Tools Every Pickup Owner Should Have

Tool Kit II

By Matthew Barnes

Owning a pickup truck provides opportunities as well as responsibilities that don't exist if you own a smaller vehicle. Towing trailers, driving rougher roads, moving couches and hauling dirty, stinky items that aren't wanted inside of a vehicle are all things you can do with a pickup truck. Being able to do those things means you'll need extra tools to accomplish them safely.

Here are some suggestions for the gear you need when you're on the go.

Safety First

All commercial vehicles are required by the U.S. Department of Transportation to have three things: a properly rated dry fire extinguisher, three safety flares or triangles, and spare fuses. It's a good idea to have these items in any vehicle, not just commercial ones.

We recommend having an ABC-rated fire extinguisher rather than a BC-rated extinguisher and using the triangles instead of flares. A-rated fire extinguishers put out wood, paper, cloth and plastic fires; B-rated extinguishers are for fluids such as oil, gasoline and diesel fuel; and C-rated extinguishers are for electrical fires. For vehicle use, having one extinguisher that works for all three types of fires is the best way to go.
We recommend safety triangles over flares because flares can burn out in 10 to 30 minutes and can go bad over time. Safety triangles are larger and harder to store, but they work indefinitely as long as they aren't broken.

In addition to these safety items, every vehicle should carry a basic first-aid kit. Finally, a stored pair of sturdy gloves will allow you to touch hot items without burning your hands and protect your hands from getting cut while wrenching.

Safety Equipment II

Tools for Your Truck

You never know when you'll need a tool, so keeping an easily accessible toolkit in your pickup is a good idea. We recommend the toolkit include electrical tape, a socket set, pliers, wire strippers, screw drivers, zip ties, duct tape, an air pressure gauge and combination wrenches. Having these tools will allow you to make temporary fixes when on the road, which will hopefully last until a safe place with the proper equipment can be reached. A cheap kit is better than no kit at all, so if money is tight, pick up a $30 kit at a discount store.

That said, pickups are taller, longer and wider than most cars. They also have larger hardware, meaning that investing in a large set of combination wrenches and sockets is probably a good idea. Furthermore, towing a trailer also can require larger tools for both the trailer and for a weight-distributing hitch, if so equipped. Having wrenches and sockets that go up to 1 1/2 inches can be a life saver if a suspension nut on the truck or head bolt on the trailer hitch comes loose.

Flashlights are invaluable for working in the dark. Many cellphones have a flashlight incorporated, but it's also a good idea to have one stored in the truck. Another great tool for a pickup truck is a folding shovel. This can be used for digging the vehicle out when it's stuck, building a fire ring, clearing a tent site of rocks, digging a toilet and many other things. They are cheap, small and easy to store and use. Likewise, jumper cables or a boxed jump-starter are both excellent tools to have on hand. Many portable jump-starters also have an air compressor built into them, just in case you need to inflate a tire.

Finally, having these tools allows you to help other people in need. Be aware that a powerful jump-starter is required to start a diesel engine and keeping all these tools on board will add extra weight.

Jump Start II

Tools for Your Garage

We could cover every tool a mechanic's shop would have, but that's not realistic. So we're recommending tools that don't need to be in the truck, but they'll make doing your own maintenance easier.

Floor jacks and jack stands are great for lifting and safely supporting the vehicle while it's being worked on. Using the factory-supplied jack works in a pinch, but it takes a lot of time and can only hold up one wheel at a time. With a floor jack and jack stands, two wheels can be safely removed, and it can be done more quickly than by using the factory jack.

Ramps are useful for oil and oil filter, transmission filter and fluid changes, and for whenever more clearance is needed to work underneath the pickup. Also, a torque wrench is great for tightening bolts to the proper load.

Beyond these tools, there are many others that will make jobs easier such as air ratchets, impact guns and specialty tools. However, they aren't necessary for most at-home repairs. They can be rented at parts stores should you need them.

Jack Stands II

For Cargo and Vehicle Recovery

If you frequently haul cargo or tow a trailer with your pickup, there are a few tools you should keep in the truck.

Those who carry cargo in a pickup bed should have a four-pack of 1-inch-wide ratcheting tie-downs for securing loads. Those who pull trailers with heavier cargo might need larger and longer 2-inch, 3-inch or even 4-inch-wide tie-down straps. A small-diameter rope that's 20 to 30 feet long is versatile and can be stored under the rear seats or in a door pocket.

Additionally, tow straps can be used for vehicle recovery and for towing short distances to move a vehicle out of a dangerous position, such as the shoulder of a freeway, to a safer location. Ropes are also significantly lighter and easier to handle than towing chains, but they aren't as abrasion-resistant. Some tow straps have hooks on the ends, while others may only have loops. For the tow straps with loops, it is a good idea to have a set of heavy-duty shackles to make it easy to securely connect to the vehicle(s).

If there's a good chance that the truck will be driven in snowy, icy or muddy conditions, then tire chains might be something to keep in the truck, too. It might be a seasonal thing, but having a set of at least two tire chains will make winter driving much safer and can prevent your truck from getting stuck in deep snow or mud.

Ratchet Strap II

Storage

There are a variety of ways to store tools and equipment in a pickup truck or SUV. Tool roll-up packaging, usually made of heavy canvas or nylon, is a good way to store tools. Tool rolls generally have separate pockets for each tool, which keeps them from rattling. When rolled up, they are compact and easy to move and store. Toolboxes, although larger, can protect fragile tools, such as a multimeter, and keep the tools organized. They might take up more room than a tool roll, but having a hard shell allows them to be stacked or stored in an area that might take small impacts.

Truck-bed toolboxes can provide a lot of storage space, but they also take up valuable space in the bed of the truck. There is usually enough room inside a truck for all the equipment listed above, underneath and/or behind the seats.

