Journal: Assembling a Travel Tool Kit for Your Classic Car

Assembling a Travel Tool Kit for Your Classic Car

By Revere Jones
January 30, 2014
21 comments

Photography by David Marvier for Petrolicious

“Beautiful car. Where are you from?” asked the attendant as I got out of my car. Oregon is still a full-serve state, and I knew I was going to have to show him where the filler is on my vintage Porsche. “LA,” I replied. “That’s a long way in an old car! Aren’t you worried about breaking down?” “Not really,” I could say, reasonably sure that karma wasn’t going to smite me for hubris upon start up.

The truth is that I had thought quite a bit about what might fail on this trip and had a well sorted tool kit, a few spare parts, and this is a car I’ve had a “relationship” with. Like a good majority of vintage car owners I do a lot of my own work so I have a pretty good idea of what might give me trouble.

Sure you have that near perfect set of factory tools in a reproduction pouch acquired gradually by perusing swap meets and eBay. And they are cool trunk candy at your local concourse or cars & coffee meet up. But one of the reasons you own a vintage car is to drive it, not just to park it alongside others and ogle.

However, you probably don’t commute in your classic or use it to run errands. You take it to club meets a couple hundred miles away. You find the nearest section of twisties and play a bit. Or maybe, like me, you think that touring up Highway 1 from Los Angeles, California to Portland, Oregon (about 1000 mi/1600km), staying as close to the coast as possible, is a great way to spend a week in your car. There is a pure joy in long trips with your vintage beauty. The journey happens at a more visceral level than it does in the family cruiser, with the windows up, AC on, stereo blasting and everyone distracted by media of one sort or another, roaring up the interstate at a judicious nine miles an hour over the limit.

So leave that factory kit on a shelf in the garage and think about what you are taking with you. Some of this may be painfully obvious and some a little less so. Let’s put together a tool kit that works for travel without adding too much weight or eating all of the available trunk space.

First off, think about the journey ahead: are you just going on a weekend trip a couple hours from home and maybe only a couple hundred miles total or are you going on a longer trip and covering a several thousand miles?

Screwdrivers, yeah I know, “Duh!” But a couple of decent size flat and phillips are just the thing for tightening that loose fuel line hose clamp. I also like to carry a small screwdriver set, one where three or four different bits fit in the handle (sometimes you need to fix your glasses).

1/4-inch drive sockets, this may seem counterintuitive but a set of sockets in ¼ “ drive will cover most simple things you are apt to have to deal with, battery terminals and so on. They pack well, but make sure you have several lengths of extensions. I also carry a flexible extension and a screwdriver style handle, (the flexible extension does well for reaching that bottom hose clamp). You may want to include some ¼ drive bits in several types of drives like Torx.

3/8-inch drive sockets, and a ratchet, that fit specific things on your car. Try to keep these as specific as possible: always a sparkplug-sized socket and maybe a deep socket the size of your lug nuts and a 3/8 to ¼ adapter plus an extension or two. Check access to the most difficult sparkplug to reach to see if you need a universal joint to for removal. If so, pack one.

Allen wrenches, a nice folding set will cover most of your needs here.

Ignition wire pliers, allows you to grab the plug end and not the wire when pulling a spark-plug wire. You don’t want to ruin a wire by pulling the wire out of the connector.

Breaker bar, a 24-inch breaker bar and a socket that fits your lug nuts will make changing a tire much easier. Plus, it’s a heavy 24-inch bar, not a bad self defense item!

Tire gauge, yeah I know, another no-brainer. Might as well have a can of Fix-a-Flat or slime too and I frequently carry small 12v compressor.

Water-pump pliers, I really like the 10-inch Knipex pliers (they’re also good for pulling the shower head at your hotel and clearing grit blocking its flow).

Needle nose pliers, these can also be the electricians style that have crimping capability. If like me, you don’t go anywhere without your Leatherman tool, you’re already covered here!

Pliers or Vice Grips, or both. I do like to have a set of vice grips in my kit.

Wrenches, a few open/box combo wrenches in very specific sizes. For instance, if you have a German car the majority will be the odd sizes plus 10mm. On a Japanese car do not forget to pack a 12mm and you probably won’t need a whole set but again if there is something very specific on your car make sure its in your kit. I will take a three inch 1/4-20 bolt, a couple of fender washers and a wing nut and stack my box end wrenches on it washer on each end and spin the wing nut on. Keeps them neatly in one place.

Wiring, always pack a sharp set of diagonal cutters and a small crimper/stripper, along with a handful of crimp connectors and a roll of good electrical tape. I also pack one of those inexpensive test lights that has a sharply pointed probe on one end and a wire with an alligator clip on the other, invaluable for chasing power problems!

Utility knife, all the hardware stores now have those cool folding utility knives. They are supremely useful when dealing with fuel lines or snack food packaging. You can use it to make a plastic bottle into a funnel if you need to top oil or water and want to keep spills minimized and you can avoid carrying a funnel that way.

