This list, composed mostly for my own benefit, contains all the things I have (or would have) found useful at one time or another on a trail ride. This isn’t intended to be a comprehensive list. There are several other things that you’d be foolish to leave home without even though I haven’t (yet) had to use one.
- drill & easy-out – I’ve seen attaching bolts for U-joint straps shear in two, leaving part of the bolt inside the yoke. The only way to get these out is to drill them out.
- high-volume air compressor – I’ve blown a tire off its bead several times, including once after I’d already destroyed my spare on the same trail. I’ve also had to air up other people’s spares when they found (upon having to use their spare) that it didn’t have enough pressure in it. Always check the pressure in your spare every time you check the other four tires! Big compressors can also run air tools.
- tire pressure gauge – Tires tend to wear unevenly or pop off the rim when they’re not filled to the correct pressure. If you air up or down, you’ll need to know how far you’ve gone.
- air wratchet – while not a necessity, they certainly are time savers if you have to do major repairs and have a high-volume compressor available. Leaf spring U-bolts take forever to remove by hand.
- impact wrench – speeds up tire changes, and is great for removing stubborn bolts when doing serious trail repairs (like removing and repairing your axle housing).
- pneumatic cut-off wheel – handy for trail-side fabrication, like enlarging holes in t-case shifter linkage brackets.
- phillips and flathead screwdrivers – Countless applications, including removing distributor caps so you can dry them.
- full set of metric and standard wrenches – what can’t you use these for? Replacing belts and U-joints are common uses.
- needle nose pliers – Handy for removing U-joint snap rings.
- vice grips – for pinching off torn brake lines or getting a good grip on most anything.
- allen head wrenches – for removing small bolts like those that hold a t-case shifter linkage bracket in place.
- multimeter – Electrical problem (such as my mud-packed alternator) can be impossible to track down without some way of measuring voltage.
- 18″ pry bar – Useful for removing sway bars and straightening bent objects.
- BFH (large hammer) – for coercing stubborn parts into submission and removing U-joints from the yokes.
- Plugz-It – This is a little plastic cup (sold in the back of 4×4 mags for $10) that can be inserted into the tailcone of your NP231 t-case when you have to remove your rear driveshaft. Failure to plug the output shaft hole will dump ATF from your t-case all over the ground.
- flashlight and spare batteries – Most of your drivetrain isn’t very well lit. Fixing problems by braille is slow.
- CB radio – If you get stuck, broken, or hurt, yelling for help isn’t very effective. CB’s also make trail rides much more convenient and fun.
- tow hooks – If you or your buddy get stuck, you’ll need something to attach the snatch strap to. Front hooks are required; rear hooks are also very useful.
- snatch strap with loops – Pulling somebody out of a sticky situation is tough to do without something to connect the two vehicles. Get a strap with loops, since metal hooks can be lethal if they suddenly come loose under tension.
- grease gun – Most non-sealed U-joints only come with a minimal amount of grease in them. You’re expected to fill them the rest of the way after installation. The smaller variety gun is easier to carry than the full-size shop models.
- fire extinguisher – While I’ve never used one off-road, I’ve emptied three of them on-road. Old engines tend to leak flammable fluids, and there are plenty of hot items in your engine to ignite them.
- high-lift jack – These are much easier to use than the stock scissor jacks that most vehicles come with. Not only do they lift things higher and faster than scissor jacks, they don’t require you to crawl underneath your vehicle. Used with a chain, they can double as a short-distance winch. The hollow metal handle also makes a good reinforcement for bent tie rods.
- WD-40 – “WD” stands for “water displacement.” It’s great for cleaning muddy water out of a waterlogged distributor cap, not to mention loosening stuck bolts.
- onboard welder – my Premier Power Welder saved the day for me and two other vehicles during the 2nd Annual Flatlanders 4×4 Fest. It reconnected my spring perches to my axle, fixed a broken locating arm on a Toy’s custom suspension, and secured a broken shock eye on a Sammy.
- duct tape – The handy man’s secret weapon.
- aspirin – Headaches seem to be a common affliction when spending long hours in a vehicle.
- spare driveshaft U-joint – Because they’re cheap & easy to replace, these are usually designed as the weak point in a drivetrain. I’ve seen many of them fail. Don’t forget spare straps / U-bolts to attach the U-joint to the yoke. If your vehicle uses more than one size U-joint, make sure you’ve got one spare for each. Double check them before you leave home–I’ve had parts store computers give me the wrong parts on several occasions. I’ve needed U-joints and straps for ’93 & ’95 YJ’s and U-bolts for a CJ-5.
- spare vacuum axle disconnect motor – These little motors tend to go south fairly easily. Sometimes they just need cleaning. Sometimes they need a new rubber fitting to ensure a tight connection for the vacuum lines. Regardless, they’re easy to replace and don’t take up much space.
- spare alternator – the 170A PennTex alternator that powers my Premier Power Welder is incredibly unreliable. I can now swap a YJ alternator blindfolded in 30 minutes.
- a gallon of 50/50 water/antifreeze – Overheating engines will sometimes need to refill their radiator. Pure water doesn’t resist boiling nearly as well as an antifreeze mix.
- a gallon of drinking water – Pop doesn’t quench a thirst nearly as well as water. Nor does it clean wounds, wash hands, or fill radiators.
- wet wipes (or some other form of moist towelette) – Fixing or extracting a vehicle usually gets you dirty. Personally, I hate having caked mud on my hands all day, especially when eating or nursing a wound.
- clean rags – Useful for wiping off everything from faces to distributor caps.
- zip ties – You can secure anything with these. I’ve used them to sew my cracked fan shroud back together.
- spool of 18-20 awg wire – Like zip ties, it’s useful for securing all sorts of stuff, like removed sway bars.
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