Tool Boxes

Why You Need a Toolbox in Your Car and What You should have in It

A toolbox is, well, a box that has tools inside in case something goes wrong in your car. A toolbox could refer to several types of storage to hold tools. It could mean a small portable box that can carry a few tools to a project location or a large storage system set on casters. Modern toolboxes are predominantly metal or plastic. Wood was the material of choice for toolboxes built beginning in the early 19th century.

Small portable toolboxes are sometimes referred to as hand boxes or portable tool storage. Most portable toolboxes have a handle on the top and a lid on the hinge. Many of them have a removable tote tray that sits on a flange inside the lip of the box, with a single larger compartment underneath. The tote tray helps to organize smaller parts and accessories. Portable toolboxes sometimes use slide-out trays or cantilever trays instead of removable tote trays. Metal toolboxes (usually steel) weigh more than plastic ones.

A plastic toolbox loaded with tools can weigh the same as a comparable steel box when it is empty. Metal boxes are also subject to rusting, and their sharp edges can be used to mark the surfaces of things they are banged against. However, metal is known to be stronger than plastic, so it is important to balance its disadvantages against the need to withstand abuse and to support the weight of many tools.

What Tools should I have inside My Toolbox?

  • Screwdrivers - You should keep both a flat head with a single blade and a Phillips head with two blades in the shape of a cross in your toolbox. It is also useful to have an offset screwdriver on your hand, as the shaft is at a 90-degree angle and turns like the hands of a clock, allowing you to get into tight spaces that your straight counterpart may struggle to reach. Offset screwdrivers are also available in both flat and Phillips head variations.
  • Wrenches - A wrench is probably one of the most useful and basic tools needed to maintain a car, so it's a good idea to keep at least one in your toolbox. Typically, they are available in the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and metric measurements, with vehicles imported from the US requiring a mix of both, while European, British and other foreign models need a metric wrench.
  • Gauges - There are several tools out there that can help you keep your car packed with the right amount of oil, fluid, air and pressure. The most useful ones include those for tyre pressure, as it helps you get in the habit of checking your wheels regularly, which is vital for safety and good fuel economy. Wire and taper sensor gauges are used to help 'gap' spark plugs, while compression gauges are used to check the pressure that builds in each cylinder as your engine runs.
  • Flashlight - There are all sorts of flashlights on the market today, but it's hard to beat some of the aluminum machined jobs out there. Most common brand names offer conventional "D" cell flashlights with standard bulbs, or LED models with more lithium batteries for longer life. In either case, always be sure that the batteries are fresh. Keep a spare bulb in your toolbox — you never know when the bulb will expire.
  • Jumper Cables - You can buy a fancy jump starter assembly or you can carry an old-fashioned set of booster cables. A quality auto parts store can help you out with the parts necessary to make up your own jumper cables.
  • Tow Strap - Tow straps are more effective than towropes and tow chains. When rolled up, tow straps take up far less space. Today’s tow straps are like giant seat belts. When you hook up to a stuck car (or truck), the strap actually stretches a bit. The stretching helps to physically dislodge an immobilized vehicle.

Having a toolbox in your car is an excellent idea. After all, prevention is better than cure. It pays to be prepared when you are sidelined when your car suddenly decides to stop working. These tools can help you fix things or, at the very least, get you to the nearest mechanic.

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