Myself being a lazy, not-very-careful female RVer, that sound could easily ruin my day.
Any similar sound has the potential to wreck your camping trip. Or your weekend. It might even leave you stranded.
How? If you don’t have the right tools (or husband/friend/) to take care of the issue.
Having the right tools handy can mean getting you back on the road in a jiffy. Or getting you back to the campfire just in time for sunset. Or getting your solar working again.
With the right tools, you might even even save a finger.
My friend and Camp Addict co-founder Marshall has helped me with a ton of mechanical things in my travel trailer and truck. He has shown me that certain RV tools are VERY important to have on hand, or, cocktail hour can quickly be ruined. And we can’t have that.
Had he not had the right tools, I would have been up Schitz Creek a few times! (Ok, more than a few…)
Which leads us to this article. To let you know you which essential RV tools are actually essential and MUST have. And which ones aren’t TOTALLY necessary, but one day you’ll thank me for.
You likely have most of these at home already, so stocking up your RV shouldn’t break the bank. (Which is great news, since your RV purchase itself probably already did.)
These are at the top of my list because they are absolute essential RV tools!!
These get used all the time. (By Marshall, LOL!) Unhooking battery connections, tightening bolts, and disconnecting almost any hardware requires a wrench.
Your best bet is to have a complete set of combination wrenches. Combination wrenches have two different ends. They have a ‘box’ end on one end and an ‘open end’ on the other.
You should also have a socket and ratchet set. This is best for speedy tightening and loosening of nuts and bolts. It can also fit into places your wrench might not. Especially if you have an extension. I have a wee set. Marshall has the real set. I have a Marshall. Do you? If not, get a real set.
You should DEFINITELY carry with you a breaker bar for your tire lug nuts in the event you have to change your tire. (Even I have one now) This will come in handy for changing your tow vehicle or your trailer tire. If you have a big motorhome, you may not be able to change your own tire.
You motorhome people would need a massive jack and impact wrench to DIY. The chances you can’t get the lug nuts off without heavy-duty power tools is high.
Be also sure you have a socket that fits your tow vehicle’s lug nuts. You can use a breaker bar in conjunction with this.
Or, use the lug wrench that came with your car. (The lug wrench will not give you as much torque. You cheap-o’s can increase the torque by buying a metal pipe to slide over the wrench to lengthen it. This will add a lot more force to your efforts.)
Make sure you have a socket that fits your trailer lug nuts. They may not be the same size as your tow vehicle. Mine was not. This stuff is not intuitive. So make sure if you don’t have one, that you get one.
You will need pliers and other cutting devices while you are on the road. I tend to use these over wrenches, as I am uber lazy. I want ‘get the tool quick, get the nut moving fast’ results. However, for heavy applications, a wrench might be in order.
Here’s a short list of the different type of essential RV pliers you should keep handy:
- Vice grip pliers- these are always good to have. They can do almost anything. The locking mechanism helps ease the stress on your hand. Also, the lock is weirdly somewhat satisfying to lock into place.
- Slip-joint pliers- these are easy to use and are very versatile for different sized needs. Quick and easy- if you don’t feel like figuring out the right size wrench, like me.
- Side cutting pliers- they are great for cutting things like wire and zip ties. They are especially good for helping with electrical work that you probably don’t know how to do
This one might seem dumb to put on an “essential RV tools” list… But if I don’t say it, there’s gonna be that one guy!
Of course you need scissors. There are a million applications for having a pair. Use them for opening ‘that’ packaging that we all hate, opening wrapped chicken, cutting a zip tie, paper, etc. Also, run with a pair every now and then.
You find things in your home that need these. And you find things in your RV that need these.
Have a complete size in standard and metric sizes set available.
On that note, why can’t there only be one style of fitting for screws????? Sigh.
Multi-bit Ratcheting Screwdriver
This is pretty basic, so it’s one of the things I made sure I had before hitting the road. I had PLENTY of screwdrivers already, but I didn’t want to carry 15 of them (see, too many styles!) in my RV.
Space is very valuable, and 15 screwdrivers take up a lot of it. They also add up as far as weight goes. Get yourself one of these bad boys and you don’t have to even worry about alladat.
Battery Powered Drill
This is so useful.
First, if you have a trailer with stabilizers, you want a drill. It’s absolutely essential in your rig toolbox!