Keeping this equipment in a vehicle takes up space that might be otherwise used for luggage, construction materials, life jackets or other items, but when there's an emergency, they are indispensable.

Tool Box II

Final Thoughts

Purchasing these items at once can be overwhelming and costly. Start small, picking up a tool here and a first-aid kit there, until you have a full emergency kit built up. Eventually one or many of the tools will be used to help yourself or someone else get out of tight spot.

Cars.com photos by Matthew Barnes

 

First Ait Kit II

Flashlight II

Floor Jack II

Fuses II

Large Socket Set II

Ramps II

Tow Strap and Shovel II

 

Comments

Holy crap, that would leave the Ram 1500 guys with about 40 pounds of payload.

@Jack
Well, Raptor would need to decide between flashlight and fuses.

amazing that a personal computer is left out.

Without a PC a fellow damn near needs a library of books and magazines to stay sharp and up to date.

As a tool for reference a PC is unparalelled. Today's auto enthusiast is able to search a universe of publications on the latest info for a specific model. Today's auto service professional can quickly access the specifics of every model he works on.

Without a PC your work increases and your accuracy fails.

This proves this is a Pro Ford site!

Just kidding......everyone settle down!!

Along the technology line, a "code puller" to pull the codes from the vehicle computer.

And for those of you who drive late model Fords, an empty
6 pack of Bud cans will work wonders for fender replacement.

Me personally, I carry around a 19 year Swedish Exchange
student for moral support and a shoulder to cry on when
crawling along the Cross Bronx Expressway. Works wonders
when she's in Comfort Mode.

I have a first aid kit in both our vehicles. You forgot the 4 foot long piece of baling wire, wrapped around the frame, so when you lock the keys in the truck you have some wire to get them out. Or if someone else locks there key in the car...you can be a hero...

I thought of another use for tow straps and recovery straps. I carry a 30ft. tow and a 20ft. recovery strap. With 2 shackles I could reach 50ft. to pull someone from a lake or pond. A few people on the bank pulling would get about anyone from drowning.

@fredtheman

Agree. And why not a simple hand powered come-along winch too?

What is a PC?

Three items can fix anything. A roadside assistance membership, a credit card and a cell phone. Call for help and pay someone to fix your truck.
I used to carry a lot of these tools behind the seat of my truck (the place where the gas tank used to be). But now behind the seat is another seat. What a waste.

1. Hoist

2. High lift Jack

3. 12v 4cfm compressor

4. cordless impact wrench and sockets

5. axe, shovel and saw

6. 3lb sledge

7. straps

8. sand tracks

9. winch, hand and electric

10 pulleys

11 vice grips

12 shifter (adjustable wrench)

13 combination spanner (open and box end wrenches)

14 Leathermans

15. portable LED lights and torch (flashlight)

16. cast iron BBQ plate and cast iron Caldero and frypan

17. speed tape

18. rope

19. tiedown straps

20. Esky (cooler)

21. Spare water

22. 20lt Jerry cans

23. 12' x 18' tarp

24. tyre iron

25 chain saw

26. Irwin screwdriver set (not Stanley)

27. A recovery vehicle to carry all this stuff (joking). Just buy a one tonne midsizer. You can carry all your equipment, plus 4 passengers off road and still have capacity to tow.

papajimi,
How many time do we come across a person stuck in a lake?

Why not fit your vehicle with a snorkel?

I will be cheaper than even a handwinch.

28. Also keep a gallon container of gas just in case you need a splash of the good stuff.

Avoid all this hassle and drive a GM pick-up.

Ford guys need a reliable friend who drives a reliable Tundra to come pick them up.

I love how you guys try to put down Ford in every topic. I guess that's what years of frustration will do. lol.

Make sure you bring extra tools for those Gm products, ya know, spark plugs, engine parts, jb weld for those twisted beds if you haul anything......


Ford guys need a reliable friend who drives a reliable Tundra to come pick them up.
Posted by: Cooper | Jul 24, 2017 10:38:03 AM

Cooper, you have that correct, only all Big 3 owners need such a friend owning a Tundra.

Avoid all this hassle and drive a GM pick-up.

Posted by: GMSRGREAT | Jul 24, 2017 10:13:03 AM

Haha!! Hysterical funny, and quite a delusional departure from the reality.

Now we just need to convince Ford and Chevy to put some dry tool storage in their trucks. I think that Ram still has the boxes in the floor and the three Japanese makes have some outside storage that is dry and secure. Why haven't the two biggest names figured that out yet?

Along the technology line, a "code puller" to pull the codes from the vehicle computer.
Posted by: NoQDRTundra | Jul 24, 2017 8:12:22 AM

These days, I prefer a Bluetooth OBDII dongle (approx $30) and a smartphone app like Torque Pro.

I have everything with me mentioned by article and posters, going where no cellphone signal is + Jump Start Cables and Noco Genius GB 70 to start my truck when battery dies and GB 40 in my ATV constantly.
It's nightmare to be not able to start your engine 30 kms in the middle of nowhere without cell phone reception , roads, or any people around you.

jb weld for those twisted beds if you haul anything......

Posted by: Nitro | Jul 24, 2017 12:19:33 PM

Jb weld is what holds the Ford beds together. Just keep'in it real.

I have a thick plastic bed liner in the aluminum bed of my F-150 so NO problems of holes in my bed!

It's nightmare to be not able to start your engine 30 kms in the middle of nowhere without cell phone reception , roads, or any people around you. Posted by: RAM | Jul 24, 2017

@Ram

Is it just me? We lived that way for decades and had no nightmares.

We dealt with it. Sometimes you just have to walk a little farther.



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