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4x4 Trail & Camping Tools - Willie's Workbench

Posted in How To: Tech Qa on July 1, 2008
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Several readers have taken the time to write me after reading my essay on trail tools (Oct. '07). They shared their thoughts about the tools and extra parts they carry, either based on what they've broken in the past, anticipated needing, or the fact that they just want to be prepared for anything that may happen.

Some of the things they have mentioned are tools and parts that I do carry and just didn't mention. For instance, I do have a hacksaw and several extra blades. I even carry one of those funny handles that lets the blade stick out (which usually ends up bending or breaking the blade). If you really want to cut through something fast, buy a hacksaw with the most rigid support bar you can find. Put in two blades running in opposite directions. Now put a guy on each end of the saw and go to town. You will be amazed at just how fast you can cut.

Zip-ties are high on my list, from the little tiny ones used in wiring to some really heavy-duty ones that are about 2 feet long. It's really surprising what these things will hold. I'm not talking about the cheapies, but the commercial-grade ones that you snag from the telephone or power-company guys. I once held a guy's steering box in place with five heavy-duty zip-ties when the mounting plate broke.

One reader suggested I should carry a hex key set. The only internal hex head (Allen) bolts I have are on the front locking hub, and I do carry one to fit them, along with a hub-nut wrench.

Fellow journalist Jimmy Nylund asked if I had extra valve caps, stems, and cores. Yep. Some are in the jockey box, and they're also included in the ARB tire-plugging kit that I use. He says it seems that he is always being asked for them, especially cores. Seems his buddies pull their cores out when airing down and then lose them. Speaking of ARB, they're great units, but those tiny plastic lines have a habit of melting when they get close to an exhaust pipe, or breaking when smashed on a rock. So in the Jeep with an ARB Air Locker, I carry a double-ended quick coupler. Never had to use it myself, but have given several of them away on the trail and become a hero.

I'm fortunate enough to own three 4x4 vehicles, but that also means three sets of everything. At one time, I tried transferring parts and tools between whichever vehicle I planned to use. Problem was, all three vehicles were different and the equipment had to be carried in different ways. I finally ended up making up tool and parts boxes for each vehicle with variations, depending on how the vehicle was used. It's not a bad idea to make up an inventory sheet of what is stashed where. Saves a lot of searching and saying: "Dang, I know I have one of those someplace."

When it comes to nuts and bolts, it seems that no matter what you have stashed away, you always need one that is a bit longer or shorter. One way to solve this dilemma is to carry several different sizes of "all-thread" rod. With your hacksaw, you can cut the rod to the length you need, thread it in place and hold it there with a nut. My guess is, if the need arises, you could even bend it as a U-bolt substitute.

One more thing I forgot to mention: A flashlight. I actually carry three: a mini Mag light with LED bulbs, an LED "strap on the head" lamp, and my newest addition, a shake light. While the last doesn't put out the same quality of light that the first two do, I don't have to worry about batteries going dead.

OK, your turn-I would like to hear what you carry and what you consider necessary. Oh, and I just might do a column on trail fixes, so if you have a trick or unusual one, pass it on.

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