You can buy a socket from Amazon that fits the drill and the stabilizer mechanism. This will save you a ton of time raising and and lowering your stabilizers. (If you even bother putting yours down, unlike SOME people.)
There are plenty of other uses for a drill. When we installed my rooftop solar panels (WOOT!!!) I used the drill a ton. I used it when building a wood box for my generators to sit in. I’ve used it to put screws in the walls to hang curtains in my rig.
Don’t find yourself without a drill.
Oh, and you’ll be happier with cordless. #protip
Drill Bit Set
Your drill won’t be much good without bits. Find a set with good size choices. Having some bits designed for metal is also a good idea.
Even in an RV, you’re going to need a hammer every now and then. Seems I rarely use mine for nails. There are so many other things I pull it out of my toolbox for. Getting stakes out of the ground… honestly, I can’t think of anything else I’ve used mine for, (So shoot me. I’m human) but I KNOW I pull it out quite often.
I have used a mallet for quite a few applications. (Mostly on Marshall, when he makes a mistake… I’m joking. Calm down!)
I’ve used it to stake down my outdoor mat. And to punch on hardware that didn’t want to move… Talking to you, weight distribution hitch. It’s great to use to push the hitch pin through.
Or, you can just safely hit the nearest thing/person with one. Feels good. 10/10 would recommend.
Magic Saw or Hacksaw
She got me one of these practical gifts I used to “love”, about maybe 15 years ago. FINALLY it’s coming in handy and I am using it. It’s like a mini hack saw, with different blades. I use it for a variety of things. It cuts glass, tile, screws and more. It’s nice and compact, too.
The way Google is your best friend when it comes to learning, zip ties are your best friend when it comes to fixing.
Seriously, these are an absolute essential RV tool…they just come in handy in a ridiculous amount of ways.
- replacement for cotter pins on my old weight distribution hitch
- keep wires in order.
- hold your bumper together when you run a rock over trying to get to your boondocking spot
- Keeping things in place in your Craigslist rig
- Need I go on?
What an unreasonable, difficult to understand device. Unless you’re an electrician or an overall tech geek, this thing might seem excessive but I promise it’s an essential RV tool.
You’re going to need this for your batteries, at the very least.
You should be testing them to make sure your lead-acid batteries don’t go below a 50% charge. Otherwise, you can be using it to test for voltage when you have an electrical issue. Having some basic knowledge of electricity comes in handy here.
Even if you don’t know how to use one, your neighbor or your Marshall might. All I know about mine is which setting to use for testing my batteries. Now that I have a battery monitor, I don’t have to use it. But I still keep it around and consider it a must. You never know when you’ve got to check something manually.
Box Cutter/ Utility Knife
If you’re me, you COULD just use a simple kitchen knife. If you have very nice knives, then maybe not so much. Get yourself one of these, or a good decent pocket knife. Use it for things like opening your Amazon boxes, breaking down your Amazon boxes, cutting off your zip tie handcuffs, and more.
The sky’s the limit, folks!
Even if you have a ladder on the back of your RV, you will need a portable ladder.
“But why, Kelly?” you might ask…
Stuff like awning maintenance, washing windows, changing out a running light, or the good ole “fall off and break your arm so you get out of dumping the black tank” trick.
You pretty much can’t get away with not having a ladder. Get one that expands and retracts so it doesn’t take up much room.
Dicor is what most RVs are sealed with on the outside. Where there is a seam or a screw, it’s usually covered with this goo. You should be checking the state of your dicor a couple times a year to ensure it’s properly sealing your rig. It’s really going to help you avoid water damage.
Now, there’s self-leveling Dicor and non self-leveling Dicor. For you Einsteins who were wondering, use self-leveling on the roof, and non self-leveling on side seals.
Protip: Sometimes gum works, too and would make more sense to use if you’re a competitive gum-chewer like Violet from that one old movie.
If you’re using Dicor or silicone, you need a caulking gun to dispense it. You may use silicone inside of your RV for securing things down while you move, such as your children. Of course, you would only be securing things you’d like to have stay permanently where they are, so choose wisely.
THIS stuff… it’s like having Dicor that doesn’t need time to dry. It’s a very heavy-duty tape/sealer. Once it’s on, good luck getting it off. This stuff is for sealing leaks on your roof for the most part. It’s VERY good/handy to have at the tip of your fingers in the event of a leak. Much better than, ahem, a giant tarp.
Tire Pressure Gauge
We hope you already have this in your glove box. If not, get one, STAT. Have one for your motorhome and also for your toad, if you have one.
