Essential Tools for Motorcycle Enthusiasts
As with any other hands-on job, the old saying “proper tools for a proper job” holds true for motorcycle mechanics. While a professional mechanic will typically have upwards of $5,000 worth of tools, you can buy a full tool kit with all the basic tools for less than $100!
The home-based mechanic will not need a large, expensive tool kit to do most service and repair jobs on a motorcycle. However, you should remember some guidelines when assembling a starter kit of suitable tools for motorcycle work.
A starter kit for new mechanics includes a few basics that are typically available in sets, including:
Which Screw Drivers?
Quality is especially important when choosing screwdrivers because so many parts on a motorcycle require removing panels or cases. Wear and tear will quickly prove frustrating with this particular tool. Philips-head or crosshead screwdrivers will damage any screw they are used on if their tip is rounded off.
Some crosshead screw drivers have replaceable tips. These are a good choice for professionals because replacement bits are inexpensive.
In addition to a basic screwdriver set, a motorcycle mechanic will find that an impact driver is an invaluable tool. These drivers impart a turning and impacting force at the same time, and they should always be used on crosshead engine-casing screws.
Hand-held wrenches, or spanners, are used to remove or refit bolts and nuts that have hexagonal shapes for their lever point.
Two main types of wrenches are commonly used on motorcycles: open-ended and ring. These wrenches are available as a combination wrench with both an open and ring end.
In many applications, the socket and ratchet system has replaced wrenches to make the job of removing and refitting nuts and/or bolts quicker.
The quality of tools is a very important consideration for any would-be mechanic. In the days when “guaranteed for life” meant the life of the tool and not the company, many mechanics considered this the only option in tool buying. Today, the options between high price and quality are plentiful.
As a basic guideline, a tool buyer should consider the item in question in terms of how it will be used. For example, a 10-mm combination wrench will be used extensively on all modern motorcycles (not classics or vintage bikes). Therefore, this wrench in particular must be of a high quality.
High-end items will cost considerably more than will those of a lesser quality. Mechanics often buy a set with a price and quality that falls in the middle range and then replace well-used items (such as the 10-mm wrench) with top-quality items as or when they become worn. It should be noted that tool guarantees do not cover normal wear and tear.
As a mechanic’s tool kit gets bigger, so too does the need for a bigger tool box to keep everything in. With this in mind, someone just starting to acquire tools should consider buying a tool box that can be enlarged. For example, most tool box manufacturers sell top boxes and roll-around base units separately. The top box is a good starting point because most of the early tools you buy will be relatively small. The roll-around cabinet can be purchased later as the need (or funds) arises.
Two things affect the price of all toolboxes: the material they are made of and the type of drawer slider used. For most applications, boxes made of unpainted stainless steel are the best option because they are durable and can be easily cleaned.
Because the drawer sliders are used every time the mechanic needs a tool, their quality is important. The best choice is steel ball-bearing sliders. These sliders are typically classified as “heavy duty.” However, nylon and other manmade materials used on drawer sliders can last for many years if cleaned and lubricated periodically.
Beyond Basic Tools
Having established a good basic tool kit, you can begin looking into more specialist tools on an as-needed basis, such as:
- Electrically powered tools
- Compressor and air tools
- Pullers and extractors
Electrically Powered Tools
Besides soldering irons, an electric drill is the first purchase beyond basic tools for most mechanics. A selection of drills will be necessary, too. In recent years, battery-powered drills have become very popular as the technology behind their batteries has ensured both power and longevity. However, most battery-powered drills are still cumbersome and limited to easily accessible places.
Compressor and Air Tools
Most mechanics will say they don’t know how they managed without a compressor and air tools in the early stages of their mechanical careers. Two air tools in particular stand out as must-haves for a motorcycle mechanic: a blowgun and an impact driver.
Blowguns are inexpensive and are available in kits that include tire inflation chucks. Blowguns are used primarily to clean component parts, such as those in a carburetor. An interim replacement for a compressor and blowgun is a pressurized canister used to clean computer keyboards.
The impact gun is a must-have air tool for disassembling many high-torque items on motorcycles. This tool can be used to loosen large spindle nuts, clutch center nuts, flywheel nuts, and fork leg holding bolts. Although all these items can be disassembled using conventional tools, the impact gun will make this type of job much easier.
Compressors are available in numerous shapes and sizes, but one with an eight-gallon holding tank and the capability to produce 125 psi (pounds per square inch) should be considered the minimum specification.
Pullers and Extractors
As a mechanic’s knowledge increases, the repair or service jobs they are likely to tackle become more involved. At this point, pullers and extractors become an essential part of the mechanic’s tool kit. However, because pullers and extractors are somewhat specialist in their application, the mechanic should purchase them on an as-needed basis.
Home mechanics can get a good usable tool kit that accomplishes most tasks at low cost. Going for quality is still an option, especially if you can go old school with manual tools. So get your tool kit up to snuff, and get the bike in its best working order!