two “tools” you can usually at least temporarily crutch almost any problem – from a frayed wire to a side window that won’t close all the way.

Cost: About $10 for a couple rolls of each.

* Two foot section of PVC/conduit pipe –

It’s not really a tool, per se – but it’s still every handyman’s best friend. A two or three foot section of PVC/conduit plastic pipe can be used to apply extra leverage to a breaker bar or ratchet handle in order to free a seized up or super tight bolt. Just slip the pipe over the handle of the ratchet/breaker bar – and turn. Remember to get one with an inside diameter that’s larger than your socket wrench’s handle.

Cost: Free (scrap from a plumbing job) or a couple of bucks if you buy a section at the hardware store.

* JB Weld –

This stuff is literally miraculous. It’s a super-strength epoxy “cold weld” that comes in two tubes you mix together, then apply to your broken item. Once dry, it can be drilled and tapped, exposed to oil, grease and motor fuels and subjected to temperatures as high as 500 degrees without failing. Works on porous and non-porous surfaces and cleans up with water. Sets up in about 4-6 hours and is fully cured within 24 hours. With it you can fix almost anything, anywhere, anytime. See: http://www.jbweld.net/products/jbweld.php

Cost: about $5 at any hardware store.

Toss in a pair of needle nose pliers, an adjustable wrench and a small plastic bottle containing an assortment of drywall screws (useful for many jobs), 16D nails and wire nuts in various sizes. Add a spray can of rust penetrant (PB-40 is exceptional), WD-40 (lubricates, dissipates moisture and protects metal surfaces).

You’re now prepared to deal with – and fix – almost anything, anywhere, anytime.


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