QotW: What tools do you keep in your JNC?

As clockwork-reliable as Japanese cars can be, when we’re talking about cars 30, 40 or 50 years old there’s always the chance of something breaking down. Most of us probably keep a few items in our JNCs at all times, whether we’re going out for an afternoon touge run or a days-long road trip, and especially when we travel to some far flung location to bring home a new project.

What tools do you keep in your JNC?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “Tell us your most challenging ‘reach.'”

There were many good AotW this time, proving that Japanese cars aren’t always as logically laid out and easy to work on as their reputations suggest. From Geoff‘s travails with Z32 twin turbos to BW‘s ordeal of a Miata clutch change in freezing temperatures, you guys have had it rough. However, the winner this week was David Meyer, who spent the better part of a year replacing a light bulb in his FB RX-7.

My very first attempt at fixing something on my FB was, what I thought, going to be a fairly easy fix. A light. A very small light in a very small heater control unit, which had decided many years ago that it had had enough and quit lighting up the words “Vent”, “Def”, and “Heat”. It was such a little thing. I almost considered not even messing with it. But after a few evenings of being in the car, it really started to bug me. “OK, I guess I’ll replace that bulb…it’ll a nice, easy, first thing I can do with this car.”

A car which was alien to me and had some problems…a flooding carburetor, a sloppy steering box, and rattles from god knows where. But this should be easy. A fine way to ease into getting to know the car. This was in November…shortly after I’d gotten the car.

So I went to work disassembling the center console. Unlike my old Civic, there were virtually NO visible screws. Everything was cleanly hidden from view by snapped on facias, all of which had to come off in a certain order. It took 3 trips to rx7club.com and a fair amount of searching before I got to the point where I had the center console apart and access to pull the heater panel. A heater panel that did *not* want to come out. It was attached in the back by a molex plug and some round plug. There was no possible way for my hand to get in there and successfully coax the plugs apart. Several scans of the parts manual refused to give up the secrets that kept that heater control firmly affixed to the center dash. To add insult to injury, it offered no real reassurance that the bulbs were, in fact, replaceable. A call to my local Mazda dealer did nothing to reassure me either…the parts guy couldn’t even read the parts manual they had…which was the same crappy scan of a microfiche from ’85 that I was reading. He had no clue and, from the sound of it, didn’t want a clue.

Questions were posted to rx7club.com, which were met with resounding silence. Nobody knew. It was an ’84-85 thing. Probably nobody had tried. Or nobody cared. Or both.

I left the console out, looking rather untidy with the resolve that the console would NOT go back in until I had replaced that bulb.

Fast forward to 8 months later. I went in the garage with the resolution that I would do one of two things. Pull that heater out and see if the bulb is replaceable, or throw in the towel and put everything back together. I was tired of the car looking like a theft recovery. It’s a #@$! lightbulb! I probably wouldn”t even drive this thing in the dark more than a couple of times a year. But it tasked me.

Armed with my LED light wand and reading glasses, I looked at the heater from every angle I could. I could see the two plugs. I could get one hand kinda up in there, but I just didn’t have the leverage to pull the molex apart with one hand, I noted, however, I was able to pull the heater control out just a little bit. Enough to expose 3 screws on the top of the front panel. I wasn’t sure exactly where the light bulb would be, but I suspected it would be behind the panel there somewhere, so I got a stubby phillips screwdriver. I couldn’t get it in the screws…the heater wouldn’t’ come out far enough to clear the dash so I could get access to those screws. Then I remembered. And I dug around in my tool box and found a little chintzy, “Made in China” screw driver ratchet thingy. I was able to get that thing in there with room to spare. Ratcheted out 3 screws and popped the top panel off and what do I see? A light bulb with an orange rubber condom on it. It’s attached with a little twist-lock thing which I had very little access to, not being able to get the whole control unit out of the dash. But a pair of needle nose pliers managed to twist the bulb enough to coax it out of its home.

It was such a stupid little thing, but it had been dogging me for so long, I felt even better than when I’d finally swapped the rear end or got the coil overs on. Logical, no. But damn, I felt great after that.

Omedetou! Your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop.

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20 Responses to QotW: What tools do you keep in your JNC?

