I am an avid RV enthusiast who understands that my life and my safety depend on the condition of my coach's equipment.
There are certain pieces of equipment and tools that every RV traveler should keep in his toolbox to help him deal with basic repairs as well as emergencies. These are meant to keep you safe, save you money and make your travels more comfortable. At the very least, your gear should include
- specific types of small tools,
- the right kind of air compressor,
- a reliable tire gauge,
- one or two sets of wheel chocks, and
- a rear camera monitoring system.
If you already have all of them, great! If not, it's time to do some sorting, figuring and buying.
Small Tools and Supplies
Here is a list of the basics you should always have with you. Most, if not all, will fit into a standard sized portable tool kit. For some, such as wrenches, you will need a variety of types and sizes, so shop accordingly.
- a variety of blade fuses
- protective gloves
- tire-changing equipment
- vise grips
- a wire brush
- box cutter
- razor blades for box cutter
- pry bar
- small saw
- tube of silicone
- hose clamps
- nails, screws, nuts, bolts
- adjustable wrench
- bungee cords
- small shovel
- zip ties
- electrical tape
- duct tape
- tape measure
- voltage meter
- water pressure gauge
- extra hoses (water and sewer)
- bubble stuff (for testing propane pipes)
In addition to these items, you will need to have those discussed in The Best Tools and Chemicals for RV Black Water Holding Tanks.
Always bear in mind that you may not be located close to a repair shop if you have a problem, but if you have the right equipment with you, you can generally take care of certain issues yourself or at least patch them until you can get help. For example, if your water hose bursts, having a water pressure gauge and an extra hose on board will eliminate your problem.
The Correct Type of Air Compressor
It is extremely important for RV travelers to know how to maintain and use tires. The Best Ways to Buy, Maintain and Safely Use RV Tires explains how to do this. Please note that good care includes knowing how and when to inflate them without causing any damage.
Why do I need an air compressor?
Many people assume they can “air up” their large RV tires at gas stations and truck stops, but gas station air compressors do not put out enough air to properly inflate RV tires, truck stops are not always available when you need them, and public air pumps often have water in them that gets into and ruins your tires. Thus, it pays in both safety and convenience to have your own compressor unit on board that provides the proper psi.
A personal air compressor can also be used to inflate balls, blow-up beds, rafts, and other items, so they have multiple uses. This makes them an even better tool to carry with you. There are many types on the market, but they vary in strength and may not be able to take care of your needs. The right unit, which would be a 150 lb PSI air compressor like the one shown here, will have enough strength to inflate tires, which should be your main reason for having it. It is relatively light, compact and easy to store.
We never travel without this unit, and it has helped us often during our RV trips, especially when it comes to airing up our tires. There is nothing worse than being on a country road, realizing you have a slow leak in one of your tires, and not being able to air up until you can find an RV tire shop. With a good compressor on board, you never have to worry about having this type of problem because it can keep your tires "aired up" until you can find help.
A Dependable Tire Gauge
A tire gauge is another important item every RV owner needs to have. (The same one you use for your car can be used for your coach and is equally accurate.) If you feel you need to purchase a different one, stay away from the cheap gauges, and always test the one you have regularly to make sure it is maintaining its accuracy. (Watch the video I have included to learn more about this.)
If you are concerned that you do not have the skills to measure RV tire air pressure, you can use a wireless system instead of using a hand held gauge. However, you still need to check and make sure the one you choose is accurate and is heavy duty enough to work with large vehicle tires.
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The wireless system, of course, costs more, but it gives instant and accurate readings right from the inside of the coach and lets you know immediately whether your tires are properly inflated.
Why do I need a tire gauge?
RV tire air pressure is a big safety issue and should never be taken for granted. You need to use one type of tire gauge or the other on every tire several times each day when you are on the road as well as prior to and after each trip in order to make sure that your unit is safe to drive.
If your tires are not equally inflated (and to the correct levels), you can expect to have a blowout. When this happens, your coach can become damaged, and you might even have an accident which will make it turn over. These situations are dangerous for you as well as other drivers, so do not hesitate to buy and use a tire gauge like the one shown here.
This is what we use. For us, it is enough. However, if you are uncomfortable with a handheld device like this, do buy yourself a wireless unit. It will cost much less than the loss of a life.
Is Your Tire Gauge Accurate?
A Set of Wheel Chocks
Owning a set of wheel chocks is one of the least expensive but most helpful pieces of equipment you can buy. They are very inexpensive, lightweight, come in a variety of sizes and weight ratings, store easily, and, properly used, will protect your coach from major damage due to unstable parking conditions. Most people purchase two sets to protect against breakage, which does happen from time to time.
To use them, you simply place one in front of and behind each wheel once you park your unit. This is especially important to do if you are parked on any type of sloped area. They keep the coach's wheels from rolling, thus eliminating any chance of an accident that results.
No RV traveler should ever park a unit without using wheel chocks. It just makes good sense to do so. We never travel without the professionally made ones because they are light weight, store well and are easy to use. However, you can use wood to do the same job. It's more awkward, but the end result is the same.
A Rear Camera Monitoring System
If you drive a motor home and tow a vehicle, you should never travel without having a good quality camera monitoring system installed in your coach. These come with either color or black and white monitors, and screens that are various sizes.
Why do I need camera monitoring?
Their purpose is twofold: to make sure that your tow vehicle is securely connected to your coach when traveling, and to help you see behind you when you are backing into a campsite. However, even though you may use one to help you back up, you should always use a spotter because these cameras only show what is directly behind you, but not what is on either side of your RV.
Some people think that the type used for automobiles that simply attach to the bumper are sufficient, but although less costly, they do not provide the same level of safety as a properly mounted internal system. Most of the internal units are mounted above or within the dashboard to the right of the driver so that he or she can easily see the images. While color is nice, it is expensive, and really is not necessary.
However, it is very important to have a screen that is at least 5 x 7 inches. You don't want anything smaller because you won't be able to see comfortably, and if the screen is too large it may block or distract your vision while driving.
Some motor homes come with these systems, but many do not. Fortunately, you can purchase them as an after market item and either install them yourself or pay someone to do so for you. The wireless types are not nearly as dependable as the ones that require you to run a cable from the front monitor to the rear camera, so I would avoid them. These units, properly sized and installed, are important for your safety, so don't hesitate to get one before you leave on your next trip.
A Well-Stocked Toolbox Is a Must
You will be amazed at how often you will use the items listed here, and how much better your trips will be because you have them with you. There are other items you may want to carry as well, but those mentioned above are "must-haves." If you're going to travel in an RV, you need to be prepared for all eventualities.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2015 Sondra Rochelle