To maintain and repair your own motorcycle and fit accessories, all you need is a workshop manual, some peace and quiet and decent tools.
The one thing that many DIY mechanics do not have is the right tools. A random collection of screwdrivers, much too soft, cheap slip-joint pliers, blunt nippers, and a few poor-quality wrenches are not a great starting point. Nobody can do a good job with tools like that. Without a doubt, working with bad tools is a nightmare you don't want to experience. A few useful, high-quality tools, however, can make working on your bike a real pleasure, and can also save money.
Basic equipment for the hobby workshop
Costing little more than the hourly rate charged by a workshop, your first purchase should be a good-quality, reasonably extensive socket wrench set with a large (1/2 inch) and a small (1/4 inch) ratchet, lots of sockets, bits, bit holder, universal joints and extension bars. This will enable you to undo the vast majority of screw connections on your motorbike, including in hard-to-reach places. They don't have to be the most expensive professional tools, but definitely go for chrome-vanadium steel. Also useful are sockets with a flank-drive, which will even undo many a damaged hexagon bolt. For example, the Rothewald socket wrench set (Fig.1) – or Rothewald complete set (Fig.2) with combination wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers and additional 3/8-inch ratchet. If you own a Harley or a British classic, you will, of course, need imperial tools. Rothewald imperial tool set (Fig.3) – incl. combination wrenches and ball end Allen keys.
You often need a second tool to hold nuts, So a large combination wrench set is also essential, unless included in the socket wrench set (Fig.4). You should also have A pliers wrench set; e.g. from Knipex (Fig.5), a medium hammer (300 g), a caliper gauge for measuring bolts etc. (Fig.6), a voltage tester (Fig.7) for tracking down electrical faults, a set of cable terminals with a suitable crimping tool (Fig.8), a roll of self-amalgamating insulating tape (Fig.9) and a set of brushes for removing dirt and corrosion (Fig.10).
Now you have the basics covered!
More tools give you more options
Although the bits in the socket wrench set will also work for slotted, cross-head and hexagon socket screws, sometimes you will probably prefer to use conventional screwdrivers because they are sturdier. So unless they are included in the socket wrench set, you will want a screwdriver set (Fig.11). If there are lots of cross-head or slotted screws on your bike, an impact screwdriver (Fig.12) is a great help, as they are often really tight and get damaged easily. The ideal tools for hard-to-reach hexagon socket screws are ball-end hex keys (Fig.13) because they can be inserted at an angle. They have come right down in price nowadays. Not needed if included in the socket wrench set. A tap with the Variohammer rubber or plastic hammer (Fig.14) can often help to loosen parts on your bike that are stuck fast. A standard steel hammer would often do more damage than good in such cases...
At some point you will probably have to remove a bike part that is fastened with a circlip or lock ring, for which you will need two special pliers, one for internal and one for external rings: Set of circlip pliers (Fig.15). Next you should purchase a battery charger suitable for your bike battery. If your motorbike doesn't have a centre stand, you should also get yourself a suitable paddock stand, for example, so that you can safely park your machine when working on it, or for the winter. A stand will also enable you to turn the rear wheel to lubricate the chain. Experienced DIY mechanics who plan to do engine repairs, for example, should own a small (Fig.16) and a large (Fig.17) torque wrench. So too should any biker who doesn't have a knack for tightening bolts correctly according to their purpose and size. But don't forget, as solid as these wrenches look, they are only used for tightening, and not for loosening stubborn screws, as this may damage them internally.
With all that, your DIY workshop would be pretty well kitted out. You only need further tools if you are doing special work. For regular brake servicing, tools like a disc brake piston spreader(Fig.18) and a brake bleeder (Fig.19) are very practical.
To change oil filter cartridges, you use a suitable oil filter removal attachment for the ½-inch socket wrench. If you're going to synchronise a multi-carburettor system, you will need a synchroniser; e.g. from Rothewald, 2 gauges (Fig.20), or 4 gauges (Fig.21). To track down faults in the ignition without risking damage to the electrical system, you use an ignition voltage tester (which does not cost much at all) (Fig.22).
Nor does a multimeter (Fig.23) cost a fortune. You use it to find electrical faults in general, and you can even download comprehensive instructions for how to use it on motorcycles at www.louis.de (for further product information, go to the product in the Online Shop). If you own a vintage motorbike, or if you enjoy customising your bike, you will have to repair threads every now and again or cut a thread on parts you make yourself. Not a problem with a good thread cutter and tap set (Fig.24).
If the thread of a bolt is damaged, it can often be repaired with a thread file (metric) (Fig.25). Unlike a thread cutter, it restores the existing metal rather than removing metal and further weakening the thread. Working in comfort will increase your enjoyment of bike repair. A comfortable creeper seat (Fig.26) for working on your motorbike is a useful addition to your workshop. And it's certainly not an unnecessary luxury, as good posture while you work is not only more comfortable, but also helps you to stay focused on the job you're doing.
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Problems getting spare parts? Or maybe you've got a technical question about your motorcycle or an accessory The Louis Technical Centre can help! Remember to quote all the necessary details of your vehicle – better still, send us a copy of your registration document.
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These tips for DIY mechanics contain general recommendations that may not apply to all vehicles or all individual components. As local conditions may vary considerably, we are unable to guarantee the correctness of information in these tips for DIY mechanics.
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Louis DIY Mechanic Manual
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