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Essential Tools For Gas And Heating Engineers

Large blue gas engineers servicing kit

Dave Judge, Gas Engineer and Director of Compliance, shares the essential tools for gas engineers to have in their kit, what brands to look out for and whether quality tools really have to cost a lot of money.

So the most common questions we get asked as trainers are: What tools do I need? What brands should I buy? And what tools do you keep in your toolbox?

These are straightforward questions, but there are no easy answers. Each tradesperson is different, and we all have our personal favourites. Some of my tools have been with me for a long time and are probably irreplicable. Strange, but true. It’s a trades thing, trust me.

When you first start building up your kit, there are some essential tools that all engineers should have. And from there, you can gradually build up a bigger kit as and when you need to.

So, in my own and a couple of my colleague’s opinions, the following are essential tools for gas engineers and the brands to look out for.

Tool Box

Before buying a haul of tools, you need somewhere to store them. You can buy a toolbox for as little as £5 or as much as £300 – my toolbox cost around £35.

Gas engineers blue toolbox with lift out tray displayed on top

Mine is simple, lightweight, and solid. It has two lift-out trays, a sturdy handle and also incorporates a kneeling pad in the lid. This feature is a standard-issue by some of the larger utility companies.

Mine typically contains:

  • A selection of screwdrivers
  • A small hammer
  • Sets of 8″ adjustable spanners
  • 1×6″ adjustable spanner
  • 1×4″ adjustable spanner
  • 1×12″ pump pliers
  • 1×8″ pump pliers
  • 1x 3″ pump pliers
  • 1 12″ manometer
  • A small bottle of LDF
  • A tub of smoke matches
  • A small pack of smoke pellets
  • 1x plume stick
  • 1x long nose pliers
  • 1x slide cutting pliers.

Allen Keys

You’ll find many taps, showerheads, etc., are secured with screws that require an Allen key, so having an assortment of sizes is the safest option.

Swiss Tools Allen keys are a great choice, in my opinion. Solid and long-lasting, they come in both metric and imperial sizes, and some of the top-end ranges are colour coded.

They come in a handy tool holder that’s marked, so there’s no trial and error when selecting the tool.

Blow Torches

You’ll be using a blow torch for soldering and fixing copper piping to create watertight joints and seals.

The Rothenberger Sure fire is extremely popular, and for a good reason – it’s a great torch.

I use Butane gas, so the Rothenberger Rofire is my go-to. It’s lightweight and easily adjustable. It has a range of adjustments from a full flame to low fire, which is quick, precise and easy to do.

Adjustable Spanners

Again you can’t go far wrong with the Spear and Jackson range. I was issued with a set of 3. A 4″, 6″ and 8″. All had a good grip, were strong and, again, didn’t manage to break one.

I also have some Bahco adjustables, which I think are slightly better than Spear and Jackson.

Shaun and Andy agree, naming Bahco as their go-to brand for adjustable spanners.

Two sets of pliers, one with an orange handle, the other with a black handle.

Pliers

As far as pliers go, for both long nose and stub nose, all 3 of us have no particular preference, but in this case, quality costs. 

The things to look for are when buying pliers are:

  • The handles should have a good quality grip
  • Be insulated against unintentional electrical contacts
  • The jaws need to be strong and open wide enough “gape” to cope with everyday use.
  • Longnose pliers should be sturdy enough to grip a stubborn clip or cable but be slim enough to get into tight spaces.

Expect to pay at least £20- £30 for a good quality set of 3. Although, I do have a set of jewellery makers pliers I picked up for a fiver, not because they are strong, but because they are very fine and suitable for intricate work (not something I do a lot of).

Hacksaws

Hacksaws are useful for cutting pipes, nuts, bolts or even screws.

Though they are much the same, the body and handles differ slightly, but their main job is to house a blade for cutting – this is where choice counts.

Good quality blades will do the job quicker and easier than cheaper options. Draper is a good choice and wallet-friendly. Starret is top end and will set you back about £10 a pop – money well spent, in my opinion.

Jointing Compound

Jointing compound is used to ensure a watertight seal around drains and faucets, and I’ve tried many brands of the stuff over the years, but I swear by Jet Blue Plus from Wolsely.

I’ve never had a problem using it, and it doesn’t seem to dry out as much as other brands I’ve used.

Close up of an engineer cutting a copper pipe using a pipe slice

Pipe Slices

Pipe cutters offer a cleaner cut than a hacksaw and are helpful when you need to cut a pipe in a tight situation.

My choice of pipe slice is the monument or Kopex. I use a range of sizes from 8mm to 28mm and find both work well.

