RV Tool Kit

graphic of a toolbox

Many RVers are also accomplished Do-It-Yourselfers (DIYers), and they can perform just about any maintenance of fix-it task that may crop up on their RV.

However, as most RVers learn (some much sooner than others), the whims of the RV repair god usually find us having a problem while we are away from home and enjoying the freedom of being in our RV.

Gee, folks, guess what? Having the best equipped garage or shop at home doesn't do you any good at all when you are on the road. RV problems never seem to occur while your RV is parked in the driveway at home.

It is a good (and maybe even prudent) idea to have a s mal stash of tools in your RV to take care of all the little hiccups that seem to randomly occur. Most of us are smart enough, even when it hurts the wallet, to leave the big repairs to experienced RV repair shops.

Here is our suggested list of tools that should have a permanent home in your RV.

Small & Medium Flat Blade Screwdrivers

Small & Medium Phillips Screwdrivers

Small Stubby Flat Blade Screwdriver

Small Stubby Phillips Screwdriver

Regular Pliers

Needle-Nose Pliers

Medium Diagonal Cutter Pliers

Medium Channel-Lock Pliers

Medium Vice-Grip Pliers

Small Dental Pick (one end hooked)

Roll of RV Fix-It Tape (fix any leak)

Roll of duct tape

Regular Claw Hammer

Combination wood rasp/file

Set of Drill Bits (1/16" - 1/4")

Cheap 3/8" VSR Electric Drill

Small Digital Voltmeter

12-volt Continuity Tester

Roll of Electricians Tape

(2) 3/4" Hose Clamps (automotive screw type)

Assortment of Tie-Wraps (3" - 7")

Set of Various Shaped Needle Files

Small Flashlight (a Mag Light works great)

Spray Can of WD-40

Spray Can of Lithium Grease

Set of Small Hex-Key Wrenches (1/16" - 1/4")

Fat (donut style) Hose Washers

You are also strongly urged to get a professional trucker's tire gauge at a good auto supply store. Don't go cheap on this gauge—get a good one.

We also carry a 25-foot medium duty electrical extension cord. We find all sorts of uses for our electric drill and sabre saw.

One of the most useful items in the tool box (especially to help other RVers) is a selection of insulated butt splices and crimp terminals (very cheap in Quartzsite or Yuma), and the crimping tool to install them.

pic of terminal crimper

A small roll of #12 gauge stranded wire (your choice of color, but I usually get Red), often gets pressed into service.

We carry, but not in the tool box, a medium sized crow bar (pry bar) for those rare instances when a hydraulic leveler will not retract and needs a little persuasion to begin its upward return trip.

(We personally carry a fully-stocked 4-drawer tool chest crammed with all sorts of goodies —and, yes, it gets used more often than you might imagine—sometimes for our latest "modification" or to fix a problem, but quite often to help an RVer who didn't think ahead or doesn't have a clue how to fix his/her problem.)

TIP: graphic of a light bulb For storing a small bunch of tools, I find that a fishing tackle box works very well, and provides small divided compartments to store and segregate the many small crimp terminals and splices.

Continuity Tester

pic of continuity tester

Experienced RVers know that, sooner or later, annoying—and often very frustrating— 12-volt electrical problems appear out of nowhere. Many people new to the world of RVing are surprised ot learn that just about all of the lighting in an RV (even the florescent lights in the kitchen) runs off of the 12-volt house batteries (even when plugged into shore power).

Of course, all the chassis wiring for the tail lights, turn signals, and brake lights are obviously running on 12-volt DC power.

Trying to chase down intermittent operation of a 12-volt circuit often turns into an agonizing search for a "needle in a haystack." However, having a simple automotive continuity tester in your tool kit can often help in your search for that illusive "loose" or corroded connection.

In its most simple form, a continuity tester consists of a device that looks like an overgrown ice pick—with a sharp point on one end, usually a small light bulb inside the handle, and a 3-foot long wire with an alligator clip on the end hanging out the top end of the handle.

To use a continuity tester, the alligator clip is attached to a good ground (such as a bolt on the chassis), and the pointed tip of the tester is either touched to a terminal or the sharp point is used to pierce through the wire insulation until the internal conductor is contacted.

If the terminal or pierced wire has 12-volts on it, the light inside the handle of the tester illuminates. A continuity tester provides an easy means to rapidly test, for example, a block | of fuses or a bundle of wires.

Continuity testers can be purchased very cheaply at just about any automotive supply store. You might be surprised at just how often you drag this handy little item out of your tool kit.

Digital Voltmeter

pic of digital voltmeter

Every RVer should have a Digital Voltmeter (DVM) in their tool kit. A digital voltmeter —a meter that shows voltage values with numbers (not an analog meter that has a needle that swings around a pivot)—is an essential tool for keeping tabs on the health of your house batteries.

A digital voltmeter easily lets you know the present state-of-charge of your house batteries, whereas an analog meter (with a needle pointer) is useless for this task. The reason for needing a digital voltmeter is the narrow voltage range between a fully charged battery and a totally dead battery.

If you recall, a fully charged battery reads about 12.7 volts, a battery that is only half-charged reads about 12.2 volts, and a totally discharged (dead) battery reads about 11.9 volts.

This narrow voltage range is easily read on a digital voltmeter (e.g., 12.6), but an analog meter has a needle that just about covers the entire scale from 12 to 13 volts. (Yes, an old "techie" that just happens to have an expanded-scale 12-volt analog meter might argue the point), but for just about all of us, forget about using an analog voltmeter for checking the state-of-charge of your house batteries.

The only use where an analog meter might be more useful than a digital voltmeter is checking the proper operation of your turn signals. With an analog voltmeter, it is easy to watch the needle swing back and forth while your turn signals are flashing. (Trying to watch wildly fluctuating voltage readings on a digital voltmeter, in this instance, is not nearly as easy.)

Don't waste your money spending big bucks for a professional digital voltmeter. The "El Cheapo" variety can be readily found in Quartzsite and every Harbor Freight Tools store for anywhere from $4 to $9. What a deal!

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