My family has always insisted the
girls be just as good with tools as the boys. My Grandfather Wenker gave
me my own set of carpenter's tools for my 6th Christmas, and my Uncle
Willie added bigger tools as I got older. My Dad insisted I pass Auto
Mechanics with straight A's before I was allowed to take Driver's Ed. I
knew how a manual transmission car worked long before I could drive
General stuff about tools:
going to get REEEEEEALLY basic here, because you never know just how
much experience a person has with this kind of stuff. Just skip over
whatever you already know.
Generally, tools come in two different sizings
metric and SAE. Different bike manufacturers use different sizings. If
you ride a Harley, youll need SAE tools. If you ride a Honda,
youll need metric. Double check your bike. Also, if someone has added
aftermarket parts (thats stuff that did not come with the bike and is
made by a different manufacturer), they may use a different sizing. But,
generally speaking, Japanese bikes are metric and American bikes are
Metric is measured
in millimeters, centimeters, meters, etc. The metric wrenches you will
use most are 12mm and 17mm for your oil changes, and
8mm, 10mm, 14mm, and 19mm for other work. SAE is measured in inches: halves, quarters, eighths, etc.
Common sizes you will need are: 1/2in, 7/16in, 3/8in, 9/16in, and 5/8in.
mechanics recommend Craftsman tools as a good value durable enough
for the home tinkerer, cheap enough to buy what you need. Dont get
anything lower quality than Craftsman. If you can afford it, and want
to, feel free to buy better.
will live on your bike
I bought inexpensive ones from Walmart, tiny enough to
fit in a makeup bag which is the perfect size to fit in my itty-bitty
under-seat storage. Since they are pretty much for emergencies rather
than regular use, I figure they don't need to be that durable, and
if you leave one by the roadside, it's not a major loss. Notice that the
tools tend to be adjustable - that' cuz you can't always be sure of what
will need fixing, and tools are heavy enough that I don't want a big set
on my little bike. Versitility is a GOOD thing!
1 Tire guage (keep it someplace very accessible, you should check
your tire pressure regularly)
2 Adjustable wrenches
1 Vise grips
1 Multi-point screw driver (the kind with the spare points
stored in the handle)
Set of allen wrenches
bag to keep it all in
you should have in your home tool box
In this category, I buy the best I can afford. For regular maintenance,
cheap tools wear quickly, break, bend, can hurt you, and hurt the stuff
you are working on. They'll round off the corners of nuts and bolts,
slip and smash something, or snap and stab you. Cheap rachets will
freeze up or go loose.
Unless you are rich, I wouldn't run out and buy a
full tool set. For us beginners, make a plan for your bike maintenance.
As you come up on the stuff that needs tools, say an oil change, purchase
those tools to fit your bike. Also, there are a lot of really nifty
specialized tools that unless you decide to do all your own work, you
won't really need. But they sure do look cool hanging on your shop wall!
you cant figure out what some of the stuff is, just ask the folks at
the store. (If they dont know, either, dont shop there!). They can
explain what the tools are and show you how to use them.
- both blade and phillips - be sure they fit the
screws on your bike and that the shanks are a length that makes it easy,
instead of hard, to work.
impact driver - Sort of a screwdriver on steroids. One of those
gadgets you don't HAVE to have, but it sure makes life easier. Youll
need a hammer to make this thing work.
Pliers - regular, needle nose, vise
grips, and channel lock - each one does something different and
wonderful. Sort of a "normal" size that fits comfortably in
your hand is good, as they do adjust (within limits) to the size of the object you are
Circlip pliers are really cool, but you don't need
them until you decide to start doing your own tranny work.
Wrenches - box and open end - you
can get them in sets where each end is a different size all in one kind,
or you can get a set where each wrench is the same size on both
ends, but one is open and one is a box. I like the second kind. The box
type dosen't fall off the bolt head or nut as easily, but the open kind
will go into a flat space where you can't easily get the box.
adjustable - (crescent) I like to have one 8 inch and one 6
inch handy. I don't like to use them for the primary loosening or
tightening (they tend to loosen and suddenly slide off), but they are
great for holding a bolt steady while you loosen the nut with a box
wrench (or vice-versa), and sometimes you just can't find a box wrench
that fits THAT bolt.
