4 tips for building a custom toolkit for your classic

Taking a vintage car or motorcycle out on a trip is a risk—a calculated risk, but a risk nonetheless. Parts are long past their expected life on so many vintage cars, or even on a fresh restoration, there are typically teething issues and sorting out that occurs within the first few hundred miles. Roadside repair is sometimes necessary, and without tools, you can’t fix anything. We know you can fix things without the exact proper tools, but it sure is easier if you’ve got ‘em. Be prepared for your next roadside adventure by building a custom toolkit for your ride. Here’s how.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/09/12/4-tips-for-building-a-custom-toolkit

When I first saw that flask in the photo with tools I thought “that a boy Kyle…now THAT’S how to wait for the tow!”
Imagine my disappointment with your more practical use.

@Jim-R - You can’t make me prove it was full of two stroke oil, that is just the recommended use…


I must say, your talk of screwdrivers, and the picture of the flask make the story about the oil a little hard to fathom. =)

But, can’t think of a better way to pass the time waiting for a tow.

In the AC VW crowd, we often carry spare parts as well.

Not practical, perhaps, on a motorcycle, but maybe one with a sidecar?


Seriously though, good tips. FWIW I just bought a couple of those rubber wheel chocks and put one in each of my cars.

1 Like

@01ksdavis - This motorcycle is so danged simple the route relatively short that spare parts didn’t make sense. I was riding off road most of it so it would have been smart to have a spare shift and brake lever, but I rolled the dice instead. I got lucky this time.

@Jim-R - I need to build a second side stand for my bikes. Right now I have no way to remove a wheel without flopping the bike on it’s side. That’ll work, but pretty inefficient. Also have no way of properly adjusting the chain tension. Had to get out there though, there is always something else to do that would make the trip “perfect” but I can’t wait for perfect sometimes.

I don’t get it. I’m transporting my antique, not driving it. Why do I need tools?

@Fwallen2323 - You probably don’t need to assemble a custom toolkit if you don’t drive your antique on the road. This is more focused on preparing for a road trip or adventure with a vehicle that might need a bit of work while on the road.


Strictly speaking they’re not “tools,” but I keep the tool bag in a rolled up Harbor Freight moving pad, and a cheap plastic disposable rain poncho in the tool bag.

1 Like

One other piece of advice: do a trial run with the tools in your tool kit at home before setting out, especially if you buy dedicated compact road tools. If you can’t break the torque on your bike’s axle nut with your “carry tools,” they are useless. Same goes for lug nuts on your car/truck. I would also recommend practicing with your car or truck’s jack. I had a brand new SUV with a jack that would slip the teeth after three clicks. No one at the factory does test runs on the jacks.


The newer multi bit 4way screwdrivers have three hex drivers - 1/4”, 5/16” and 3/8” by removing bits and sleeves. Great for older cars. Your out of luck if you need metric!
Begs the question - Why are metric sockets still driven In English fractional sizes (1/4”, 3/8”…)? Some old ways will never die…

@Robertd.dawson - The moving pad sure is nice sometimes. I used an inflatable pillow on this trip that I think I will purchase a few more of to stash in each of my driver cars. It was a Klymit model that inflated in just a few breaths and held pressure even kneeling on it.

@richardcreed702 - A great point. In my photo you see I have 3/8 drive sockets but only a 1/4 drive rachet. I forgot to grab the 3/8 t-bar out of the saddlebag (it had to live separate from the rest of the tool due to size) but it was just enough to break the axles loose, and was strong enough that I could “cheater pipe” it without feeling endangered or breaking it.

For chain lubing or rear wheel maintenance on a bike with no center stand, try this: Carry a small bungee cord and a piece of wood or metal that is slightly longer than the distance from the rear of the swing arm to the ground when on the sidestand. Prop the wood up against right end of the axle, or at the end of the swing arm, lock the front brake using the bungee cord, and from the left side of the bike tilt it towards you so the rear wheel comes off the ground. With practice (or help from another rider) the wood or metal will fall into place and you can rest the weight of the bike on it. This arrangement is actually very stable. I rode all the way to the Arctic Circle and back on a KLR 650using this arrangement and even changed the chain somewhere in Saskatchewan. There are commercial products you can use instead of wood or metal such as the Snapjack that fold up and store under a seat or in your tank bag. https://www.aerostich.com/snapjack.html

Hi Kyle,
I appreciate that someone other than my wife & I travel on vintage motorcycles!
So far this summer, we’ve attended the the VJMC National Rally in TN on a couple of 1989 Honda NT650 Hawks, traveled all over the deep south attending rallies for the VJMC & FSSNOC on a couple of 1989 Honda GB500’s, and traveled to Montana & back on a couple of Honda 250’s. A total of 11,xxx+ miles so far. For each trip, I pack tools & spares appropriate for whatever bikes we’re riding. Sure beats packing stuff for 2 completely different bikes!
Joe Gilmore

1 Like

@richardcreed702 - The snapjack is exactly what I had in my head to fabricate a version of. With how light this KE175 is, I wouldn’t need much more than some light aluminum with good feet welded on the ends.

1 Like

@joe.gilmore1 - Traveling on NT650 Hawks? I love it. Happy to hear you are racking up so many miles!

Those are such great bikes. I convinced a room mate to buy one in college just so I could ride it from time to time. I didn’t know I would fall for the model. I have a few other bikes to add to the collection first, but I’ll have a nice Hawk sooner than later!

I made a glitch on my posting about the cheapo wheel raiser thingie. I edited it and now it is as I intended. Sorry folks. Not only do I ride vintage bikes, but I am also a vintage person. It happens.

1 Like

Great article. For my motorcycle tool kit I always include a tire plug kit for my tubeless tires and a few CO2 inflation cartridges with a schrader tire valve adapter. Never had to use them yet but I’m ready if I pick up a nail in the middle of nowhere.

1 Like

Just for information, the Tappet Brothers (Click and Clack) of NPR fame recommended a toolkit consisting of two screwdrivers, an adjustable wrench, and a roll of duct tape. Their theory was that if you couldn’t fix the car with that, call a tow truck.

@bdlukeroth - That works when tow coverage is available, but for those who travel greater distances the hour and a half wait for a tow (because they are an hour and a half from a city or tow provider) is the same amount of time–or less–as fixing the issue at hand.

1 Like