A COUPLE of friends of mine travel with such a great toolbox in their vehicle, I hardly need to carry anything. They rarely need the stuff themselves, but they’ve helped out dozens of less-equipped travellers wandering the backblocks of this country.
However, do you really need to carry so much repair gear and spare parts? I’ve consolidated a little since my early days of outback travel as vehicles have become more reliable and I better maintain them. Plus, a major breakdown in the scrub is basically untenable even with all the tools, so a recovery of sorts will be required.
I remember a trip in the 1980s with the late Russel Guest (who established the still very successful and highly regarded Guests 4WD in the Melbourne suburb of Alphington) when one of our convoy blew a harmonic balancer when at full noise trying to cross a dune on the CSR. Such was the devastation under the bonnet by the flying pieces of balancer that the water pump, radiator, hoses, alternator, air-conditioner plus associated hoses, along with the vehicle battery, were all damaged or destroyed. I’ll always remember Russel’s words as he slammed the bonnet shut: “Well, that’s stuffed”, he said in a classic understatement. That 60 Series ended up on a very long snatch strap as we towed it back to civilisation, but that is another story.
What tools do you need to carry on your next bush trip? First up, we always carry a repair manual for our vehicle. Even if you haven’t got any vehicle knowledge, somebody with more mechanical knowledge may be able to help if they know where to start with your particular vehicle.
Then start your kit of with:
• Set of open-end/ring spanners.
• Set of sockets.
• Small ratchet driver.
• One large ratchet driver and socket extension arm.
• A couple of adjustable spanners.
• Set of screwdrivers and Phillips head screwdrivers.
• Engineer’s hammer.
• Hacksaw and blades.
• Pliers and multi-grips.
• Set of files: ‘bastard’ grade, round, flat and square.
• Electrical and gaffer tape.
• WD-40 or similar.
• Tube of oil/fuel-resistant Silastic.
• Kit for repairs to fuel tanks, radiators, etc. Ensure they’re compatible with tank (metal or plastic).
• Basic tyre repair kit, such as the Speedy Seal from ARB.
• Cable ties (selected sizes).
• Selection of fuses.
On bigger, longer trips, or those involving remote cross-country jaunts, I carry an extensive tyre repair kit which includes tyre levers, a bead breaker and more. For one of the best on offer, see: www.tyrepliers.com.au
I also carry extra gear for 12-volt welding, using a set of jumper leads (that are always in the vehicle) and the two big batteries under the bonnet. A piece of welding glass for eye protection set in a piece of cardboard makes a handy eye and face mask, while my welding handpiece and lead from the 240-volt welder at home completes the emergency kit. Some people will recommend three 12-volt batteries connected in series, but I’ve always found two to be more than enough.
With all of the electrical outlets and accessories we tend to carry these days, as well as towing a trailer, one of the most common problems plaguing travellers is an electrical fault. A multimeter is essential for analysing electrical issues when in the scrub, while a good soldering iron (we like the butane-fuelled ones) is paramount for wiring repairs. I keep most of my often-used tools in tool rolls, which makes them easy to pack and easy to get to.