Specialty Tools

There are some tools every DIY-er has in their kit. Then there are specialty items that do the jobs nothing else can.

Antifreeze Pump

For those who have to winterize boats, a handheld antifreeze pump can come in handy. We have a hard-to-get-to forward bilge pump on our boat, a freshwater inlet and a black-water discharge outlet that cannot be winterized without hand-pumping RV antifreeze into the fittings from outside the boat. My goal is to pump enough antifreeze into the fittings, forcing any trapped water from the lines to prevent freezing while in non-heated winter storage. Having a handheld pump stored in the bed of your truck will give you the option of winterizing on the fly when encountering freezing temps without having to find professional services to do the job.


Seeing Behind

Next time you're in an auto-supply store, give the clerk an extra five bucks for a telescoping inspection mirror. Every marine engine I've ever been around has important bits that are impossible to see without a mirror. A bright light and a mirror can be the two most important tools in your kit.


Light From Above

A headlamp on a boat, once you have one, falls under the category of "How did I ever do without that?" The things we search for on boats are invariably located in dark spaces. Engine maintenance is often in low light. Even disconnecting the trailer at the end of a full day on the water is often done in the dark. A small headlamp illuminates all of these and more, at the touch of the button on the forehead while leaving both hands free. You can buy a perfectly serviceable headlamp for just a few dollars. Keep at least one on the boat and one in the tow vehicle.


Magnet Power

While changing the spark plug in my outboard, I dropped one into the lower unit, where it lodged out of reach. A telescoping magnet retrieved the spark plug and saved the day.


Keep Your Bilge Clean

Anything dropped in your bilge can clog your bilge pump. Get a grabber for deep bilges. Get another grabber for when you drop the first one.


Bluetooth Engine Gauges For Older Tow Vehicles

Photo of the Vgate Bluetooth Scantool

If you've got an older tow vehicle that doesn't have a gauge for miles per gallon, the Vgate Bluetooth Scantool ($12) can help you out. Plug it into your OBDII port in your car and it wirelessly sends data via Bluetooth to your Android phone. The phone program, called Torque, is free. You can set up various gauges in analog or digital. It will also read fault codes and reset them. You can set up seven different pages of user-selected data, but I'm most interested in getting the most out of a gallon of gas when towing my boat.


Tight Fit

For replacing reinforced exhaust hoses, which do not flex readily, I purchased an auto tailpipe expander. Insert it into the end of the exhaust hose, expand it with a wrench, remove the wrench, and quickly slip the hose on the exhaust fitting.


Gunning For The Right Temperature

Photo of an infrared temperature gun

When I first got my boat and its twin-axle trailer, the bearings were overheating. I wanted to be able to tow the rig from Maine to Florida with no surprises, so I got an infrared temperature gun with a laser sight. On starting a trip, I'd drive a few miles then pull over and take a reading on each hub. I recorded baseline temperatures on the new bearings — installed by a mechanic — and then checked each hub every time I stopped. I could compare hub temperatures over time to those on new bearings and could compare between hubs. Now I had an early warning system to prevent breakdowns. Equally important was the reassurance I got from the readings. I could stop worrying about the bearings and enjoy the trip.


Non-Specialty Tool

Photo of keeping tools clean and dry with WD-40

Carrying tools on a boat — constantly surrounded by moisture and/or corrosive saltwater — can be detrimental to the life span of our costly metal tools. Taking a few extra steps will help keep your tools dry, rust free, and lubricated for your next boat job. Wiping tools off with a dry rag, so they're dry after each use, is a good first step. Wipe down with WD-40 on a paper towel or rag. This can prolong their useful life.

 

Arm Protector In The Engine Room

Photo of a black sock Don't put your foot in it. Your elbow grease will be much more effective.

Whenever I'm working in the confined spaces of the engine compartment, reaching with my arms where my body cannot go, I invariably come away with burns or bloody scratches and nicks on my arms from cable ends and hidden sharp edges. Here's another use for old tube socks. Cut off the toe and snip another small hole just above the cut. Now, insert your arm into the sock from the top and pull the sock up until fingers extend through the open toe and your thumb sticks out the side hole. This gives you full dexterity to handle tools or grip fasteners while shielding your hand and arm from abrasion and heat. Cloth protection is not appropriate when the engine is running. If you want to keep a reusable pair of arm protectors among your tools, machine-stitch around the edges of the cuts to keep them from unraveling. 

 

— Published: Fall 2014


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