What should I have on my boat? Part 3 – Electrical Tools

multimeter

This is a continuation of a series on things you should keep on your boat to be prepared for on-the-spot repairs and/or emergencies. Be sure to check out the previous posts in this series:

  1. Part 1 – General Rules for Tools
  2. Part 2 – Mechanical Tools

I just want to restate (again) that this could not possibly be a full list that fits every person, boat and boating situation. You should use this as a starting point and add to it based on your personal needs, the needs of your boat, and things you’ll need in the situation you’re boating in.

In the previous post, I covered mechanical tools you should keep on board. If you’ve got mechanical parts on your boat, you’re going to have electrical parts as well. But, much like our mechanical tool list, knowing what to keep on board can be a bit daunting. Let’s give you a starting point for your electrical tools to put in your bag.

Multimeter

This is a tool in a category all to itself because it’s just that important. If you want to troubleshoot any power problem, it’s going to start with a proper meter. Don’t go out and buy the most expensive one you can find, you just have to find one you know how to use! If you’re new to all of this, you’ll want to get a digital automatic range meter. This can save you some time and they don’t cost all that much. When you buy a meter, however, make sure you look to see if it comes with “test leads” or not. It would be embarrassing to proudly pull your meter out in a jam only to realize you don’t have everything you need to get the job done. It goes without saying that you’ll also want to make sure you have working batteries for your device too!

multimeter

Multimeter without test leads

multimeter-test-leads

Test leads for multimeter

Crimpers, Cutters and Strippers

Crimpers allow you to connect wire to terminals. There are both European and American crimp terminals, so make sure that you get the right crimpers for your needs. While you’re at it, get the ratcheting crimping tools. They create stronger connections.

crimper-ratchet

You’ll also want a decent set of wire strippers. These come in a wide variety of options, and you can usually get a pair of strippers that also have a crimper and a cutter built in. But don’t count on the crimper and cutter to be your primary tools. Make sure you get dedicated tools for these.

stripper

You’ll want something sharp and dependable to cut wire. In tight quarters, it’s often best to have a dedicated pair of cutters rather than cutters built into another tool.

wire-cutter

Screwdrivers

You might be thinking, “Am I being Punked?” We already covered screwdrivers, right? I’ll go ahead and confirm that so you don’t have to leave to go check and come back. We did already cover screwdrivers. However, you’ll want some electrical and instrument screwdrivers.
Instruments

Soldering Irons

As with many of the other tools listed, there are lots of options here. One major option is whether to get an electric or gas type soldering iron. Both have their advantages. Electric is obviously a problem if you don’t have power to run on. Gas requires you keep butane cartridges on hand. Gas is cordless and gives you a bit more flexibility, so they are pretty great on a boat.

soldering-iron-gas

Not required, but still handy and complimentary is a desoldering tool. This is used to melt the solder and remove it from the area for clean resoldering.

desoldering-tool

Replacement Consumables

We’ve covered the tools, but you’ll need to keep a few odds and ends on board to help you use these tools. I recommend the following as a starting point:

Crimp Terminals

You’ll want some crimp terminals to connect wires. You can buy these at most electrical hobby or hardware stores.
crimp-connector

Solder

You can’t really use a soldering iron without solder. Make sure you get the right kind. You’ll want a multi-core solder like the one below:

multi-core-solder

Fuses

You’ll want to take a look at the type of fuses you have in your boat and get some replacements. I don’t have a whole lot of guidance for you here other than to say look in your owners manuals or pull a few fuses to see what’s currently installed.

Bulbs

One of the first things I changed on my boat were the bulbs in my navigation lights. I unfortunately left them on and they managed to burn out fairly quickly. I bought a few spares and keep them in my boat. Take a look around and make sure you know what kind of bulbs you’ll need for your all-around light and your navigation lights at the very minimum.

Silicon Grease

Pick up a tube of silicon grease for water-proofing. In a pinch, petroleum jelly will work.

Insulating Tape or Heat Shrink Tubing

Heat shrink tubing is preferred here for aesthetics alone, but then you’ll have to actually have something to shrink it with. In the absence of a hot air gun, having some insulating tape on hand will do the job.

Summary

That’s about all I’ve got in my kit. What about you? Is there something I missed? Something you find essential that you just can’t do without? Leave a comment with your recommendations.

Until next time!

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