A Boating Toolbag

Good Morning Campers, Dr. Motorhead here,

I’ve received many letters and messages from bereaved wives and girl friends in the last couple of weeks. Most of who did not know they were feeding the sickness of the men in their lives. The sickness as identified in my previous
article known as “the tool junky”. They thought it was so innocent – buying tools for their men – thinking that perhaps these tools were really unneeded or perhaps useless. How could something seem so unnecessary but so highly desired. These women candidly mentioned their thoughts were, “Oh, I’m just a girl, what do I know about these things, I guess it’s OK.” Christmas and birthday present ideas were made very easy when you were given a lengthy list of much-needed tools, meters and gauges. “I feel so bad now,” one desperate woman wrote. “I had no idea I was fueling this insidious disease.” Women of the world, please don’t despair, there is help for the man in your life. Education, awareness and support groups are on the way. Keep a steady course and support your man’s wellness. Read the following and you will understand what is needed and what might be considered an addiction.

As I promised from last month, this is my follow-up on the required toolbox that carries the Dr. Motorhead “Seal of Approval.” Once again, here are the basic tools required to perform almost every repair on our classic engines.
One set of wrenches – open and box end combination
3/16” to ¾”.

  • One large crescent wrench for bolts in excess of ¾”
  • Assortment of phillips and slot head screw drivers.
  • One large channel locks or Robogrip pliers.
  • One low voltage test light.
  • One jumper wire about 12” long (piece of wire with an alligator clip on each end)
  • One set of 3/8” sockets, ratchet and 6” extension (many of these socket kits come with ¼” sockets as well…nice to have)
  • Roll of professional strength duct tape (leave the cheapo stuff at home)
  • Standard and needle nose pliers. (or is it noodle neese pliers)
  • One 13/16” spark plug socket.
  • Roll of electricians tape.
  • Feeler gauge.
  • Magnet on the end of a telescoping wand (for retrieving dropped screws and bolts in the bilge)
  • Some spare parts for emergency repairs (points, condenser, a module if you have an electronic ignition, rotor, distributor cap, spark plug, one
    spark plug wire)
  • Point’s file or an emery board fingernail file.
  • One small hammer (when all else fails)
  • Combination wire stripper and crimping tool and assortment of solder-less connectors.
  • Small flashlight
  • Set of allen wrenches (or hex keys)

Optional equipment – yet recommended:

  • Tach and dwell meter.
  • Timing light.
  • 9/16” valve adjustment open-end wrench.
  • Tubing cutter
  • Compression gauge.
  • A Uni-Syn carburetor-synchronizing tool (for your multiple carburetor engines).
  • Torque wrench.
  • A bottle opener for the non-twist-off type bottles of beer.
  • Disposable lighter.
  • Cell phone. (for calling BoatUS for a tow when all else fails.) Don’t forget, membership to BoatUS is 50% less with BSLOL discount program.
  • Tapered pine dowels.
  • One high voltage test light.
  • Remote starter switch.
  • ACBS official tool bag. (No longer available from ACBS Ship’s Stores)

I highly recommend that you have a tool bag and not a toolbox for working in and around your boat. Toolboxes have a tendency to dent and scratch our old wood boats. ACBS Ships Store has a great bag equipped with a padded bottom, lots of pockets, a brass tag for your initials and a shoulder strap for easy carrying.
O.K. kids, raise your hands if you are ready to learn how to use these optional tools.

  • Tach and dwell meter: The tachometer portion of this meter lets you know with great precision the revolutions of your engine. By connecting this to your motor you know precisely when there is an increase or decrease in engine speed while adjusting carburetor high speed and low speed jets. You will also probably notice how inaccurate the tachometer on your dash is. This can also be used to set your timing if you like to set your timing while you are underway at full power.

(This is the method Steve Merjanian describes in his tune up article) Again, it allows you to set engine revolution adjustments with great
precision. The dwell portion of this instrument is to measure the dwell angle of your contact points in the distributor. Or, in other words, how long the points are allowed to be in the closed position. This provides you great accuracy in adjusting your point gap. Much more accurate than what you achieve with a feeler gauge.

