As we prepare for another driving season, and many NAMGBR members are getting ready for extended road trips to join in the fun at St. Paul, we want to give a little thought to what useful items should one carry in those hidden recesses of the boot. Much as we hate to tempt fate and admit it, driving cars of at least 21 year-old vintage can be taking the risk of an occasional on the road breakdown. When the unexpected happens, how can you be prepared? We posed the question to 3 experienced mechanics, Tom Josefek, Jake Snyder, and Dennis Trowbridge—What do you carry for spare parts and tools? We have also consulted John Twist’s University Motor’s Technical Book for John’s suggestions along the same line.
There is a consensus among members of most MG clubs that the principal reason to own an MG is to drive it. The application of this principal takes forms between the two extremes of ’never drive it if it might rain’ to ’it’s the only car we own’. Regardless of the amount the MG is driven, however, there remains the concern that it may fail on the road. Again, there are various approaches to meet the possibility, including ’having a trailer to bring it back’ or ’my AAA-Plus will tow me home for up to a hundred miles’. Ultimately, concerns like these can decrease the amount the MG is driven and the enjoyment in riding in it. These concerns can be allayed by carrying spares in the car while it is being operated that might bring about peace of mind that any untoward situations can be dealt with.
The basic spares list was published by John Twist in his University Motors LTD. Technical Booklet and appears on the back cover of the ’NAMGBR Membership and Service Recommendation List’. It is useful to keep in mind that Mr. Twist operates a 1600 MGA Deluxe coupe, and that some modifications to his basic list are necessary to apply to various production years of MGBs or Midgets. We also added items from the lists of Tom Josefek, Jake Snyder and Dennis Trowbridge. On the surface, the individual lists are quite different, but the fundamental premises of regular inspection and maintenance and the use of emergency repairs to get the MG to a proper repair facility are common to all. All agree that a run rod bearing, for example, is not a subject for emergency road repair, though a broken fan belt certainly is.
One point to emphasize is—prevention. The emphasis should be on regular inspection, on a weekly basis, of the car including checking the engine bay for leaks of coolant, oil, gasoline or brake fluid. Any leaks should be repaired immediately. Tire pressures should be checked, and tires should be removed at least once a year for visual inspection and lubricating the threads on the wheel studs. Brake hoses should be checked for cracks, and belts and hoses should be changed at the first sign of deterioration. The old part can go into the boot as an emergency backup until it is displaced in the next replacement cycle. How many parts to carry? Trying to carry every conceivable part for the car should be balanced against Mr. Josefek’s sage advice that ’You are never more than a day away from any part using overnight delivery services’.
One shouldn’t substitute carrying parts and tools for doing basic maintenance. If you get to that point where you feel carrying a complete spare engine in the boot is prudent, perhaps it would be even more prudent to address the problems you see on the horizon in the comfort of your garage rather than prepare to take care of them in uncertain circumstances on the road.
How you handle the tools and spares you carry is a matter for your own discretion and the history of the car will also make a difference. A properly maintained car is always less likely to give you trouble, and all the tools in world will not help if you don’t know how to use them. Make your selections carefully.
But do keep in mind, even if you do not do your own wrenching, having specialty or unusual tools particular to the car can be a godsend to other individuals you might call upon to service your car. Sometimes having the part on hand is helpful even if you do not feel competent to install it—the mechanic you find on the road may be able to utilize it and you have saved the time to order and ship it. Equally important can be having service manuals and parts catalogs with the specifications and procedures for your car. Information that may not be at hand in typical local repair facilities for a car that hasn’t been sold here in two decades. And do keep a copy of the NAMGBR Service Recommendations and Membership List in your glovebox. It is an invaluable guide to member recommended service facilities nationwide.
All the gear listed may sound like it will take up too much space, but this does not have to be the case. Many items can be tucked into small nooks in the boot. MGBs that have been converted to a single twelve-volt battery have space for a lot of parts in the now empty second battery well when a plastic liner (available from major MG parts suppliers) is used. Also, if you are driving in a caravan, the tool and parts load can be spread out over several cars in the group.
Customize these lists to fit your needs and the tow truck can stay at the garage.
Further illumination on some of the list choices—
Let’s assume that you carry the basic on the road tool kit. This should include a 3/8 - 1/4-inch drive socket set, a selection of wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers, electrical tape, safety wire, duct tape, and a utility knife. Now there are some other items you should carry as well, even if you don’t plan to carry a complete tool kit or even work on your MG on the side of the road. These items can quickly become the saving factor when you are stuck on the side of the road.
The lead hammer that came with wire wheel MGBs should be standard in every MG. Nothing else is better for persuading rusty stubborn parts to come loose. The lead hammer delivers more force and causes less damage than a steel hammer.
A twelve-volt test light will help you quickly find almost any electrical fault on the MG. Get a good one from the tool store with a long cord and a heavy clip on the end.
You should also have at least two pairs of test/jumper leads. These leads have alligator clips on both ends, and are used for testing circuits and parts by bypassing broken switches and other parts. They can even be used to hold things out of the way.
The once common, but increasingly rare, points file is worth the search it may take to find it. This small stiff file is used to clean distributor and fuel pump points and clean other small surfaces.
A ratcheting brake adjuster wrench—actually a refrigeration tool—has a square 1/4 inch end that is perfect for the rear brake adjusters on the MGB. These can also be found at the tool store and in catalogs.
While at the back of the car, be sure to get a small wrench that will fit the wheel cylinder’s bleed screws. There are several different sizes used so be sure to have a wrench that will fit both sides of the car.
A set of mechanic’s scribes or picks are a must when you need to rebuild that hydraulic part, as is a set of circlip pliers.
A simple spark plug gapper can make fitting new plugs much easier. Don’t assume that the new ones are properly gapped. Always check the gap.
Have a set of feeler gauges in your tool kit as well. You have to have them to adjust the valves and set the distributor points. In a pinch you can use a paper matchbook cover to set the distributor points close enough to get you back on the road. However that .015 inch gauge does a much better job.
Red shop rags can be used to clean parts and your hands, but they are also great for laying out parts when you are working in the parking lot or in the gravel on the side of the road.
RTV silicone can repair or replace a broken or missing gasket .It can also be used to glue small parts together, or hold a nut in an awkward position when fitting it.
Don’t forget to carry a 13/16 inch sparkplug wrench. Most sockets set today only have the 5/8 inch one used on today’s cars.
A small stiff brass brush is great of cleaning up parts that are dirty or corroded.
Carry a couple cans of carb cleaner—nothing can clean dirty greasy parts as well as carb cleaner can.
A chunk of 2x4 makes a good wheels chock and can be a helpful work surface.
Nylon wire ties are the best for bundling up wires and tying up broken parts. Several of the ties can be linked together to make a longer tie if you need more length.
Don’t forget a tube of waterless hand cleaner. This can clean not only your hands, but parts as well. Talking about hands, a pair of brown jersey gloves can keep your hands cleaner and protect you from burs as well. Latex gloves are also good for protecting your hands.
Finally keep a can of Fix-A-flat in the boot. It won’t help if you have wire wheels or a sidewall blowout, but in many cases it will get you back home. Make sure you get the non-flammable kind, it is safer to carry and for the guy at the tire shop.
Pack any tools that are specific to your car such as wheel lock keys, a wire wheel wrench or special engine or ignition tools.
This article perhaps should be considered a starting point. What do you carry? We would be glad to publish other opinions. Send them in.