Trailer-Boat Toolkit

By Mark Corke

A few tools on the boat can save the day. Here are the items that could prove handy.

Photo of a waterproof toolbox and tools

No one likes to break down, but having a basic toolkit on the boat could mean the difference between a minor irritation and having to call for a tow. Although it's difficult to plan for every eventuality, being ready with some basic tools could save the day. Most boaters will likely have a few ideas of their own, and that's just fine, so use this list as a starting point and build from there. This isn't a comprehensive toolkit, simply a basic compendium of tools for first-aid maintenance.

  • Mirror On A Stick: This lets you look into places that would otherwise be inaccessible to the naked eye.
  • Hacksaw: Not just for cutting metal, it can also cut wood and fiberglass in a pinch.
  • Flashlight: Perfect for finding that errant nut and washer that you just dropped into the bilge.
  • Spray Lubricant: Use this for everything from freeing corroded fasteners, to spraying a protective film on the engine.
  • Oil Absorbent Pads: The perfect solution to prevent oil and fuel spills from finding their way into the bilge, or worse yet, the water.
  • Pliers: Perfect for tasks such as removing cotter pins from the propeller nut, and for other tasks that require a firm grip.
  • Wire Strippers: No one plans to do any heavy-duty wiring jobs offshore, but a set of wire cutters with a crimping tool built in means you can always make perfect connections.
  • Multitool: If you carry only one tool, then this should be it. It includes pliers, a file, screwdrivers, a knife, a small saw, and more.
  • Fuel Filter: Not really a tool, but so important to the health and well-being of your boat engine that you should always have several spares handy. Take on a batch of bad fuel, and you'll be mightily glad that you thought to carry spares.
  • Rags: Keeping a good selection of rags on board makes cleaning up messes a snap. Microfiber cloths are the perfect choice for wiping down chartplotter and instrument displays without damage.
  • Caulking: Great for on-the-spot fixes of leaking deck fittings. Caulking can be purchased in an assortment of colors, so pick one to suit your boat's finish. Some will cure wet, underwater.
  • Hose Clamps: Again, not really a tool, but they take up so little space in the toolbox that it seems silly not to have them. A large hose clamp tightened around a spin-on filter can provide the necessary extra grip.
  • Adhesive Tape: Use it in a thousand ways. I once sailed all the way across the Atlantic with the toilet held in position with duct tape!
  • Wrenches: At the very least, stash the wrenches that came with the motor on board. You might want to add a couple of other frequently used sizes. An adjustable wrench is handy, too, but it can be a tight fit in many places.
  • Fuses: A blown engine fuse could be all that's preventing your engine from cranking over. Make sure you carry a selection of sizes.
  • Allen Wrenches: These come in both metric and standard sizes. Choose the type that fits your engine.
  • Marker: A myriad of uses, from marking the change date on fuel filters, to permanently labeling cables.
  • Screwdrivers: Carry a mix of sizes in both flat-head and Phillips styles. 

— Published: Fall 2015


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