A Note: This is Greta's "Everyday Carry" load-out, and thus is for mechanical tools ONLY. Trail gear, repair parts and electrical tools are not included, here...mostly because I need more material for articles in the future. It's assembled for MY Jeep, based on MY experiences, and with MY anticipated needs...your own mileage can and WILL vary. With that said: enjoy, my darlings.
The TJ Toolkit: Ultralight, Essential and Basic.
Here's the problem with assembling an ultralight tool kit for a Jeep: there's no simple way to do it, because it's very, very easy to add too many tools and take up too much space. However, at length, I've been successful. I managed to pack a LOT of capability into something that's about the same size as a small take-out bag from your favorite fast-food establishment: a small zippered case that's designed to strap onto some bicycle handlebars, which has here been commandeered for use by The Republic of Dave.
Pictured: Ooh! It's fun-sized!
Yeah, yeah, I know...Sasha Grey would have been a much
better scaled reference model, but since she evidently doesn't know how the phone works, anymore, I had to settle for the next best thing: waffle fries and a ball peen hammer. You can have almost
as much fun with those as you can with a porn star...if you're creative enough. However, I'm sure that - at this point - some of you don't think I got very much crammed into that little bag. Okay, fine...allow me to address those concerns by quoting Eric Cartman:
Pictured: "Screw you guys."
Starting to get an idea of how difficult it was to complete this little project, aren't you? If not, you're probably a slower member of the class and you probably need a little more convincing. Okay, fine...allow me to address those concerns by again
quoting Eric Cartman:
Pictured: "YOU WILL RESPECT MY AUTHORITAH!"
Now that picture...mmm...that's hot
. And when I say "hot" I totally mean it in the same way that Paris Hilton does...but I can't say it like she can. What I can
say is this: If you have a setup like this on-board you can effect some seriously extensive trail repairs...and if you don't understand how that's possible then you had best stay the f*** out of the Wasteland, hombre. Depending on your perspective this kit may seem either very extensive or very minimalist, but either of those views is comparatively meaningless: the important comparison to make is one of overall repair capability to totally-packaged size. Simply put: this setup becomes pretty damned impressive when you realize how much you can do with it.
Before we get into the piece-by-piece breakdown, I want to make a quick point: it's very easy to sledgehammer your way into a workable toolkit for your Jeep. All you have to do is pack every tool in your garage into a toolbag and throw it behind the backseat...but that's not the most elegant of answers, now is it? In fact, it's worse
than inelegant...it's needlessly cumbersome. Why? Because Jeeps only utilize a limited number of fasteners and fastener sizes.
Think about it: there aren't too many different sizes...thus, by throwing your entire garage tool set - or even a moderate portion of it - into a carry-on bag, you wind up with a LOT of tools that you don't need. I ran into this issue when working on Greta's suspension: I felt like I was endlessly sorting through the wrench and socket drawers, and always looking for the same four sizes. The body lift was the same way, as was the eventual brake upgrade. Sure, there were some specialty fasteners here and there, but that didn't change the fact that most foreseeable trail repairs were going to require only a basic set of tools. It was at this point that the quest for a lightweight, always-onboard toolkit was born...and it was also at this point that I became wary of a snag...
That picture shows the biggest problem with this kind of project: the needless stuff that you have to purchase in order to get the useful pieces that you want. If you're pulling tools from your garage-based sets, well, bully for you, old chap...but if you buy anything in "set" form - wrenches, sockets, drivers, bits or specialty tools - you will likely end up purchasing a piece or two that you'll rarely use. I said it before, and I'll repeat it here: if the TJ Toolkit already existed, I wouldn't have spent so much time piecing one together.
I suggest that you buy the sets and put the other stuff aside for the rare occasions that you need them. Only carry what you realistically need.
This little obstacle prompted me to give the matter some thought and come up with a few Deceptively Simple Project Goals before I even sat down to figure out a specific tool list. These objectives were as follows:
- Keep it as small, light and affordable as possible.
