Maybe you found a bargain toolkit at your local marine supply and thought that it would be good enough to have on board. But if and when you find yourself in a situation that requires quick and easy repairs while you’re underway, you’re going to realize how important it is to invest in a quality kit.
Sure, your local boat shop might offer a pre-bundled set of tools at a price that’s perfect for the budget conscious. But if you really want to be ready for what the circumstances toss in your direction, then it pays to be equipped with a custom boat tool kit combining the essentials for any situation.
1. Owner’s Manuals
While it might not necessarily be a ‘tool’, the owner’s manual gives a wealth of information on troubleshooting solutions you can try for some of the most common problems you might run in to. Keeping the manual close at hand - or with the rest of your tool kit essentials - means you can have it at the ready if and when you find the need for assistance on board.
There are lots of different kinds of flashlights, and you should have at least two. A larger light can illuminate larger areas and even serve the purpose of a signal light in case you need to call a nearby boat for assistance. A smaller handheld flashlight should come in handy for more precise, localized repairs. You should also seek to have at least one that’s rechargeable and another that runs on batteries.
We recommend the Dorcy Waterproof Battery Powered Floating LED Flashlight or to illuminate larger areas we like the Zohi 1500 Luman Super Bright Flashlight.
3. Jumper Cables
Battery problems can be a major stress inducer when you’re out on the water. But that’s nothing a set of jumper cables shouldn’t be able to address. Dead or low generator batteries can be jumped to life from the house, mains, and vice versa. And to get the job done, you’re going to want to invest in a good set of cables.
It’s worth emphasizing that cheap jumper cables will significantly encumber the entire process with their stiff design and faulty performance. So make sure you invest in a good set of cables that can perform in even the toughest and roughest water conditions.
We like to always have the TOPDC Jumper Cables handy.
4. Thread Locker
There’s always going to be that one bolt (or nut) that loosens with the vibrations of your boat. And while you might be able to restore it to its original tightness with the turn of a wrench (which we’ll get to later in this guide), you might want to consider getting a thread locker instead.
This superglue-like substance works specifically on loose threads, letting you secure a screw or a nut in place so it doesn’t keep wiggling off. Thread locker comes in small tubes and should be removable so you don’t end up keeping a screw fixed in place permanently.
Try out the Loctite Heavy Duty Thread Locker.
5. Shears or Scissors
As one of the most used tools in the kit, a pair of rugged shears should help you cut through a variety of items that might be necessary for your boat. Fiberglass, fabrics, thin wires, and ropes - the opportunities of use for a set of durable scissors are endless. So again, you’re going to want to spend a little extra to make sure you’re buying a pair that’s in it for the long haul.
These SAMSFX Fishing Heavy Duty Anti-Slip Scissors are great!
6. Duct Tape
Duct tape can be a solid (yet temporary) solution for a range of problems you might run into while you’re on your boat. But not just any duct tape will do. Because moisture can affect the strength of the adhesive, it helps to buy tape that’s designed for the wet conditions on a boat. Industrial duct tape can keep a patch job intact for weeks, and may even serve as a permanent solution for certain minor repairs.
We recommend getting the XFasten Super Strong Waterproof Duct Tape.
7. Epoxy Putty
Here’s another essential that a lot of boat owners overlook. In instances when duct tape might not work, epoxy putty is your next best bet. There are lots of different kinds of epoxy putty, but formulations that cure underwater give you the best chance of patching up a minor repair. Marine grade epoxy putty that’s moldable also gives you the opportunity to fill in small cracks and gaps without messing up the area’s overall aesthetic.
This PC Products Epoxy Putty is a great alternative to duct tape.
8. Engine Oil
Of course, you might be particularly well-informed when it comes to the status of your boat’s oils and fluids. But it doesn’t really hurt to be prepared just in case. Keeping a bottle of your boat’s engine oil tucked away in your tool box can provide peace of mind, especially if you know you’re close to needing a change.
The functions of a multi-tool are pretty limitless, and there are countless situations when you might find that all the repairs you need can be perfectly satisfied by an efficient multi-tool. There are lots of different options on the market, that’s for sure. But if you want to make sure you’re buying something that can find a purpose in a variety of situations, it pays to buy something that’s designed for rugged performance. There are also more sizable multi-tools that incorporate an axe head which may come in handy during storms.
10. Klein Crimpers and Strippers
Klein crimpers and strippers come in handy for electrical work, letting you create new terminals or connections when necessary. But working with a set of bargain tools might push you to spend more time on the task as you fiddle and struggle with tools that just don’t work as they should.
That considered, it helps to make sure you’re not skimping out on your stripper and crimper. A good stripper should be able to get rid of insulation without damaging the wires inside, while a suitable crimper should create a solid connection with just a single compression.
11. Screwdriver Set
What’s a tool kit without a set of screwdrivers? Some compartments on your boat can only be accessed by removing screws, and some parts of the engine may call for the use of a proper driver to loosen up various sized screw heads. Try to look into the different sets available and look for versatility. Screwdrivers with replaceable bits or sets with different kinds of drivers can save space and target various kinds of heads, while those designed specifically for marine use should use rust-proof material that’s intended to survive moist conditions.
