Motorcycle Tools In the Shop Kit – The Pieces You Must Have

You have the itch, and if you’re anything like me, chopping or restoring a bike means getting out the simple hand tools and making do with what you have available, leaning on the kindness of your tool-rich pals and setting to work with achievable goals in mind for the finished product.

With spring fast approaching, you’re going to be putting lots more miles on the bike, and that means maintenance as well. To do that work yourself (and save some money while you’re at it) you’ll need at least the basics.

For most of these suggestions below you’ll be able to get by with a very basic starter set of tools which you can find at Sears, Harbor Freight or used on Craigslist. You shouldn’t have to spend more than a few hundred bucks for everything you need – unless you want to spend more and squirreled away money in coffee cans.

Air Tools and a Compressor

An air compressor and tools will cost you some money, but the amount of time you’ll save having them will be well worth the purchase price. Air tools are the best way to remove nuts and bolts, remove stubborn axles and break loose rusted nuts. Spend the extra bucks and pick up an impact wrench if you plan to work on your transmission.

Torque Wrench

You need one of these. Torque wrenches have settings in inch or foot pounds and they’re specifically calibrated to allow you to set the tightness of nuts to the settings recommended by the factory. In some applications, not setting the torque for fasteners correctly will result in disaster, so buy one and save yourself the pain and damage.

Tap and Die Set

Fasteners can rust and degrade over time, and a tap and die will let you repair threads, either for the bolt or the hole. Bolts can get seized or become brittle when you install them or remove them, and it happens pretty often when too much heat has been applied to them over time.


Speaking of heat, you need it for stubborn nuts on occasion. You’ll have to be careful where, and how much, heat you apply to various parts of your bike, but this is a must have item, so use it sparingly and as a last resort for stuck nuts and bolts. Heat also comes in handy if you’re doing wiring work and want to make it all look pretty by shrink-wrapping the harness. Get a self-igniting tip for your propane bottles and save lots of time.

Ratchet and sockets

Although most bikes predominately use hex head or allen-head bolts, you’ll still find regular bolts in use to attach the bars, seat, brakes or engine components.  Do yourself a favor and buy a 3/8″ ratchet and metric sockets ins sizes from 8mm to 17mm. Buy a couple of extension handles as well. You really can’t do without a good set of allen-head sockets, so dig deep and buy an entire set.


You’ll need a good set of wrenches, both metric and standard, and a spoke wrench will come in handy sooner or later.


There are lots of jobs on a motorcycle which require screwdrivers. For the simplest maintenance tasks, you’ll need them for removing air filters, carburetor removal and adjustment, seat removal and taking off engine covers and plastics. Buy both slotted and Phillips screwdrivers, and buy a whole set. Don’t go cheap here or you’ll be replacing them at the worst possible moments.

Hex keys, T-handles and Sockets

Dirt bikes use mostly allen head bolts. T-handles will be the cheapest, but sockets are better if you can afford them. You’ll have more leverage with a 3/8″ ratchet which will help with rusty or over tightened bolts.

Rubber Mallets

A rubber mallet set of hammers are made of polyurethane or rubber. They’ll give you the force necessary to break fasteners loose, and you won’t have to worry about marring painted or chromed surfaces. Removing engine and transmission covers or driving axles in or out means you’ll need these to keep from destroying threads and coatings.

Pliers, A Whole Set and Vise Grips

Pliers are essential to hold or remove parts or cotter pins which might be hard to reach with a wrench. You can also use them  tighten hose clamps or bring out the needle-nose pliers to attach and remove springs. When you’re electrical work you’ll need specialized pliers to strip wire and attach electrical connectors.

Motorcycle Lift

A bike placed up off the ground is much easier to work on than one on the floor. You can get reasonably inexpensive stands which will make any job easier like this one or, if you ride a street bike or a heavier machine, this one from Drag Specialties. If you do a lot of work on your bike or bikes, then you may want to make yourself a motorcycle lift. Making them out of wood will do the trick and keep the cost down. Making one at all will keep your knees and back from giving out, so consider this one carefully.


Nothing can slow you down worse or make you crazier than dropping a tiny bolt or screw into an inaccessible location on your bike, so keeping a magnet around will save you some agony. Telescopic magnets are cheap, and they come in handy to recover dropped bolts or screws. Get one, or maybe more.

A Flashlight

Even in the best-lighted shop in the world is going to have some spots where light just won’t reach. A couple of penlights or small flashlights in the top drawer of your toolbox will pay for themselves in no time. There are also clip-on flashlights and flashlights you can strap around your hat which make the work easier as well, and you’ll be glad you have them around sooner or later.

Chain Breaker

A chain breaker and press will help you remove and install chains. From personal experience, you can get by without these tools, but it’s not easy. These are definitely worth the investment if you plan on removing more than a chain or two.

Hex or Allen Axle Tool

This tool from Motion Pro makes a couple of versatile sets which in include four hex socket sizes, 17, 19, 22 and 24. Essentially when you need them, annoying when you don’t. This is money well spent.

Tire Spoons

You might just want to pony up the money and take this job to the dealership or repair shop, but if you insist on doing it yourself or you’re the kind who burns up tires like you do firewood, a set of tire spoons will let you remove the tires from your rims without resorting to a pair of screwdrivers and ruining them. A set of 11″ spoons and a larger spoon with a rounded end will work in your emergency kit.

Air Pressure Gauge

Ever ride your bike with the tire pressure too low? Then you know how important this one is, and you’ll want to keep one on the bike with you all the time. Low tire pressure compromises the handling of your motorcycle in a way that lets you know instantly that something is very, very wrong. Your bike will feel like it wants to wander across the road in any direction it chooses. Don’t let that happen. Buy a couple. One for the top drawer of the tool box and one to keep on board at all times.

 This awesome little list is an excellent starting point and will keep you from forgetting some essentials on your motorcycle tool shopping list. Check it out…

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