What should I keep in my truck's toolbox?
November 5, 2013 3:55 PM   Subscribe

So I have an old truck. I'd like to hear your suggestions for tools, spare parts, fluids, etc that I should keep on hand in the truck either in case something goes wrong or in case I find myself having to do something tool-related while I'm out of the house. Hit me with your best suggestions!

I drive an old truck, a '94 Toyota 4Runner with about 200,000 miles on the odometer. It's a good truck, but it's old and there's always the possibility that something will go wrong while I'm on the road. I'm looking for suggestions on a tools-and-parts kit that I should keep on hand in the back of the truck so that should something happen while I'm out driving I'll be able to maximize my chances of getting it taken care of and getting back on the road.

As a secondary motivation, I'd also like to have a basic toolkit just so that if I am somewhere where tools are needed I can be useful and be The Guy With Tools In His Truck.

I've got some ideas of my own of course and I'll give you a list of what I keep in there right now. I have some things in mind that I want to put in there but in the interests of general utility I'll let y'all make those recommendations and I'll come back in a couple of weeks once the thread has stabilized and update with the contents of my toolkit once it's done being put together.

What's in there at the moment wasn't put together systematically at all. Here's what I'm carrying right now:
  • Washer fluid
  • Brake fluid
  • Motor oil
  • Distilled water
  • Rust Reformer spraypaint
  • Wire brush
  • Funnel
  • Electric tire pump with pressure gauge and light
  • Rags
  • Pocket knife
  • Nylon rope
  • Tie-down straps
  • Spare tire
  • OEM scissor jack and tire iron
  • Haynes manual
  • Jumper cables
  • Tarp
  • Rain boots
  • Umbrella
That's about it. Obviously I'm missing some things, but I'll leave them off for now because I trust y'all to be able to pick them out and make the appropriate recommendations. Also, if your recommendation comes with a story or anecdote of a time that whatever-it-was totally saved your butt, then please share. :-)

Thanks as always for the excellent advice.
posted by Scientist to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
One of those perpetual shake flashlights.

A cable/strap for pulling another car out of a ditch/snowbank.

Sand or one of those mat type traction devices.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 4:11 PM on November 5, 2013

Hose clamps. Screwdrivers. Flashlight. Flares. Adjustable wrench. Vice grips. Small magnet. Bungee cords.
posted by mareli at 4:11 PM on November 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't bother carrying fluids. Most of those are not things you need in an emergency except maybe water. They will leak all over everything and ruin your life.

The toolish type stuff all seems fine. I'd carry
* a standard set of US and metric hex wrenches
* a few sizes of philips and flat screwdrivers
* a big pry par
* some lengths of 2x4, surprisingly useful to have
* DC Inverter to run plugged stuff off of, charge things, etc
* maybe a folding saw to clear brushy stuff, possibly a small axe
posted by RustyBrooks at 4:13 PM on November 5, 2013

I suppose an adjustable wrench or two is probably smarter than a full set of wrenches so scratch that.
posted by RustyBrooks at 4:14 PM on November 5, 2013

Throw in a bike pump, a set of hex wrenches and some bike tire levers and be some roadies hero.
posted by RustyBrooks at 4:14 PM on November 5, 2013

big and small zip ties, duct tape, spare hose (will spare you the "Duct tape and spare hose saved my trip" story), fix-a-flat, socket wrench, small cheater bar, bungee cords, screwdrivers (flat/phillips), oil filter wrench, head lamp, DC inverter. I carry fluids, I think it's a think that reasonable people can disagree on.
posted by jessamyn at 4:15 PM on November 5, 2013

Leather work gloves.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 4:21 PM on November 5, 2013

A big towel. Paper towels or shop rags. Rain-X. Fuel line in the appropriate size(s) for your truck. Hand cleaner. Assorted zip ties. Utility knife.
posted by bricoleur at 4:25 PM on November 5, 2013

A toilet paper roll in a hermetically sealed ziplock bag.
posted by oceanjesse at 4:31 PM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd stick a propane torch kit in- a bit of heat can be handy for loosening a bolt. Although it might suffice to make sure that none of your lug nuts are stuck.
posted by wotsac at 4:34 PM on November 5, 2013

Empty gas can and a length of hose for siphoning
Small shovel
If you anticipate ice or snow, a bag of kitty litter.
posted by islander at 4:46 PM on November 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Eye protection.
Nitryl Gloves
Spare Fuses
An old shirt to wear while fixing stuff?
posted by sebastienbailard at 5:19 PM on November 5, 2013

Honestly there isn't a lot to fix on a 94 4runner that you can do on the road (its not like you will need to set points, adjust your carb or change a fouled out spark plug on this age of car-they just don't do that after about 1985 at the latest and much earlier than that on a toyota). Things I would carry:

FIRST AID KIT. You can buy one, but I prefer to pack my own. I find that the plastic shoe storage boxes are about ideal in size and you then pack the stuff in various size zip loc bags that have many additional uses. You can find really good lists for what to include on nutcase survivalist websites and off-roading/expedition websites.

