Build Your Own Tool Kit for Your Car


We always keep a few tools in the car. I’m in awe what Greg could accomplish with nothing more than a pair of channel-locks (tongue and groove pliers) and a couple of screwdrivers.

Not that I can perform the same kind of magic, but it’s nice to have a few tools in case I need to fuss with the battery cables or change a tire. Tires, battery, and windshield wipers are the extent of my automotive experience–and that’s only if my auto club can’t help me.

No one should be stranded though. I find even a couple of these tools prove handy for everyday situations. Here is what I keep in my tool bag.

First, a tool bag. They’re not terribly expensive, so make the investment. I’ve found it’s a lot easier to find things if they’re all in one place instead of scattered all over my car. If I’m stuck somewhere I’m already rattled so I don’t want to waste time looking for a wrench in the boneyard I call my back seat.

The tools:
ChannelLocks: That’s a brand name. I never knew that! I’ve called them ChannelLocks for so long I thought that’s what all these pliers were called. Greg says you need two, but I’ve survived on only one.

• Screwdrivers: One flat head and one Phillips head. You can invest in one of those screwdrivers with tips that can be changed. I have one, but I still prefer a regular screwdriver. It’s stronger and there’s no chance of losing the tips.

• Flashlight: A regular handheld is good, but consider getting a headlamp too. I’ve found them to be incredibly useful when my hands are busy.

Greg bought GRDE Zoomable Headlamp. I didn’t want to spend $20 on a headlamp (I use a cheaper one) but his is far superior to my cheapo version. Very sturdy, secure on any size head, with a tremendous amount of light. We use this a lot more than I expected.

• Bungee cords: Buy a pack of them. We used them ALL the time to keep things from shifting inside the car, or to tie things to the roof.

• A good knife: Greg always carries a knife on his person, but I prefer to keep mine in the vehicle.

• A multi-tool: Kind of like a Swiss Army knife but with pliers. Very handy! Greg likes the Leatherman brand. He says Gerber is also a good brand. They’ve come down in price in recent years, so grab one if you need an all-purpose kind of tool. If you can only keep one tool in the car, this one handles a lot of sins.

• Pliers: If you don’t have a multi-tool, toss in an extra set of all-purpose pliers.

• Leather gloves: I never know if I’ll be hauling lumber or untangling wire. Saves the hands.


A tool bag doesn’t need a lot of tools, just the right tools. Most of us can’t work on our cars, so you need only enough for the mundane tasks that crop up. Go with the bare minimum tool kit if you must but if you’re on the road much I recommend the more stocked bag. I’ve been stranded on more than one occasion (despite the auto club!) so it pays to be prepared.

tool kit

tool kit, bare minimum


On the left: The bare minimum tool bag.
On the right: The fuller tool bag–but don’t
forget the screwdrivers like I did in that picture.

In the picture on the left, I added a measuring tape. They come in handy if you shop garage
sales like I do.



Do you keep any tools in your car? Have you ever been stranded?


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  1. We used to keep tools in the car. We don’t anymore. Probably should if we’re traveling far and I’ll have to remind Hubby about doing that on our next trip.

    I’ve been stranded a couple of times (flat tire, lost keys), but those tools wouldn’t have helped me then. Well, except for the gloves. It was FREEZING out when the tire blew and I wasn’t dressed properly.

  2. We have a few tools in the vehicles; not sure what they are but probably the bare minimum. I’ve been stranded just a few times, but we have AAA, so that has been helpful 🙂


  3. JackieBCentralTexas

    We keep a set of jumper cables and the tire jack/lug nut remover in a vehicle but need to set up a tool bag also Maria.

    The head lamps are cool but have you seen the neat LED lights you attach to a cap? They work nicely and the cap can be folded up and the light is a clip on so not so uncomfortable or awkward to wearer. Of course the bill of the cap might get in the way but maybe not, we have not tested them out for emergency yet but use them for flashlights in the house or outside when need hands free.

    Karl swears by his Leatherman multi tool, he also has more than one and he has had a Gerber also but it was lost in the 2011 house fire so he did not get another one but now has several of the other.

    RE Stranded: Only once in 1999 when had my spectacular disaster of a wreck off Hwy 59 going back to Laredo on Veterans Day. Do not recommend it as the police and EMS are very thin on that particular lonely stretch and on that particular holiday as I found out the hard way.

    • Jackie: Greg is my car guy so he makes sure I have jumper cables in my car.

      re: head lamps
      I don’t and won’t wear a cap so I’m better off with a regular headlamp. I use it a lot when I go into the woods and it’s getting dark.

      re: multi-tool
      They’re really handy. I think they’ve gone down in price since Greg got his too.

      re: stranded
      You poor thing! Bad enough to be stranded, but in a wreck too. We try not to do anything dangerous on holidays. We’ve had a similar experience.

  4. Jenny: I belong to an auto club (roadside assistance) but they’ve left us stranded twice already. Once when I was in the middle of Dallas and the other time when they couldn’t find Greg in a small town.

    I won’t fuss with my car if the auto club is coming, but lately my confidence in them has waned.

  5. I was stranded once as a teenager. Had to knock on a strangers door and ask to use the phone since I was nowhere near a payphone. My parents were a little upset that I went into a stranger’s house, but it was either that or walk for miles. I thought I made the decision least likely to get me assaulted.

  6. Barbara: I think I would’ve been upset with you too. LOL.

    I once got stranded on my way to see Greg at his job. It was a lonely stretch of road with nothing but the occasional chemical plant. It was only two miles so I felt I could hoof it. (No cell phones back then.)

    I lost track of how many people stopped to give me a ride. I just kept my head down and said no. Finally this pickup truck turned around and started keeping pace with me. Someone yelled my name. It was one of Greg’s friends. I was relieved. I thought I was going to have to go High Karate on someone. 😀

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