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SOME THINGS TO MAKE AUTOMOBILE BREAKDOWNS
IN THE STICKS A LITTLE LESS FRUSTRATING

by Gill Ediger--Experienced Rigro

Over the past 30 or so years of traveling in Mexico and less civilized places (like Oklahoma) I've had numerous opportunities to make truck repairs while far from town, having to rely on the tools, parts, and various odds and ends I had in my tool box, along with a little ingenuity. Many times having a simple scrap of something meant the difference between being delayed only 20 minutes instead of taking 2 days to walk or hitch a ride to town and back. During the time saved I've been able to produce this list of items which, if added to your tool box, could make your life easier during your travels and travails into the bush. Even if you are a mechanical bozo who wouldn't know the difference between a muffler clamp and a dip stick, you should still carry spare parts for your vehicle. Chances are really good that someone in the crew will be able to fix the problem if they have the stuff. Without it you're S.O.L. I will present both a simple checklist and a more complicated explanation, since the uses of some items are not readily obvious.

The first and most apparent thing you will need is a good SET OF TOOLS. This should include a complete set of OPEN END and BOX WRENCHES and SHALLOW and DEEP WELL " drive SOCKETS. They should be SAE or Metric according to your vehicle requirements and should be able to fit the entire range of nuts and bolts on your truck. Be sure you have a RATCHET HANDLE and a POWER HANDLE and EXTENSIONS of 2, 4, 6, and 8 inch lengths. Include a SPARK PLUG SOCKET for your size plugs (they come in 2 sizes) and a simple GAP GAUGE and FEELER GAUGES. While CRESCENT WRENCHES should not be used whenever the proper size wrench is available, 2 or 3 sizes of adjustable wrenches should be provided. A small 5 or 6 inch and a 10 inch crescent will be used often. A 12 or 14 inch crescent should be included for larger trucks. VISE GRIPS are not wrenches and should normally be used only to hold things so you can work on them with other tools. Have at least one good sized one. One pair each of good quality standard PLIERS and NEEDLE NOSE PLIERS will be needed. SCREWDRIVERS should include both wide and thin blades in 3 lengths, stubby, normal, and fairly long. PHILLIPS SCREWDRIVERS come in #1, #2, & #3 sizes, all of which should be had in normal lengths as well as a #2 stubby. If your vehicle has any bolts requiring special wrenches such as ALLEN or TORX be sure to have some in the appropriate sizes. These are the minimum tools I suggest. With these you can loosen, tighten, adjust, replace and/or repair almost any user serviceable part.

Some situations, however, are more adverse and require additional tools, extra parts, and more effort and ingenuity. These are the instances when a simple replacement isn't possible, you have to fabricate or modify something. Toward those ends I suggest the following modification tools. Include a UTILITY KNIFE and a HACK SAW and SPARE BLADES for each and an old TOOTH BRUSH and some EMERY CLOTH. FILES allow you to modify sizes and locations of holes for nonstandard, but otherwise usable, parts. Buy an IGNITION POINT FILE, a FLAT or MILL BASTARD FILE in 8 or 10 inch length, and a RAT TAIL FILE of the same size. A COLD CHISEL about " wide and a good sized BALL PEEN HAMMER will help with modifications. A 12 or 18 inch METAL RULER, CENTER PUNCH, SCRATCH AWL and a #2 PENCIL are handy for measuring, marking and laying out stuff you're working on. What about making holes? Get a small hand drill not a carpenters brace, but a little drill that has a small crank on the side which you turn by hand. A ", a ", a ", and a " bit should handle most of your needs. Hole sizes can be adjusted with the Rat Tail File. You'll need a center punch to layout your holes. I don't recall having ever used it, but I can sure see the potential for, and always carry a set of taps and dies for cutting threads should I need to. A small 1 inch bar magnet and a somewhat larger one for heavier items are often useful. There is something I would normally never use, but which has proved handy in making temporary repairs--it is glue, EPOXY GLUE. Get some good, strong, fairly fast setting 2-part epoxy glue, and get a good bit of it, several tubes. It does go bad, so replace it from time to time.