Best practice is to manually check all of your tires before every trip.
Tire Pressure Monitoring System
If your vehicle doesn’t come with this, GET one. You need to be able to see the tire pressure on all your RV’s tires, and any toad or tow vehicle you might have. Honestly, you should still check them manually before each trip. Oh, that made you laugh, too? Then at the very least, get a TPMS system. Having this can save you from an expensive and/or deadly blowout.
Even if you don’t have any electrical experience (i.e. MOST of us), your neighbor or your Marshall might. I would suggest keeping on board at the very least:
- Solder gun
- Heat shrink
- Wire strippers
- Electrical tape
Other Important Tools
There are plenty of other accessories that may not GO into a toolbox, but you should always have them on hand. They will either make the job easier, or they will help get the job done.
You should always have each of these items on hand.
I don’t mean to insult your intelligence by mentioning this one (But if you don’t have one, then am I?). The thing is, you may not have thought about it if you have a motorhome. Jumper cables are good to have in every vehicle. Be sure to carry a good quality set. Have one for your motorhome and one for your toad, if applicable.
This is just great to have in EVERY vehicle. I’ve used mine more than once. The hardest part of having it is making sure you keep it charged.
If camping, this becomes more vital if you are boondocking in a remote area. As long as you keep it charged, you won’t need another vehicle to get yourself back on the road.
It’s so much easier to do it yourself, ESPECIALLY if you aren’t any of these: female, blonde, young, roadside wearing a bikini.
Like your house, your RV will have a fuse box. It will have special fuses. You need to find out what kind you have, and have plenty of spares. Some may be 10 amp fuses, some may be 20 amp fuses. Find out what you have and have plenty of replacements on hand. Because, sometimes hair dryers and RV outlets don’t mix.
Be sure you have one that is capable of lifting a good portion of your RVs weight. You may need more than one, depending on the weight of your trailer or motorhome.
This is necessary for tire changes and also DIY maintenance of things like your wheel bearings. Again, have one for each motorhome and toad.
One day, you just might lift someone’s RV off of their finger with one. (Ask me how I know.)
Best to have all the tools possible to help save a life.
Like at home, you will probably need to measure stuff. Especially if you are doing any remodeling or interior decorating.
“How to look like a dork 101: Wear a headlamp.”
I used to think this was the dorkiest thing one could ever wear, and now I wear one 20% of the life. (Well, actually I’m often too lazy to get it and just use my iPhone flashlight) I have a rule now, after tripping over my solar panel one night in my first year.
I must ALWAYS have a light source at night. It’s a rule you should also follow.
iPhones are amazing, but there WILL be times when you will need both hands to be free. So a headlamp is pretty much an essential. Have you ever tried changing a tire in the dark? It’s almost impossible without a good, hands-free light source.
Even starting a fire and searching for firewood are two obvious times a headlamp is handy.
You need them at home, you will also need them on the road. Use them for cleaning up dog vomit, then mopping it off the floor, washing up the dog’s feet, cleaning windows, etc. The uses are endless.
Ground Cloth or Mat
There will be times you need to look under your RV. Might as well keep the dirt/mud off of you. Some people, like myself, use an old yoga mat. Because you know you don’t use yours for doing yoga any more, Becky.
If you have to dump your tanks, you will definitely want nitrile latex gloves. OR, don’t use them, and soon you won’t have any friends.
Leather gardening gloves can also come in handy for a variety of jobs such as taking your hitch off of your tow vehicle, changing a tire, or digging the grave for your partner’s body after they “helped” you back into your new camping spot.
Oh yeah, your shovel. For the last tip. Maybe get a collapsible one, cause, you know, RV storage issues.
You’re playing with fire if you don’t have these essential tools on hand (Except for maybe the shovel). Otherwise, your RV adventure could end in frustration. You will save yourself a towing charge, a trip to the store, or having to end your trip. This stuff isn’t rocket science, but some of it you may not have thought about.
Get yourself stocked! You will thank me later.
What would you add to the list?
Kelly Beasley has been boondocking solo full-time since May of 2015. In 2017, she started CampAddict.com with her amazing business partner, Marshall Wendler. These two trusted online educators share their knowledge of the RVing lifestyle They also educate and review about the products needed for RVing. Kelly also shares her candid RV life stories at RvChickadee.com. Because mistakes make fun stories.