- Keep the number of "dedicated" single-purpose tools to a minimum.
- Maximize the use and inclusion of multi-function tools.
- Select tools that offer easy redundancy without being useless.
- Exclude as much uselessness as possible.
Valuable Information: By keeping these points in mind, I was able to constantly refine the tool list into an ever-more practical assembly. If you are going to attempt to do something similar, I advise that you spend a week or two going over your Jeep and figuring out what you think you will need. By keeping the aforementioned goals in mind and assessing YOUR SPECIFIC NEEDS, you can end up with a pleasantly portable list of tools.
A Pleasantly Portable Set of Tools.
We all know how much re-thinking, second-guessing and reorganization went into this setup. At the end of that process, what did I come up with? This:
The above picture will show you what all can be stuffed into that tiny little bag.
- 12-point combination wrenches in the most-needed sizes.
- 12-point, 3/8"-drive sockets to back up the wrenches.
- A flex-head ratchet, an extension or two, and a couple of specialty sockets.
- A beating utensil of some sort.
- An effective pry bar (not shown in picture).
- The best adjustable pliers I could get my hands on.
- An adjustable wrench.
- A pair of locking pliers.
- A Leatherman multitool (not shown in picture).
- An interchangeable-bit screwdriver.
- A comprehensive bit set.
- A 3/8" finger ratchet.
- A spline-drive dogbone wrench.
Let's have a more detailed look, now.
The Most Basic of Basics: Wrenches.
Pictured: I don't even have a witty caption for this.
Let me preface this by saying that I'd love
to have a set of combination ratcheting wrenches. They're just as useful as the combination models that I've shown here, but with more utility added to the boxed end...and I'm pretty strict when it comes to having a 12-point boxed end and an open end on the same wrench. At first glance it might seem better to have two open ends and cut down on the number of wrenches that one is carrying, but a couple of factors make the open/box combination the better option:
- Some fasteners are easier to grip with a boxed end, and the 12-point can grab a slightly-fubared bolt head a bit easier than a standard hex. Also, you usually don't need the ultratorqueableness of a 6-point drive.
- Some fasteners are NOT easier to grab with a boxed end...and some are downright impossible. Thus, an open end becomes a necessity, and box/box ends are right out.
- The open end of one wrench can fit into the boxed end of another as an improvised cheater.
- Going to open/open end models really doesn't help cut down on the size of the finished kit...it's still going to fit in the same bag because other tools are responsible for determining the minimum size of the necessary tool bag.
- Certain areas - the lower rear shock mount, for example - have a different sized fastener on each side. God forbid you need 16mm and 18mm wrenches at the same time, if you only have open/open combinations.
Which sizes did I select? In metric I chose 10mm, 12mm, 13mm, 14mm, 15mm and 18mm. In standard, I selected 1/2", 5/8" and 3/4". Why these specific sizes? Well, these are the ones that I used to rip apart a suspension and most of a front axle, and also to take the body off the frame. They'll also access fuel rails, coil rails, the battery, radiator shroud bolts and a plethora of other small things. The was about the easiest decision I had to make.
Slightly More Involved: Ratchets and Sockets.
Pictured: "That motherf***** put a finger ratchet in the kit? WTF?"
Everything you see here is 3/8" drive...mostly because it's smaller and lighter than 1/2" drive, and offers a lot more strength than 1/4". Although I use it all the time in the garage, there's really no reason to pack 1/2" stuff in a repair kit. 3/8" is a perfect solution. Here's the rationale for everything else you see:
- The conventional sockets are in sizes to match the wrenches. I chose deep sockets in case I needed to slip over bolts or studs.
- I added a 13/16" socket to address additional/differing lug nuts and spark plug sizes.
- The ratchet is a flex-head...it gives me a bit longer reach, a 3/4" pipe will slip over it as a cheater bar, and - most importantly - it fits into places that a standard ratchet won't. If you really want to get comfy you can include a universal joint as well...that'll let your ratchet driveline flex like a whore on Valium.
