In our last post, we gave you tips on how to prepare for a VW bus road trip. This time, we look at 10 tools that every bus driver should have with them at all times.
(Tools are only as good as your ability to use them, so be sure to pick up a good workshop manual like the Bentley manual for your particular year / model.)
10. A good quality metric socket set.
It’s one of the most-used things in my toolbox. For about five trips to Starbucks, you can have a decent quality socket set. Most people don’t need snap-on quality for intermittent use, and craftsman stuff works well. I tend to stay away from the low-end no-name ratchets, as they tend to fail when it’s least convenient.
The most common sizes on VW’s are 8mm, 10mm, 13mm, 15mm, 17mm, 19mm and 21mm. I recommend getting multiples of the common sizes in 6 point, 12 point, and deep well. The 19 and 21mm’s I recommend hardened “impact” sockets. Make sure to get a ratchet for each size of sockets and a breaker-bar for the larger ones.
Check pawn shops, swap meets and garage sales for cheap used sets.
9. A good quality screw driver set.
Shocking, I know. Same rules apply here. Don’t cheap out, don’t overspend. I have a mish-mash of different brands and sizes in my box, and they all serve a purpose.
8. A metric allen wrench set
Yeah, they make them in metric and SAE. If you use an SAE wrench on a metric Allen-head socket you’ll most likely strip it out. I carry two sets, one stubby (for hard-to-reach places) and one long set for maximum leverage.
7. A metric box-end / open end set.
Again, quality matters. For most applications, the standard metric “combination wrench” set will work well. I carry a standard length set, as well as a “stubby” set for tight spots. I also have ratcheting box-end wrenches in the common 10, 13, and 17mm varieties.
6. Adjustable wrenches.
Adjustable wrenches are truly multipurpose. They can quickly adjust to any size. In a pinch they can become a hammer, a pry bar, a self-defense tool, a frustration release device, etc. (The previous statement is a joke). Just make sure to get a metric set (also a joke).
5. A magnetic stick.
Anyone who’s ever dropped a piece of hardware in their engine compartment can tell you what a nightmare it is if you don’t hear it hit the ground. These magnetic sticks can really save your bacon!
4. A feeler-gauge set.
Feeler gauges are a basic gap-measuring tool. They are used to set the ignition points gap and the valve-adjustment gap, both of which are critical to the operation of your VW bus engine.
3. A set of Vise-grips.
They’ve been called “the wrong tool for every job”, but are incredibly useful. Again, quality matters. I can only recommend the “Irwin” brand, the original inventors of the vise-grips. Many cheaper brands exist, but in my experience, they don’t last. The needle-nose grips in particular are extremely useful.
2. A basic plier set
A good plier set can come in handy in a variety of applications. The ones I most commonly use are the needle-nose and the dikes. Once again, don’t cheap out, go for quality!
1. A multimeter
Almost any automotive electrical problem can be diagnosed with a multimeter. Every electrical component has resistance (ohm) values and can be checked for proper operation. It’s one of the most important but least understood tools. For a good explanation of how to use your multimeter, click here.
Bonus. Tool storage.
I really, really like vintage tool boxes. They just have more character to them, and are usually much better constructed than todays plastic garbage. Check your local antique stores, swap meets, and garage sales.
I also really like magnetic socket trays. They are easy to get the sockets out of with one hand, and you can easily see if one is missing. They are available at your local sears or online from amazon.