Boating Toolbox Essentials
Boating Toolbox Essentials

Every boat should have a toolbox on-board for emergencies and minor repairs. We have all encountered circumstances on the water where things have broken, come apart or otherwise failed. A few simple tools can, in many circumstances, correct these problems and turn what is a day ending problem into a minor inconvenience.


Electrical problems can be disabling but many are easily correctable with just a few tools and supplies. Battery cables and connections should be taken apart at least twice a year, cleaned with a wire brush, and greased before being put back together. Loose or damaged connectors should be replaced. Check and add water to your batteries as necessary. It is a lot easier to do this at home than on the water.

Despite proper maintenance, however, problems do arise. You are in a marine environment so expect corrosion.

Include in your toolbox emery cloth, water resistant grease, wire brush, file, and the proper size wrenches for the nuts on your connectors. These same tools will suffice for other electrical connections on your boat such as instruments, spotlights and the like.

Next, take a few minutes to look over your fuse/circuit breaker panel. Make a list of the sizes your boat uses and go to the local auto parts or discount store. Purchase a complete set of replacements.

Remember to check for any major inline fuses or breakers such as starting systems, charging systems, coolers, live wells, and trolling motors.

Do the same thing with your lighting system. Go through the boat and purchase a replacement bulb for every light on the boat. Buy a couple of extras for your bow and stern lights—these are important safety features.

Do not forget your trailer lights—you will be going home many evenings after dark.

Mechanical problems, unfortunately, do crop up, even in the best-maintained rigs. A few tools will help you deal with them. Start with a couple sets of Vice Grips, both standard and needle nose. Next, add several sizes and types of screwdrivers. Round out your selection with a good multi-tool, a knife or two, and maybe a pair of side-cutters. Finally, throw in a couple of sizes of adjustable wrenches. This will give you a good start.


After considering your mechanical tools move on to your trailer. Make sure you carry some basic equipment for tire repair such as a small 12 volt compressor and a tire repair kit of some sort. A simple flat can be a mess on a Sunday afternoon.

Make sure your jack is in working order. Check to see what you need to release your spare from the trailer. Some trailers require short sockets, or a universal joint, when the boat is on the trailer. Check the size of your lug nuts—do not assume they are the same as your tow vehicle. If your spare has a locking lug nut make sure you have the adapter.

Throw in a flashlight, some sunscreen and a medical first aid kit. First aid kits can be purchased very reasonably and will help with the usual cuts, nicks, and bruises that seem to be a part of boating. They are essential.

Add, just in case, a towrope and a good set of jumper cables. Hopefully you will never need them but you never know.

Last, do not forget Duct Tape—buy the good stuff, not the cheap grade. It is strong, waterproof, and will stand up to a surprising amount of pressure.

A Starting Place

This is a starting place. Every rig is different and so you will need to modify these suggestions to suit your specific needs. This should, however, give you a place to start. Depending upon what you purchase, and the quality of tools you buy, these items will cost anywhere from $150 to $250. Sounds high but it will be well worth it if problems develop.

I purchased a plastic toolbox that fits in an area under my console. It can be secured with hook and loop material. It has saved several days on the water and at least one tournament. It never leaves the boat.

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