- The extensions are almost necessary for accessing some back-of-the-world fasteners or components. Try to change a spark plug or loosen a rear shock or loosen lug nuts on a Moab rim without them.
- The long-shaft Torx drives fit the larger fasteners on board. Roll bars bolts, seat belt bolts, sway bar bolts. Since Torx stuff can easily strip, I got the long-shaft sockets in order to allow me to wrap my hand around them and hold them solidly in place, which will hopefully prevent cam-outs.
- The 17mm hex fits my transmission drain plug. Also, a 3/8" drive ratchet accesses my differentials. No worries about being able to drain and change contaminated fluid.
- "It's amazing, how you can get by without the necessities of life, provided that you have the little luxuries..." and that's why you see the otherwise-pointless inclusion of a 3/8" drive finger ratchet. Until I had one of these, I didn't miss it...but it makes certain things a LOT more comfortable to do.
And Now: A Tribute to Jane Austen.
Yes, I've read that book. Northanger Abbey
, as well. The latter is better. Anyway, why select a mid-sized ball-peen hammer?
- It's the one I pick up most often because it's a "Goldilocks" size...not too big and not too small. A sledge would be overkill, and other hammer shapes just don't do as well for me...I like the round face of the ball peen.
- It's a functional size for other hammering chores around the trail or camp...it's not just limited to Jeep repair. Try and pound in tent stakes with a 3-lb. sledge. Go ahead. Seriously. It'll be fun. I wouldn't lie to you about this.
- In a pinch, the wooden shaft can be fashioned into a serviceable anti-vampire stake. This is good to know in case you're out Jeeping with James Woods, which would be TOTALLY F****** AWESOME.
I should probably include a picture of the Sundowner Special pry bar, but since you guys have already seen an entire writeup on that (and ridiculed it) I'll leave it be.
Backup: The Dogbone Wrench
Pictured: Not for use on real dogs. Only robotic dogs.
It's honestly pretty rare when something gimmicky actually works...but I thought I'd give this little thing a shot and see what I could do with it. Against all odds it's actually pretty useful....mostly because this is a spline-drive
tool, and the spline-drive is expressly designed to grab a multitude of fasteners: 6-point, 12-point, square, external hex, external Torx, and - here's the big one - damaged heads
. If you get some rock rash on a bolt or you round it off with another tool, you've got a way to potentially grab it with one of these. If you don't think that they work as well as they do, then consider the following fact: I replaced a set of brake calipers on my front end using nothing but this tool. I've also been testing it out here and there when I'm working on things, just to see if it holds up...and thus far, it's been a win. I think this one has earned its place with me.
Filling In The Gaps: The Adjustable
Pictured: Here's where you spend some money...
...and it's money well-spent. This is why I don't worry about carrying every possible wrench and socket on the planet: if I don't have a given specific size on hand, chances are that one of these babies will fit it.
- The adjustable wrench is self-explanatory...it fits anything within its range of adjustment. There's no reason to go without one. When you get one, get a decent brand because they work only as well as their drive screws allow. I've always had good luck with a basic Crescent.
- The Vise-Grip pliers can grab onto even the most bashed of fasteners. They can also clamp shut and stay locked...very valuable if you need to pinch off a line or hose of some sort. They also have a hard wire cutter at the base of the jaws, and - again - a 3/4" pipe will can be used as a cheater bar with them.
- The adjustable pliers are another "gotta have it" item...and this is an area where you don't want to skimp. My personal favorites are Knipex Alligators...they feature an exceptional design and they're of the best quality. They adjust quickly, they have a thin-profile head, and they'll grip just about anything you wrap them around...including round bars
. This becomes very crucial if you need to grab anything around your steering linkage. And YET AGAIN you can put the 3/4" pipe on them as a cheater bar...the design of these is so good that they'll grab something with almost no pressure applied to hold them shut. They work almost like a pipe wrench; this is why Knipex markets them as a water pump plier.
