What's in My RV Toolbox
We use our Winnebago Vista for more than just living, we consider it to be our cross-country work commuter as well. It needs to be able to get Sabrina to her next work destination, as we typically move every seven days. Our most recent trip was more than 2,000 miles for a new assignment and we only had six days to get there!
In the last two years, we have traveled 60,000 miles and, as you can imagine, that is a lot of rough roads and bouncing around. Things are going to come loose and wear out with this much abuse. Because we rely on our Winnebago so much, it is important for us to keep it out of service shops. That is why we carry a good assortment of tools with us and try to do as many repairs as we can ourselves.
We typically do not have the time to wait for a service center to schedule us for any needed work and these repairs on our own also saves us a significant amount of money.
However, before we dive into our tools list, we do believe that another major key of keeping the RV out of the shop is being proactive - doing weekly maintenance and finding small problems before they become large ones. (Check out our tips for preventative maintenance inside your RV, as well as checks to do outside).
(Note: These tips are suggestions from an owner of a Winnebago product and trusted GoLife contributor, not a professional or Winnebago Industries employee. If you decide to do any of your own RV repairs, it will be done at your own risk.)
What We Carry in Our RV Toolbox
Starting with the basics, most of my tools are very inexpensive and I jokingly refer to them as my 'Fisher Price tools.' Nothing fancy, but they all get the job done.
Multi-Piece Screwdriver Set: This is probably the most go-to item we own. It is a 65-piece set that includes a ratchet-style handle; this allows for easier and faster turning of screws and bolts. It also includes several different torque bit sizes, sockets, and of course, your standard Phillips and flat head bits. Since this kit is so small we are able to keep it inside the RV making it easy to access.
Home Repair Set: We keep this 110-piece set in one of our outer bays. It includes a small tape measure, adjustable wrench, Allen keys, pliers, and, most importantly, a larger socket set and wrench.
With these two sets, I am able to tighten almost any screw or bolt on the RV. I have been able to maintain and tighten our cabinets, electrical connections, take apart and clean our water pump, replace our full-wall slide motor, repair our Quickie steps, replace our gas strut on our entrance door, maintain our A/C unit, do simple plumbing repairs, and perform oil changes.
Other Useful Tools
- Cordless drill
- Wire strippers
- Zip ties
- Caulk gun
- Self-leveling sealant
- Code reader for engine
These items have proven to be very handy to have as well. I have used them several times for upgrades like our solar controller and Micro-air EasyStart where we needed to drill holes for brackets and cables. I have even used the drill to make a large hole for mounting an extra USB power outlet in the bedroom for when we are boondocking.
We have used our fair share of zip ties also, they are great for keeping bundles of wire together or redirecting wires out of the way of mechanical harm. Having a caulk gun and a tube of self-leveling sealant on hand (we use Dicor) will be very useful as well. Do occasional checks of the roof for cracking and splitting of seals, then remove and reseal as needed.
Having a code reader for our engine and a multimeter has been helpful for diagnosing electrical issues, even if I cannot fix the problem myself. I think it is helpful to do as much troubleshooting on your own as possible, being able to arm the tech with as much information about the issues you are experiencing may cut down their diagnostic time, which in turn will save you some money.
An Unconventional Tool: My Phone
My phone is not something that I would keep with our tools, but I consider it to be our greatest asset when troubleshooting issues or making repairs and upgrades to our RV. I usually have my phone close by to watch how-to videos on YouTube or use it to bring up schematics and wiring diagrams. And, of course, I also use it to call a friend when I am stumped or need a pep talk from someone who will say "You've got this!"
The "Self-Help Tools" section on the Winnebago Service page is another great resource. Or, when in doubt, contact owner relations or your local dealer for additional help.
Not Enough Room for all of these Tools? No Problem!
With over 120 square-feet of exterior cargo space, our Winnebago Vista has plenty of space to store these tools. But that may not be the case for everyone. One option for those tight on space is AutoZone's free and easy to use Loan-a-Tool program. You simply select the tools you will need, leave a deposit and when you are finished with the tools they will give you your deposit back. You are able to keep the tools for up to 90 days.
Final Advice & Encouragement
It is easy to get intimidated by RV projects and repairs. Our Winnebago Vista is the first RV we have ever purchased, so it's fair to say we had no idea of how to work on it. But with so many great RV how-to videos and helpful people in forums, we have been able to handle almost every project on our own.
My best advice is to tackle the projects as they occur and as quickly as possible. Taking care of them one by one and not letting several issues build up and overwhelm you is key. Performing routine maintenance yourself will also allow you to recognize problems quickly, since you will know what everything is supposed to look like and how it should function. I even crawl under the RV from time to time. I'm not a mechanic, but I have been able to spot loose brackets and things that just looked out of place.
The more small projects you are able to handle on your own, the more confidence you will have when it comes time to tackle a larger issue. For example, I will be attempting to replace the seals in our toilet for the first this week since it no longer is holding water in the bowl. I will be armed with my tools, phone for how-to videos, and a lot of patience. Wish me luck!
And if you see someone standing outside of their RV scratching their head while at a campground, don't be shy to offer some help. I learn the most when trying to teach and help others.
Do you carry any must-have tools? Please share them in the comments, so readers can see what others carry and what you use them for.