So you’ve checked your vehicle, loaded all your camping gear and you’re ready to head for the bush. Before you get started, though, have a last check on your box of tools and spares. Do you really have everything you need to keep yourself mobile in rough country?
The chances are you have all the right spanners, wrenches and screwdrivers for your wagon and its accessories, and most of the time that’s going to be enough to do the job. The problem is, when you’re in an environment as unforgiving as the Outback, most of the time isn’t good enough. Things break sometimes, and that can include the bolts your spanners fit. If a bolt head – or an axle stud – has sheared off, how are you going to get it out?
It’s always a good idea to carry some extra tools, just in case you get a problem that’s out of the ordinary. A good drill has a lot of uses, for example. In an emergency it’ll help you fabricate brackets and drill holes to bolt them to, and it has some more specialised uses as well. If a bolt or axle stud shears off you can drill into it, creating a useful hole. If you have a set of bolt extractors – and you should – you just need to tap one into the hole and you can get the broken bolt out.
Bolts are pretty strong but they do fail sometimes, and when they do it’s a real problem. Not only is it broken, but you can’t even replace it because there’s no way to get it out the hole. That’s where extractors are a real help. They’re not even difficult to use, but a lot of off-roaders don’t carry them. If you don’t have one already, get yourself a set.
Other good tools to throw in your kit are a hammer, a hacksaw with a few spare blades and a full socket set. A gas torch is really useful too. Even a small one can do a pretty decent emergency soldering job. Add some cable ties, a roll of fencing wire and some aluminium tape. Sometimes they’re all that’s needed to hold things together until you can get to a workshop – and it’s amazing what you can improvise with them when you have to.
Something you can do is collect nuts and bolts that fit your vehicle. A few extra wheel nuts are never a bad thing to have, but take it further. Any time you swap out fasteners, if the old ones still have a bit of life left hang on to them. In an emergency an old bolt is a lot better than no bolt at all. Obviously, if you find a weak spot that’s a bit prone to failing, stock up on spares for that.
Even if you don’t have a lot of practice at using all your tools, they’re worth having. You might not be an expert, but if someone else knows how to use them the repair can still get done. And, at the end of the day, you’re usually better off figuring out how to use a tool than figuring out how to do without it.