Under the heading of spare parts we will find a wide range of items. Taking the precaution to carry these can save you many, many hours of hassle and frustration. A few require a substantial investment, but having them on hand, even at home, will make life a bit easier. These include your basic "bound to fail at some point" items such as WATER PUMP and FUEL PUMP and GASKETS for each, FAN BELTS, COILS, CAPACITORS and other IGNITION PARTS including SPARK PLUGS and WIRES and a DISTRIBUTOR CAP with extra ROTOR and POINTS, or ELECTRONIC IGNITION and associated gewgaws, an ALTERNATOR, FUEL FILTERS (take several extras) and in dusty areas an AIR FILTER, a FUEL CAP and RADIATOR CAP, RADIATOR HOSES, UNIVERSAL JOINTS, and a set of WHEEL BEARINGS. Don't forget that some of these things require gaskets and grease. I find it prudent to carry some extra GASKET MATERIAL and a tube of SILICONE GASKET SEALANT. The latter often will suffice without any other gasket.

One of the most common problems in Mexico is fuel starvation caused by a clogged fuel filter. Symptoms are sputtering, hesitation, loss of power, or dying while accelerating or climbing hills. Do not cuss the filter! It is doing exactly what it is supposed to do keeping that crap from clogging the expensive carburetor. And do not eliminate the filter! It has clogged at this point in your relationship for a reason the fuel is dirty. The filter is needed now more than ever before. Replace it with a new clean one or, clean the old one as best you can and reinstall it. I find it prudent to carry an extra, all purpose, any application, in-line fuel filter to cut into the fuel line in severe cases. It can also be sold at a high price to those who lacked prudence. Never pass up a chance to profit from others' mistakes, be that profit money or wisdom.

Electrical spare parts include several FUSES and LIGHT BULBS of each type and rating that your truck has. Any electric sensors or valves or other emission control device whose failure might keep your engine from running would be prudent to have. Don't forget electrical tape and 10 or 20 feet of 14 gauge automotive wire to bypass sections of wire which may get burned or damaged.

Extra fluids should include enough to completely replace the minimum required to run the engine or accessory, plus any you plan to use up or lose (drip out) on the trip. Holes in the oil pan or various lines or hoses can drain the whole system. You must be able to refill the entire reservoir. Fluids and lubricants include: ENGINE OIL, BRAKE FLUID of you truck's recommended type, ATF and/or POWER STEERING FLUID, some ANTIFREEZE/ COOLANT, WHEEL BEARING GREASE, TRANSMISSION and REAR END GREASE (90W or as required), WD-40, a pint or so of VARSOL (MINERAL SPIRITS) for parts cleaning, STARTING FLUID (for emergency use only), and some hand cleaner. An accessory to fluid use is a rag or paper shop towels, the latter available for free at most gas station window wash racks. A FLEXIBLE FUNNEL is sometimes needed for getting fluids in the right holes.

Tires sometimes need attention. At minimum a PLUG KIT and 'Fix-a-Flat' should be carried for tubeless tires and an extra VALVE STEM. Take several VALVE CORES, and a TOOL to remove and install them. All valve stems should have caps on them. People with tube-type tires need a spare INNER TUBE or two, a PATCH KIT and the TOOLS necessary to break down a tire, and some means of reinflating it. HAND PUMPS are pass but they are light weight and they work. SPARK PLUG PUMPS and 12 volt ELECTRIC PUMPS are small, very nice, and require less effort. Tubeless tires are often hard to reinflate after the bead seal with the rim has been broken. Carry an INNER TUBE or two of the right size for your tubeless tires to solve that problem. Please remember to take a JACK and LUG WRENCH. A half dozen spare LUG NUTS have come in handy on several occasions. Arrange to have at least 2 SPARE TIRES, both capable of holding air. For extended trips in rough terrain carrying extra UNMOUNTED TIRES might be wise, as well.

We now come to the "Parts and Pieces" portion of our program. These are things which you will use to fabricate, improvise, jury rig or otherwise fake to make the car GO! Whatever it takes to get from where we are to where we want to be is the purpose of the exercise. I'll illustrate: Clark and friends were traveling in the desert when the fuel pump gave out. Not having a spare pump they siphoned gas into a can which they then tied to the roof of the truck and ran a fuel line from it directly to the carburetor. By starting a siphon they let gravity be their pump and made it back to civilization and the parts store.