Spare hoses (the easiest way to do this is change your hoses now, and keep the old ones as spares).
Spare accessory drive belt (it doesn't really drive the fan anymore but the same idea and you get the spare the same as you get spare hoses)
tools required to change them (another advantage of changing out good ones, you learn how and what tools you need). That is the limit of the repairs I would try to be prepared for. You avoid breakdowns on modern cars (and even at 94 it is modern car-fuel injected, emissions systems, etc) by proper maintenance, not roadside repairs.

Spare fuses.
Spare antifreeze and spare water (the spare water also for drinking-I use old 2 and 1 liter soda bottles)
Rags/paper towels
A good jack (not the scissors jack that came with the truck, but a good hydraulic bottle jack that is tall enough to lift a 4/4)
a set of warm clothes/fleece pullover/hat/gloves and socks.
A good lug wrench/breaker bar

and if you are off-road a hi lift jack (but learn how to use them, they aren't really safe).
Pioneering tools-a d handle shovel, an axe, a folding saw.
Flashlight (at least two and spare batteries or a way to charge them)
a light that runs off the battery
Spare keys for the vehicle
A solar charging panel for the battery
A spare emergency cell phone
Good usgs quad maps for the area you will be in and a handheld gps
a rite in the rain notebook and pencil (for leaving notes about where you are going if you have to abandon the vehicle and just notes about cool stuff you find in general.
I always pack a rifle and at least 50 rounds, but this is highly dependant on your tastes/experience and comfort with firearms (and the laws in your area).
And most important thing you don't take when really heading into the bush: an itinerary with a friend/family who isn't going so someone goes looking for you when it all goes wrong.
posted by bartonlong at 5:53 PM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

The one thing that Mr. 445supermag always has that I don't see mentioned is baling wire. Great for putting that tail pipe up until you get home, or if you crash into a deer, elk, moose or some other driver, keeping your hood on. Wire cutters to go with are also needed. We keep about 6 feet or so rolled up small.

A red flag for taking home that great unexpected large find.

wife of 445supermag
posted by 445supermag at 5:55 PM on November 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Tire patch kit, the kind where you ream out the hole and then plug it with some rubberized sticky rope. Get a set with T-handle type tools. A neat trick I've learned is that if you hear yourself pick up say a roofing nail or such and catch it quick you can usually pull it, ream and patch without even taking the tire off the truck. Won't even need to fuss around with the spare.

A couple of extra 1157 or whatever size bulbs you take for indicators. having an indicator out can get you pulled over and while it's not a big ticket or anything most places, it's often a pretext for giving you a hard time and trying to get a vehicle search.

Wrench and socket set. Depending on how your box is mounted in the truck at least have a a socket and driver for removing the box- if you wind up helping someone move something it's handy to be able to drop the box out and get some of that bed space back.

Thirding and fourthing gloves. You want to have at least a couple pair of really thick nitrile gloves and maybe a set of the mechanic's/gardener's gloves.

I'm pro fluids, because in a lot of older cars you can get slow leaks that turn into a nuisance light at just the wrong time. DON'T get a big ass bottle of brake fluid, it's alcohol based and the second you break the seal on the bottle it's shelf life becomes dramatically reduced. And if you can't get running on the contents of a smaller bottle then you got problems that involve you not driving that thing.
posted by mcrandello at 5:57 PM on November 5, 2013

Stuff I carry. Looking forward to your summary.

Misc -- front + glovebox
AAA membership
lens cleaner kit for glasses
anti-bacterial gel
pen & pad/notebook
bottle opener

Misc -- back
GPS + dash mount
Droid car charger
empty plastic bags
duct tape
Leatherman-style multi tool
spare t-shirt
spare watch cap
toilet paper

nitrite gloves
tire tester
jumper cables

Hand tools
Extra long needle-nose pliers
vise grips
crescent wrench
flat blade screw driver(s) + phillips head screw drivers(s)
socket set

reflector triangles (x2)
first aid kit

ice scraper
snow chains
posted by kovacs at 9:11 PM on November 5, 2013

I have the same year of pickup. I carry a fire extinguisher.
posted by fake at 6:23 AM on November 6, 2013

If you anticipate ice or snow, a bag of kitty litter.

Yeah, kitty litter or sand or gravel. And a blanket, ideally made out of some shitty synthetic material because the point is really just to be durable and keep you warm in the wet.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 7:09 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Quick-set epoxy, like this JB Weld KwikWeld: http://www.jbweld.com/product/j-b-kwikweld-3/

I have a '99 4Runner and I've used this three times in the last month to "re-weld" small parts that had rusted or broken.
posted by lukez at 8:41 AM on November 6, 2013

I hope you don't need to carry anything in this truck, as there won't be any room with all these tools/spares ...

As it is an old vehicle, a bit of preventative maintenance goes a looonng way. Replace all belts and hoses for a start, and the fuel filter. You have now fixed the sources of most of the on-the-road 'breakdown' problems. The other big one is the radiator, especially if it has plastic tanks (which do deteriorate and sometimes fail catastrophically), or just clog up over time - when the hoses are off is a good time to change that too, and the thermostat. If it has a distributor, spare points and the tools/knowledge to change them.

Other than a flat tyre, you should be good to go now!
posted by GeeEmm at 4:00 PM on November 6, 2013

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