Truth be told, you could probably cut out most of the sockets and wrenches just by having these three tools on hand...but you still won't cut down the size of the tool bag it will take to carry them, and it will still take up the same amount of space. So, if you're going to use up space, then use it well...don't limit yourself to just these. Carry the tools you need.
Speaking of Things That You Need: The Leatherman.
Pictured: +5 Bonus to "Escape Artist" checks.
"Hi, I'm Ricky Bobby, and if you don't chew Big Red, then F*** YOU."
- Ricky Bobby
That's how I feel about carrying a Leatherman. If you don't see the use in having access to one on a 24-hour-per-day basis, then you, Sir, are not
a Man of Action. I'm not even going to detail the number of uses that a multitool has because we don't have that much bandwidth left on JeepForum. Suffice to say that they'll handle a retarded number of tasks, and all that you really need to do is pick one that gives you the best blend of small tools for your purposes. I love the Wave, myself...needle-nose pliers/fuse pullers, wire cutter, saw, two backup knives, scissors, etc, etc. Others of you may have different concerns and need a different model...but I wouldn't stray too far from Leatherman, personally. They're worth every bit of the price tag. I've had mine since the Wave model first came out and I haven't been nice to it...but it's still going strong. 'Nuff said.
A Mark of Sophistication: Choosing The Best Screwdriver.
Pictured: Go easy on the vodka and heavy on the bit storage.
Also, as a rule, longer shafts are better.
Use enough higher-end tools and eventually you'll find the name "Wiha" on some of them. Wiha isn't known much in this country outside of scientific or special-application industries, but they're a German company that makes some seriously nice hardware...and they also happen to make a hellishly-good screwdriver. This particular model has a longer-than-average shaft, a very ergonomic handle, and - for the win - storage for standard 1/4" driver bit
s in the handle.
There's no sense at all in carrying individual screwdrivers...those are best left in the garage due to their sheer bulk. A multi-bit driver is a great option, here, but if you look at most of the "6-in-1" or "10-in-one" screwdrivers that are out there you'll see that they usually take double-ended or 5/16" bits. That kind of sucks: if you lose one they're hard to replace, and they seem to have a lot of ball-and-spring retainers in them instead of magnets. By contrast, 1/4" driver bits are easy to find in all kinds of sizes, and not only does this particular model accept those, but it comes preloaded with two flat bits, two Phillips, and four Torx bits...all in sizes that we find on our TJ's. It also has a retard-strong magnet in the head, which keeps all your bits securely attached to the shaft. It's almost PERFECT for a Jeep kit...so, honestly, what more could you ask for?
This, for me, is the final word in screwdriver bit collections.
- Torx bits from T10 through T40, all with backups, and triples of the T15, T20 and T25. Those are the ones I f*** the most.
- Phillips bits, P1 through P3 with four of the common P2's. Also, extended shanks.
- The most common of the flathead sizes...great for hose clamps. Also, extended shanks here as well.
- 1/4" and 5/16" nut drivers.
- The common square-drive bits...just in case we're stuck in the Wasteland with nothing but cabinetry screws.
- 1/4" and 3/8" drive adapters. Can't hurt to have 'em.
- Allen bits in the smaller sizes. Why these? I seem to have a lot of Allen fasteners.
It took a bit of money to get this collection assembled, but it's what I felt I needed due to my particular conditions. You may be able to get by with just the driver itself, or you may want particular/different bits. I'd suggest the driver's load as a basic starting point...where you go from there is up to you.
Let me re-emphasize one vital and all-important factor: I assembled this tool kit based on my own personal experience.
It's a big trump card to have in case Greta breaks on the trail, but it may or may not work out for you and YOUR Jeep. As always, make an honest appraisal of your particular needs and start from there...and also, re-assess these values over time. As things change and modifications are made, you may need different tools to keep yourself in solid shape when a disaster happens. With that said, I hope that what I've put together here will either function well for you on its own, or serve as inspiration for your own project...and I hope that whatever you assemble, you have to use it as little as possible.
I think it's time for a beer, boys.
Stay tuned...there's always more on the way from The Republic of Dave.