Essential tools and spares on tour

By: Marco Antonello, Photography by: Offroad Images

When heading off, carrying the right tools and spares is essential.

Essential tools and spares on tour
"Choosing what to take can be hard, because you can't cover every potential situation"

EVERY TIME YOU set off on a 4WD trip, whether for a few days or a few months, it is essential that you carry the right spare parts and tools. The type and amount of tools and spares will vary depending on where you are going and how long you plan on staying. For instance, a weekend trip close to civilisation would require very different equipment to a crossing of the Simpson Desert.

You also want to avoid overloading your vehicle, because I can guarantee that the person who takes a spare leaf spring, axle and shocks will be the person who breaks them, simply because they are carrying too much weight. Choosing what to take can be hard, because you can't cover every potential situation, so you have to think about which breakdown is most likely to occur. For example, getting a puncture is more common than breaking an axle, so carrying a puncture repair kit is a better choice than carrying a spare axle. That's not to say you'll never break an axle, just that it's less likely.

Considering this, and the fact that when travelling space is always at a premium, your best bet is to carry things with multiple uses, such as wire. Say you find yourself with a broken leaf spring - using some wire and a splint you can tie the spring back together until you can find a replacement part. It can also be used to hold parts in place when a nut or a bolt fails. WD-40 is another multipurpose item, waterproofing under-bonnet components and lubricating stubborn nuts and bolts.

The next time you get your vehicle serviced and your mechanic replaces components like your fan, alternator and power steering belt, ask to keep the old ones as spares for your trips. In the case of a petrol engine, keep old spark plugs as spares too.

Depending on your vehicle, your car may use up to three types of oil - engine oil, differential oil and manual gearbox/ automatic transmission oil. Carrying three different types of oil will take up a lot of space, but in an emergency engine oil can fill in for all these applications (except the auto transmission oil), until you can get the proper oil.

Your vehicle's cooling system is vulnerable and it isn't uncommon to hear of radiators being damaged by rocks or sticks piercing holes in the radiator itself or its associated hoses. It would be ideal to have some spare hoses, but once again, taking a spare for every hose your vehicle uses is a bulky proposition - a bottle of Radiator Stop Leak, rescue tape and epoxy putty should be enough to get you going again until a more permanent fix can be found. The great thing about epoxy putty is that it can also fix a hole in your fuel tank, while rescue tape can fix a hole in your exhaust pipe or muffler.

When it comes to tool selection, there are some great kits on the market for 4WDers. They come in blow-moulded cases, so everything is organised and has a place, making it easy to see if anything is missing. You should also take some time and work out which size nuts and bolts your vehicle uses; for example, the most common sizes on a Toyota are 10, 12, 14, 17 and 19mm nuts and bolts, with larger sizes being 21 and 24mm. Those sizes apply to most Japanese vehicles, unlike Land Rovers, which use imperial sizes. Also, having a socket that fits your diff plugs and spark plugs is a good idea, as is having a good size breaker bar.

When in the bush you are normally out in convoy with a few other vehicles. Sharing the load between the cars will mean you can take more tools and spares, instead of doubling or tripling up on the basics. Having other hands and brains around will also help if things go wrong.

Getting the balance right between too much and too little is essential to 4WD travel. Because as much as we hope nothing bad will happen, the harsh reality is that anything could happen - and so, as the Scouts say, 'Be Prepared'.


Combination spanners
Allen keys
Breaker bar
Soldering iron and solder
Spare electrical wire
Jumper leads
Welding rods
Rescue tape
Epoxy putty
Cable ties
Gaffer tape
Engine oil
Engine belts
Radiator hoses
Tyre repair kit
Air compressor
12V light

Source: Camper Trailer Australia #42