One of the many joys of being a motorcyclist is getting to work on your bike. Breaking out the tools and a cold one and getting down and dirty with your loved ones is one of the time-honored traditions of motorcycling for a reason: it’s fun and satisfying. But to be able to work on your bike, you’ll have to have the right tools. Most projects can be easily done in your own garage with some basic tools, but please keep in mind that some things are best left to the professionals; so please consult your local dealer before undertaking any major projects. If you don’t know what all goes into basic upkeep of your motorcycle, our Resource Center contains a number of step-by-step guides covering everything from changing your oil to properly winterizing your bike.
There are two sets of things you’ll need in order to keep your baby healthy and happy: hardware and chemicals. Hardware consists of things like tool kits and chain brushes, and chemicals include things like brake fluid and chain lube. Both are absolutely critical, so we put together a Garage Essentials Package to help you get everything you need all in one go.
But before you start swinging a wrench, you have to know what you’re doing. Our Garage Essentials Package includes a Hayne’s manual for every modern classic available to walk you through every project imaginable on your bike. We highly recommend referring to it when preparing to do any project on your bike, regardless of what you ride.
To do almost anything on a bike, you’ll need tools. Thankfully, you can do pretty much all your normal maintenance work with a basic tool kit. The Stubby Tool Kit is the perfect place to begin your tool collection: it contains a full set of common sockets and bits, interchangeable handles, and an adjustable wrench among a few other essentials. With these, you’ll be able to do just about all your basic work like changing the oil all the way up to installing new exhaust. On top of that, the Stubby Tool Kit is super compact and can be easily stored between projects.
A couple of pro tips for you: Triumphs and Ducatis, like almost all other motorcycles, primarily use metric tools. Remember this when you’re standing in the hardware store staring at a wall of fancy tools trying to decide what you want to add next to your armory. Second, your 10mm socket wrench is the key to the castle. Your 10mm wrench will be your most commonly used tool when working on your bike, so keep it easily accessible (i.e. not buried at the bottom of your tool bag) and don’t lose it.
Other essential bits you’ll frequently need to use include an oil drain pan, a funnel, a motorcycle cover, a disc lock, a chain brush, and a battery tender.
Each time you change your oil, having a funnel will make your life infinitely easier, as will having a decent oil drain pan for collecting and disposing the used oil. Whenever you aren’t riding, your bike should be covered and locked to protect it from both the corrosive elements and bike thieves. Moisture and dust will slowly corrode your bike if left unprotected from the elements for long, so using a bike cover will help prolong the life and appearance of your bike. Together, a disc lock and a motorcycle cover will help keep honest guys honest and dissuade bike thieves from trying to steal your motorcycle.
Since you have to clean and adjust your chain every 400-1,000 miles, it’s good to be able to do it yourself instead of having to pay someone to do it for you every time. While some people will try to clean their chain with an old toothbrush, the best way to break up all the gunk and dislodge all the dirt is with a proper chain brush. Keeping your chain clean won’t only prolong the life of the chain, but will also prolong the life of your transmission and will help keep your shifts smooth.
Over time, motorcycle batteries will self-discharge and slowly die whether or not you ride regularly. At least once a month, you should hook a battery tender up to your bike and let it recharge your battery. Doing so will significantly prolong the life of your battery as well as make sure it will always be ready to roll whenever you are.
A couple tools that aren’t necessary but are definitely worth the investment if you plan on working on your own bike include a torque wrench and a rear stand. You don’t have to buy the most expensive digital torque wrench in the store with all the lights and bells and whistles in order to make sure everything is properly torqued to spec. A simple carded torque wrench is plenty good for most projects, and costs a fraction of a digital torque wrench. Rear stands are great for doing just about anything on your bike. Lifting the back of the bike up on a stand will help stabilize it better than your side stand will while you’re working on it, and it’ll level the bike out to help with checking or replacing fluids. Since it lifts the rear wheel off the ground and gives you some clearance, it’s also very helpful when doing things like cleaning and adjusting your chain or removing the rear wheel.
Besides tools, you’ll need a handful of chemicals to keep your bike in tip top shape. These include Loctite, brake fluid, brake cleaner, oil, fuel stabilizer, chain lube, chain cleaner, and anti-seize. Loctite will make sure that when you install some part, the bolts holding it in place won’t get shaken loose over time from all the engine vibration. On the other hand, anti-seize will prevent nuts and bolts that you will want to be able to remove later from locking in place over time. Brake fluid, oil, and either water wetter or anti-freeze are great for the occasional but necessary top-off. Brake cleaner, chain cleaner, and chain lube are necessary for when you have to work on your brakes or chain. Fuel stabilizer will help prevent water from corroding the inside of your tank and fuel from gumming up the inside of your engine if you plan on not riding the bike for a couple months, like during winter for example.
With these tools and chemicals, you’ll be equipped to do just about all of your basic maintenance and most of your lighter customization projects. Have any essential tools we didn’t think of, or curious about how to do your regular maintenance? Leave us a comment or check out some of the other guides up on our Resource Center for more.