Tools + Techniques
Even if you don’t have a ton of mechanical knowledge, you can get a lot of pleasure (and save money) by doing at least some of your own motorcycle maintenance. Don’t get in over your head—leave critical systems like brakes and steering to the pros unless you really, really know what you’re doing. You can find classes on motorcycle maintenance and you can watch videos.
Your first tool is the manual for your motorcycle. It will have the tolerances, measurements, and other specifications you’re bound to need. What’s more, you can look through it to decide what maintenance tasks you’ll do yourself and edit your tool purchases accordingly. If all you plan to do is change oil, you won’t need much in the way of tools. But if you plan to really dig in, then do it with the right equipment.
First is a set of socket wrenches (your manual will tell you whether you need metric or standard sizes). Get a couple lengths of extensions to use with them. Similarly, get a set of open-end wrenches; they should match the size of the sockets. Notice that many of the bolts on your bike are hex-heads. You can get a set of hex-head sockets that will attach to your ratchets. An impact-driver can be a big help with severely stuck screws. The standard driver bits are too soft to use for this; use the impact tips instead.
Splash out for good screwdrivers: sturdy metal that won’t break or strip screws; nice, fat handles for a good grip; hex nut just below the handle so you can use a pliers for leverage. And get a couple of cheap screwdrivers, too. Remember to use the cheap ones for prying open lids, stabbing holes in stuff, and scraping off goo. Keep the goods ones for their intended use.
A “soft” hammering tool like a plastic or rubber mallet or hammer will often come in handy. If that doesn’t work, try a hammer against a block of wood or a dowel (depending on what you’re trying to achieve). And, when all else fails, a gentle tap with a hammer may do the trick. Some hammers come with dual heads, one “hard” and one “soft” and that would be a great choice.
If you have only one set of pliers, make it a heavy-duty, needlenose. It can get into tight spaces. Look for a pliers that includes a snips for cutting wires and you’ll have another double-duty tool.
Torque specs are vital and to match them, you’ll need a torque wrench. A click-type torque wrench is easy to use and accurate. You might want to watch a video to learn how to use it properly.
If you don’t already have a tire-pressure gauge, now’s the time to get one. You can use it on all your vehicles. At Eagle Leather, we carry the Bikemaster Tire Gauge shown here with a hose. The hose is braided and has an extension bar angle chuck. We also carry the Tire Gauge without a hose. Both gauges have a swivel-angle chuck with air release valve.
A worklight will be handy. Bikemaster makes one that’s rechargeable and has a strong magnet to stick to any metal surface. We have a few left.
That multitool that’s so handy when you’re riding should stay in your toolbag. Get a second one to keep at home. Then, when you needed to help a fellow motorcycle enthusiast who’s stranded on the roadside, your multitool won’t be sitting on your workbench.
You’ll need gloves (not your riding gloves but either nitrile gloves or mechanic’s gloves), rags, WD-40, hand cleaner, a filter (for oil changes and the like), and assorted nuts, bolts, and screws. You’ll find many uses for zip-ties. Loctite thread tightener works wonders to keep screws from vibrating loose.
Be sure you have extra fuses. Your manual will tell you which ones you need.
Chain lube is a must. Don’t use WD-40 as a replacement. A grunge brush is made especially for cleaning chains. It’s three sides clean all three sides of the chain in one fell swoop. Penetrating oil can be a big help in getting screws loose.
If you’ve been using an old toothbrush to get rid of crusty grime, treat yourself to a set of brushes.
Did you know, you can get a magnetic dish to hold screws, nuts, and bolts.
If you have other recommendations or hacks, please let us know through the Eagle Leather Facebook page.