Our Top 5 Portable Power Tools You Should Never Leave Home Without

It’s a good idea to carry some tools with you when you head bush, and most of us carry some sort of basic tool kit and spares. But often little thought goes into some of the tools needed to carry out some of those repairs. If you’ve ever tried to loosen a spring hanger without an impact driver, you’ll understand what I mean here.

So why don’t we carry a load of power tools with us when we travel? Well the simple answer is, until fairly recently they’ve been a bit average either in power or battery life. But the recent upgrades in battery technology have allowed portable power tools to become more and more useable for the bush mechanic; and they could just about save your life in many situations. We recommend taking one make of tools – this way you can share battery packs across the range and only need to carry one charger with you. We’d recommend carrying a couple of batteries though, as you can then use one while the other is charging.

But what tools should you really take? Well that is the age-old question… so we’ve put together our top five portable power tools you should carry on every off-road trip.

 

The trusty drill

Drills can have many uses and we’re not just talking about making holes in things. Most now have a screwdriver setting, which can make undoing and doing things up a whole lot quicker. Some of the more powerful ones also have a hammer drill feature, which isn’t just useful for drilling into concrete. If you don’t have an impact driver with you it can be used to loosen stubborn small bolts. Drills are also useful for drilling out rivets or seized bolts should the need arise.

 

Impact gun

Think of a ratchet set with the advantage of a sledge hammer and breaker bar attached, all in one. Impact guns can make light work of undoing wheel nuts or stubborn bolts. In fact, they’re pretty good at undoing and tightening most things. When using to tighten, remember to finish off by hand with a torque wrench to ensure the correct tension is on the bolt.

 

Grinder

Unfortunately, there comes a time when undoing stuff won’t cut it, or you need to reshape something to make it fit properly. This is where your grinder can come in handy. The great thing about grinders is that depending on the type of disc fitted, they can be used for many different applications.

The first and most obvious one is for working metal – this is handy if you need to grind back bolts or reshape bodywork after an accident. The second and probably the more useful application is cutting. With a 1mm disc fitted a grinder can be used to cut through thick steel… which is great if you need to remove something in a hurry and have a replacement part with you.

Most battery-operated grinders come in either 115mm or 125mm. The choice is yours, however the smaller ones can be easier to get into tight spaces. One point to note is that although grinding discs will cut and cutting discs will grind, always use the correct disc for the application (this will minimise overheating and the risk of the disc shattering).

 

Rotary tool

The die grinder or rotary tool is the Swiss Army Knife of the power tools world. Being fairly small they have a habit of being able to fit into spaces other tools cannot. Not only that; depending on the attachment fitted they have many uses, from small grinding, cleaning up surfaces, small-scale cutting… heck, some can even be used to drill or enlarge holes.

 

Reciprocating saw

One saw, many uses. The good old recip saw. These can do so many jobs and they’re not just vehicle-related. Need to cut up some timber? Stick the timber ripping blade on and away you go. Need to cut through plastic without melting it? The general-purpose blade is probably your best bet here. And finally, if you need to cut through any metal, use the (gasp!) metal blade.

Blades are available in different lengths to suit the applications, and are all fairly flexible which is great for getting into tight spaces or around slight corners. However, it’s always advisable to have the saw butted up to the surface you are cutting to minimise kickbacks.

 

As with all power tools make sure you wear the correct safety gear before using them, as injuring yourself with one could be more dangerous than the problem you were trying to fix in the first place.

 

Murphy’s Law

No matter how well you are prepared there’s always the chance you may not have the tool for the job or your tool batteries may be flat, so with that in mind there are some alternatives you can use when out in the field.

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Makeshift jack press: When a work bench and vice isn’t available.

The method:

Say you’re refitting a suspension bush. Place a jack under the chassis or hitch of your 4X4, position the bush and fitting between the jack and your vehicle, then slowly raise the jack taking care to keep everything as square as possible. As you lift the jack it will slowly seat the bush.