Most of the repairs we are talking about are not the kind they'd make in any automotive garage, even in Mexico!! But they are the kind that you'll have to make in the desert or the jungle or up in the mountains if you want to get back to the garage with minimum hassle in minimum time. I suggest that you carry at least these very specialized items in a container sized and suited to the purpose. Several 6 to 12 inch pieces of FUEL and VACUUM LINE of the size used by your vehicle, and an excess number of screw type HOSE CLAMPS for them. And you should have 3 or 4 pieces of COPPER TUBING 2 inches long each sized to fit snugly inside of every critical hose, or plastic connectors sold in parts stores to serve the same purpose. Include inside sleeves for the radiator and heater hoses. Again, include an excess of the proper size HOSE CLAMPS. These tubes and stuff are used to repair leaking hoses. Simply cut completely through the hose at the leak, insert the short piece of tubing and tighten the clamps. Larger diameter tubing for radiator hoses can be made from plumbing drain pipes or even copper pipe nipples or couplings. Do not use plastic fittings or tubing for hoses which get very hot. Likewise you should have several short bolts, with some unthreaded shank, which will fit snugly into the fuel or vacuum hoses. It's best if you saw the threaded part off, but you don't have to. These will serve as plugs for the lines either while you're working on them (changing filters, pumps, etc.) to prevent fuel leaking, or to seal a line that you are bypassing for the time being. Hose clamps should be used on hoses for most "temporarily permanent" situations like if you're gonna drive the car. Some carburetor problems can be made better by plugging certain lines. Sometimes you must experiment 'til you get it to work, even half-assed, but if it gets you out of there, well, that's good enough.

Among other things to have are BALING WIRE, DUCT TAPE, several pieces of ALL THREAD and many NUTS and WASHERS in , and inch diameters, and as long as you can manage. You should, of course, have a reasonable supply of automotive nuts and bolts in the lengths and sizes common to your vehicle. Buy 2 stout inch TURNBUCKLES which can be used to pull together cracked or broken pieces such as exhaust manifolds, or to hold up an engine should motor mounts fail. Two or three short pieces of " CHAIN of 10 or 12 links each will be found handy from time to time to wrap around or bolt to things you need to lift or support, and as extenders for the turnbuckles.

There are, of course, a few other things which I have to keep fighting myself to not include. Those are items which fall into the "nice to have" category, but are probably not really justifiable.

The Checklist

TOOL BOX

  • wrench set

  • socket set

  • spark plug socket

  • adjustable wrenches

  • pliers

  • screw drivers

  • allen & TORX wrenches

  • feeler and gap gauges

  • utility knife (blades)

  • hack saw (blades)

  • tooth brush

  • emery cloth

  • files

  • flat

  • rat tail

  • ignition

  • cold chisel

  • ball peen hammer

  • ruler

  • center punch

  • scratch awl

  • pencil

  • epoxy glue

PARTS

  • water pump

  • fuel pump

  • gaskets & sealant

  • fan belts

  • coil

  • capacitors

  • ignition parts

  • spark plugs

  • extra s.p. wires

  • distributor cap

  • distributor rotor

  • distributor points

  • electronic ignition stuff

  • alternator

  • fuel filters (several)

  • air filter

  • fuel cap

  • radiator cap

  • radiator hoses

  • universal joints

  • wheel bearings

  • fuses (2 complete sets)

  • bulbs

  • hoses & repair tubes

  • hose clamps

  • valve stems & cores

  • inner tubes

  • plug or patch kit

  • air pump

  • lug nuts

  • spare tires

  • jack & lug wrench

  • baling wire

  • electrical wire

  • duct tape

  • nuts, bolts & washers

  • turn buckles & chain

FLUIDS

  • engine oil

  • brake fluid

  • ATF & PSF

  • antifreeze

  • wheel bearing grease

  • trans & rear end grease

  • WD-40

  • starting fluid

  • cleaning fluid