Jumper cables, even though your battery is less than a year old take a set with you. It’s much easier to get a jump if you have cables and who knows you might make a new friend if you can jump-start their car!

Gloves, a pair of mechanics type and a pair of leather truckers style from the hardware store. You can always throw in a few sets of nitrile gloves too.

Tool bag, find a nice small bag for your tool kit the idea is to keep it compact and concise to your car. Use your imagination here: I use a bag from an army-navy surplus store but have a friend that found an old Louis Vuitton bag at a yard sale and used it until he found out it how much it was worth!

While it’s nearly impossible to cover everything, this should be a good starting point for your travel tool kit. Keep in mind any special tool that your car requires. As for spare parts we will discuss that in a future article.

Join the Conversation
Related

Leave a Reply

21 Comments on "Assembling a Travel Tool Kit for Your Classic Car"

avatar
Photo and Image Files
 
 
 

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Tracy Lloyd
Tracy Lloyd
1 year 8 months ago

It is really beneficial to carry tool kit along with you while going on a long trip. At least small problems can be shorted out on own if it occurs in car. It happens that tiny problems like fitting wobbly bolts, changing tires, fixing headlight bulbs etc. can easily be addressed if you have little bit knowledge of repairing. In normal days, one can simply contact any nearest dealer (i.e. allusedparts) or mechanic for repair but during the trip it is not such easy.

Dulcimer Nielsen
Dulcimer Nielsen
2 years 7 months ago

It’s a 1968 Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon. Original owner, original engine, never rebuilt. 410,000 miles, seven times across the USA. So many people come up to us and ask about the car that, due to popular demand, its life story is now an Amazon eBook and is titled “A Ford Affair –The Car That Wouldn’t Die”. After only a week on Amazon’s website it was already #6 on their classic car e-Book best-seller list. And yes, we drive it on daily errands and everywhere else. It is our only car. Comments welcome.

Dulcimer Nielsen
dulcimern@gmail.com

Martin McAllen
Martin McAllen
2 years 7 months ago

Always carry a cheap multi meter, it might not be able to fix the problem, but it’ll certainly help you in finding out what the problem is. The ultimate tool these days seems to be a good mobile phone! If in doubt phone for assistance.

JR Nichols
JR Nichols
2 years 9 months ago

For small screws that you need a jewelers screwdriver I like the one from Micro Mart –

http://www.micromark.com/5-piece-Screwdriver-Set,7897.html

For a tarp I carry something that just might save my bacon on a cold winter day…..it’s a tarp, it’s a blanket, it’s a poncho –

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002CQUA4G/ref=oh_details_o01_s01_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Paul Steel
Paul Steel
2 years 9 months ago
When I went to view and test my triumph, I noticed a nice full set of original tools and spares in the boot in the spare tyre well, including overalls, gloves, warning triangle, fire extinguisher, plugs, bulbs, even a spare electronic ignition, so I was lucky that all of this was included, but when I collected the car a week later, the boot space was full of boxes that the seller hadn’t shown me, in there was everything from a hub puller to a spare set of lamps, an alternator, gasket set, various screws, nuts and bolts, air filters, books,… Read more »
Steven Bruneel
Steven Bruneel
2 years 9 months ago

Not actual tools but necessary:
A small collection of flashlights for those after dark emergencies.
A plastic tarp for when the ground under your car isn’t a pleasant place to be flat on your back.
A square piece of thick plywood for when every crank of the jack just sinks it deeper into the ground.
An umbrella for when it is pouring rain half way between Billings and Miles City, Montana, you seem to be the tallest thing in three counties and you need a timeout to recapture the humor of the moment.

James Irmiger
James Irmiger
2 years 9 months ago

Best thing my dad ever advised…wrap your tool kit in a pair of coveralls! You never know where you’ll be when you have to go crawling around under your car, plus, they muffle the sounds of the tools rattling around 🙂

JR Nichols
JR Nichols
2 years 9 months ago
I’m working up a tool roll also and I have bought several that I have returned for various reasons. So far the best one I’ve found is the Bucket Boss 07004 Duckwear Tool Roll – http://www.amazon.com/Bucket-Boss-Brand-07004-Duckwear/dp/B00004T82P/ref=pd_sim_hi_4 For a smaller roll that might go on a motorcycle or a small car with no boot the Roadgear Sport Touring Tool Pouch – http://roadgear.com/sport-touring-tool-pouch-p-46.html Canvas rolls for wrenches can be found at Woodcraft.com and search “Deluxe Canvas Tool Roll” They have rolls between 25 – 11 pockets. Small canvas bags for smaller tools by Arsenal but I didn’t like their canvas wrench roll… Read more »
Jim Mitchell
Jim Mitchell
2 years 9 months ago

Not really a tool, per se, but a necessity for any old car IMO – a fire extinguisher. That smoke coming out from under the hood can turn into a roaring blaze quickly and a fire extinguisher that is quickly accessible can be the difference between a few hundred dollars in repairs and a total-loss car-be-que.