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Breaker bar: No impact driver, no problem. Grab the trusty old breaker bar.

The method:

Use a length of heavy-gauge steel tube (so it doesn’t bend) and place it over the end of your socket wrench. The extra leverage will help you move the stubborn bolt or nut. Take care to keep everything straight, otherwise you risk the socket jumping off or rounding off the bolt head.

Pro Tip: The original Hi-Lift jack handles are great for this.

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Bearing drift: Need to replace a bearing on the road? Use a socket.

The method:

With the old bearing removed grab a large socket (roughly the size of the bearing case) and, keeping it fairly square, tap in the new bearing with a mallet. Once it’s seated repack it with grease, tighten it up and away you go.

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Hand saw: Recip saw not working or can’t get into the gap?

The method:

You can use a metal work hand saw. We’d recommend one of the ones with an open blade for improved access. It will work but it will take a lot longer to cut, and if the metal is thick you may need more than one blade.

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Bushman’s welder: When glue won’t do.

The method:

Get two 12V batteries and join them in series to make one 24V battery. Then connect one end of a jumper lead to the free positive terminal and the other end to the part that needs welding. Take the other jumper lead and connect it to the free negative battery terminal and attach the other end to an arc welding rod.

You are now good to go. Remember to use welding glasses and gloves at the very least. The welding probably won’t look pretty, but it should get you home and out of a mess.

 

This article was originally posted by Unsealed 4X4.

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Comments 13

  1. Not so sure a couple of batteries is going to do much good for very long before they go flat? Never tried it myself, but if someone was going to rely on this, they might want to practice technique well beforehand and to experiment on rod sizes. In a situation where one needs to carry out structural welds to get one out of an emergency situation, l would think better to pack a small 240V generator (as you can run a wide range of tools without the worry of batteries going flat), along with a small TIG welder with coated wire.

    1. I have done this & it works a treat as it is a DC welder. The two batteries will do more welding that you will ever need. I repaire the A-frame of a trailer that was bent, cut & straighened the drawbar, welded the cits & then plated it on both sides about 300 long; fully welded the plates top & bottom; yes overhead as well.
      Main thing to remember is that when welding you have to keep the welding rod in contact with the metal as in no air gap because of the lower voltage it will not arc across a air gap like a normal welder. Basically you have to keep pushing the rod into the section that you wish to weld with constant contact, give a very smooth weld.
      2.5mm rods are the best.

  2. The very basic set of tools I own is good for home repairs and maintenance, and some simple work, like installing shelves or a shower head. Today I came to know about some amazing power tools. Thank you so much for sharing this article with us.

  3. This is quite a marvelous idea that can help many. I learnt a lifetime lesson the day my car wheel got deflated and I was so far away from any sign of a mechanics presence.

    But then I needed to unbolt the wheel bolts to replace it. I had to call for the necessary tools to help me out of the situation which consume a lot of time.

    This time I have been made clever by this article to carry with me some tools like trusty drills, grinder, and the reciprocating saw to help me. Thanks so much.

  4. It’s a great idea when we go travel to take some power tools. You mention here only 5 tools. These are The trusty drill, Impact gun, Grinder, Rotary tool, Reciprocating saw. You think about using safety, which is very good. Overall this is very nice and informative article. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Hi all
    I have spent years crossing this great land of ours on adventure bikes and 4×4 and have seen people with that much crap tools etc etc,watch the GVM. Best way to know what to take is over a six month period only use the tools you will be taking go around your vehicle and under your bonet and try your tools to see what fits and don’t take tools that don’t fitt add tire repair, spare nuts and bolts , pipe clamps,hammer,cable ties,glue,sealant ,a coil of fencing wire,pump,gauge, recover gear and if that doesn’t work wait for the next guy to come a long as he may have what you don’t as many out back travelers have done to me ,and a sat phone. Good luck

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