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Going Old School: The perfect toolbox

14 August 2012

We regularly feature the newest and fanciest gadgets that an off-roader can travel with, but what about the old school option? According to Gerhard Groenewald, a decent toolbox is all you need. Editor Jannie Herbst chatted to Groenewald when compiling Issue 13, and as part of our nostalgic look back at 100 issues of Leisure Wheels, we pick out items in his toolbox that have stood the test of time!


The Common-Sense Toolbox

It will be difficult to find someone with more 4×4 bundu experience than Klipbokkop Mountain Resort’s Gerhard Groenewald. Withi his family, this adventurer has travelled the continent since the days when most thought that 4x4s were there for the farmers and the army.

During all those years, Gerhard built up a vast knowledge of what is required to stay mobile when you’re far away from civilisation, so we took a peek into Gerhard’s toolbox to see what this intrepid off-roader thinks is essential.


1 – A variety of fuses

“With today’s 4x4s fitted with electric freezers, two-way radios, electric pumps and the like, the chance of a fuse blowing is high,” says Gerhard. If he only knew then what manner of electronics would one day be fitted into off-roaders! Still, with all the technological advancements, fuses are still things that go wrong. His tip is to fit an in-line fuse between your battery and electrical equipment (such as freezers), as they’re easier to locate and replace. Then, travel with a decent variety of spare fuses and connectors.


2- All things electrical … for the modern 4×4

When it isn’t the fuse that’s causing your headlights to malfunction on a midnight game drive, you’re still in a bit of a pickle. So, Gerhard travels with spare globes for brake lamps, headlights and tail lamps. Besides the safety issue, he says that “in some countries, a broken tail light is all they need to give you a hefty fine!” Also, a multi-meter is something every self-driver, DIYer and, well, man’s man travels with. Use it to trace electrical faults and test flow or charge. Also take a length of electrical wire, and a 12-volt soldering iron with thin, lead wiring: “I have soldered everything from freezer wires to light fittings, and find it invaluable.”

Extra tip for electric work: Gerhard suggests taking a pair of reading glasses or magnifying glass for delicate jobs – even if you don’t wear glasses normally, it can be a tricky and fine-fingered business.


3 – Power Power Power

Gerhard suggested installing 12V power points, but of course most modern-day off-roaders come equipped with at least one of these. Still, for older vehicles, or if you find you don’t have enough, here’s his advice for powering your gadgetry:

Install 12V power points with two separate attachment points for the live and earth wires, not the cigarette-type power points where the body of the socket earths against the metal of the vehicle. They could work loose and break contact.


4 – Petrol Pipe

A length of petrol pipe must be included, according to Gerhard, as the first thing new 4×4 owners usually fit to their vehicles is an extra fuel tank. The pipe connecting two tanks is prone to wear, and a spare hose with clamps are a must. He also travels with an in-line fuel filter.

Extra tip for fuel-related issues: A broken fuel pump needn’t leave you stranded. A pipe from a roof-mounted jerrycan leading to the fuel line will get fuel to the carburettor or injectors by means of gravity.


5 – Leather

What? Leather?

“You’d be surprised how handy it is,” says Gerhard confidently. If a squeak or rattle drives you nuts, force the strip of leather into the gap. Use it to stop the exhaust chafing against the fuel tank – or any other kind of niggle.


6 – A Vernier

An old toolbox must-have, Verniers are measuring tools which are absolutely essential for long-distance travellers. Small spare shops in the bundus, if you’re lucky to come across them, rarely have wheel bearings or bolts for specific off-road trailers. But, they may have one of a similar size. If you can give them the exact size, they may just be able to help you out.


7 – The bush-welder

It’s not actually a welder. Possibly one of the most undervalued tools around, the bush-welder – according to Gerhard – is a riveter. Also known as a pop-riveter, these nifty tools can hold in place anything that falls loose or comes off. He also takes a small drill with bits for making holes in tougher materials.


8 – Tubes and Lubes

Gasket-maker comes in a handy tube for when an oil sump has to be removed to make repairs, and still seal properly when replaced. A pack of gel-type superglue is extremely versatile and works well on porous surfaces. Gerhard recalls fixing a pair of sunglasses and a camera with superglue, and even replaced a tooth filling (please don’t try this at home)!

Silicone sealant of the marine variety is also useful, and can seal all kinds of leaks (including windows).

Extra tip for doors: Put silicone on the gap of a leaking door seal and vaseline or grease on the metal where the seal touches, close the door, and leave overnight to dry. The silicone forms a new seal, and the grease prevents it from sticking to the metal.


9 – Wrench to end all wrenches

A so-called master wrench is a simple, effective tool for gripping bolts and nuts in various sizes, and even stripped bolt heads. A vice grip and small clamp also come in handy.


10 – Repair kits

Not all of Gerhard’s tools are all-purpose. He suggests getting ready-compiled kits from spares shops, just in case things go wrong. Tyre repair kits as well as kits to fix radiator or petrol tank leaks are useful, and take up little space. Tyre repair kits for tubeless tyres include chemical vulcanising fluid, plugs, a tool for inserting the plug and a sharp instrument to enlarge the hole if necessary.

Warning tip about kits: Many of these kits only have a 12 month lifespan, after which they harden. Make sure to check your kit before you leave.



A last few small items that are equally invaluable to the explorer’s toolkit are:

  • Vavles: Spare valves, valve caps with attachments for unscrewing valves
  • Plastic tie straps of various lengths (cable-ties)
  • Strong adhesive tape (duct tape)
  • Galvanised wire (bloudraad)
  • Q20
  • A selection of pliers (large and small water-pump; long-nosed, circlip-removing, side cutters and standards)
  • A bottle of soapy water
  • A panga (for overgrown roads, not road rage!


And last but not least: the nut behind the wheel!

“The most important item in your toolbox is innovation,” says Gerhard. “Don’t throw your hands in the air. Remember that it doesn’t need to be a permanent repair. You only have to do enough so that the vehicle can reach a place where proper repairs can be done. Maak ‘n plan!”




Got items to add to Gerhard’s list? Let us know!

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  • Zane Zeiler

    IF I may add one other product to your list it would be Pratley’s steel bond epoxy, I can’t tell you many times that stuff has helped me out of a pickle, not only is it an extremely strong adhesive but can also be shaped and molded to repair broken plastic and metal fittings or what have you…

  • Christo

    Very useful, is a LED head-mount light. You quite often need both hands and still see what you’re doing.
    Also a must when driving in the field and offroad, is a piece of shade net in front of the grill to keep grass seeds out of the radiator, These seeds may cause overheating.

  • Christo Brits

    Don’t forget a piece of tube or bicycle tube and hose clamps….usefull for temporary waterpipe repairs and yes, what about currie or borrie powder to stop a radiator leak and sunlight soap for a (not too big ) hole in the petrol tank or dates (dadels). Fortunately most modern 4 x4’s have proper steel protection plates underneath the petrol tank.