Vince B
Vince B
2 years 9 months ago

I think you forgot three of the most important items for any emergency kit – [b]zip ties, safety wire and ratcheting tie down straps[/b].
Anything you cannot secure properly with the zip tie gets the safety wire and when that breaks you use the tie-down straps. You’d be surprised how many tow truck rides you can avoid with a tie-down strap being used to hold your axle in place…for instance. [i]Trained professionals only, do not try this at home[/i]

Lee Putman
Lee Putman
2 years 9 months ago
I have 3 vintage Fiats, and while I have a separate box of spares for each (cap, rotor, fuses, fuel filter, etc), my tools are a mess. I have some tools on my bench, and some in each car, and it seems I can NEVER find the exact darn tool I’m looking for! I’ve considering making one small ‘go bag’ of tools & emergency supplies that I swap into whatever car I’m driving, but I know I’d forget it & drive off in one of the other cars. So, more than anything, I always keep up my Hagerty Roadside Assistance.… Read more »
Adam Holter
Adam Holter
2 years 9 months ago
I can think my grandfather, Pap, for the tool kit I carry in the Dart. Pap always had a great little toolbox he kept in his ’66 Ford F100, so when I bought the Dart, I fortunately inherited it. It’s wonderful, and has come in so handy numerous times on my trips out west with the Dart. From it’s 3/8″-drive Powr-Kraft ratchet set to a full complement of Powr-Kraft wrenches, from its Vise-Grips to its compact hammer, Pap’s toolbox has everything I have ever needed on the road. On my Missouri banzai trip in 2012, it saw me through an… Read more »
Musa Suleymanov
Musa Suleymanov
2 years 9 months ago

In Russia we only use hammer to repair cars. And brush for paintjob.

Luke Ogier
Luke Ogier
2 years 9 months ago
I’m quite lucky. I have two sports cars one imperial and one metric so I can split the tools up 🙂 The one thing I find invaluable is the tool bag. Over the years I have tried all sorts of options from taped up cardboard boxes with spares to plastic tool boxes. I have settled on what I believe is the best option. I use a neoprene laptop bag, the size is exactly the same as a Haynes Manual that fits in the sleeve with all the tools loose in the main compartment and zips up. The bag is part… Read more »
Craig Forrest
Craig Forrest
2 years 9 months ago
Ryan Hoyle
Ryan Hoyle
2 years 9 months ago

I might have to get one of these. Thank you!

Ryan Hoyle
Ryan Hoyle
2 years 9 months ago

This is a good list!
I’d add a jack, at least the emergency jack from your daily driver.
And fuses! Fiats, being Italian, can blow fuses at any time. Unless you’ve meticulously gone through the wiring.
I also take a jug of coolant. not that big of a deal and it fits pretty well on the ground behind the passenger seat to hold it still.

Xavier Corral
Xavier Corral
2 years 9 months ago

Might I add bandaids and such? Every time I grab a wrench I end up with blood all over my knuckles and I wouldnt want that all over my interior. Also, if your like me and took out all the things that dont make you go fast, youll want a handy rag in the cockpit to wipe the fog off the windshield.

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
2 years 9 months ago

As well as the toolkit what about the spares list? On long trips I always agonize over what spares to pack, and I don’t remember ever using anything that I’ve packed.

Stuff that can be hidden away but used to fix stuff when needed…Bungee straps, cable ties, inner tube, exhaust bandage, radweld, hose bandage, rapid set epoxy resin, insulation tape, selection of jubilee clips, split pins, nuts and bolts.

Tow Rope and of course Tank Tape!

Future Doc
Future Doc
2 years 9 months ago
I keep a few “el-cheapo” bargain bin/Black Friday tool kits in the car. Nothing like a $5 multi-tool ratchet set to work for you. Also have a few specifics like the 10mm/12mm/14mm/17mm wrench. A old screwdriver, pliers, some wire, tape, a pack of o-rings. My most useful was a small skateboard tool-kit I got when I was 12. Still have it and it is still the most useful out of the bunch. For those with “Future” classics… a big old case of plastic rivets/pins. I can’t do anything without breaking nearly 15 year old plastic rivets no matter how gentle… Read more »
Richard Johansson
Richard Johansson
2 years 9 months ago
I am an owner of two classic cars, and love to take them on long trips as much as I can. The only problem is that I lack but the absolute basic mechanical skills, and even though I understand how my cars work pretty well in theory, I have a very hard time using that knowledge in practice. This has led me to shy away from very long trips, at least on my own, for the simple reason that If I really were to get stranded somewhere I am afraid I won’t be able to fix my way out of… Read more »
wpDiscuz