  1. Geoff says:

    Fluke electrical meter, socket set, screwdriver set, a hammer, a cricket bat, a torch, a trolley jack, Stanley pliers, vice grips, migraine medication, some clean rags and a workshop manual.
    Other er, necessities, can’t live inside a car due to Australian summers but you always throw a few in before a big night out. 😉

  2. TommyGUN says:

    Sadly, I keep nothing in my CRX.. not even a spare tire (nor its jack, for that matter). What can I say, I’m a rebel. I do, however, keep a bottle of spray wax and microfiber towel – they count as tools, right?

  3. Jac Cottrell says:

    90 Miata. 10mm wrench to take of the antenna when I put the car cover on it.

  4. Jim Simspson says:

    I carry a full tool roll, in any of my old cars when I travel… kind of like having a spare tire, almost guarantees that you will not need them… !:-)

  5. Hutch says:

    Love that RX-7

  6. Mike in Long Beach says:

    When you have a Honda Accord, even one that is almost 40 years old, and it only has 57000 miles on the clock, you carry the tools that came with the car: A jack and a lug wrench. Job done.

  7. Vic from PA says:

    Just the exact tool kit you pictured above. Have a 1972 Celica RA21. Bought it new and still have it. 105K original miles.

    • sabin simard says:

      You’re the KING of this site, stories like yours should be put in front of this site and if only Japanese cars have been owned by guys like you, they wouldn’t be in extinction, and finally, i always thought than REAL CAR COLLECTORS and cars lovers are in New England. Good luck for FIND another guy like you to put your car in secure hands.

      • Vic from PA says:

        Thank you!
        After all these years, can’t part with it.
        Very sentimental. All the memories!
        Not sure how to post photos here.

        • Sabin Simard says:

          Hi Vic from PA, i hope you will try to find help to show us your car, i’m sure it worth the wait and really hope you will be contagious for attitude and mentality change.

  8. J.A.C.K says:

    AE86: pair of mechanics gloves, socket set (metric and the other one), wrench, screw driver(s), hammer (for “percussive maintenance” on the starter), hydraulic jack, a couple spare exhaust hanger donuts (don’t ask), and the universal repair AE86 body repair kit known as “bundle of zip ties”

  9. madis says:

    basically all the common bolt-nut sized wrenches, knipex tweezers?, hexagon toolie-thingies for ratchet thingy, damn, dont know how the tools are named in English.. some screwdrivers, electrical tape, multimeter to check, if the fuel pump is out again, gloves ALWAYS, a fuel filling thingy for premix…. Cant afford to break down on the side of the road because of a simple malfunction because not having some tools with me..
    fc3s rx-7 6 port turbo

  10. Ant says:

    There’s a battery tender permanently rattling around in the back of my Eunos Roadster, because I’m too dumb to just fit a cut-off switch like I should.

  11. Bob says:

    A smart phone with GEICO app for roadside.
    Drag it back to the house.
    I’ll fix it there.

  12. Brian Foo says:

    -An interchangeable flat head/Phillips screwdriver
    -size 10 wrench
    -original lug nut wrench and jack
    -Japanese LED roadflare

    Thats all she needs.No worries on my AE80 breaking down anytime soon with her timely maintenance. If it does break down, I’ll just give my good pal a call and wait for his flatbed truck to bring my beloved back to the workshop. 🙂

  13. jivecom says:

    Just the driver!

  14. Nico says:

    Still got the set new in the trunk of my TA-22 GT , never needed it in the 34 years im driving it , Toyotas dont break down ! they keep on going .

  15. amar says:

    For the 260z thats my current DD I’ve kept: a set of screw drivers (Phillips / Flat), spark plug tester, assorted metric wrenches (8mm – 14mm), a SU carb-tune, couple feet of assorted gauge wire, a spare alternator belt, a Fluke meter, and some fuses. They all fit into this really sweet leather bag that I got from an old job, which is tucked into the rear container compartment.

    Oh and some baby-wipes that I picked up in a drug store in Santa Cruz after having to address a stuck float needle. No more smelling gasoline. Just enough to get myself back on the road.

    Ha could probably pull the car apart with these tools actually.

  16. Colin says:

    After my 82 rx7 flooded while driving, I now keep a small battery jumper so I can pull the fuel pump fuse, crank for awhile to get rid of extra fuel in the carb then put it back in.

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