Socket set - These are really cool. You slip a thingie that
looks like a lipstick case attached to a handle over the nut. The
handle has a rachet inside that can be set for tightening or loosening.
Makes life SOOOO much easier. You can buy attachments for this that will
let you work at all kinds of odd angles.
plug socket Your spark plugs are fussy and need their own
special socket. Be sure to get the one that fits YOUR bike's plugs.
torque - a specialized socket wrench handle that lets you
measure exactly how tightly the nut or bolt is installed.
allan - An allen wrench looks like a little metal
"L." you stick the end of the short side inside the bolt and
use the long side for a handle. And if the bolt is tucked way in, you
can often reach it by poking the long end down and using the short end
as a handle. Fingers not strong enough to turn the gadget? Use your vise
grips as a handle. Neat, huh?
oil filter wrench Some bikes need this, some dont.
Youll have to check.
Hammers - Yes, really! You'll find all
kinds of uses for these.
steel hammer Youll need this to make your impact
driver work. And youll find other handy uses as you do more work on
mallet - it's a soft faced hammer made from plastic (old
ones were leather) and is good for loosening things, popping tightly fit
stuff together, and adjusting the position of stuff.
Spark plug guage - Looks sort of like an
alien Swiss Army Knife. The doohickies that fan out are used to measure
the gap in the spark plug.
Looooong tweezers - these are great for
retrieving tiny things like screws and washers that fall into
inaccessible places (like the molded groove for the place your air
filter sits) and picking rocks out of your cooling fins. You'll find
ever more uses as you do more work on your bike. They are also good for
threatening small children Stick that pea up your nose and Ill
have to take it out with THIS!
OK, if you have
read this trying to learn something (yeah, I know you mechanics read it
to see how many mistakes I made), then I strongly suggest you purchase
the following books for your Motorcycle Library:
purchase The Complete Idiots Guide to Motorcycles. Its a
great starter book. I have listed the books in the order in which I
suggest you purchase them. Purchase the list as rapidly as your budget
1) The Complete Idiots Guide to Motorcycles: Darwin Holmstrom:
Alpha Books / Simon & Schuster Macmillan Co: New York, NY
2) Your Bikes Owners Manual This
would be something like a Clymer (Intertec Publishing, P.O. Box 12901,
Overland Park, Kansas 66282-2901) or a Chilton
3) The Complete Motorcycle Book, A
consumers Guide: Jim Bennett: Checkmark Books / Facts on File: New
4) The Shop Manual for Your Bike This is
a gotta-get if you become serious about doing your own wrenching. OR if
you end up with a mechanic who is unfamiliar with your specific bike, it
will be helpful.
There are a lot of other books
you will enjoy if you love bikes, and I will be making a list of them to
add here, so please keep checking back!
to get comfortable with your bike
Practice, practice, practice! For those of
us starting to ride in middle age, a planned program of practice is a
I go out at odd hours when there is little
traffic and practice my trouble spots (like uphill stopsigns with
right-hand turns) until I am confident and comfortable. Then, where
there is traffic, I can concentrate on the other drivers and
assorted road hazards, rather than trying to figure out how to get my
bike to do what I want.
Some of the very BEST training around is the Motorcycle
Safety Foundation RiderCourse. In the State of Hawai`i, for
only $150 over four days you get 10 hours of
"groundschool," 14 hours on one of their practice motorcycles,
a textbook, and access to some really well trained instructors. For many
of us, finding a bike to learn on is a real challenge. After all, who is
going to loan out a few-thousand dollar machine to someone who is
certainly going to break it a few times?
The MSF RiderCourse takes students through a
building-block style training program in which skills are taught and
layered in a logical and progressive fashion. As a teacher, I was truly
impressed with the methodology and effectiveness of the program.
While the course is fun, safety is always
foremost, and learning to predict and prevent accidents comprises a
large part of the training. The course also helps students to decide
which type of motorcycle is best for them.
Since graduating (which got me out of my road
test and saved 15% on my insurance) in May of 2001, I've ridden over
miles, met many new people, and made dear new friends. I may have
embarked on this new project as a response to my "mid-life
crisis," but in any case, I sure am glad I did!