Essential Repair Tools Every Bike Owner Needs
Quite a few people are following the do-it-yourself route these days. From home improvement projects to filing taxes, people are foregoing professional assistance and taking care of things on their own. This is particularly true when it comes to motorcycle maintenance and repairs.
With passenger vehicles, scheduling appointments with a mechanic is a routine practice. That’s not necessarily the case for motorcycle owners. Bikers tend to form unique bonds with their motorcycles. They often become one with their bikes in a sense, which doesn’t always happen with a standard car, truck, SUV, or minivan.
Riding a motorcycle is a completely different experience than driving a passenger vehicle. It creates an unrivaled sense of freedom and ultimately requires a bit of trust between human and machine. Because of that, bikers typically want to do everything they can to keep their motorcycles in top-notch condition.
For many, that means performing certain repairs and maintenance tasks on their own rather than turning to a mechanic for every little need that arises. At the same time, being able to resolve some problems that may crop up on the road is crucial. While some work is best left to the professionals, motorcycle owners can take care of many issues with their own two hands. Of course, it’s important to have a few essential bike tools on hand to make things more effective and efficient.
An Owner’s Manual
Many people may question how this could be considered a tool or even really be important at all. On the other hand, countless bike owners find themselves wishing they had some sort of guide to clue them in on at least the basic aspects of keeping their motorcycles up and running. That’s exactly what an owner’s manual does. No two bikes’ needs are quite the same, so guessing or using secondhand information isn’t always the best course of action.
Owner’s or service manuals provide critical information that’s unique to the make and model of the bike in question. They hold incredibly helpful details about numerous maintenance and repair elements. These range from which types of tires and oil are recommended for a specific bike to how much pressure the tires should hold for a smooth ride and maximum safety. They also offer troubleshooting tips and other tidbits that could come in handy when taking care of a bike.
As is the case with passenger vehicles, motorcycles come with owner’s manuals. Of course, those often get lost over time. This is especially true for those who purchase used motorcycles. It’s possible to get a service manual from the bike manufacturer or download one online. Websites like Amazon and eBay can also be helpful resources for acquiring motorcycle owner’s manuals.
A Motorcycle Stand
Motorcycle stands are also essential tools. Can you carry out maintenance and repairs without one? Yes. It’s possible to take care of a bike without a stand to an extent. Still, working on a motorcycle while it’s sitting on the ground with only its kickstand for stability isn’t advised. Doing so could lead to the bike falling over and being damaged. It could also result in injuries.
Stands keep bikes in an upright position and give them much more stability during repairs. They make changing the tires and oil much less precarious and pave the way for more in-depth maintenance work as well. Several types of stands are on the market from basic, relatively inexpensive ones to more elaborate options. Not all of them are built for all types of bikes, though, so be sure the one you’re thinking of purchasing will work with your bike.
Oil Change Basics
One of the simplest and most fundamental components of keeping a motorcycle in optimal condition is changing the oil as needed. Keeping the oil changed reduces friction and corrosion to make the engine last longer. It’ll also improve the performance of the bike and help prevent more extensive repair needs down the road.
Some motorcycles need oil changes every 5,000 miles whereas others can hold out for up to 10,000 miles. When the time comes to change the oil, having the right tools on hand makes the process much simpler. Keep in mind, an owner’s manual will tell you the best type of oil to run in the bike and when to change it.
Aside from an owner’s manual and motorcycle stand, the basic tools required for an oil change are a drain pan and a filter wrench. Be sure the drain pan you choose will easily fit between the ground or the floor of your garage and the drain plug with enough room to slide in your hand to remove the plug. Consider choosing a pan that doubles as a storage container, so you can keep the used oil in check until you can take it to be recycled.
Filter wrenches make it easier to remove the old oil filter. Most people choose oil filter pliers or strap-style wrenches. Using the wrench to tighten a new oil filter isn’t recommended. This should be done by hand to avoid over-tightening and damaging the filter.
Wrenches and Screwdrivers
Everyone should have sets of wrenches and screwdrivers on hand. They’re crucial for countless tasks around the house and in the garage. You’ll need them for DIY motorcycle maintenance as well.
Be sure you have both flat- and Phillips-head screwdrivers in a range of sizes and lengths. In terms of wrench sets, numerous options are available. You’ll need them for all types of maintenance and repairs from tightening bolts to replacing components and installing aftermarket accessories.
Though there are several types of wrenches to choose from, combination versions are often the most useful. Ratchets and socket sets also offer a great deal of versatility. Off-sets are extremely helpful in certain situations as well.
Remember, wrenches and sockets come in different sizes just like the bolts on motorcycles. Some are based on SAE measurements whereas others are metric. In some cases, bikes have both types of bolts. As such, it’s best to have sets of both metric and SAE wrenches and sockets in your arsenal.
Consider adding a torque wrench to your tool kit as well. This tool is helpful for those nuts and bolts that need a little more elbow grease than manpower alone can generate. Again, these are available in metric and SAE varieties.
Allen wrenches, also known as hex keys, are also vital for motorcycle maintenance. These come in many sizes and forms. Know whether your bike uses SAE or metric measurements to ensure you get the right ones. At the same time, Allen wrenches are available in folding sets, with P handles, and as bits for ratchets. Generally speaking, though, the traditional L-shaped keys work fine for most people and jobs.
A Tire Pressure Gauge
Another simple tool all bikers need is a tire pressure gauge. Your owner’s manual will tell you how much pressure needs to be in the tires when riding. Still, there’s no way to know how much pressure the tires are holding without measuring it with a pressure gauge.
Basic, inexpensive gauges work just fine, so there’s no real need to invest in a high-end version. Having said that, many people prefer professional-grade gauges for optimal precision. Ultimately, the choice is yours as long as you know how to use and read the gauge.
In addition to a pressure gauge, having an inflator to pump more air into tires with low air pressure is recommended. Riding the bike to the nearest gas station when air pressure is low isn’t a good idea. It could damage the tire and wheel or lead to a blowout. Simple hand pumps are available. They’re the least expensive option, but they’re notoriously difficult to work with.
Portable compressors are easier to use, and they require a great deal less effort. They may be more costly, but many motorcycle owners insist they’re well worth the investment. They take less time to inflate the tires, too, so you’ll be able to get on with your road trip more quickly than you would with a manual inflator.
If you want to be able to change the tires on the bike, other tools will enter the mix. Your motorcycle stand will come in handy here. A valve stem core remover is also essential. Those previously mentioned wrenches and ratchets will prove vital as well for getting the wheels off of the bike.
From there, you’ll need something to get the tires off of the wheels. Bead breakers and tire irons work well for this portion of the process. You could also use a large screwdriver. Just be careful not to damage the wheel while removing the tire. As an extra bit of advice, dish soap can be a good tool for helping to loosen the tire from the wheel. Run a bead of soap around the edge of the tire and rim before trying to separate them.
Being Proactive in Motorcycle Maintenance and Repairs
If, like many bikers, you’d like to be proactive in maintaining and repairing your motorcycle, these are some of the essential tools you’ll need for the job. As you get to know the bike and become more familiar with its needs, you can certainly expand your toolkit as you see fit. Be sure to keep as many of those tools as possible in the saddlebags or somewhere else on the bike for on-the-road emergencies.
Several maintenance tasks and repairs can be done via the DIY route. Not all of them should be, though. Keep in mind, there’s no shame in turning to the professionals for those jobs you can’t do on your own or don’t feel comfortable attempting.