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What You Need In Your Basic Motorcycle Tool Kit: Part I

Updated on November 21, 2009


The screwdrivers used most often by the motorcycle mechanic are the electrical straight blade, mechanic's straight blade, Phillips head, and occasionally the hex head or Allen head. Blade sizes for standard screwdrivers are specified dimensionally (1/4" x 1/32") or are proportional to blade or overall screwdriver length. Shanks may be round or square, the square shank allowing you to use a wrench for additional turning power. The blade size should be chosen to fill just the screw slot. Handles should be large enough for a comfortable grip, have no sharp edges, and be nearly unbreakable. Occasional regrinding of the tip may be required for standard blades.


Of the many kinds of general and special purpose pliers available, you should know about these:

Combination Pliers

Two-position pliers in 6- to 7-inch length with a wedge-type cutter for general and all-around work.

Interlocking Joint Grip

Eight- to 10-inch length with a 1 1/4- to 2-inch jaw opening for gripping larger work than combination pliers will handle. These pliers are often called "channel locks" after the company that developed them.

Diagonal Cutter Pliers

6- to 7-inch length for removing cotter pins and cutting wire and small pieces of metal. Most mechanics call these "dikes." Hold the jokes please.

Needle-Nose Pliers

Four- to 8-inch length; with or without cutter for small objects and restricted places. These are also used for bending wire.

Snap-Ring Pliers

Small round tips to fit snap rings. Pliers may be straight or at 90° and may have interchangeable tips. The serious mechanic should have several sizes of both internal and external snap-ring pliers since the replaceable tip sets are too fragile for very hard work. Occasional lubrication and using a tool large enough for the intended job will keep your pliers in good shape.

End Wrenches

End wrenches are made in a range of shapes, end types, and sizes. You will need to become familiar with metric sizes, and fractional inch sizes, and you may occasionally hit an English bike with Whitworth nuts and bolts.

Open-End Wrenches

Open-End wrenches normally have two different end sizes and are angled at 15 degrees. These are used to remove nuts in limited access places. A complete set would run in size from 1/4 inch to 1 5/8 inches, or a fairly complete mechanic's set from 1/4 to 1-1/4 inches. A metric set from 6 to 32 mm would be very complete. Special angle 30 degrees and 60 degrees open-end wrenches are also available. A good starter set would include 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, and 22 mm and 5"6", 3/8", 7"6", 1/2", 9"6", 5/8", 11"6", 3/4", 13"6", and 7/8" English sizes.

Box Wrenches

These are better to use than open-end wrenches as the box end is less likely to slip and scuff off the corners on nuts. Box wrenches are available in 6- and 12-point openings, in size ranges similar to open-end wrenches, and may have an angled or raised handle.

Combination-End Wrenches

These have a box end and an open end at opposite ends of the same handle. Both openings are the same dimension. These combination wrenches are a good starting set of tools for the motorcycle mechanic or owner. Two special end wrenches worth having are flare-nut wrenches for tubing fittings, and ratcheting-end wrenches for speeding assembly work.

Torque Wrench

Torque wrenches are socket drive handles with some method of indicating the amount of turning force or torque being applied to the fastener. They are available in 3/8- and 1/2-inch drive sizes in the torque ranges needed by the motorcycle mechanic. Torques figures are indicated by direct reading dials, click type where a sound is emitted at the pre-set torque, and the less expensive beam type. Torque wrenches can be purchased with scales in inch-pounds, foot-pounds, centimeter-kilograms, and meter-kilograms.

The dial-reading types are too bulky to fit in tight places. The click type is good if kept clean but loses accuracy when it gets grimy. A good starting wrench would be a 3/8-inch drive beam-type torque wrench with a dual scale 0 to 50 foot-pounds (0-68 nM); 0 to 600 inch-pounds (0-813 nM).

Continued In: What You Need In Your Basic Motorcycle Tool Kit: Part II


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