Although, a special mention goes out to guys at Ridgid – their duel sized cutter is well made, robust and adjusts from 15mm to 22mm in seconds.

Two pump pliers with blue handles laid flat on a work bench

Pump Pliers

Pump pliers are often called slip-joint pliers or grips and are possibly the most used tool in the box (often misused).

I think these are the best I have ever seen or used, and sadly, I don’t know the exact brand, although I suspect they’re from Draper.

I have four pairs, and all are nearly 20 years old. Yet, there’s no distortion, no slipping, and they’re still solid.

I’ve tried every other make out there, and nothing comes close to these. Again nearly 20 years old and showing the odd sign of wear and tear.

Shaun opts for Rothenberger, while Andy doesn’t favour one particular brand:

“Rothenberger, are good, but in all honesty, when it comes to grips, buy cheap buy twice.

Radiator/Meter Box Keys

You’ll often have to be able to access the gas meter when you’re on the job so having a universal gas meter key is one of the most essential tools for gas engineers – along with a radiator key, of course.

As far as which ones to use, you can’t beat the freebies. Collect them from merchants or trade shows, and make sure you keep one on your keys.

Having a healthy collection means you can pass them onto customers after jobs if they don’t have one. And, if you’re like me, you’ll lose at least three a week.

Screwdrivers

My favourite screwdrivers are the Spear and Jackson sure grip range.

I still have three left from my original set. All the others are sadly lost. However, I never broke one of these, which speaks to their quality.

The thing I like most is the grip. It’s in good shape and is nonslip; it has a softer feel and is hardwearing. Also, the tips are solid and hardwearing.

I have yet to find a set of screwdrivers as good as these. I have used Stanley, Draper and Rothenberger in the past, and although they’ve all been good, they aren’t quite as good as my Spear and Jackson ones – not bad for 20 years old.

Shaun swears by the Wera range of screwdrivers: “They’ve never let me down and look good too.”

Andy’s pick is Draper, “In my experience, they’re strong and reliable.”

Large blue gas engineers servicing kit

Service Engineer Kit

As well as the standard tools, I also possess a service engineers kit manufactured by Makita. It’s an excellent kit, and although I have lost a few bits over time, it’s still in good condition after 20 years (apart from the case hinge and clasps). It contains:

  • A selection of sockets
  • Allen keys
  • Torx bits
  • Screwdriver bits
  • A flexible handle 
  • Ratchet
  • Adapters

It’s a great piece of kit for a service engineer to own.

Shaun: “I have a couple of socket and ratchet sets. Raptor and Bahco are good quality.”

Andy: “I have several, some better than others, but I agree that Bahco are quality.”

Torches

A torch is a must when you’re working in lofts, as many customers won’t have any lighting up there.

I have a range of torches, and I lose more than I break, so I now buy rechargeable handheld and head torches from Amazon. I also have a rechargeable site lamp that comes into its own when working in lofts and dark cupboards. Mine is a LAP from Screwfix, which does the job well.

There are some expensive options, but I wouldn’t recommend paying hundreds for one.

Three slip joint pliers with blue handles

Budget-Friendly Tools

While you often get what you pay for, you can pick up some gems for low prices and in places you might not think. We all have at least one random piece of kit that we have obtained or stumbled across.

I have a set of box spanners I bought from Aldi for £3.99. They’ve got me out of a tight spot more than once.

Shaun; “I bought a set of long reach screwdrivers from Lidl, cost me about a fiver.”

Andy: “I have a handheld electric pump I use for recharging vessels. Again it was from Aldi and cost me around £7.99.

Toolkit Advice To Remember

The most important advice when it comes to tools for gas engineers or any other trade for that matter is that quality counts. So before you buy any tools, pick them up and pull them about. Are they comfortable to use? Do they feel too big to handle? Will they stand the rigours of daily use?

But also don’t buy a Rolls Royce when a Ford Focus will do the job just as well. Of course, cost doesn’t always equal quality, but cheap normally means nasty. Having said that, most tradespeople will own a 50 pence piece of kit that they swear by.

Don’t try and buy everything you need for your toolkit in one go. Instead, build up a substantial kit over time.

As I said at the start, I can pack everything I need into one box, but I can barely fit everything I own into one van. Also, don’t be tempted by nice new shiny stuff you have no use for. What’s the point in buying a £100 piece of kit that just takes up shelf space.

Training As A Gas & Heating Engineer

If you’re interested in becoming a gas & heating engineer, visit our course page to learn more about our ACS Domestic Gas Renewables Training Course. Alternatively, give us a call on 0800 802 1306.

All data correct at time of publication.