  • Timing light: If you have a timing mark on your flywheel (some engines don’t) you can adjust the timing precisely while idling at your dock. Connect the timing light and it will flash precisely when the number one cylinder fires. If the mark on your flywheel is in alignment with the pointer on your engine, your are perfectly timed. If it is not, twist your distributor either way until they are matched up. It will be easy for you to know which way to twist your distributor. If the marks get further apart, you are going the wrong direction; turn it the other way.
  • Valve adjusting wrench: Most of these open-end wrenches have a ½” on one end and a 9/16” on the other end. These wrenches are thinner and allow you to hold the lifter while you adjust the clearance between the lifter and valve. Once adjusted, you can then clinch the lock nut. You will need two open-end wrenches – one normal size and one thin one (valve adjusting wrench) to complete this task.
  • Tubing cutter: Never cut a gas or oil line copper tube with anything but one of these. Get one at any store with a plumbing department. I like the little ones, as they are easier to get into tight places. They come in two sizes.
  • Compression tester: This tool allows you to test the compression of each cylinder. Remember, when the cylinder comes up with the fuel and air mixture, it compresses this mixture just before the spark ignites it all. If you have poor compression the engine will not run at its best performance. The poor compression can occur from a poorly seated valve or leaking compression at the cylinder rings (blow by). Compression on the Chris-Crafts should be between 90psi to 120psi. The higher the better. Most
    importantly, all cylinders should all read about the same. This gauge helps you determine how healthy an engine is.A very useful engine test prior to making your next purchase for instance. This is a pretest however, and should never replace actually looking at the valves rings or even bearings.Uni-syn carburetor synchronizing tool: (Just do an internet search under “MG Tools.”  Any MG- Triumph-Jaguar Supplier has a Uni-Syn (web page editor))

    I don’t know where else to buy one of these tools any more except through ebay. I have had mine for years. They run about $25.00. You fit this little gauge over the intake portion of the carb. It will measure how much air is passing through the carburetor at idle. Place it on the first carb and see where the little ball is positioned. Set it on the second carb and match the two by adjusting the throttle linkage between the two carbs, or the idle adjustment screw, so the vacuum is equal between each of them. This little gem will allow you to adjust the throttle plates on your carbs without having to remove the carbs from the engine manifold. Removing them is the only way I know how to adjust them visually.


  • Torque wrench: This long handled ratchet wrench will allow you to measure how much pressure you are applying to the nut or bolt you are tightening. This is mandatory if you are rebuilding your own engines. All bolts must be
    tightened to a specific setting (foot pounds) – good to have when checking the engine head bolts from time to time, especially after a recent engine rebuild. The bolts have a tendency to loosen up at first.
  • Bottle opener: Goes without saying. When I was much younger we used to measure the length of time it would take to complete a job by the equivalent number of beers it would take to drink. You know, like a one or two beer job.
  • Disposable lighter: Used to heat shrink tubes or light a cigar; take your pick.
  • Cell phone: Keep it out of the bilge. Take it from me they don’t like the water at all! Call BoatUS if you need a tow. Also handy for ordering a pizza to go when all is going well.
  • Tapered pine dowel: One of the cheapest forms of insurance on the face of the planet. I think they sell these in packages of three in varying sizes at boat supply stores. Use them for emergency purposes. Any hose that originates from below the waterline has a potential to break, get cut or just wear out. Once they do, you have an instant hole in your boat. Tap one of these tapered plugs in the through hull fitting and you have instantly sealed the hole in the bottom of your boat. Being tapered they fit any size hole and swell up to give you a nice tight fit. As Jeff Stebbins will attest, a whittled down stick from the woods will work too, but not quite as well.
  • High voltage test light is one of the greatest little inventions. In fact, this might even be apart of the standard tool kit list. This light allows you to test sparkplug wires and coil wires without getting shocked. Plug one end into the sparkplug wire and the other onto the plug; the light will flash on if you are getting power. Easy way to test for ignition problems.
  • Remote starter switch: This is a real handy tool. You connect one lead to the small post on the starter solenoid and the other to the positive (power) post of the solenoid. This will allow you to start you engine or just bump it
    forward without always running up to the dashboard to turn the key. Take your jumper wire; connect one end to the positive terminal on the coil and one end to the positive cable on the starter solenoid. You have just bypassed your key switch. You can turn the ignition on and off by
    connecting or disconnecting this jumper wire to the distributor. Turn the starter on with this remote switch. A regular piece of wire or even a screwdriver work to connect the two posts on the starter, but the starter switch is a lot easier and creates fewer sparks.

When I was a kid, sometimes my dad would take away the keys to the boat for various reasons. I’m sure you can guess why. One thing he didn’t think about however: two wires from the garage, use the description above and…who needs keys!

That being said, I’m outa here.

Dr. Motorhead.