I didn’t need them, but I’m never going back to working without them.
There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and with motorcycles being relatively simple vehicles, quite often, you can get by with what you already have. But the more I wrench the more I realize that sometimes, getting the right tool for the job really goes a long way. Here are 5 cheap motorcycle tools I didn’t know I needed, and why they’re so perfect. Now that I have them, I would never go back.
Motorcycle scissor jack
Motorcycle scissor jacks help you to lift your motorcycle for maintenance in a stable and safe way.
Why you need one: Even though I have a $900 hydraulic motorcycle table lift, I still count on this scissor jack ($71) to help me do maintenance in times when I need the rear wheel off the ground. It helps to speed up things like tire changes or chain and sprocket replacements at home. Scissor jacks allow you to do so much more at home yourself, and very quickly pay for themselves. If you don’t have a table lift, no worries, you can still use a jack alone to perform a lot of work too.
UPDATE: After two years, I just put together a lengthy review on the best motorcycle table lift. Check it out.
Ball end hex wrenches
We’ve all used allen keys or hex wrenches. If your bike has a lot of fairings, a set of them is probably the first thing you’ll pull out of your tool chest when you start wrenching.
Why you need a set: Ball end hex wrenches ($14) are great because for motorcycles because they work even at an angle, which means hard to get at screws become much easier to take out and put back in. They can save you a lot of time, frustration, and stop you from potentially stripping heads.
Torque wrenches (multiple)
Imagine a world where every bolt on your motorcycle could never come loose, and could never be over-tightened. Welcome to the world of torque wrenches, where leaks from bolts, lost fasteners, stripped heads, and damaged threads no longer exist.
Why you need one: Torque wrenches ($40) allow you to set exactly how tight a bolt should be screwed to, in Newton Meters or Pounds-Foot. Motorcycle manufacturers specify a torque value for each screw and fastener on your motorcycle in your service manual. With a torque wrench, you no longer have to wonder how tight is too tight. All you do is set the torque value as per the manual, tighten until you hear and feel the CLICK, and then stop, it’s perfect. The torque wrench promises +/- 4% accuracy, which is a lot better than I could guess “by feel” alone.
Brake bleeder kit
Motorcycles benefit from having a great power to weight ratio and accelerate quickly. We know that. The problem is, only having two wheels makes us a little smaller and harder to see, and it also makes breaking a little trickier.
Why you need one: Your motorcycle’s brakes rely on brake fluid, which needs to be changed every two years, after that your motorcycle can’t brake as efficiently. I used to flush brake fluid with some hose and an old juice box, but I was often introducing air into my fuel lines and making more work for myself. With this one-way bleeder kit, it’s an easy one man job. You can check out the video to see how it do it. If you use your brake bleeder kit even just once it’s paid for itself compared to what a dealer will charge you for this service.
Motorcycle chain breaker
A motorcycle chain can last you as much as 20,000 km if you buy and take good care of a quality chain, to as little as 7,000 km if you bought a cheap one and ride like a hooligan. Replacing your chain and sprockets yourself is easy, but how do you get that chain off?
Why you need one: Admittedly, in the past we’ve used a little grinder to cut through chains, but those chains are tough. It takes time, you have sparks and little metal shards flying. You’ll want some good gloves and safety glasses, because you’ll be at it for a while. Or for only $24 you can buy a motorcycle chain breaker that will push a pin out through your chain in a matter of seconds.
Bonus / Honorable Mentions…
I had to give an honorable mentions to two cheap tools that I never imagined I would use on motorcycles, but that have made my life way easier and saved me a ton of time. The first one is these adapters that let you use socket bits on your drill. The second one is an impact gun.
Why you need them: For $5 for the adapters, you can save a lot of time removing bolts by drill instead of by hand with a socket wrench. I would never use this for tightening any hardware, that’s what your torque wrench is for, but for removing, they’re great. As for the impact gun, well, if you ever find yourself working on vehicles with CVT transmissions, like Vespas, ATVs, and jetskis, good luck working on the CVT transmission without them.
All of these are non-essentials, except maybe the torque wrench, but I wanted to call these to your attention because they make working on your motorcycle at so much more easy, so much more safe, and so much quick.