We like the Magnetic 10 Piece Screwdriver Set by CREMAX.
12. Adjustable Wrench
A midsize adjustable wrench can satisfy the need for a set of wrenches, helping you save space without losing versatility. Again, since you’re using and keeping it on a boat most of the time, you’re going to want something that can easily survive constantly wet or moist conditions. An 8-inch wrench should provide you everything you need for a variety of situations. But if you want to make sure, you might consider tossing in a 12-inch option just in case.
Try out the Stanley Adjustable Wrench in Silver.
13. Battery Terminal Puller
Battery issues are some of the most common problems that boat owners face, and so there’s no question how important it is to make sure you’ve got the right tools to repair a problematic battery. A battery terminal puller works to remove a faulty terminal in a breeze, letting you perform the necessary replacement and repair in a breeze. They also work on wipers, so that’s an added versatility bonus.
We recommend the Battery Terminal & Wiper Arm Puller by OTAUYAUTO.
14. Electrician’s Tape
Exposed wires can be a major hazard, so it helps to make sure you have something to cover up the problematic insulation until you get back to shore. Electrician’s tape is a total no brainer to have in your tool kit. Patch up frayed wires and prevent major accidents by covering up the problem area, or use the tape for electrical wiring work on and around your boat.
It's great to always have the Scotch Super Vinyl Electrical Tape in your toolbox.
Pliers give you a precise grip on small elements that might be out of reach (or dangerous) for your own hands. But more than just repairs, pliers also find their purpose for DIY repairs, especially those that require bending wires, cutting lines, and splitting rings, among others. These days, it’s easy to find marine-grade pliers at your local hardware store. On your boat though, the most commonly used should be the long nose, lineman’s, and groove joint pliers.
16. Cable Ties
These are one of the essentials that you hardly recognize as an essential, but proves its worth once you’re out on the water. Whether you’re hoping to keep a line in place, or if you need to secure a cable in place without permanence, cable ties are an easy solution that you can install on your own. Make sure you get heavy duty ties that can survive challenging weather conditions and moisture exposure for more stable repair results.
We like the UV Resistant Black Cable Ties by TR Industrial.
17. Hose Clamps
Hose clamps come in various sizes, so it helps to make sure you pack a variety of sizes when you prepare your tool kit. And while there are cheaper clamps that use plastic material, there’s really no beating the kind of durability and weatherproof performance that you can get out of stainless steel clamps. Not only are they reliable, but they also prove to be a suitable repair solution for longer lasting results.
We highly recommend the Stainless Steel Adjustable Hose Clips by Selizo.
18. Spare Spark Plugs
The spark plug is what creates a spark to combust petrol and get your engine going. If your boat is having trouble getting started, then it might be a spark plug problem. Fortunately, these spare parts are pretty cheap, and it’s easy to find a variety of spark plug options at your local hardware or marine supply shop. Just make sure you’re buying one that’s compatible with your boat.
19. Screws, Nuts, Bolts
You never really know when you’re going to need to replace a screw, nut, or bolt. After all, those things can get pretty loose especially if they’re not fixed in place with thread locker. Before you stock up on them though, make sure you check what size your boat has so you don’t end up buying screws, nuts, and bolts that won’t find a purpose on your vessel. Keep an assortment at the ready in case you need to make replacements or minor repairs while you’re underway.
The Dywishkey Stainless Steel Kit is all you need.
20. Super Adhesive
Super adhesives like Gorilla Glue work for a variety of surfaces, giving you maximum grip for all sorts of applications. Keeping a small bottle or two in your tool kit should help you target minor (and even a few major) repairs around your boat. Take extra care during application though since once a super adhesive is applied, it’s pretty much impossible to remove.
We've found the Gorilla Clear Glue very versatile.
21. Ratchets and Sockets
Ratchets and sockets are a mainstay in any self-respecting tool kit, and the same applies for a pontoon boat tool kit. Of course, these do come in a variety of sizes and if you were to pack the entire spectrum, then you might end up losing space in your tool box. Instead, read through your boat’s user manual to find out which ratchets and sockets would come in most handy for minor repairs so you can pack just the ones that your boat needs.
Try get your hands on the Dewalt Drive Socket Set.
22. Durable Box
Considering all the stuff on this list, an average sized tool box might not be cut out for the job of keeping everything in order. Nonetheless, you’re going to want to invest in a durable box that can see you through rough waters and challenging water conditions. If you have the space for it, a rolling tool box can provide spacious compartments to keep all of your essentials organized and neat. If you want something that can fit underneath the seats, there are choices that combine a compact silhouette with durable construction.
Keeping Your Ship in Top Shape
There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with being a boat owner, and it helps to be ready for whatever the weather tosses in your direction. It’s true that there’s really no way to tell what you should expect the moment you push off from the dock, but with a well-equipped boat tool kit, you should be ready for almost anything that happens on and off shore. So stock up on these essentials and keep your ship in top shape no matter what the water brings your way.