Not everyone wants or needs to carry a tool kit in each vehicle they drive. Your late-model daily-driver that’s proved totally reliable shouldn’t need more than a spare tire and a jack, if that. Each tool kit should be balanced for the vehicle and its intended purpose. Even if you could carry a Snap-On truck’s worth of tools, many mechanical issues aren’t practical to fix on the side of the road. For labor-intensive problems, it’s best to have your phone with you to call roadside assistance for a tow—whether to your own garage or to a trusted repair shop. In the spirit of this list, perhaps a phone is truly the #1 piece of electronics that can rescue you from a spot of bother.
However, if you venture off-road in your Jeep or pickup, or if you find yourself in more remote locations searching for fun backroads, you likely want to be much more self-sufficient. You’ll want to carry a well-stocked tool bag, plus spares for the parts most likely to leave you crippled in the event of failure.
Last year, our own Kyle Smith gave some tips on how to properly select the tools to bring with you in your vehicle. His advice led me to practice some of my most probable road-side repairs. In the process, I realized that 2 additional feet of extensions made a disabling sensor failure a 10-minute fix rather than an obscenity-laced knuckle-buster.
For my Jeep Cherokee, I keep a basic socket set—in standard and in metric, because Jeep hadn’t yet made up its mind in 1998—with lots of extensions, wrenches, pliers, and screwdrivers (including Torx drivers). There are some spare nuts and bolts, fuses and relays, and wiring terminals in there as well. I also keep some spare fluids (ATF and engine oil at least, along with a funnel) and the most common parts that could fail and leave the 4.0-liter stranded: the MAP sensor, the crankshaft position sensor, and the coil.
Following the lessons from Smith’s previous article, I decided to add three electronic doodads to my on-board tool kit.